THE ESTROGEN DOMINANCE EFFECT
Female problems seem to be on the rise. Between 40% and 60% of all women in the West suffer from PMS. In addition, women suffer from a plethora of symptoms, some menopausal and others not. Something quite serious seems to be happening. There is strong evidence that that the proper hormonal balance necessary for women's bodies to function healthily is being interfered with by a number of factors.
Research has shown that many women in their 30s - some even younger - will occasionally not ovulate during their menstrual month. Without ovulation, no corpus luteum results and no progesterone is made. A progesterone deficiency ensues and several problems can result from this, one being the month-long presence of unopposed estrogen with all its attendant side effects.
A second major problem results from the interrelationship between progesterone loss and stress. Stress combined with a bad diet can induce cycles where ovulation does not occur. The consequent lack of progesterone interferes with the production of the stress-combating hormones, worsening stressful conditions that give rise to further anovulatory cycles and so continues the vicious cycle.
Another major factor contributing to this imbalance between estrogen and progesterone is the industrialized world now live in, immersed in a rising sea of petrochemical derivatives. They are in the air, food and water and include pesticides and herbicides (such as DDT, dieldrin, heptachlor, etc.) as well as various plastics (polycarbonated plastics found in babies bottles and water jugs) and PCBs. These estrogen-mimics are highly fat-soluble, not biodegradable or well excreted, and accumulate in the fat tissue of animals and humans. These chemicals have an uncanny ability to mimic natural estrogen and thus are given the name "xeno-estrogens" since, although they are foreign chemicals, they are taken up by the estrogen receptor sites in the body, seriously interfering with natural biochemical activity.
Extensive research is now revealing an alarming situation worldwide, created by the inundation of these hormone-mimics. In their book, Our Stolen Future, authors Theo Colburn of the World Wildlife Fund, Dianne Dumanoski of The Boston Globe, and John Peterson Meyers, a zoologist, have identified 51 hormone mimics, each able to unleash a torrent of effects such as reduced sperm production, cell division and sculpting of the developing brain. These mimics are not only linked to the recent discovery that human sperm counts worldwide have plunged by 50% between 1938 and 1990 but also to genital deformities, breast, prostate and testicular cancer, and neurological disorders.
Dr. John Lee, MD has discovered a consistent theme running through women's complaints of the distressing and often debilitating symptoms of PMS, peri-menopause and menopause: too much estrogen or, in other words, estrogen dominance. Now, instead of estrogen playing its essential role within the well-balanced symphony of steroid hormones in a woman's body, it has begun to overshadow the other players, creating biochemical dissonance. Even natural estrogens should not be prescribed unless it is clear that a deficiency exists.
Dr. Lee has been able to balance the estrogen-dominance effect through the use of transdermal natural progesterone cream. 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. 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. Supplementation with natural progesterone corrects the real problem: progesterone deficiency. 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.
Natural progesterone is not known to have any side effects; nor have any toxic levels been found to date. 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.
Estrogen's role in osteoporosis is only a minor one. Estrogen replacement will reduce bone breakdown, but only progesterone increases new bone growth or deposition. Progesterone deficiency results in bone loss. In a three year study of 63 post-menopausal women with osteoporosis, women using transdermal progesterone cream experienced an average 7 to 8% bone mass density increase in the first year, 4 to 5% the second year, and 3 to 4% in the third year. Untreated women in this age category typically lose 1.5% bone mass density per year. Dr. Lee believes that the use of natural progesterone in conjunction with dietary and lifestyle change can not only stop osteoporosis but can actually reverse it - even in women aged over 70.
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 Primulut. 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.
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.
Effects of Estrogen Dominance
Anti-aging Benefits of Natural Progesterone
- When estrogen is not balanced by progesterone, it can produce weight gain, headaches, bad temper, chronic fatigue and loss of interest in sex - all of which are part of the clinically recognized premenstrual syndrome.
- Not only has it been well established that estrogen dominance encourages the development of breast cancer thanks to estrogen's proliferative actions, it also stimulates breast tissue and can trigger fibrocystic breast disease - a condition which wanes when natural progesterone is introduced to balance the estrogen.
- Excess estrogen implies a progesterone deficiency. This, in turn, leads to a decrease in the rate of new bone formation in a woman's body by the osteoblasts - the cells responsible for doing this job. Although most doctors are not yet aware of it, this is the prime cause of osteoporosis.
- Estrogen dominance increases the risk of fibroids. One of the interesting facts about fibroids is that, regardless of the size, fibroids commonly atrophy once menopause arrives and a woman's ovaries are no longer making estrogen. Doctors who commonly use progesterone with their patients have discovered that giving a woman natural progesterone may cause fibroids to atrophy.
- In estrogen-dominant menstruating women where progesterone is not peaking and falling in a normal way each month, the ordered shedding of the womb lining doesn't take place. Menstruation becomes irregular. This condition can usually be corrected by making lifestyle changes and using a natural progesterone product. It is easy to diagnose by having a doctor measure the level of progesterone in the blood at certain times of the month.
- Endometrial cancer (cancer of the womb) develops only where there is estrogen dominance or unopposed estrogen. This, too, can be prevented by the use of natural progesterone. The use of the synthetic progestins may also help prevent it, which is why a growing number of doctors no longer give non-human estrogens without combining them with progesterone drug during HRT. However, all synthetic progestins have side effects.
- Water logging of the cells and an increase in intercellular sodium, which predispose a woman to high blood pressure or hypertension, frequently occur with estrogen dominance. These can also be side effects of progestins use. A natural progesterone cream often resolves this problem.
- The risk of stroke and heart disease is increased dramatically when a woman is estrogen-dominant. [Leslie Kenton, Passage to Power, Random House, UK, 1995]
- Progesterone is a primary precursor in the biosynthesis of the adrenal corticosteroids. Without adequate progesterone, synthesis of the cortisones is impaired and the body turns to alternate pathways. These alternate pathways have masculine-producing side effects such as long facial hairs and thinning of scalp hair. Further impaired corticosteroid production results in a decrease in the ability to handle stress, e.g., surgery, trauma or emotional stress.
- Many peri- or post-menopausal women with clinical signs of hypothyroidism, such as fatigue, lack of energy, intolerance to cold, are actually suffering from unrecognized estrogen dominance and will benefit from supplementation with natural progesterone.
- Estrogen and most of the synthetic progestins increase intracellular sodium and water uptake. The effect of this is hypertension. Natural progesterone is a natural diuretic and prevents the cell's uptake of sodium and water, thus preventing hypertension.
- Whereas estrogen impairs homeostatic control of glucose levels, natural progesterone stabilizes them. Thus, natural progesterone can be beneficial to both those with diabetes and those with reactive hypoglycemia. Estrogen should be contraindicated in patients with diabetes.
- Thinning and wrinkled skin is a sign of lack of hydration in the skin. It is common in peri- and post-menopausal women and is a sure sign of hormone depletion. Both estrogen and progesterone restores skin hydration.
- Progesterone serves a role in keeping brain cells healthy. A disorder such as premature senility (Alzheimer's disease) may be, at least in part, another example of disease secondary to progesterone deficiency.
- Progesterone is essential for the healthy development of the myelin sheath which protects the nerve cells. Low progesterone levels lead to recurring aches and pains.
- Progesterone creates and promotes an enhanced sense of emotional well being and psychological self-sufficiency.
- Progesterone is responsible for enhancing the libido. [John R. Lee, M.D., Slowing the Aging Process with Natural Progesterone, BLL Publishing, CA, USA, 1994, p.14]
The hormone issue is a complicated one. There are three types of natural estrogen, and multiple degradation pathways and metabolites
. Depending on the area of concern, a skilled natural doctor should be able to recommend those tests which will yield the most information, and guide you into balance. While a therapeutic trial of progesterone may help a condition of estrogen
dominance, specific laboratory testing on a doctor's recommendation should be conducted prior to hormone
replacement. Blood, saliva, or urine measurements may be made. Your doctor should be aware that the timing of specimen collection in relation to your cycle is important in progesterone testing. The best time is day 21 - 24 of your cycle (sooner if cycle is shorter and later if cycle is longer). If progesterone levels are normal, elevated estrogens can be reduced by means other than progesterone use.
The need for testing is seen in the situation of two menopausal women having similar symptoms but one with elevated estrogens (or an imbalance of estrogens) and the other with low estrogens. Both may have normal or low levels of progesterone. Giving natural estrogen
to a woman in menopause
seems the logical thing to do, but may make the situation worse if her levels are already too high. Giving a women low in estrogen, more progesterone wonít solve the underlying deficiency.
imbalances can manifest in many and diverse symptoms. More specific suggestions regarding individual hormone levels may be made elsewhere in this report.
You can develop a clearer understanding of the nature of your condition and the interplay of female hormones by reading an informative book such as Natural Hormone Balance
by Uzzi Reiss, MD, or What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Premenopause
and What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause
by John Lee, MD.
Lee, John R., M.D., Natural Progesterone: The Multiple Role of a Remarkable Hormone, BLL Publishing, California, USA, 1993, p.29.
Kenton, Leslie, Passage to Power, Random House, UK, 1995, pp.19-20.
Lee, John R., M.D., "Osteoporosis Reversal: The Role of Progesterone," International Clinical Nutrition Review (1990), 10: pp.384-391.
Lee, John R., M.D., Slowing the Aging Process with Natural Progesterone, BLL Publishing, California, USA, 1994, p.12.