Hormone Attack: Fighting Back

Oh no. Not you, too!” My gynecologist rolled her eyes. “You wouldn’t believe how many women tell me they want to try progesterone cream. Some of them even want me to read the studies they bring in.”

I’d been going to Dr. Nancy for nearly two years trying to get my peri-menopausal symptoms under control — killer hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, and wild heart palpitations. The worst thing was my mind seemed fuzzy, like there was a veil over my brain. I could stoically endure the physical symptoms, but I really missed my mind.

Dr. Nancy had prescribed Premarin, which cleared my mind and reduced the heart palpitations. But regardless of how she adjusted the dosage and added other prescriptions, killer hot flashes still attacked, turning my face red and making me rush to the nearest fan. My feet and ankles, always a problem due to my spinal cord injury, now swelled so much worse. My legs were heavier and hard to lift into bed.

I shuddered knowing Premarin was made from pregnant mare’s urine. I’d read about thousands of horses kept in stalls, pregnant and catheterized for the manufacture of this drug. Further research revealed that this and similar synthetic hormones greatly increased the potential for blood clots, edema, low thyroid and uterine and breast cancer.

I already knew that blood clots were one of the leading causes of death for mobility-impaired persons. I already had enough problems just dealing with my disability. I didn’t need to complicate my health even more, but I couldn’t live with these symptoms.

My wheelchair blocked any cooling breeze to the lower half of my back, making my hot flashes all the more miserable. Even if I could tough it out, I knew that hot flashes raise your blood pressure, putting you at risk for other problems.

I began hearing about natural alternatives. I was hoping to try some of the proven ones under my doctor’s supervision. But if she wouldn’t even look at the studies, how could I trust her to have the knowledge to treat me within the context of my disability?

She continued to insist that hormone replacement therapy was totally safe and even helped prevent heart disease. I’d read enough to be skeptical. Years later, after thousands of deaths, the FDA finally admitted HRT actually did increase the chance of heart attacks, breast cancer and blood clots. Natural health advocates had been issuing warnings for decades.

Two days after my doctor visit I was sitting at my computer with sweat rolling into my eyes, stifling the urge to rip off my clothes. My friend Shirley walked in with a jar of progesterone cream. “Here, try this.” I rubbed a dab on my wrist. PSSSSSSSSssss. I could feel heat disintegrating, as if someone had misted me down.

From that moment I never looked back. I didn’t know I was supposed to taper off HRT gradually. I didn’t know I was supposed to start the cream on a certain day of my cycle. I just knew I’d found relief. No more night sweats, heart palpitations, fuzzy brain, mood swings or low libido. And I slept better that night than I had in years.

Growing Problem: Estrogen Dominance
That was 12 years ago. Since then I’ve had no significant female problems. My uterine fibroids have disappeared. My painful fibrocystic breasts have returned to normal. My ankles still swell from poor circulation, but not like they did on HRT. I sleep peacefully and my energy has returned. My new gynecologist, Dr. Susan, approves of the progesterone cream and always gives me a clean bill of health.

A week after I first started using the cream, Shirley visited my home office again. “Hey, why is your secretary lying on your sofa?”

“Oh, it’s her time of month. She usually loses two full days to cramps. She’s really in pain.”

Shirley grabbed my progesterone cream and handed it to Karen. “Rub some of this on your abdomen.  Then rub some more in 30 minutes.” Within the hour Karen was back at her computer and never lost another day for that reason.

My curiosity was ignited. I began reading books like Hormone Replacement Therapy, Yes or No? by Betty Kamen, Ph.D., and  What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause and Hormone Balance Made Simple, by  Dr. John R. Lee, an early researcher of natural progesterone.

I soon learned that low progesterone levels and the resultant estrogen dominance can cause PMS, cramps, bloating, breast tenderness, hot flashes, weight gain, water retention, low energy, depression, extreme mood swings, and infertility. When I recalled years of dealing with the indignities of unpredictable heavy periods compounded by incontinence from my neurogenic bladder, I was angry I didn’t know about progesterone years earlier.

Now my progesterone education was on a roll. I learned that healthy ovaries produce about 20 mg of progesterone a day, enabling women to get pregnant. Once pregnant, progesterone production increases dramatically, reaching 400 mg per day in the last trimester, giving many women that surge of energy, creativity, and health as they prepare for baby. But when progesterone levels are too low, there can be pregnancy-related difficulties.

When my granddaughter was born, my daughter went into post-partum depression. She curled up on her sofa, crying. “Have you put your cream on?” I demanded. “I told you you’d lose massive amounts of progesterone when the placenta came out.” Her husband raced to the bedroom to get the cream. By the next day, the darkness had lifted and she was the delightful happy mother we all expected.

A year later I was admitted to the hospital for my third spinal surgery to insert a shunt just below my brain stem. I knew there was a definite possibility that I might emerge unable to manage my own life. I made my daughter promise — repeatedly — to rub the cream on me every day if I was unable to direct someone to do it. I didn’t want to revert to my previous symptoms and be unable to gritch about it. Progesterone cream had become that essential to my comfort.

The Rest of the Story
Natural Progesterone absorbed transdermally also helps prevent bone loss and slowly reverses osteoporosis in aging women by feeding the osteoblast cells in the bone. However, the jury is still out as to its effectiveness in strengthening bones for non-weight bearing women.

Charles Bright of Austin, Texas, author of the brochure, “Progesterone, the Overlooked Hormone,” who sells the pharmaceutical-grade brand that I use, also has several men customers who buy it for their wives because “it makes their wives so much nicer to be around.” Their moods are stabilized and there is less hormonal volatility. Oh yes, did I mention it increases libido and natural lubrication?

Our bodies function best on a healthy ratio of estrogen to progesterone, but  estrogen dominance seems to be increasing in female populations each year.  Natural estrogens produced by the body and phyto-estrogens (those that come from plants) are generally good for you, with rare exceptions. The serious health danger is in the xeno-estrogens, the synthetic ones enmeshed into our highly industrialized, petrochemical society — plastic water bottles, vinyl seat covers, thin plastic food wraps, emulsifiers in processed food, chemicals in cosmetics and cleaning supplies, pesticides to keep the crawlies out of our homes, fertilizers to give us an abundance of blemish-free produce, estrogen to fatten steers for our hamburgers.

Our health pays a huge price for these modern luxuries. Too many things we touch or ingest build up our levels of xeno-estrogens. Generally, the thinner the plastic, the more xeno-estrogens you absorb through the skin.

According to Dr. John R. Lee, estrogen dominance, a result of low progesterone and unwitting absorption of xeno-estrogens, is responsible for nearly 30 percent of breast cancers and is the only known cause of uterine cancer. Low progesterone levels are also one of the most common causes of infertility and miscarriages.

To counterbalance the estrogen dominance and alleviate common female problems, women can supplement progesterone levels with a bio-identical progesterone cream absorbed through the skin. If progesterone is taken by capsule, 70 percent of it is filtered out as it passes through the liver. It’s important to use a cream that is standardized, pharmaceutical grade and has at least 25 mg of progesterone per teaspoon. Easily absorbable bio-identical progesterone can be extracted and processed from many different plant sources, especially Mexican wild yam or soy.

In addition to progesterone creams, there are many herbs that help alleviate female symptoms, particularly hot flashes: black cohosh, dong quai, pycnogenol, red clover extract, chaste tree, maca extract, among others.

Nature’s Sunshine Products, available in thousands of herb stores nationally, offer all-natural proprietary products formulated especially for women, such as Flash Ease, Female Comfort, Pro-G-Yam Cream (but with only 500 mg of progesterone per ounce)

Ask your physician about natural health alternatives. But do your research first. Be prepared for eye rolling and a lot of medical jargon, but remember — it’s your body and ultimately you have the responsibility to make informed decisions. And don’t be fooled — Progestins, Provera, and other prescriptions are not natural progesterone, but synthetic, altered variations and will not give you the same relief.

Also know that blood tests are not an accurate predictor of estrogen or progesterone levels. Standard blood tests analyze the watery serum of the blood, but hormones are carried to the tissues by the red blood cells, not by the serum. A simple inexpensive saliva test, used by the World Health Organization, is a far more accurate indicator and does not need to be prescribed by a doctor.

More information on progesterone or saliva testing is available at 800/217-6677.

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