What is the difference between natural and synthetic hormones?
When hot flashes begin to occur, conventional medicine introduces synthetic estrogens. To make safe and well-informed choices, we need a clear understanding of the differences between natural and synthetic hormones.
Whether estrogen ( Premarin, Estraderm, Estrace, etc.- Chapter 9 ) or progesterone (Medroxyprogesterone, Provera, Progestins, etc.-Chapter 9) look-alikes, they all are foreign or synthetic substances processed and manufactured in a laboratory.
They bear very little resemblance to any hormones our bodies naturally make. The reason they alleviate some of the symptoms is because our cells misread certain portions of the molecular structure of these substances. They are chemical hybrids. If you are currently on HRT prescribed by your conventional doctor, you are probably taking one of these synthetic hormones- and may not be getting the results you need. They only replace your hormones with foreign molecules and do not supplement or balance them, which is the only mode of action that would help your condition.
How were synthetic hormones developed?
All organically foreign, synthetic estrogens are derived from a pregnant mare’s urine. The choice to use animal source estrogen was made by pharmaceutical companies more than 30 years ago. At that time, it made sense in a field that had just come into existence. Insulin, another important hormone, was developed at that time. Pork and beef insulin came to the market and saved the lives of children with juvenile diabetes. The enormous success of insulin opened the door for the development of other animal- based hormones. At the same time horse urine estrogen was being created. Because the use of pork and beef insulin was more widespread than that of horse estrogen, serious side-effects surfaced very rapidly. Rapidly progressive kidney disease and blindness, limited the use of animal derived insulin. That is what motivated the development of human insulin. Once human insulin arrived on the market, we never heard from beef and pork insulin again and the side-effects disappeared.
Unfortunately, this was not the case with sex hormones. Estrogen derived from pregnant horse urine came into existence in the 1950s. Since then, it has remained the only source of estrogens made by pharmaceutical companies recommended for the treatment of menopausal symptoms. Because its use was not very extensive in those early stages, little was learned about side-effects arising from the use of synthetic estrogen. As there seemed to be no problems, studies to develop human estrogen were not even considered. The chemical composition of synthetic estrogen is different from that of natural hormones.
Because it is derived from horses it is not the same as human estrogen. Although it contains estriol, estrone and estradiol found in the human estrogen molecule, it also contains equilin, an additional estrogen molecules specific to the horse.
Questions on how equilin affects estrogen receptors in humans abound. Does equilin create its own new receptors on human cells? Does equilin displace human estrogen from its own receptors? Does our immune system see equilin as foreign and react against it by making us sick? Scientists have no answers to these questions because the pharmaceutical companies do not have a vested interest in the answers. In the meantime, the women in need of hormones are left without answers.
Progestin is the synthetic progesterone created in a laboratory. In my opinion, to even call it progesterone is to do the public a disservice. Progestin in no way resembles natural progesterone and its actions. Progestin is a chemical compound made in a laboratory with a formula very loosely resembling that of progesterone. Progestin was developed to compensate for a dangerous side-effect of unopposed synthetic estrogen: increased incidence of endometrial ( lining of the uterus, also called uterine) cancer.
Progestin was created in the 1970s when the dangers of synthetic estrogen replacement were first published in the medical literature. So, if you are presently taking synthetic estrogens (ERT), your doctor probably has you taking progestins (Provera) to offset the dangers of synthetic estrogen (Prempro) as well. It is only used in combination with synthetic estrogens in the hope of diminishing the dangers posed by the use of unopposed synthetic estrogens (see Chapter 9).
To date, progestins (also known as progestagens,) have not proven to be of independent value to the patient. Used alone without estrogens, progestin induces heavy vaginal bleeding and depression. It is of utmost importance to avoid confusing progestin with natural progesterone. Progestin is a laboratory creation, not a naturally occurring hormone. Progesterone is the natural hormone our body makes to balance the unchecked action of estrogen. Natural progesterone, made from yams, is the closest medication available to our own body’s progesterone. Progesterone is safe and absolutely necessary to our well being. Progestin is not. While progestins cannot be used alone, natural progesterone can and should be used alone without fear. Its use is safe and does not induce side-effects.