Our hormones play a major role in
how fast we age. The action of the various hormones is very complex. In part
they act to advance the life cycle according to the biological plan.
Alternatively, they may go haywire, promoting disease states associated with
the aging process.
Since hormones influence the rate at which we age,
considerable research is underway to evaluate the feasibility of "replacement
therapy" to forestall the aging process and the degenerative changes that
accompany it. "Replacement therapy" has been around for some time in the
treatment of menopause. Many gynecologists advocate the use of "estrogen" and
"progesterone" in the alleviation of menopausal symptoms. But "replacement
therapy" and the use of hormones should not stop there. The use of
testosterone, the adrenal hormones such as DHEA, pregnenolone, melatonin and
Human Growth Hormone are now just being investigated. The sex hormones, such as
estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, which are deliberately programmed for
decline, are obvious targets for intervention. In women, menopause is distinct.
In men, what is becoming known as "andropause" is less clearly demarcated,
perhaps masking the importance of testosterone. The adrenal androgens too, best
exemplified by DHEA, may pace aging in both of the sexes through a change of
life dubbed "adrenopause" by hormone researchers.
Let us take a look at these various hormones, and contrast some of them with
their synthetic counterparts.
Estrogen and Progesterone
When we talk of hormones and women, most of us think of estrogen and a few more
will also include progesterone. Estrogen and progesterone are closely
interrelated in many ways. In a normal functioning premenopausal woman,
estrogen is made from progesterone and/or androgens within the cells of the
body. After menopause, estrogens are converted from adrenal produced androgens
(DHEA), primarily in body fat. Estrogen and progesterone are, in many ways,
antagonistic; yet each sensitizes receptors for the other. A key to hormone
balance is the knowledge that when estrogen becomes the dominant hormone and
progesterone is deficient, the estrogen becomes toxic to the body; thus
progesterone has a balancing or mitigating effect on estrogen.
Estrogen is responsible for the maturation of young women at puberty. Estrogen
causes the accumulation of fat that gives the female body its contours, but in
excess or when it is not in balance with progesterone, can contribute to excess
fat accumulation. When women consume considerably more calories than what is
needed, estrogen production increases to supernormal levels and may set the
stage for estrogen dominance syndrome and exaggerated estrogen decline at
In the United States and most industrially advanced countries, diets are rich
in animal fats, refined starches and processed foods. This provides calories in
excess to the bodies needs and leads to estrogen levels in women twice as high
as those do in women of the more agrarian third-world countries.
Estrogen Dominance Syndrome
In this context, it is worthwhile to compare the physiological effects of
estrogen versus progesterone:
Stimulates breast tissues
Increases body fat
Causes salt and water retention
Depression and headaches
Interferes with thyroid hormone
Increases blood clotting
Decreases sex drive
Impairs blood sugar control
Causes loss of zinc and retention of copper
Reduces oxygen levels in all cells
Reduces vascular tone
Slightly restrains osteoblast function
Reduces vascular tone
Increases the risk of autoimmune disorders
Increases the risk of endometrial & breast cancer
Protects against fibrocystic breasts
Helps use fat for energy
Facilitates thyroid hormone action
Normalizes blood clotting
Restores sex drive
Normalizes blood sugar levels
Normalizes zinc and copper levels
Restores proper cell oxygen levels
Restores normal vascular tone
Stimulates osteoblast bone building
Restores normal vascular tone
Precursor of corticosteroid disorders
Prevents endometrial and breast cancer
It is clear that excess estrogen, when unopposed or unbalanced by progesterone,
is not something wholly to be desired. It becomes clear that many of estrogen's
undesirable side effects are effectively prevented by progesterone. I would
propose that a new syndrome be recognized: That of estrogen dominance. This
syndrome, with symptoms familiar to most women in industrialized countries,
commonly occurs in the following situations:
Thanks to a nearly universal misconception in Western medicine that
estrogen deficiency brings about all menopausal symptoms, it is the custom to
prescribe unopposed estrogen for women who do not have a uterus (i.e. have had
a hysterectomy). Equally unfortunate is the fact that
premenopausal estrogen dominance is simply ignored.
Estrogen replacement therapy.
. Premenopause (early follicle depletion resulting in a lack of ovulation and
thus a lack of progesterone well before the onset on menopause).
Exposure to xenoestrogens (foreign chemicals that have an estrogen effect in
the body that cause early follicle depletion).
Birth control pills (with excessive estrogen component).
Hysterectomy (can induce subsequent ovary dysfunction or atrophy).
Postmenopause (especially in overweight women).
Estrogen use in the meat industry.
A peculiarity of Western industrialized societies is the prevalence of uterine
fibroids, breast and/or uterine cancer, fibrocystic breasts, PMS, ovarian
cancer, premenopausal bone loss, and a high incidence of osteoporosis in
menopausal women. I believe that most of these are the symptoms of estrogen
The following is a list of symptoms that can be caused or made worse by
Acceleration of aging process
Decreased sex drive
Fat gain, especially around the abdomen, thighs, and hips
Thyroid dysfunction mimicking
Water retention, bloating
Autoimmune disorders, such as Lupus,
Erythematosus, thyroiditis, and possibly Sjogren's disease
Natural Progesterone vs. Synthetic Progestins
A progestin is often defined as "any compound able to sustain the human
secretory endometrium". This refers to the ability to keep the lining of the
uterus healthy and blood-rich in preparation for pregnancy and to support the
developing embryo. When a woman comes to the end of her monthly cycle and no
pregnancy has occurred, the levels of her reproductive hormones drop
dramatically and in response, the lining of the uterus is shed in menstruation.
Throughout much of the medical literature, natural progesterone is either
equated with progestins, as if they were the same, or classified as one of the
progestins, which strictly speaking is also incorrect. There is only one
progesterone, the specific molecule made by the adrenal glands or by the ovary
as a consequence of ovulation. We define progestins as "any compound other than
the natural progesterone, able to sustain the human secretory
Why do we insist on this separation? First and foremost, natural progesterone
is essential for the survival and development of the embryo and throughout
pregnancy. On the other hand, Provera, the mostly commonly prescribed
progestin, carries the warning that its use in early pregnancy may increase the
risk of early abortion or congenital deformities of the fetus.
Because progesterone is a natural hormone, the body is normally able to produce
it, use it, and eliminate it. The synthetic progestins, on the other hand, are
not well processed by the body. Its activity is prolonged, creating reactions
in the body that are not consistent with natural progesterone.
Progestins bind to the same receptor sites in the cell as progesterone, but
from that point on they carry a different message to the cell. This undoubtedly
explains the alarming array of listed warnings, contraindications, precautions
and adverse reactions to progestins, uncharacteristic of natural progesterone.
Some may ask, "What difference could a few atoms make that differentiate a
natural hormone from a synthetic?" To answer that question, one needs only to
look at the chemical difference between testosterone and estrogen. The only
difference is one hydrogen atom and a few double bonds. Yet, that is the
profound difference hormonally between men and women.
Natural Estrogens vs. Synthetic Estrogens
In certain instances, estrogen therapy may be necessary and desirable. However,
there appears to be a more rational way to prescribe "Estrogen Replacement
Therapy" than the conventional Premarin or related drugs. As its name implies,
Pre-mar-in is derived from the urine of pregnant mares. Although it exerts
estrogenic effects in humans, horse estrogen is not the same as human estrogen,
and is not necessarily as safe or effective.
In addition, the cruel torture that pregnant horses are put through in
"Premarin factories" has led many women to seek another source of estrogen.
Estrace is a synthetic version of 17-beta-estradiol, which occur naturally in
the human body. However, Estrace is not a balanced form of estrogen, because
the human body also manufactures two other important compounds: estrone and
estriol. There is evidence that estriol, although a relatively weak estrogen,
does not promote cancer, and may actually prevent it.
For that reason, some physicians who prescribe estrogen prefer to use estriol
alone or in a combination formula called triple or Tri-Estrogen. Tri-Estrogen
is composed of 80% estriol and 10% each of estradiol and estrone. The same
ratios as produced naturally by the body. Tri-Estrogen is available through
Testosterone is a naturally occurring hormone, which in addition to being
responsible for developing adult male physical characteristics during and after
puberty is also critical for erectile function, libido, muscle mass and normal
energy level, mood and bone formation. The last five functions are not only
critical in men, but also in women.
"Unfortunately, most men aren't comfortable discussing the symptoms of
testosterone deficiency - such as a decrease in sexual interest, erectile
function, or depressed mood and fatigue - with family members, friends, or even
their own doctors," said Adrian S. Dobs, M.D., M.H.S., Associate Professor of
Medicine, John Hopkins University School of Medicine. "Because of that, many
men may go undiagnosed and untreated (for testosterone deficiency). Physicians
and their male patients need to establish a dialogue where topics of this
nature can be freely discussed."
Obesity, insulin resistance, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and increased risk of
myocardial infarction (heart attack) have been associated with what has been
called the "neuroendocrine syndrome." This syndrome is associated not only with
signs of low sex-steroid secretion in both men and women, but also with a
decrease in growth-hormone activity and an increase in cortisol activity.
In two double blind placebo-controlled studies, it was found that by increasing
testosterone levels to physiologic levels, that there was a decrease in
visceral adipose-tissue mass (spare tires around the waist). It was
demonstrated in separate studies that testosterone exerted this effect by
decreasing triglyceride assimilation and enhancing lipid mobilization.
Testosterone supplementation also improved fasting blood glucose, blood lipid
levels, diastolic blood pressure decreased, and insulin sensitivity increased.
A general improvement in psychological parameters was also observed. The men
Testosterone is available, with a prescription in its natural form, either in a
transdermal cream or in an oral capsule. The transdermal cream is better
DHEA is a natural hormone that is made by the adrenal glands. Being it is a
natural substance made by the body it cannot be patented and made into a drug.
As such, it is not FDA approved, since the FDA does not approve a natural
substance, only synthetic substances, which are not made in the body and have
inherent side effects. DHEA is short for dehydroepiandrosterone
(Di-hi-dro-ep-E-an-dro-stehr-own) a hormone made by the adrenal glands.
More than 150 hormones are synthesized by the adrenal glands. However, the most
abundant hormone made by the adrenal glands is DHEA. After DHEA is made by
these glands, it goes into the bloodstream, and from then on it travels all
over the body and goes into our cells, where it is converted into male hormones
known as androgens, or female hormones, known as estrogens. Whether DHEA gets
converted predominately to androgens or estrogens, depends on the person's
medical conditions, age and sex. Every person has a unique biochemistry. The
only hormone class that DHEA cannot make is progesterone and its sister
hormone, cortisol and aldosterone.
From the studies that have been done so far, it seems that DHEA helps fight
disease by boosting your immune function, improves mood and energy (many people
say they have an increased sense of well- being), boosts your sex drive and
influences longevity. It has been shown in some studies to reduce your risk of
cardiovascular disease in men, help symptoms of Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis and
Multiple Sclerosis as well as Diabetes and some forms of cancer.
Whenever doctors discuss the safety of a medicine, they separate it into
short-term safety over a few days or weeks, and a long term safety over months
and years of use. Dr. Nestler, a researcher at the Medical College of
Virginia/Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, gave 1600mg of DHEA a
day for 4 weeks to healthy young men without any serious side effects. At this
dosage, there was a lowering of cholesterol and a decrease of body fat, with a
greater response in obese individuals. Most DHEA supplements on the market are
less than 50 mg.
As to the safety of using DHEA for 5, 10, 20 years or longer, no formal human
studies have been published, then again, few long-term human studies have been
done for any medicines, hormones or nutrients.
Pregnenolone is a natural hormone, which cannot be patented and made into a
drug. Back in the 1940's when researchers started experimenting with
pregnenolone, they realized that it could be helpful to people under stress and
it could increase the energy of those who were fatigued. However, about the
same time, cortisol, another closely related hormone was discovered. Cortisol
stole the limelight. Scientists basically put pregnenolone aside and focused on
cortisol. Pregnenolone has stayed in relative obscurity since the 1940's with
only rare mentions in the medical literature. Over the last year or two, public
attention has slowly refocused on pregnenolone.
Pregnenolone is made in many organs and tissues of the body. The most common of
these organs are the adrenal glands, liver, skin, and gonads (testicles and
ovaries). The amount of pregnenolone made depends on how much cholesterol is
brought into the mitochondria. The mitochondria are the chemical factories of a
cell that also produce the energy molecules of the body.
The chemical name for pregnenolone is 3-alpha-hydroxy-5-beta-pregnen-20-one.
You can see why it is called Pregnenolone. Pregnenolone can be easily converted
into DHEA, another hormone that has been in the news a lot lately. DHEA can
then be converted into androgens, estrogens and other steroids within the body.
There is one other pathway that Pregnenolone can take which distinguishes it
from DHEA and that is pregnenolone can be metabolized into progesterone which
DHEA cannot. Thus, DHEA has often been called the "Mother hormone". I guess
that would make pregnenolone the "Grandmother hormone".
Because of the wide number of hormones that can be made by the body from
pregnenolone, it has a long list of conditions that can be effected by
supplementing. A few of the conditions for which pregnenolone can be helpful
are: brain function including mood and memory and thinking, Alzheimer's, sleep,
Chronic Fatigue, Immune System, Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, Premenstrual
Syndrome, Psoriasis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Scleroderma and stress.
In a long-term study, mice were given 1 gram of pregnenolone per kilogram (2.2
Ib.) of body weight three times a week for 50 doses with no toxic reaction.
There were no changes noted in the red blood cells, white blood cells,
hemoglobin, or the weight of the body organs. Also, no changes were found in
food intake, growth rate, fertility, or size and condition of their offspring.
In fact, researchers, Dr. Gregory Pincus and Dr. Hudson Hoagland were confident
of Pregnenolone's safety back in 1944 when they wrote: "We would like to point
out that we have encountered no deleterious results in connection with the
ingestion of Pregnenolone in our studies involving several hundred men and
women who have taken the medication, in some instances in doses of 100 mg per
day for as long as four months". Pregnenolone is nontoxic.
Melatonin is a natural hormone made by the pineal gland, which is located in
the brain. Melatonin helps set and control the internal clock that governs the
natural rhythms of the body. Each night the pineal gland produces melatonin,
which helps us fall asleep. Research about this hormone has been ongoing since
its discovery in 1958. But it is only in the last few years that much attention
has been paid to melatonin. Close to one thousand articles a year about
melatonin are now published worldwide. One reason for this growing interest is
that we are realizing that deep sleep is not the only byproduct of melatonin.
We are learning that it has a significant influence on our hormonal, immune and
nervous systems. Research is showing melatonin's role as a powerful
antioxidant, its anti-aging benefits, and its immune enhancing properties. It
is an effective tool to prevent or cure jet lag, an ideal supplement to reset
the biological clock in shift workers and a great medicine for those who have
Melatonin also may have a role to play in the treatment of prostate
enlargement, as an addition to cancer treatment, in lowering cholesterol
levels, in influencing reproduction, and more. A delightful bonus is that
melatonin can promote vivid dreams.
For estrogen replacement, we recommend Tri-Estrogen. Tri-Estrogen is composed
of 80% estriol, 10% estrone and 10% estradiol. These levels closely mimic the
body's own natural production. The precursors for making Tri-Estrogen are
derived from soybeans. Each woman's dosage will be different and will be
customized to each individual patient.
The natural progesterone is made from wild Mexican yams or soybeans. It can be
given either transdermally or orally. We recommend that if the progesterone is
taken orally, it be placed in a sustained release base, which will give
sustained release of progesterone in the blood by protecting it from stomach
acid degradation. Each woman will again get a customized formulation.
DHEA and the other natural hormones are derived from plant saponins that are
found in soybeans. The most comm
on dosages of DHEA are 10mg, 25mg, and 50mg capsules. The most common dosages
of Pregnenolone are 10mg, 30mg and 50mg capsules.
Testosterone replacement for women and men is individually customized to meet
each patient's needs. The level of testosterone as well as other hormones
should be checked periodically to keep them within the physiological range. If
men experience any urinary difficulties, we suggest that they take a natural
prostate health formula containing Saw Palmetto and/or Pygeum Africanim
Melatonin for insomnia, the suggested dose is quite variable. We suggest
starting dose of 1mg, two hours before bedtime and titrate up to 3mg is needed.
For jet lag, we suggest trying 1mg for every hour time difference up to 6mg. If
you use 6mg, split it into two divided doses, take 3mg two hours before bedtime
and the remaining 3mg one hour prior to bedtime.
When you are taking hormones, we recommend that you have periodic lab
evaluations and checkup to properly assess their benefit.