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Natural progesterone

Women worldwide want to feel good, look great, and avoid the common symptoms of pain and discomfort associated with menstruation and menopause. The quest to discover solutions to the myriad of symptoms that plague woman and men is ongoing.

Yet for many decades Dr John Lee personally had a positive impact on millions of women worldwide, with the introduction and education of his revolutionary study into the causes of hormonal imbalance.

He said, “It may sound too good to be true, but it’s merely a case of supplying the body with what it needs to maintain balance. You’ve read about how out of balance our estrogenic environment has become; it’s no wonder women are feeling much better when they use some natural  progesterone in the form of a simple cream.”

There seem to be many benefits from using such a cream. But where does one find it?

Well the best and safest source according to Dr Lee is derived from the wild yam. Almost all claims can be traced to a popular booklet written by John M. Lee M.D. Lee claims that the unifying factor linking fibroids, breast cancer, fibrocystic breasts, PMS, and osteoporosis is “estrogen dominance secondary to a relative insufficiency of progesterone” (Lee 1993). Lee also claims that natural progesterone has none of the side effects that synthetic progestins do.

However, naturally sourced wild yam cream is also being promoted as safe and effective therapy by itself, and seems to have a dramatic effect on the hormones. It is sold over the- counter as a moisturizing cream, and in capsules to be placed under the tongue. This natural cream has been touted as a prophylactic against hot flashes, osteoporosis, and even breast cancer.

What Women Have To Say About The Effects Of Using Natural Wild Yam Cream

  • “It’s as if my body breathed a big sigh of relief .”
  • “My life is back on track and my symptoms are gone.”
  • “I thought my ability to think clearly was gone for good, but it’s back and better than ever.”
  • “I had a second ultrasound and the fibroid is half the size it was six months ago. My doctor says I don’t need to have a hysterectomy after all.”
  • “My PMS and tender breasts are a thing of the past. And I’m in control of my emotions the week before my period.”
  • “After three months on progesterone, folic acid and vitamin B6 I am no longer testing positive for cervical dysplasia.”
  • “Since I began using progesterone cream I haven’t had one migraine headache.”
  • “I’ve lost 11 pounds and I think most of it was water weight. I no longer feel like a balloon.”
  • “I can sleep again and I’m much less moody and anxious.”
  • “We just wanted to let you know that after years of infertility, we had a healthy baby boy.”

This substance is a highly fat-soluble compound that can be modified to be exceedingly well absorbed when applied transdermally or onto the skin.

According to hormone researcher David Zava, Ph.D., “progesterone is by far the most lipophilic, or fat-loving, of the steroid hormones. It circulates in the blood, carried by fat-soluble substances such as red blood cell membranes. Some 70 to 80 percent of ovary-made progesterone is carried on red blood cells and thus is not measured by serum or plasma blood tests. However it is available to the body for use, and readily filters into saliva through the saliva glands, where it can be measured accurately. The remaining 20 to 30 percent of progesterone in the body is protein-bound and is found in the watery blood plasma where it can be measured by serum or plasma blood tests.”

Many health professionals say that is why saliva testing is a far more accurate and relevant test than blood tests in measuring bio-available amounts of progesterone.

Here is an excerpt from a Women’s Health Activist Newsletter – January/February 1999.

“Progestins (or progestagens) are a class of compounds that includes progesterone, a hormone produced by the ovaries. “Natural” progesterone is derived from soybeans or, most commonly, from an inedible wild Mexican yam (Diascorea uillosa). Synthetic forms of progestins are widely available and are used in birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy regimens. However, one may easily shun the adversity of landing themselves in a situation which requires of them to use birth control pills, because if they were to read this interesting review, they’d know better ways of maintaining contraception.

Progesterone – which used to be available only in injectable forms, but in the last few years has become available in oral and even plant-based, naturally sourced topical forms) is believed by many to have fewer side effects than synthetic progestins (which sometimes cause breast tenderness, bloating, and irritability).

Natural progesterone was included in the 1997 PEPI study, which found that it was equally effective in protecting the endornetrium (uterine lining) and less likely to interfere with estrogen’s improvement of HDL cholesterol levels (the good kind) than a synthetic progestogen (PEPI writing group 1995).

This study was halted in 2002 because  of an announcement from the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), which found that Provera aggravates cardiovascular risk factors. “The estrogen plus progestin trial was stopped in July 2002, after investigators found that the associated health risks of the combination hormone therapy outweighed the benefits.” This report brought renewed emphasis on using alternative forms of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in women.


What About Lee’s Claimed Benefits?

Let’s examine the evidence about these claimed benefits.

Dr John Lee conducted a study that shows a positive effect of progesterone on bone. This one study has been published in several different publications, and all ot these multiple publications lack details about how the study was done (Lee 1990a, Lee 1990b, Lee 1991).

NOTE: This study is not really an experimental trial but is an unselected case series of 100 postmenopausal patients, ages 38-83 – without using a controlled placebo study. For this reason, Lee’s work has been discredited . . .

  • It appears that Lee simply tracked his own patients over time.
  • There is no control group and no apparent entry criteria, beyond being postmenopausal.
  • There is not even evidence presented that the women enrolled actually suffered from osteoporosis, beyond the very general statement that “the majority had already experienced height loss, some as much as five inches” (Lee 1990b).
  • Lumbar bone mineral density measurements (by dual photon absorptiometry) were done on 63 of the 100 patients, and it is claimed that, over an average of 3 years, bone density increased 15.4%. This is a extraordinarily large increase, unequaled by any known drug therapy.
  • Besides treatment with progesterone cream, an unspecified number of ‘women in this case series were also taking estrogen. (This fact is often not mentioned in the published reports.) Estrogen can increase bone density (although not to the degree claimed in Lee’s study). Another factor that confounds this report is that women were advised to take a supplement regimen including calcium, vitamin D, beta carotene, and vitamin C.
  • They were also advised to stop smoking, which decreases bone mass, and exercise, calcium, and vitamin D all help build bone, so all of these factors are potential confounders.

Lee claims that “The addition of progesterone to the conventional treatment program in postmenopausal women was found to be consistently beneficial. By the third month the patients generally experienced a sense of well-being … During the three year follow up observation, patient height was stabilized, aches and pains diminished, mobility and energy levels rose, normal libido returned, and no side effects emerged” (Lee 1990b). These mainly subjective results, however, have nothing to do with osteoporosis. (Height stabilization is not an osteoporosis endpoint because loss of height is not a steady ongoing, linear process: one doesn’t just get shorter and shorter until one melts into the ground like the wicked witch of the West.)

It is clear there are progesterone receptors on bone, and that in vitro, progesterone stimulates bone production (Verhaar, Panay), but in humans, studies are not so clear.

Do progestins increase bone or decrease it? It depends. Jerilynn Prior is a researcher whose studies have been used to support the use of progesterone to maintain or increase bone. Her study of 66 premenopausal women found that short luteal phases (shorter times between menstrual periods) correlated with decreases in spinal bone density (Prior 1990b); those with the shortest luteal phases lost 2A% of bone a year.

Natural progesterone appears to have benefits over synthetic progestins in HRT regimens. Progestins can cause depression, bloating, and other symptoms in women; proponents of natural progesterone claim that only synthetic forms cause these symptoms while the natural form alleviates them. There is no medical evidence that supports this claim, but more research needs to be done to determine whether natural progesterone has markedly different beneficial or deleterious effects compared to synthetic progestins.”

Adrians Fugh-Berrnan is author of Alternative Medicine: What Works, and editor of the new newsletter Alternative Therapies in Women’s Health.

To read more about Natural Progesterone, please read Dr. Lee’s books, What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause or What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Premenopause.

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