Recently a study released out of the UCLA Medical Center made a connection between prescription hormone use and breast cancer. Progestin (a synthetic progesterone-like substance) was mentioned.
Progesterone, which is a unique molecule that your body makes is actually health promoting and important to the health of many systems in our bodies. It differs from “progestin” because the progestin molecule is a progesterone molecule that has been altered in a lab. In the case of one popular prescription form of progestin (often mistakenly referred to as “progesterone” by doctors and patients), for example… they add a methyl group to the naturally occurring progesterone molecule, rendering the outcome product, progestin, “new to nature.” That means it doesn’t occur in nature and that the pharmaceutical company that put it together can patent the rights to it. Obviously we can all understand the need for and uses of being able to patent something.
But is that the best thing for us?
In fact, there are likely no therapeutic benefits to adding the methyl group, and actually many of the therapeutic benefits of real or bio-identical progesterone are lost in the process. Further, by adding that methyl group and creating this unnatural molecule, progestin, you are actually adding risks and side effects.
Why did the pharmaceutical companies create progestins? It was not in order to reduce symptoms because progestins often cause so many symptoms that patients ask to be taken off of them. Progestins were created, in fact, because prior to their creation women were being administered prescription estrogens without any form of progesterone to balance those prescription estrogens. This scenario created, among other things, an overwhelming increase in uterine cancers. Instead of taking those prescription estrogen drugs off of the market, they created progestins to reduce the incidence of uterine cancer associated with taking the conventional prescription estrogen drugs.
How does that work? It does so by causing the lining of the uterus to shed on an ongoing basis, ridding the lining of any opportunistic cancer cells allowed to grow secondary to the use of those prescription forms of estrogens. Real, bio-identical progesterone could have worked just as well and without the risks and side effects associated with progestins but alas… the pharmaceutical companies cannot patent something that comes from nature and therefore cannot afford to take it through the FDA drug approval process. Taking a substance through the FDA drug approval process is very expensive. So in all fairness to them, if they cannot patent it and control the profits in order to gain a return on their investment they cannot move forward with a substance. So… they chose to make progestins.
Those of us practicing on the complementary and alternative side of medicine have had a universal awareness of the risks associated with the progestins and prescription estrogens for years. This set of circumstances represents some of the many reasons that I am a proponent of the use of “bioidentical” hormone replacement and not a fan of the conventional prescription version of synthetic hormone replacement therapy (HRT). The results seen in this “latest study” are no surprise to me. In fact it further confirms my caution with progestins and prescription estrogens and my support of alternative and complementary methods, such as herbal-based bio-identical hormones, herbal and nutritional support and especially the need for stress-management and a healthy lifestyle.
Some levels of progesterone and estrogens (the naturally occurring forms that your body is supposed to make) actually belong in the body in reasonable levels throughout perimenopause (in a cycling manner each month) and in lower levels throughout menopause and post-menopause (steady levels throughout the month). A presence or history of stress, and many other factors can interfere with our bodies’ ability to produce adequate levels of these important and health-balancing hormones over time. For those of us that can produce adequate levels… we enjoy the ability to create balance between progesterone and the estrogens in our body, resolve “estrogen dominance” and “premenstrual syndrome (PMS)”, support against estrogen-related risks and balance against symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, headaches, migraines, insomnia, depression and anxiety. Further, many different organs and tissue in our bodies depend on real or bio-identical progesterone and estrogens for their optimal and healthy function. These includes our bones, brains, immune systems, and cardiovascular systems… the list goes on. Progestin does not provide the benefits that real bio-identical progesterone provides, and it is also associated with risks.
So, when the body can not consistently provide enough progesterone or estrogens, for a variety of reasons, it can be beneficial to supplement them at low levels in the bio-identical herbally-based form (the exact molecules that your body makes).
One can not take the research from progestins and prescription estrogens and apply it to real bio-identical herbally based progesterone and estrogens, and vice versa… the substances are far too different. Admittedly, more research is needed on the use of these bio-identical forms of hormones. However… as the emerging research on bio-identical hormones does come out, the news gets better and better!
Our office provides a variety of risk-reducing quality-of-life enhancing physician quality supplements, such as:
Est Right – Non-hormonal symptom balancing support for estrogen in the liver
Estro Smart – Non-hormonal symptom balancing support for estrogen in the liver
Calcium D Glucarate – Supports estrogen metabolism in the digestive system
Smart Fish – Non-toxic omega 3 fish oil to support estrogen and whole body health
Restore Multi – High quality bio-available multi with added liver support
Bio Restore – Acidophilus non-refrigerated form, protected from heat and stomach to promote estrogen health in the digestive system