Progesterone dominance and hormone balance
Forum: The Truth in Medicine
Here is a copy of a letter I wrote to a lady a while back having some hormone issues that I thought would be of interest.
You are right that many of your estrogen and thyroid problems go hand in hand. Estrogen dominance interferes with thyroid function. Symptoms of low thyroid can include dry hair, dry skin, mental fogginess, low body temperature, slow heart rate, constipation, hair loss, low energy, and weight gain.
Your earlier problem of endometriosis is also associated with estrogen dominance.
Though I do not recommend progesterone creams for the long term treatment of estrogen dominance. The benefits of progesterone have been pushed for years, especially by Dr. Lee. Although I have yet to see him discuss the opposite end of the spectrum known as progesterone dominance. Contrary to some claims, progesterone DOES build up in the fat tissues, as estrogen will. If progesterone levels exceed the level required to balance estrogen, progesterone dominance can occur.
Symptoms of progesterone dominance are often the same as estrogen dominance such as weight gain, fluid retention, depression due to increased monoamine oxidase (MAO) activity and decreased dopamine, and decreased sex drive due to lowered testosterone. Elevated progesterone also diminishes sex drive through several other mechanisms. It decreases pheromone perception, decreases the sense of touch including in the genitals, and decreases orgasm by relaxing the uterus and by inhibiting oxytocin.
There is a good reason that the hormones are normally kept in a balance in the body. An imbalance of any of the hormones including the estrogens, progesterone, oxytocin, prolactin, and testosterone can create problems. This also makes we wonder how many women taking progesterone have developed progesterone dominance then increased their application of progesterone creams thinking that they are still suffering from estrogen dominance.
A secondary problem with the use of substitute hormones is that substitute hormones can cause the body to shut down its own production of those hormones. This may also occur with the use of glandulars, such as Armour. I have heard women tell me time and time again that they are no longer producing hormones because either they are in menopause or because they have had a total hysterectomy. Though the fact is they are still producing hormones. The adrenal glands become the primary source of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone after natural or surgically induced menopause. Fat cells also produce these hormones, but to a lesser extent. If the production of these hormones are substituted for though, the body shuts down its own production of these hormones in an attempt to prevent a hormone overload. I have seen a lot of examples of this occurring. Primarily in women who were on birth control pills for years then suddenly went off of them, or after it was finally admitted that Premarin can increase the risk of cancer and women were going off their Premarin cold turkey. In both cases the long term use of these substitute hormones shut down their own hormone production leading to adverse effects when they went off suddenly because there were not enough hormones present to support their systems. Substitute hormones and glandulars need to weaned off slowly if someone has been on them for a while.
Back to progesterone. I never recommend progesterone creams for longer than 14 days a month, and for no more than 2 months without taking a long break to allow the fat tissue to dump some of the stored progesterone. For long term progesterone production I prefer chaste tree berry (vitex), which stimulates the pituitary to increase the body’s production of progesterone. Keep in mind though that it does take at least 2 months to kick in. So it can be taken in conjunction with progesterone creams while weaning off of the cream. Parsley leaf and alfalfa herb are also great since they are both rich phytoestrogen sources and both support the pituitary.
Phytoestrogens are plant based estrogenic substances. On average phytoestrogens are about 200 to 400 times weaker than the body’s own estrogen. So they have a duel effect by both acting as very weak estrogens and by locking up estrogen receptors to block the action of stronger and more dangerous estrogens. For instance Premarin (PREgnant MARes urINe), which is 3,000 times stronger than human estrogen, and xenoestrogens, such as dioxin and PCBs, which can be as high as 30,000 times stronger than human estrogens. Many phytoestrogens can be derived from diet. Dietary sources include soy, sage, yams, parsley, peas, kudzu, and seaweeds. Other sources include red clover, licorice root, and numerous other herbs. In fact phytoestrogens have been isolated from over 350 different plants.
Flavonoids, found in various foods, especially berries also function in the same manner as phytoestrogens.
A couple of herbs that work well for hot flashes are sage leaf, motherwort, and black cohosh.
A few other suggestions to help with balancing the hormones. Digestive bitters help the liver to work more efficiently to break down excess hormones. They must come in to contact with the tongue to work properly. They are sold in health food stores under names like Grape Bitters, Swedish Bitters, and Ginger Bitters. Drink plenty of water throughout the day when using bitters since they do detox the body.
Taking a B complex is also recommended, or eat foods high in B vitamins since B6 is essential for detoxification of estrogens by the liver and they are best taken together in a complex.
In addition it is important to keep the intestinal flora healthy since among their other roles they detoxify estrogen metabolites. Making sure you stay hydrated and get fiber in your diet is the best way to help maintain the flora.
And finally keep your adrenal glands healthy since they are the primary source of hormones after a hysterectomy. Vitamin C and pantothenic acid are the primary nutrients needed for the adrenals. Herbs that support the adrenals include astragalus, Siberian ginseng, ashwagandha, jiaogulan, licorice root, Arctic root, and nettle leaf. Avoid stimulants, steroidal medications, and watch your stress levels since these all weaken adrenal function.
I prefer to take herbs on an empty stomach at least 20 minutes before meals since fats and proteins can interfere with or slow absorption.
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