Part 3 of 5 (Part 1, Part 2, Part 4, Part 5)
By Tim O’Shea
Other Side Effects of HRT
- Depression (Obstet and Gyn, 1992 80:30)
- Breast Cancer (NEJM 19 Jun 97; 336:1821)
- Stroke ( NEJM 1991 vol 325p756)
- Lupus (Lee p258)
But wait a minute! I thought everything was supposed to be fine once they added synthetic progesterone to the synthetic estrogen. That’s what everybody was supposed to think. But the real stats don’t show it.
John Lee, MD, a California endocrine researcher, explains why. Simple: HRT’s synthetic progesterone is completely altered after going through the digestive system, when it gets to the liver. The liver changes it into three other metabolites. Any benefits are thus cancelled. So the big change in the 70s from ERT to HRT was largely a change in public perception, due to drug advertising, and its second cousin, peer-reviewed medical journal articles.
Dr. Lee’s view, and that of other proponents of natural progesterone products is that the problems at menopause are not caused by lack of estrogen, but by lack of progesterone. Remember that estrogen production drops 40% at menopause.
Well, progesterone drops to 0%. And look at all the things it’s responsible for. The synthetic progesterone in HRT isn’t doing any good, since it’s being changed into something else in the liver. It’s not real progesterone. Therefore the estrogen is still unopposed.
CAUTION: Please be sure to read Dr. Mercola’s warning on progesterone cream.
The Anovulatory Cycle
Many American women in their 20s and 30s have monthly cycles in which they don’t ovulate. That is, an egg is not released from the ovary. Such a widespread phenomenon is a new twist in human evolution. There are obvious reasons, as well as serious effects which accompany this unnatural process – the inability to reproduce – now taking place in so many adult females.
The reasons for anovulation are simple: severe biochemical imbalance. First the xenoestrogens. We are in the same biosphere, the same food chain as all the animals mentioned above who have experienced reproductive chaos from chemical pollutants. Why should our species be exempt? It isn’t. We drink the water of the same planet, eat fish and plants and meat laced with the same immortal PCBs and DDTs – it’s a closed system.
Stress obviously promotes biochemical imbalance by overtaxing the adrenals, which then steal progesterone to make more adrenal hormones, which further promotes estrogen dominance. Coffee is a big culprit, as well as soft drinks. A Johns Hopkins study found that women who take in more than 300 mg of caffeine per day (three cups of coffee, or eight sodas) reduce their chance of conception by 26%.
Effects of a female going through adulthood without being physically able to reproduce? Look around you. See any sexual ambivalence in any areas? I’ll spare you my theories on contemporary social issues. But the physical effects of anovulation are a very clear result of the disruption of the fragile endocrine balance that has taken aeons to evolve.
One obvious ill effect of menstruating without ovulating as well as too much estrogen is the overstimulation of the endometrial lining. After a time, the excessive monthly lining promotes irregular lumps of connective tissue known as fibroids to form. Too easily and too readily, the buzzword “pre-cancerous” comes up, with the snap prescription for a completely unnecessary hysterectomy.
Between 600 thousand and one million hysterectomies are performed on American women each year, 90% of them unnecessary, according to Stanley West, MD. That story is beyond the scope of this chapter except to raise the red flag that estrogen dominance sets the stage for most of the “irregularities” which end up with a prescription for hysterectomy. The reader is referred to Dr. West’s book The Hysterectomy Hoax for a dark journey. Also the first half of John Robbins’ Reclaiming Our Health.
What’s Wrong With What Most Women Are Told About Menopause?
The standard line is that menopausal women need estrogen therapy to prevent osteoporosis and other menopause symptoms because the body has stopped making its own estrogen. HRT (synthetic estrogen + synthetic progesterone) will take up the slack. HRT is routinely recommended in practically any situation, physical or mental that can be even remotely tied to menopause.
What the drug industry has conveniently ignored is that at menopause, estrogen output drops only about 40%. (Sellman, p16) Ovary production of estrogen drops way down below the level necessary for reproductive function. But adrenal and fat cell outputs of estrogen keep on going in order to maintain the other important endocrine functions of estrogen, which are not directly related to reproduction:
- bone building
- electrolyte balance
- insulin balance
- fat and protein metabolism
- cholesterol synthesis
That 40% figure is only for American and Northern European women, who have the highest estrogen levels in the world. In nonindustrialized countries, the drop is much less, primarily because their normal level of estrogen is so much lower. What is commonly ignored is that progesterone levels drop to 0% at menopause, and progesterone is necessary to keep a balance with estrogen.
So do the math: if an American woman has had estrogen levels that are double the normal for most of her adult life, and at menopause, estrogen only drops 40%, that means she is still operating at 120% of “normal,” compared with an agrarian-type, nonindustrialized woman. But with this estimated 120% of normal estrogen, after menopause, there is NO progesterone to offset it. Estrogen dominance is a new phenomenon in nature, created by modern society, and modern medical politics.
Why Is The Solution Not Fake Estrogen?
Synthetic estrogen dosage is way too much, and too weird, for the body to deal with. Synthetic hormones have molecular forms that do not occur in nature. They are manmade. The dancing of the hormones in the above chart is seriously disrupted by adding hormone-like chemicals than can mimic some of the functions of real hormones, but cannot maintain their role in the ever changing back and forth swirling biochemical dance that is taking place at every second in the normal body.
These fake hormones are insensitive to the body’s requirements for instantaneous alteration into another member of the hormone chart.
Aspirin is made from the bark of the white willow. People have been using white willow bark for centuries as a mild pain reliever. But white willow bark cannot destroy the stomach lining on contact the way aspirin does. In the same way that aspirin is not white willow bark, synthetic estrogen is not estrogen. And synthetic progesterone is not progesterone.
The main problem with synthetic hormones is that they last too long. All the natural hormonal feedback loops, which we do not even completely understand, are disrupted because the synthetics can’t act as precursors to the changing hormonal forms in the same way that the natural hormones know.
The hormone system becomes fragmented with millions of one-way orders that are supposed to have return messages. As long as synthetics keep coming in, there’s no way to de-frag the system. The result is loss of proper interplay between the reproductive, adrenal, and thyroid systems. They all suffer.
American women arguably are among the most stressed people in history, emotionally and nutritionally, as well as environmentally. It is well known that stress depletes the adrenal glands. When this happens, progesterone is converted to adrenal hormones, like cortisol, to take up the slack and try to keep up with adrenal demands. Remember, progesterone is their precursor, in the above chart. The result is further depletion of progesterone, again promoting estrogen dominance.
The above list of side effects of HRT is caused by one simple thing:
Too pure and too much. And no progesterone.
So this is why cancer risks with HRT remain much higher than without HRT. The connection between HRT and cancer is really quite logical when you consider the normal functions of estrogen: controlling areas of rapidly dividing cells in preparation for reproduction. Unopposed estrogen, as we’ve known since the 1970s, upsets the normal endocrine balance. And where does the imbalance appear?
Rapidly dividing cells of the reproductive tissues: endometrium, ovaries, breast. Perhaps nature did not intend for these tissues to be going wild at this time of life, when the reproductive system is supposed to be going out of business. Wouldn’t a tissue defect like cancer be a natural result of artificially jumpstarting tissues which want to start winding down a little? Especially when the hormones are of the imitation, manmade, designer variety?
Dr. Lee underscores one amazing fact: the only known cause of endometrial cancer is unopposed estrogen!
Unopposed estrogen is actually heightened by giving standard HRT because of the increased ratio of estrogen to progesterone. Research has never proven that estrogen deficiency causes cancer, but many studies have shown that progesterone deficiency does.
A Johns Hopkins study of 1000 women showed that progesterone deficient women had a tenfold increased chance of dying from cancer compared with women who have normal levels of progesterone. (Cowan)
Jerilynn Prior, MD a world authority in endocrinology says that describing menopause as an “estrogen deficiency disease” is the same as describing headache as an “aspirin deficiency disease.” She calls this type of thinking ‘backwards science.’ Illnesses cannot be categorized by which drugs they are missing. That would assume that drugs cure illnesses, which almost never happens. Especially not in the case of HRT. Menopause is not an illness.
So Why Don’t Gynecologists Prescribe Progesterone?
Some do. The problem here is that natural sources of progesterone are easy to find and inexpensive to make from many plants sources. As such they cannot be patented.
This is a central point to keep in mind, perhaps the most important idea of this chapter. There are inexpensive plant-based phytoestrogens and natural progesterones which can control most estrogen imbalances, especially when incorporated into a detoxifying low-stress diet. Synthetics (drugs) are rarely necessary.
But Only Drugs Can Be Patented
There is no way to make massive profits from a natural plant source, and you have just heard the primary reason for the organized attack on holistic supplements that is under way in the US today. Natural risk-free products are a threat to the drug trade. Drug concerns develop chemical compounds that are almost like the natural hormone. But almost only counts in grenade-tossing. Maybe the synthetic compound is only different by an atom or two.
Perhaps it can mimic some of the activity of the real hormone. After that, it is only necessary to create a market by control of information, by controlling the outcome and publishing of clinical studies, and by controlling regulating agencies, using political and legal tactics. But that one-atom difference in the shape of the molecule is all the difference in the world, in terms of breakdown, toxicity, and side effects. Understanding this paragraph will go far in explaining many of the contradictions of HRT, the unanswered questions, the indirect answers, the arrogance one encounters.
Where Do These Designer Hormone Replacement Drugs Come From Anyway?
The most popular synthetic estrogen is a drug called Premarin, made from the urine of pregnant horses! This is no joke. Manufactured by the Philadelphia pharmaceutical giant Wyeth-Ayerth since 1942, an estimated $940 million per year (Sellman p5) worldwide is generated by the sale of this one drug. Most estimates are that at least 75% of HRT drugs contain Premarin. Since 1993, Premarin has been among the top three drugs in the U.S. in gross sales. (National Center for Health Statistics)
In 1992, Wyeth-Ayerth spent $9 million just for advertising Premarin! Their ad execs came up with the brilliant phrase “untreated menopause.” That same year Premarin was the #1 drug prescribed in the U.S. (Robbins, p 140).
This Is Marketing Mastery
Before we consider the effectiveness of this drug, let’s briefly look at the circumstances involved in its preparation.
Some 700 “horse farms” are set up in remote areas of the United States and Canada. Most of them have extensive security, and with good reason. At any one time, some 80,000 or so horses suffer the slow torture of life as a lab rat. Each mare is strapped into a tiny stall in which there is no room to lie down or even turn around.
For seven months of the 11 month pregnancy, the horse is immobilized in the stall, hooked up to a catheter which collects all her urine. She is deprived of sufficient water in order to make the urine more concentrated, thus raising its value to the drug company. Infections frequently occur at the site of the catheter and from the restraining apparatus. Liver and kidney disease are common.
The foals themselves are referred to as “by-products” by the manufacturing company and are generally sold to the slaughterhouse. The mare is immediately impregnated after she has given birth and soon is imprisoned back in the tiny stall for another run. After about 12 years of this horrible life, the mares are themselves slaughtered and sold for dogmeat.
This has been going on for 56 years! Over one million horses have been cruelly abused in this way.
In Canada, the foaling generally takes place on open prairie. Mother and foal are immediately separated, and most of the foals die. The ones that survive are extremely stressed, and with good reason: they are sold to slaughterhouses and shipped to Europe and Japan where certain cuts are regarded as delicacies.
I think you get the point. For more details follow up at www.allrealgood.com Information like this tends to suggest that agencies like the ASPCA are basically PR fronts focusing on self-promotion and making sure dogs in Jack Nicholson movies get enough overtime. .
Even if Premarin were the true answer to all of menopause’s annoyances, reviewing the above data should be enough for any sane person to feel some twinge of guilt about contributing to a program of such horrendous cruelty.
Menopause can’t be that bad, can it? But the reality is that Premarin and other HRT synthetics do not work, do not do what they’re supposed to do, and have major side effects. If you have any notion whatsoever of universal harmony or equilibrium, it seems logical that we’re not gonna get away with this. And we don’t. The first payback is one of the biggies: cancer.
Henry Lemon MD of the University of Nebraska College of Medicine feels that an unnatural imbalance is caused by putting horse estrogens into a woman’s body. The body does not allow two of the three naturally occurring estrogens, estradiol and estrone, to hang around very long. It converts them into the non-carcinogenic estriol, as soon as possible. Such a helpful conversion cannot happen with Premarin because of the amounts involved. So the propensity for cancer is clearly seen: the carcinogenic forms are allowed to persist.
Premarin was approved by the FDA over 50 years ago, when requirements were must less stringent. There are many unknown ingredients in Premarin which may be normal in a horse, but not a human. It is likely that these are instrumental in the abnormally high rates of uterine and breast cancer following HRT, which rates are anywhere from a 30% to a 600% increase above normal, depending on the study.
Are women informed? Hardly. Information like the above is very bad for business.
Many phytoestrogens from plants are now available, as well as generic synthetic Premarin substitutes. With clever legal maneuvering however, Wyeth-Ayerth has successfully blocked the generic substitutes from FDA approval by a twist worthy of Johnny Cochran.
They have claimed that the generics do not contain one of the unknown elements that Premarin contains, which is true. However it is more likely that the unknown element – 8,9 dehydroestrone sulfate – is toxic, not beneficial! Even the FDA regards 8,9 dehydroestrone sulfate as an “impurity” and yet the FDA will not approve the generics because they don’t have it! As all throughout history, today more than ever, politics controls “science.”