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Nutrition & Healing - Hormone Replacement Therapy

By Dr. Jonathan V. Wright

If you're enduring symptoms of menopause-hot flashes, insomnia, depression, confusion, anxiety-you've likely been advised to take hormone replacement therapy, or you're taking it already. If menopause has come and gone, you mat be concerned with prevention of osteoporosis, heart and blood vessel disease and lowing your chances of senility and even Alzheimer's disease. Once again, you may have been advised to take, or you may already be taking hormone replacement therapy.

Unfortunately, "hormone replacement therapy" as usually prescribed by "mainstream" medicine doesn't exactly replace "human''hormones. With one exception, "mainstream'' prescriptions are for hormones originating in horses, or synthesized in test tubes. For clarity, I'll call these pharmaceutical hormones. "Natural" medicine uses hormones exactly identical to those produced by your body, in the same proportions made by your body. For clarity, I'll call these "Natural" hormones. I always draw a clear distinction between these two types of hormones because the "Pharmaceutical" hormones have a different molecular structure than the hormones that are produced by the human body whereas the "natural" hormones are identical.

Three types of estrogen (''natural hormones") are present in women's bodies between the onset of menstruation and menopause. They're called estrone, estradiol and estriol. By contrast, commonly prescribed 44 "pharmaceutical" hormones include "conjugated estrogens", or ethinyl estradiol, or other molecules that don't naturally exist in the human body. There's only one naturally occurring progesterone in women's bodies. It's called progesterone, not medroxyprogesterone, the commonly prescribed "pharmaceutical" version.

"Natural" hormone replacement therapy uses all the naturally occurring hormones, estrone, estradiol and estriol, in proportions to each other as close to natural as possible. "Mainstream'' therapy uses "pharmaceutical" hormones with that exception mentioned before: sometimes "mainstream" medicine prescribes estradiol by itself.

A very basic principle of traditional, natural medicine states that molecules in their natural form, precisely identical to those found in our bodies, should be given preference over "pharmaceutical" molecules. After all, nature and creation have preferred those molecules for hundreds of thousands of years and probably for very good reasons, even if we and 20th century science don't exactly know why.

Late 20th century science does appear to have a few clues that "natural" hormones may be better than "pharmaceutical" versions. It's found that "pharmaceutical" estrogens and even the "natural" estrogen, estradiol, if taken by itself without other natural estrogens, can raise the risk of cancer after several years. By contrast preliminary indications are that estriol, one of the three naturally-occurring estrogens in women's bodies, is anticarcinogenic. It's likely not a coincidence that much more estriol is excreted by women's bodies that the other two estrogens, estrone and estradiol. If this weren't the case, it's very likely that many more women would be dying of cancers at much younger ages. In my opinion, it's not wise to take even "natural" estradiol and estrone without accompanying them with naturally occurring proportion of estriol.

It's true that taking "pharmaceutical" progesterone lowers the risk of cancer from taking "pharmaceutical" estrogen or estradiol by itself but early indications are "pharmaceutical" progesterone doesn't rebuild bone mass and "natural progesterone" does.

Two other "sex hormones" are frequently very useful during and after menopause. They're testosterone and DHEA, both found naturally in women's bodies. When levels of these two hormones are abnormally low, sex drive may be lost and important aspects to tissue rebuilding don't happen quite as well. However, since these are both androgenic hormones, it's very important to carefully measure their levels to see if they're needed as part of overall hormone replacement therapy. Follow up testing should be done to make sure that prescribed quantities are neither too much nor too little, but within the boundaries naturally occurring in women's bodies.

If DBEA and testosterone are prescribed, they too should always be in the natural form. Testosterone should be prescribed as testosterone, not as the "pharmaceutical" version methyltestosterone. Fortunately, no one has synthesized a DHEA substitute yet, so the only form available is the natural one!

So, if you're using or considering hormone replacement therapy, why not use the real thing? Perhaps the question should be, why isn't the real thing usually prescribed? Chances are, you know the answer: pharmaceutical companies cannot patent "natural" molecules, but they can patent "pharmaceutical" molecules. As you know, patented medicines are mostly the ones preferred by "mainstream" medical therapies, even though not by natural and creation.

It's definitely possible to use "natural" hormones in replacement therapy, in exactly the proportions naturally found in women's bodies. That's certainly what I recommend and have been prescribing since 1982. Women who take them tell me that they "simply feel better" than when they take the "pharmaceutical" types. And I've seen actual increases in bone density after age 60 in women who've taken "natural" hormones along with the appropriate diet, vitamins and minerals. I interpret this as a clue that following in the path of nature and creation is the way to go.

If you'd like to go this way also, but are finding it difficult to locate a doctor and compounding pharmacist who use natural hormones, you might want to contact the American College of Advancement in Medicine at 800-532-3688 for a referral.


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