to Choose a Safer Form of Hormone Replacement
Catherine P. Rollins
While drug companies, politicians, doctors and health gurus argue what’s
in the best interest of women’s health, women themselves are rarely given
a voice in the hormonal health debate, an arena that sees women the casualties
of exploitation and victims of political agendas.
Women are big business in the healthcare industry. Which explains why female
baby boomers are led to believe menopause is a disease that requires synthetic
hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for the rest of our lives. Rarely is it clarified
that these drugs carry significant side-effects, all too often negating any benefit.
If we’re to offer our bodies to science in the trial of any drug, synthetic
or otherwise – as is often the case – it should be with our consent
upon full disclosure. We’re told synthetic HRT dosage is safe when individualised,
based on a woman’s tolerance to the drug. Nonetheless, HRT makes some of
us quite ill. We need and demand a more natural-to-the-body alternative when
it comes to hormone replacement therapy.
Estrogen dominance is a term coined by the late Dr John Lee in his first book
on natural progesterone. It describes a condition where a woman can have deficient,
normal, or excessive estrogen but has little or no progesterone to balance its
effects in the body. Even a woman with low estrogen levels can have estrogen-dominance
symptoms if she doesn't have any progesterone.
And how do we become 'estrogen dominant'?
All too often our food chain is laced with toxic pesticides, herbicides and growth
hormones – a sea of endocrine-disrupting chemicals that mimic estrogen
in our body. If we are overweight, our body’s store of excess fat can be
converted into estrogen. Insulin resistance leads to estrogen dominance. A visit
to our GP for the odd hot flash or missed period can result in a prescription
of estrogen pills, patches or implants.
Men are not excluded here. Estrogen gradually rises with age, while saliva levels
of progesteorne and testosterone gradually fall with age. Thus, with aging, estrogen
dominance occurs. A clear sign of estrogen dominance in aging men is their tendency
to develop breasts. This indicates these men are low in progesterone and testosterone.
And yet unopposed estrogen in our bodies results in all sorts of hormone-related
health problems such as PMS, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, infertility, weight
gain, increased blood clotting, thyroid dysfunction, even cancer, in both men
Dr Cavalieri, Professor at the Eppley Institute for Research in Cancer and Allied
Diseases and his team at the University of Nebraska Medical Centre in Omaha Nebraska
are on the brink of discovering that almost all the important human cancers that
we get in Western civilisation have the same origin - which is estrogen. Estrogens,
according to Dr Cavalieri, are initiators and promoters of cancer.
For women, cancer of the breast and/or in the uterus most often occurs with a
progesterone (P) to estradiol (E2) ratio of less than 200 to 1. According to
Dr David Zava of ZRT, who has amassed a database of tens of thousands of saliva
samples and questionnaires, these cancers occur very rarely in women with a healthy
We know that the micronised progesterone in our jar of cream is bioidentical
to the progesterone molecule found in our body, making it extremely safe to self-medicate,
is non-toxic, and has no recorded side-effects. It’s the drug of choice
for women (and men) looking to offset estrogen dominance which, as we’re
learning, can represent a potentially life-threatening state of hormone imbalance.
The Politics of Progesterone
The Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has classified Progesterone
an S4 drug, available only on prescription. Anyone using progesterone, whether
in the form of a cream, troches, drops, pessaries or orally without a doctor's
prescription is using it illegally.
Regardless of its good safety record and extremely low toxicity, and its uses
in women's cosmetics and moisturises in the United States over many years, progesterone
is tagged an 'S4 poison' because of the category it falls under rather than its
Problems arise when women are forced to track down a collaborative doctor who's
willing to write a prescription ... and then track down a source for cream.
For example, Lawley Pharmaceuticals, located in Western Australia, manufacture
a high-grade progesterone cream that is, paradoxically, only available to women
within the state of Western Australia. Any woman ordering cream in from the Eastern
states, even with a doctor’s prescription, is breaking the law!
Women in all Eastern states of Australia must be content with creams formulated
by a compounding pharmacist, only a handful of which have cultivated the skills
and training in compounding customised medicines using traditional skills, advanced
techniques and specialised knowledge.
While regulatory laws on natural progesterone exist in the UK, Canada, New Zealand
and Australia, a doctor's prescription is NOT required in countries such as the
USA. Natural progesterone creams can be legally sourced through whatever channels
available - over the counter, via marketing distributors, or on-line over the
internet. So, for the time being anyway, a US drug law does not apply to progesterone
There have been rumblings, however, that America's Food & Drug Administration
(FDA) will, in the next five years, impose changes to current drug law, restricting
ad-hoc marketing of creams. The consequence of this decision will possibly push
distribution underground and compromise the manufacture and cost of quality controlled
progesterone creams. Pretty much the scenario forced upon Aussie women.
Whether we order cream in from overseas or via a local compounding pharmacist,
the retail price per tub of cream is prohibitive at roughly A$50 per unit. But
this wasn’t always the case. Prior to seizure of all commercially distributed
progesterone creams in Australia in December 1997, the price of a tub of cream
was at least A$20 cheaper. This considerable price hike pushed cream further
out of reach of so many women who relied on progesterone to maintain optimal
hormonal health. Once again, women lost out big time!
Here's the rub, though. Women need a script to get acces to bioidentical progesterone
replacement therapy but our doctor's flatly refuse to prescribe it, despite empirical
evidence collected over several years suggesting its a safe, non-toxic alternative
to synthetic HRT.
It's unfortunate, but a fact nonetheless, women who need a script will get it
any way they can, including a visit to doctors who take their money but offer
no support or education. This is a real concern when women sneak around behind
their own doctor's back, accept treatment that may be contraindicative of progesterone
usage, perhaps unable to tell their doctor the full story, all of which has the
potential to end badly.
Wild Yam Scammers
Pharmaceutical companies and politicians aren't the only ones guilty of exploitation
of women. A good example would be the growing popularity of Wild Yam Extract
creams. Word has caught on that progesterone, derived from Wild Yam Extract (Dioscorea
Villosa) is restoring women's health.
Manufacturers of Wild Yam creams, unable to get access to USP (United States
Pharmacopeia) grade progesterone, have sold women the notion that diosgenin,
in its 'natural' Wild Yam state, can be converted into progesterone in the body.
These claims fly in the face of the facts - that this is physically impossible
because there's no enzyme in the body to take up disogenin. Diosgenin first needs
to be 'synthesised' in the laboratory to render it identical to the human hormone.
(Many of our modern steroids are manufactured from diosgenin extracted from them.
Drugs like birth control pills are affordable due to this genus).
These Wild Yam creams that contain absolutely no USP progesterone are sold through
health food outlets and by naturopaths as complying with Dr John Lee's protocol
and research on progesterone. This simply isn't true.
According to the publication 'Herbal Medicine, Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy,
Modern Herbal Medicine' "claims have arisen in the popular literature that
the female body can manufacture progesterone from diosgenin, particularly if
a wild yam cream is applied to the skin. No evidence exits for mammalian enzymes
which are capable of effecting what is a difficult chemical conversion. The evidence
that does exist strongly disputes the possiblity of this conversion. In fact,
diosgenin appears to have estogenic properties in mice and lacks progesteronic
Bioidentical, natural-to-the-body progesterone is not produced anywhere in the
plant kingdom. Bioidentical progesterone is manufactured in a laboratory with
the aid of an enzyme. The substance diosgenin, found in the Mexican Wild Yam
or Soy plants, has to undergo a series of chemical changes whereby it is synthesised
or converted from its raw state into United States Pharmacopeia (USP) grade progesterone.
And this confusion is not limited to lay women. Members of the medical fraternity,
when arguing vehemently against the efficacy of progesterone, constantly make
reference to homeopathic Wild Yam creams containing diosgenin.
Natural progesterone creams are referred to as ‘natural’ because
the end result represents the same molecule naturally occurring in the body.
It is chemically identical to progesterone of ovarian origin.
Doctors Don't Want to Know
The question is whether doctors are getting balanced information or just promotional
material from the pharmaceutical companies.
As a patient, I know that a Wild Yam Extract cream containing 'diosgenin' is
not a precursor to progesterone in the body. And that a synthetic progestin analogue
such as Provera (medroxyprogesterone acetate) is a molecular modification beyond
bioidentical progesterone. But most physicians do not. They derive their knowledge
of drugs from pharmaceutical companies who, for obvious reasons, focus their
marketing pitch on patented products only - such as synthetic HRT and the contraceptive
Natural progesterone is referred to as ‘natural’ because it represents
the same molecule naturally occurring in the body. It can be introduced into
the body with relative safety and minimal side effects because the body recognises
And it's because progesterone is classified a naturally occurring medicine, drug
companies cannot slap their logo on it, brand it as their own 'exclusive' product,
and generate commercial application.
This lack of financial incentive for drug companies to inject millions and millions
of dollars into research, development and marketing of a drug they cannot 'own'
means progesterone is then overshadowed by its synthetic cousin - progestin -
not because it's less effective but because, to these multi-national drug companies,
biological progesterone represents a dodgy investment.
The 1995 PEPI (Postmenopausal Estrogen/Progestin Interventions) trial, a three-year
multi-center, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial sponsored by the National
Institutes of Health (NIH), clearly demonstrated that natural progesterone actually
works better than synthetic progestin in terms of protecting the heart, and that
natural progesterone can protect against uterine cancer as well as synthetic
progestin. Yet, inexplicably, this message has not yet reached the medical community.
Chemically-altered hormones can shut down or reduce our production of natural
hormones. Because the molecules have been changed, the synthetic hormones used
in the Contraceptive Pill and HRT do not have the same effect on the mind and
body as our natural hormones do. In fact, many of the effects of synthetic hormones
are the exact opposite to the natural hormone they so ineptly replace.
It's quite obvious some doctors really struggle to come to grips with what exactly
bioidentical HRT is, and why incorporating salivary hormone profiles offer more
accurate results than blood tests. A flow on from this is that women often cop
a 'dressing down' when they approach their GP requesting a prescription for progesterone
and that a baseline hormonal profile be established using salivary assays.
Doctors are encouraged to prescribe a potentially harmful drug (which may cause
and promote cancer), but see absolutely no reason why they ought to remain open-minded
(at least!) to a safer alternative - progesterone - which may actually prevent
Some of us may manage to convince our GP to write a script, and go so far as
to order a saliva hormone profile kit, but then our doctor leaves the interpretation
of symptom relief and saliva assays reports, dosage adjustment, etc., up to us
- the patient! We may as well revert back to the days when we sourced our cream
through healthfood stores or MLM distributors which, of course, did not include
hefty GP consultation fees and a 50% hike in the price of cream!
Technicially we're not self-medicating. We've elicited the cooperation of our
GP required to legally obtain progesterone thereby meeting the guidelines set
down by the TGA. But why aren't these same doctors monitoring our progress? Are
they capable of monitoring our progress? Evidently not
Most doctors want nothing whatsoever to do with 'bioidentical' hormones, preferring
instead to stick to tried and tested drugs they're more familiar with, resulting
in a 'stand-off' between women and their family doctors.
In light of the recent US and UK findings that conventional HRT, once prescribed
to millions of women to ease the immediate symptoms of menopause and to prevent
osteoporosis and heart disease, has been found to increase the risk of heart
disease, cancer and blood clots, and perhaps has legal implications for the manufacturers
of HRT drugs, doctor would be well advised to embrace every opportunity to actually
listen to the women who are using natural progesterone and who are not only getting
well, they're remaining healthy (and happy) long term!
About the Author:
Catherine P. Rollins is the author of 'A Woman's Guide to Using Natural Progesterone'
and Director of the highly popular website:
This article was syndicated from The Natural Progesterone Advisory Network: