Hormone Health MD Bioidentical Blog

July 8, 2008

Progesterone in Women

  Progesterone is one of your sex hormones and is made inyour ovaries before menopause. After menopause, some progesterone’s made in your adrenal glands. As we age, we lose our hormones, and progesterone is one of the first to go. In women, progesterone declines first, then estrogen. You could suffer from progesterone loss for 15 years before you lose your period.

   In our 40’s, we usually start to experience progesterone decline. Symptoms of decreased progesterone include anxiety, depression, irritability, mood swings, insomnia, pain and inflammation, osteoporosis, decreased HDL, weight gain, and excessive menstruation. Why do we gain weight with low progesterone? Estrogen is a building up hormone, and if you do not have enough progesterone to balance the estrogen you have, then you will gain weight. Estrogen without progesterone equals gaining about 10 pounds.

   Causes of low progesterone levels are peri-menopause, impaired production, low luteinizing hormone (LH), increased prolactin production, stress, sugar, and saturated fat, deficiency of vitamins A, B6, C, zinc, and decreased thyroid hormone.

    Be aware that progestin is not bioidentical progesterone. I have spoken to doctors and nurses who did not know the important difference. Synthetic non-bioidentical progesterone is called progestin. It is very different from natural bioidentical progesterone since it does not have the same chemical structure nor the same effects as the progesterone that your body makes on its own. Natural bioidentical progesterone is biologically identical to what you produce. Also, progestins do not reproduce the actions of natural progesterone. Progestins are contained in birth control pills, Provera, and Prempro. Don’t be fooled by the similarities in names.  Medroxyprogesterone is a progestin, not progesterone.

   What’s the difference? It could be your life. To start, progestins have many side effects. The side effects of progestins (synthetic progesterone) that do not occur with natural bioidentical progesterone include: increased appetite, weight gain, fluid retention, irritability, depression, headache, decreased energy, bloating, breast tenderness, decreased sexual interest, rash, acne, hair loss, nausea, insomnia, breakthrough bleeding/spotting. Progestins interfere with your bodys own production of progesterone and do not help balance estrogen. They remain in your body longer and can cause spasm of your coronary (heart) arteries. Progestins stop the protective effects estrogen has on your heart, attaches to many of your bodys receptor sitesnot just your progesterone receptors (long-term affects of this are unknown), and may make the symptoms of progesterone loss worse. Progestins increases LDL (bad cholesterol) and decreases HDL (good cholesterol). Progestins counteract many of the positive effects of estrogen on serotonin and may cause depression.

    Here’s the life-threatening part: a recent study has shown that the use of synthetic progesterone or progestinincreases the risk of breast cancer by 800%as compared withthe use of estrogen alone. Another study showed that women taking natural bioidentical progesterone had a 10% lower rate of cancer than the general population. 

     Natural bioidentical progesterone helps balance estrogen, leaves your body quickly, helps you sleep, has a natural calming effect1, lowers high blood pressure, helps your body use and eliminate fats, lowers cholesterol, may protect against breast cancer , increases scalp hair, normalizes libido, helps balance fluids in the cells, and increases the beneficial effects of estrogens on blood vessel dilation in atheroscelerotic plaques (hardening of the arteries), has an anti-proliferative effect (decreases the rate of cancer)on all progesterone receptorsnot just the ones in the uterus, does not change the good effect estrogen has on blood flow, increases metabolic rate, is a natural diuretic and a natural antidepressant.

      Natural bioidentical progesterone offers a safer approach to hormone replacement therapy than synthetic progesterone (progestin). It is very important that you have your levels of progesterone

measured before you begin bioidentical hormone replacement and then on a regular basis to confirm that you are on an optimal dose for you.

   If you have had a complete hysterectomy you still need natural progesterone since it  has the many positive affects on your body discussed above. Progesterone can be prescribed as a pill or a topical cream. A compounding pharmacist would fill your prescription. It is made from an extract of soy beans or yams with an enzyme added to convert the diosgenin in the yam into bioidentical progesterone. Over-the counter progesterone frequently does not contain this enzyme. If one of your main symptoms is insomnia, then choose the pillform which affects the GABA receptors in your brain, having a calming effect which allows you to sleep.

   If you think you have progesterone changes, consult with a doctor who has experience with peri-menopausal hormone changes and bioidentical hormone replacement.

For further informattion contact:

Aref Bhuiya M.D., 5655 Lindero Canyon Rd., Ste. 202, Westlake Village, CA 91362, 818-597-3223.

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