Many women today are interested in learning about bioidentical hormone replacement therapy as well as possible alternatives. Laura Johnson has served as a product specialist for Syringa Inc. for 12 years. Syringa makes Resolve cream, which helps women achieve hormonal balance without the use of drugs or hormones. Recently, Laura sat down with LoveToKnow Vitamins and Supplements to talk about the dangers of bioidentical hormone supplements.
Hormone Imbalance and Replacement Therapies
LoveToKnow (LTK): Diet, exercise and stress management are all a part of a good fitness regimen, but how important are they in relation to avoiding or abating hormonal imbalance symptoms?
Laura Johnson (LJ): Extremely! Certain vitamins and minerals, such as magnesium and B vitamins, are important to the body's manufacturing and utilization of hormones. Although one can supplement, the best place to get vitamins and minerals is diet. Poor nutrition inhibits our body's ability to perform its best, and poor dietary habits lead to becoming overweight. Estrogen is made and stored in fatty tissues. Obesity can lead to estrogen dominance, which leads to the myriad of symptoms associated with hormonal imbalances.
LTK: While conventional and alternative hormone replacement therapies have the same goal, they don't work in the same way. What's the difference?
LJ: You cannot patent anything found in nature, therefore anything in nature that has been found to be beneficial is isolated and altered by pharmaceutical companies so they can receive a patent and thus a profit. This is true of things, such as aspirin, as well as HRT drugs. The function of most drugs is to alleviate symptoms. Most of what is considered to be "alternative" medicine focuses on healing the body from within. Those dealing with alternative solutions tend to rely on the body's ability to heal itself and use drugs to help alleviate symptoms as a last resort.
I'm speaking in generalities here. I don't mean to disrespect all the wonderful doctors and nurses by suggesting they do nothing but try to find a drug to fit the problem or suggest that all "alternative" health care practitioners never use drugs and whatever they suggest is perfectly safe natural. Get to know your health care practitioner and use your judgment. We live in a litigious society, and many doctors are leery of suggesting something that hasn't been approved by the medical community, thus they resort to pharmaceutical drugs when safer, more natural alternatives exist. Hormone Replacement Therapy is a prime example of using drugs to alleviate symptoms rather that addressing the issue from within the body.
Natural or Unnatural?
LTK: Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy products have become popular but have stirred some controversy because they aren't really natural. What are your thoughts on these products.
LJ: I have very strong feelings about this. Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy includes drugs chemically synthesized in a lab. They do not occur in nature. However, because they are made to be identical to a natural counterpart, they can be misleadingly referred to as "natural" on product labels. I'm speaking specifically here regarding "natural" or "bio-identical" progesterone.
Manufacturers of this hormone take the diosgenin molecule from a yam or soy source and convert it into a molecule identical to a woman's own progesterone molecule. They then market it as "natural" or "bio-identical" progesterone and allow women to believe it's a truly natural substance. These are hormones made in a lab! My concern is for women looking online or in a health food store for a natural alternative to HRT, and come across these "natural" products. They are searching for an alternative to synthetic hormone therapy, and they end up unwittingly purchasing a product containing synthetic drugs--the very thing they were trying to avoid!
Some of these creams contain incredibly irresponsible amounts of progesterone. When considering the fact that a healthy woman who is still menstruating makes anywhere from 400 to 500 mgs of progesterone a month one doesn't have to be a doctor to see how a cream containing 1000 to 2000 mgs of progesterone can be detrimental. One can overdose with contraceptive side effects or even worse! Bio-identical hormone therapy products should be clearly labeled as drugs; they have not been tested for safety. No one really knows what the effects of long-term usage are going to be. Doctors and governmental regulatory agencies have stated that until proven otherwise, these hormones should be considered to have the same possible contraindications as any other HRT.
LTK: How are Syringa's Resolve and Balance different?
LJ: Resolve and Balance are topically applied skin creams containing Mexican Wild Yam extract and plant nutrients. They DO NOT contain any kind of added drugs or hormones. They are a source of natural nutritional chemistry, which assists the body in manufacturing its own progesterone, alleviating the symptoms of hormonal imbalances associated with estrogen dominance.
Skin creams containing wild yam extracts have been in use for years, as the wild yam is believed to be a natural source of precursor chemistry to a woman's natural hormones. Mexican Wild Yam is particularly rich in a sterol known as diosgenin. The effect of diosgenin in the body is thought to be as a phyto-progesterone acting at progesterone receptor sites. There are no studies to demonstrate this, nor is it known if diosgenin is transformed by the body through enzymatic reactions into actual progesterone or used in some other way.
The experience of thousands of women tells us that something of a hormonal nature takes place within the body. Because we do not extract and then alter diosgenin into any kind of synthetic hormone, there are no dangers of overdosing on either product. Both Resolve and Balance provide a woman's body with nutritional building blocks to help make her own progesterone safely and naturally. It allows the body to make the progesterone it needs in the levels it would normally make.
Suggestions for Alternative Hormonal Treatment Methods
LTK: Do you have any last suggestions for women looking for alternative hormonal treatment methods?
LJ: Stress management! We all suffer from stress, it's unavoidable for most, but stress wreaks havoc with our bodies. Corticosteroids are a class of the body's steroid hormones responsible for sugar control, mineral balance, and response to stresses of all types. They are made only from the body's own progesterone. They are not made from anything else in the body, nor is there any evidence that the body can use synthetic progesterone to manufacture them.
When we are under stress, our body uses more of it's progesterone to make corticosteroids, sometimes using so much that we don't have enough progesterone leftover to perform it's own functions - thus leading to symptoms of hormonal imbalance. Try to set some time aside for yourself each day to just relax.