Natural progesterone, a cholesterol derivative, is made from wild Mexican yams or soybeans whose active ingredients are an exact molecular match of the body's own progesterone. Progesterone is also produced by the ovaries and compliments estrogen. Natural progesterone has far fewer side-effects than the synthetic varieties, called progestins – such as methylprogesterone (Provera).
It is interesting to note that in parts of Asia and South America where women eat either the wild yams or soybeans, the term "hot flash" doesn't even exist in their languages. They also rarely suffer from the host of female problems presently plaguing Western women. Note, however, that the use of wild yam does not increase progesterone levels, and does not act as a precursor to progesterone in humans. Soy products contain phytoestrogens that act by altering tissue responses to estrogen.
Dr. John Lee, a medical practitioner, independent researcher and author, has for 15 years conducted independent research into a natural, plant-derived form of progesterone. His non-pharmaceutically-funded research presents a much broader understanding of a woman's hormonal options and offers a totally safe, effective alternative that is free of all side-effects. He has found that this natural hormone – used in conjunction with a good diet and lifestyle changes – is capable of eliminating much of the suffering associated both with premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and menopause.
Millions of women in the Western world now use natural progesterone – generally in the form of a cream which is rubbed into the body. They claim that they not only have relief from female symptoms but experience increased vitality, better skin and renewed emotional balance. Natural progesterone seems to have been totally overlooked by medical science while the erroneous focus has been on estrogen or synthetic progestins. Considering that it is non-patentable and inexpensive, it is not surprising that this is so. It is well worth having a much greater understanding and appreciation for this remarkable hormone.
It is important to make the distinction between natural progesterone that is produced by the body and the synthetic progesterone analogues classified as progestins, such as Provera, Duphaston and Primolut. There is a big difference between the two in their effect on the body, although doctors most often use their names interchangeably.
Since natural progesterone is not a patentable product, the pharmaceutical companies have altered it to produce synthetic progestins commonly used in contraceptives and HRT. Synthetic progestins, because they are not exact replicas of the body's natural progesterone, unfortunately create a long list of side-effects, some of which are quite severe. A partial list includes headaches, depression, fluid retention, increased risk of birth defects and early abortion, liver dysfunction, breast tenderness, breakthrough bleeding, acne, hirsutism (hair growth), insomnia, edema, weight changes, pulmonary embolism and premenstrual-like syndrome. [Lee, John R., M.D., Slowing the Aging Process with Natural Progesterone, BLL Publishing, California, USA, 1994, p.12.]
Most importantly, progestins lack the intrinsic physiological benefits of progesterone, thus they cannot function in the major biosynthetic pathways as progesterone does and they disrupt many fundamental processes in the body. Progesterone is an essential hormone that also plays a part in the development of healthy nerve cells and brain and thyroid function. Progestins tend to block the body's ability to produce and utilize natural progesterone to maintain these life-promoting functions.
Without adequate knowledge, education and access to natural products, women have been easy prey to the powerful campaigns of the multinational drug companies that have convinced doctors as well as governments of their claims. It is becoming more evident that women's interests are not always best met through such a biased approach. It is also not unusual for profits to take precedence over health and well being. The last thing a woman needs is to have her natural bodily functions denigrated to deficiency diseases – thus necessitating ongoing medical attention.
The greatest weapon against compliance and ignorance is knowledge. It's time to ask poignant questions of your health provider, to demand answers and to be willing to investigate safe, alternative approaches. It is apparent that women will need to participate in educating their doctors about the other choices that exist as well as the ones that they prefer. Certainly, women have it well within their own power not only to find safe, natural and effective ways to heal themselves but to live long, full lives, preserving their vitality, youthfulness and health.
The natural progesterone available in cream form at health food stores typically contains 20 to 25mg progesterone per dose. Progesterone is also available for oral use, but must be specially prepared and is more expensive than creams.
Micronized progesterone, Prometrium®, works as well but is more costly. Prometrium® is available in a 100 and 200mg capsule.
Natural progesterone increases libido, prevents cancer of the womb, protects against fibrocystic breast disease, helps protect against breast cancer, maintains the uterus lining, hydrates and oxygenates the skin, reverses facial hair growth and hair thinning, acts as a natural diuretic, helps eliminate depression and increase a sense of well being, encourages fat burning and the use of stored energy, normalizes blood clotting, and is a precursor to other important stress and sex hormones. Sometimes, even the two most prevalent menopausal symptoms – hot flashes and vaginal dryness – may disappear with applications of natural progesterone, though it may take many months.
Natural Progesterone has been used for the treatment of arthritis, tendonitis, bursitis and varicose veins. Some of the progesterone will be absorbed systemically, but the highest concentration is sustained in the local area, helping to correct the problem. Intravaginal application of progesterone cream provides higher doses where needed in cases of endometriosis, fibroids and ovarian cysts.
Hormone levels may need to be tested prior to hormone cream use. Your doctor should know whether testing is necessary or not. Progesterone levels are best taken approximately seven days before menstruation. Salivary testing of hormone levels may not be accurate once hormone creams are used.
Progesterone is a prescription drug and 100mg a day, every day, rather than cycling is recommended in women. Your doctor may prescribe doses of up to 100mg or more. A reputable researcher, Ray Peat, Ph.D. claims that progesterone dissolved in Vitamin E is far better absorbed than other types/forms.
Progesterone used vaginally targets the uterus and is absorbed systemically as well. For the topical treatment of sun-damaged skin, acne wrinkles, etc., progesterone in oil and especially with vitamin E can be applied directly to the affected area.
Natural progesterone is not known to have any toxic levels to date.
Some women who take progesterone experience unpleasant PMS-like symptoms. Individuals who have had significant premenstrual symptoms while they were premenopausal are more likely to be affected. Changing the type of progesterone, the dose, the route of administration and the length of treatment can lessen this effect.
Estrogens and progesterone tend to be antagonistic hormones, each balancing the other. When progesterone levels are low, it can seem as though estrogen levels are too high, which may or may not be the case. Supplementation with natural progesterone corrects the real problem: progesterone deficiency.
Within weeks of using adequate natural progesterone cream, symptoms of hypothyroidism may disappear. This is because natural progesterone increases sensitivity of estrogen receptors, and can therefore redirect estrogen activity and inhibit many of unopposed estrogen's undesirable side-effects, which include interference with thyroid hormone activity.
Estrogen and progesterone are known to provide benefit. The natural forms are best to use for many reasons. When appropriate, they should be used in combination. Estrogens decrease bone resorption, but also decrease bone formation, with an overall effect of reducing loss without substantially increasing bone mass. In contrast, natural progesterone stimulates new bone tissue growth. A three year study of 63 post-menopausal women using progesterone cream for osteoporosis found an average of 7-8% bone mass density increase the first year, 4-5% the second year and 3-4% the third year.
Males also produce progesterone, although only about half as much as females do. Progesterone prevents the body from converting testosterone to dihydrotestosterone by inhibiting the enzyme 5-alpha reductase. Progesterone inhibits 5-alpha reductase more effectively than Proscar and saw palmetto which are the more standard agents employed in traditional and natural treatments for BPH. The dose of natural progesterone for men is 10-12mg per day (5-6mg bid) applied topically. Men do NOT need to cycle like premenopausal women and can safely take the progesterone daily.
If progesterone levels are low or estrogen levels too high, avoid unnecessary estrogen use. The presence of hot flashes, night sweats, or vaginal dryness indicate levels of estrogen may be too low. Progesterone use at higher than normal doses for a few weeks may help resolve the excessive bleeding.
The addition of progesterone or resumption of ovulation (which produces progesterone) can eliminate the hyperplasia.
Natural progesterone can be effective in treating fibrocystic breast disease.
Many women with PCOS have had success using progesterone cream to help produce regular periods.
Progesterone is responsible for maintaining the uterus lining which is necessary for the survival of the embryo as well as the developing fetus throughout gestation. Progesterone can be taken in different ways, but a more directed topical action can be achieved by the use of vaginal progesterone cream or suppositories. Progesterone is prescribed daily for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. The average dosage is 50mg of progesterone twice per day, but some women will be given a stronger prescription of 100mg 2-3 times daily.
Progesterone is an important hormone in preventing miscarriage. Without adequate progesterone, the lining of the uterus will remain rigid making pregnancy difficult to achieve. The lack of normal progesterone production by the ovaries in the second half of the menstrual cycle is called luteal phase defect. Women who have this defect are either unable to have their fertilized eggs implant in their uterine lining or, if the egg is implanted, it is so weak that miscarriage is a certain outcome.
To lessen the possibility of miscarriage, women who have a luteal phase defect use progesterone supplements after ovulation to help maximize the chance of carrying a pregnancy to full term. Progesterone supplements are also prescribed to women who are undergoing in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and other methods of assisted reproductive technology (ART). Progesterone supplements are given to women following an egg transfer in certain types of fertilization methods. Treatment for all women using progesterone supplements continues for at least fourteen days following ovulation. If pregnancy occurs in a woman who is taking progesterone supplements, her doctor may decide to continue the treatment for another 8 to 10 weeks until placental production of progesterone can carry the pregnancy successfully.
There are essentially no reasons during pregnancy why any woman would be advised to take hormones.
Dr. John Lee, M.D., the author of several books including What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause, has found that progesterone for men is one of the most effective treatments for prostate cancer. He has a series of patients who had metastatic prostate cancer who went into complete remission with natural progesterone. 5-6mg twice per day is applied to the back of the hands in cream form. Progesterone appears to turn on the anti-cancer gene p53.