As 50 million baby boomers reach midlife-more than half of them women-products designed to ease the symptoms of menopause are dominating the shelves of pharmacies and natural food stores. Natural progesterone cream is one of the most popular of these products and is finally gaining the recognition it deserves. Long overshadowed by another female hormone, estrogen, progesterone also plays a major role in regulating the menstrual cycle. The sharp decline in production of both progesterone and estrogen in midlife is what triggers menopause.
For decades, women have taken estrogen replacement therapy to treat the symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, insomnia, and depression. However, some women are reluctant to use estrogen because some studies suggest that it may increase the risk of breast cancer. Instead these women have turned to natural progesterone creams, which offer many of the benefits of estrogen without the risk of cancer. Even better, natural progesterone actually protects against certain types of cancers, including uterine cancer. In fact, it has been called the “feel-good” hormone for women because it can enhance libido and has a mild tranquilizing effect.
One of the primary reasons women take estrogen is to prevent osteoporosis, or the thinning of bone that can lead to fractures. After menopause, women lose 2 to 4 percent of bone mass each year annually for about ten years until the loss begins to level off, but by then much of the damage has already been done. Studies show that estrogen can reduce the risk of fractures by 50 percent, and many women believe that is good enough reason to bite the bullet and take it. There is good evidence, however, that natural progesterone can halt the loss of bone as well as estrogen. According to animal studies performed by Dr. Jerily C. Prior of the University of British Columbia, natural progesterone not only can stop the loss of bone, like estrogen, but can simulate osteoblasts, the cells that trigger the growth of new bone, which estrogen cannot do. Studies performed by Dr. John Lee, a California Physician who has written extensively on natural progesterone and prescribes it for his patients, confirm that progesterone can halt osteoporosis as effectively as estrogen.
Natural progesterone is not to be confused with progestins, which women take orally as part of hormone replacement therapy. Progestins are synthetic versions of progesterone but structurally different from the progesterone produced by a woman’s body, and they often cause unpleasant side-effects such as bloating, irritability, and mood swings. Natural progesterone is identical in chemical structure to the progesterone produced by the body.
Earl Mindell’s Supplement Bible. Earl Mindell, R. Ph., Ph.D. Fireside Books (Simon & Schuster). (C) 1998. Pages 110-112.
Doctor’s Guide to Natural Medicine. Dr. Paul Barney, M.D. Woodland Publishing. (C) 1998. Pages 76, 91, 283, 284
What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause. Dr. John Lee, M.D. Warner Books. 1996