- Oestrogen's Deadly Truth -
The promotion of synthetic oestrogens and oestrogen-mimicking
chemicals is a major medical mistake and an unforeseen environmental
Extracted from Nexus Magazine, Volume 3,
#5 (August-September '96).
PO Box 30, Mapleton Qld 4560 Australia.
Telephone: +61 (0)7 5442 9280; Fax: +61 (0)7 5442 9381
From our web page at:
© 1996 by Sherrill Sellman
Locked Bag 8000 - MDC
Kew, Victoria 3101, Australia
Telephone +61 (0)3 9810 9591
Fax: +61 (0)3 9855 9991
Oestrogen is quite a high-profile hormone
these days. For some, it represents the Golden Fleece that excites so
many medical practitioners, pharmaceutical companies and writers in
search of its miraculous properties. For others, oestrogen is a
rather perilous hormone, fraught with many unknown and unspoken
dangers. Most women are lost in the dark and bottomless abyss,
somewhere between truth and fiction. All too often they are
desperately confused about whether to trust their instincts or
medical science. Their physical, emotional and mental health and
long-term well-being hang in the balance.
The oestrogen story is similar to a modern-day thriller. It is a
story of deception, betrayal, hidden agendas, propaganda and
misinformation. As a story it could be quite entertaining, but as a
real-life drama its effects are disastrous to the lives of tens of
millions of women around the world.
Hormones are very powerful substances. Begin tampering with Nature's
finely tuned messengers of life's processes and you are asking for
trouble. This is especially true for women. A woman's psyche is
intimately connected to her monthly flow of hormones. Hormones not
only direct and determine her physiological processes, but also
influence her emotional and psychological state. Besides creating
myriad health problems, hormonal imbalance can undermine self-esteem,
creativity, mental acuity and a healthy sex-drive.
Perhaps the bigger picture about the oestrogen story is the fact that
the introduction of synthetic hormones, as a legitimate need of
women, is basically experimentation under the guise of standard
medical practice. As a result, medical science has expanded its
control of women's lives.
Germaine Greer sums up the medical establishment's intrusion into a
woman's hormonal health quite astutely when she says, "Menopause is a
dream speciality for the mediocre medic. It requires no surgical or
diagnostic skill; it is not itself a life-threatening condition;
there is no scope for malpractice action. Patients must return again
and again for a battery of tests and check-ups."1
Quite simply, tampering with a woman's hormones is tampering with her
Introducing Oestrogen Dominance
The natural design of the body is to produce the two hormones,
progesterone and oestrogen, in a very sensitive and precise balance
so that reproductive ability is maximised. These two hormones are
closely interrelated in many ways and, although they are generally
antagonistic towards each other, each helps the other by making the
cells of a target organ more sensitive.
Oestrogen really isn't a single hormone. To be accurate, it refers to
a class of hormones with oestrus activity (i.e., proliferation of
endometrial cells in preparation for pregnancy). The oestrogens are
named oestradiol and oestrone-both of which are implicated in
stimulating abnormal cell growth when found in higher-than-normal
amounts in the body-as well as oestriol, which is known to be
cancer-inhibiting. Each type of oestrogen has a different function in
the body. These oestrogens are produced mainly in the ovaries,
although small quantities are secreted from the adrenal glands, the
placenta during pregnancy, and fat cells.
When puberty arrives, oestrogen encourages in a girl the development
of breasts and the expansion of the uterus. Oestrogen contributes to
the moulding of female body contours and maturation of the skeleton.
After that, it helps regulate the menstrual cycle and plays other
necessary roles in maintaining bone-mass and keeping
blood-cholesterol levels in check. When excessive quantities of
oestrogen, regardless of source, are present in a young woman's body
they will contribute to the 'burnout' of her ovaries and undermine
In the case of progesterone, however, we are talking about only one
specific hormone. Thus, progesterone is both the name of the class
and the single member of the class. In the ovaries, progesterone is
the precursor of oestrogen. Progesterone is also made in smaller
amounts by the adrenal glands in both sexes and by the testes in
males. It is the precursor of testosterone and of all important
adrenal cortical hormones. From progesterone are derived not only
other sex hormones but also corticosteroids, which are essential for
stress response, sugar and electrolyte balance and blood pressure,
not to mention survival.2
While oestrogen is the primary hormone during the first two weeks
of a woman's menstrual cycle, fulfilling its role of preparing the
endometrium for pregnancy, progesterone is the major female
reproductive hormone during the latter two weeks of the menstrual
cycle. Progesterone is necessary for the survival of the fertilised
ovum, the resulting embryo and the foetus throughout gestation when
production of the progesterone is taken over by the placenta.
There is a very delicate balance between the interplay of oestrogen
and progesterone. If that balance is interfered with, devastating
effects occur. Unfortunately, introduced synthetic hormones as well
as environmental pollutants are presently wreaking havoc with our
"Oestrogen dominance" is a term that was first used by Dr John Lee. A
retired medical practitioner from California, Dr Lee has spent the
better part of the last two decades exploring the basis for the
proliferation of such female problems as PMS, endometriosis, ovarian
cysts, fibroids, breast cancer, infertility, osteoporosis and
menopausal problems. From his clinical experience in the field of
female health, as well as from his published research, Dr Lee
believes that many women are suffering from the effects of too much
oestrogen. He finds that stress, nutritional deficiencies,
oestrogenic substances from our environment, and taking synthetic
oestrogens, combined with an ensuing deficiency of progesterone, are
the likely contributing factors to the creation of oestrogen
The following is a list of symptoms that can be caused or made worse
by oestrogen dominance: acceleration of the ageing process,
allergies, breast tenderness, decreased sex-drive, depression,
fatigue, hair thinning, excessive facial hair, fibrocystic breasts,
foggy thinking, headaches, hypoglycaemia, increased blood-clotting,
increased risk of stroke, infertility, irritability, memory loss,
miscarriage, osteoporosis, pre-menopausal bone-loss, PMS, thyroid
dysfunction mimicking hypothyroidism, uterine cancer, uterine
fibroids, water retention, bloating, fat gain (especially around the
abdomen, hips and thighs), gall bladder disease and auto-immune
disorders such as lupus and thyroiditis.3
In addition to the synthetic oestrogens, women are also prescribed
synthetic progestins. They have been added to the oestrogen formula
to offset the hazards of oestrogen drugs. Nancy Beckham in her book,
Menopause-A Positive Approach Using Natural Therapies, was
able to identify more than 100 adverse effects for the most commonly
prescribed oestrogen and progestin medications.
According to Dr Lee, many of these common health problems can be
offset by increasing the level of natural progesterone. The problem
is not always that progesterone levels are actually lower than
normal, but they are low in comparison to elevated oestrogen
Due to increased exposure to these oestrogenic substances in the
body, women become more affected by oestrogens made in the body from
their mid-30s onwards. Around this time, women do not ovulate with
every menstrual cycle. Since progesterone is made from the ripened
follicle (corpus luteum), if there is no ovulation there is no corpus
luteum formed and hence no progesterone made.
Stress, nutritional deficiencies and chemical pollutants all
contribute to anovulatory cycles. The frequency of these anovulatory
cycles increases as menopause approaches, changing the menstrual
pattern to an either heavier or longer menstrual flow.
While not commonly understood by medical science, the growing
incidence of anovulatory cycles, even in young women, and the ensuing
hormone imbalance are creating huge health problems. Women of all
ages are now exposed to a higher risk of the entire range of
Oestrogen Dominance in the Environment
Extremely disturbing events are being reported globally about the
alarming changes happening in the environment.
Not long ago in Lake Apopka in Florida, wildlife biologists
discovered that strange biological effects were happening in the
alligators living there. In 1980, a toxic spill occurred which dumped
huge amounts of a pesticide similar to DDT into the lake. That event
was almost forgotten until five years later when it was discovered
that 90 per cent of the alligators had disappeared. Most of those
that remained were incapable of reproducing or had no urge to mate.
The males were born with penises that were not only 75 per cent
shorter than average but were also deformed. Further testing
indicated that their testosterone levels were so low that they
hormonally resembled females. Moreover, the females had abnormal
ovaries and follicles, described as "burned out".4
Recent reports show that strange fish caught in Port Phillip Bay
in Victoria, Australia, were hermaphrodites. Similarly, a major
British study revealed that male fish downstream from sewage
treatment plants changed sex as a result of oestrogen chemicals which
had not been removed from treated effluent.5
Dr Ana Soto, an endocrinologist at Tufts University in the United
States, had been experimenting with cancer cells taken from the
breast and then cultured. She found they would only grow if they were
fed oestrogens. One day, the test simply stopped working. The cancer
cells continued to grow for four months, even when no oestrogens were
fed to them. Dr Soto then realised that the manufacturer of the
flasks she had been using had started to use a different plastic-one
that, when it becomes warm, releases minute quantities of the
oestrogen-like compound, nonylphenol! Her tissues samples were being
contaminated by the xeno-oestrogens from the plastic flasks!6
The widespread use of herbicides, pesticides and plastics have
created a problem that has never before existed on this planet. We
are polluting our environment and ourselves in a sea of
oestrogen-like mimics. They are everywhere: in the air, water, soil,
and overabundantly in our bodies. Called xeno-oestrogens, these are
substances which have a powerful oestrogenic effect on the body, are
fat-soluble and non-biodegradable. They are also dangerously toxic.
We presently live in a world awash with petrochemicals.
Petrochemicals are everywhere. Our machines run on petrochemicals,
and millions of products including plastics, microchips, medicines,
clothing, foods, soaps, pesticides and even perfumes are either made
from petrochemicals or contain them. The popular slogan in the early
1950s, "Better Living Through Chemistry", is returning to haunt
The legacy of this pollution has resulted in an epidemic of
reproductive abnormalities, including the steadily increasing number
of cancers of the reproductive tract, infertility, low sperm- counts,
poor sperm-quality and the feminisation of males. The potential
consequences of this overexposure are staggering, especially
considering that one of the consequences is the passing on of
reproductive abnormalities to offspring.7
Just how serious is this problem? In a May 1993 article in the
British medical journal, The Lancet, researchers in Scotland
and Denmark hypothesised that xeno-oestrogens are responsible for a
steadily declining sperm-count in men. According to Neils Skakkebeak
of the University of Copenhagen, sperm counts have dropped by more
than 50 per cent since 1940. Meanwhile, the rate of testicular and
prostate cancer in the United States and Europe has tripled in the
past 50 years. Reproductive abnormalities such as undescended
testicles have become increasingly common.
Xeno-oestrogens are also implicated in impaired brain development in
children.8 They are also directly implicated in the 30 to 80 per cent
increase in breast, ovarian and uterine cancers in women over the
past 50 years.9
In some rural communities in Australia, where heavy pesticide use
has left residuals in drinking water, there have been reports of boys
with abnormally small penises, along with reports of the feminisation
of males and the masculinisation of females.
It is time for us to wake up and pay heed to these warnings for the
sake of future generations. You can play your part in protecting your
grandchildren and great-grandchildren in the same ways you can
protect yourself: by refusing to use pesticides, minimising your use
of plastics, purchasing hormone-free meat and organic produce, using
'green' products for detergents and household cleaners, and, in
general, using 'natural' products in favour of petrochemical
The Myth of Oestrogen Deficiency
The trend these days is to push hormone replacement therapy
(HRT), featuring synthetic oestrogens and progestins, onto all
menopausal women. Unfortunately, however, this enthusiasm for drugs
is not backed up by the facts. Oestrogen deficiency is loudly
proclaimed by medical practitioners, pharmaceutical advertising and
many lay publications as the primary cause of all the symptoms
attributed to menopause and post-menopause, such as mood swings,
depressions, hot flushes, vaginal dryness, loss of sex-drive and
But is there really such a thing as oestrogen deficiency? While it is
true that menopause is associated with decreasing oestrogen levels,
it is not known whether these decreased levels of oestrogen do in
fact cause all the symptoms of menopause.
Dr Carolyn DeMarco, author of Take Charge of Your Body and a
physician specialising in women's health issues, says there is no
direct proof that oestrogen-lack causes heart disease or other
ailments associated with the menopause.
Germaine Greer, well-known feminist and author of The Change,
writes that "the proponents of HRT have never proved that there is an
oestrogen deficiency, nor have they explained the mechanism by which
the therapy of choice effected its miracles. They have taken the
improper course of defining a disease from its therapy."
Dr Jerilyn Prior, researcher and Professor of Endocrinology at the
University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC, Canada, points out
that no study proving the relationship between oestrogen deficiency
and menopausal symptoms and related diseases has yet been done.
"Instead," says Dr Prior, "a notion has been put forward that since
oestrogen levels go down, this is the most important change and
explains all the things that may or may not be related to menopause.
So oestrogen treatment at this stage of our understanding is
premature. This is a kind of backwards science. It leads to
ridiculous ideas-like calling a headache an aspirin-deficiency
Considering that Western women tend to have a 10-to-15-year period
prior to menopause when they are oestrogen-dominant and suffering
from oestrogen-dominance symptoms, why are their doctors prescribing
them still more oestrogen?
Dr Prior has shown that, during menopause, progesterone decreases to
1/120th of baseline levels, whereas oestrogen decreases to one-half
to one-third of pre-menopausal baseline levels. Would it not be wiser
to consider the progesterone-loss effect when evaluating
post-menopausal symptoms and such related conditions as osteoporosis,
heart disease, depression and loss of sex-drive?
In most menopausal women, oestrogen levels are below those necessary
for pregnancy but sufficient for other normal body functions. The
oestrogen "deficiency" hypothesis as an explanation of most
menopausal symptoms or health problems is thus not supported by the
facts of oestrogen blood levels, by worldwide ecological studies or
by endocrinology experts.
Dr Lee believes that "Menopause per se should be regarded as a
normal adjustment reflecting a benign change in a woman's biological
life away from child-bearing and onward to a period of new personal
power and fulfilment. The Western perception of menopause as a
threshold of undesirable symptoms and regressive illness due to
oestrogen deficiency is an error not supported by fact. More
accurately, we should view our menopause problem as an abnormality
brought about by industrialised cultures' deviation from a healthy
Synthetic Hormones and the Havoc they Wreak
With hindsight, it will very likely be recorded in history that
the widespread prescribing of synthetic hormones to women was the
biggest medical bungle of the century. Most women taking the
contraceptive pill and HRT have very little idea about the hormones
they are putting into their bodies; nor are they knowledgeable about
Oral contraceptives are made with synthetic oestrogen and
synthetic progestins (known as the combined Pill). In the early 1960s
the Pill was widely marketed as an effective, safe and convenient
method of birth control. However, the initial trials were flawed and
inadequate.11 Nonetheless, the Pill was promoted with all the
enthusiasm the pharmaceutical companies could muster.
Dr Ellen Grant, author of The Bitter Pill and Sexual
Chemistry, was an early researcher of synthetic hormones and
their effects on health. Back in the 1960s she was shocked when
synthetic hormones were not withdrawn from the market due to their
known, serious side-effects.
So, just what are the effects of suppressing natural hormones with
synthetic ones? The Pill literally stops menstruation, and bleeding
occurs each month only because the synthetic hormones are not taken
for seven days of the cycle. The bleeding that occurs would be more
accurately termed "withdrawal bleeding", not menstruation.
Taking the combined Pill increases the risk of coronary artery
disease, breast cancer and high blood-pressure. The side-effects
include nausea, vomiting, headaches, breast tenderness, weight
increases, changes in sex- drive, depression, blood clots and
increased incidence of vaginitis. Also, women with a history of
epilepsy, migraine, asthma or heart disease may find their symptoms
worsen.12 Many of these effects may persist long after women
discontinue taking the Pill.
According to Nancy Beckham in her book, Menopause-A Positive
Approach Using Natural Therapies, "Women on the Pill have a
greater tendency to liver dysfunction and to more allergies.
Oestrogen drugs also affect vitamin concentrations. Vitamin A levels
may be raised in the blood; vitamins B12 and C may be lowered. The
clinical significance is not yet known."
The introduction of the mini-Pill and Depo-Provera, both of which are
made from synthetic progestins, is equally disturbing to women's
hormonal health, with all the previously listed side-effects and
Hormone replacement therapy was the next great discovery to arrive,
following on from the Pill. The pharmaceutical companies had found
another lucrative market for their synthetic hormones: the menopausal
woman! While HRT is given at lower doses than the Pill, the
side-effects are often more subtle and are slower to show up. HRT is
now available in a variety of forms: pills, patches and implants. One
of the most popular synthetic oestrogens is Premarin, which is made
from the urine of pregnant mares-just what a woman's body needs!
What is little-known about taking HRT is that it is an addictive
drug. A former president of the London Royal College of Psychiatrists
warns that oestrogen used in HRT to counteract symptoms of menopause
could be as addictive as heroin.13
In the 1970s, testing was conducted on two groups of menopausal
women. Half received oestrogen replacement and the other half sugar
pills. All were monitored for insomnia, nervousness, depression,
dizziness, weakness, joint pain, palpitations, prickling sensations
and hot flushes.
Both groups of women experienced dramatic improvement during the
first 90 days of the study, except that the sugar-pill group
experienced more discomfort from hot flushes. When the groups were
switched, those who had initially received oestrogen experienced a
pronounced return of their symptoms. It became apparent that, once
oestrogen replacement stopped, a 'cold turkey' withdrawal effect was
often experienced. This was especially true with implants, since the
blood oestradiol levels may become much higher than the body would
Nancy Beckham warns that "Women on hormone replacement therapy who
have enhanced well-being when their oestradiol levels are very high,
but feel unwell when their blood levels are normal, may be
experiencing reactions similar to those of people on social
"It is well-researched knowledge that when you first have these drugs
they give you a lift, which is pleasant. As you get used to the
substance you find you need more to give you the same effect, and
ultimately your body craves a high level even though you may be
unwell. When the substance in your blood drops below a certain level,
you can experience withdrawal symptoms such as flushing,
perspiration, sleep disturbance, shaking and other nervous
While it is easy to prescribe HRT for women, there is hardly any
medical data concerning the effects of stopping HRT in women who have
received long-term treatment.15 In one trial lasting three-and-a-half
years, withdrawal lasted for six months.
So, unbeknownst to women, 'menopause's little helper' could in fact
be making oestrogen junkies out of them. It's great news for the
pharmaceutical companies, but a calamity of untold proportion for
women. Not only do they experience a wide range of physical symptoms
but they also suffer from psychiatric disturbances.
Dr Ellen Grant has said that "when higher-than-expected rates of
attempted suicide and violent deaths were recorded among HRT-takers,
the excuse was that more women suffering from depression are put on
oestrogens in an attempt to treat them." Oestrogens are rarely
considered as an implicating factor in depressive behaviour.
Hormone Balance and Illness: Debunking the Myths
HRT is now almost universally recommended to menopausal women for
a wide variety of reasons. The two most significant reasons women are
encouraged to embark upon the HRT bandwagon are HRT's supposed
contribution in preventing or lessening the effects of osteoporosis
and of cardiovascular disease. The tremendous fear of these two
illnesses that is instilled by well-meaning doctors-who, after all,
are the targets of effective pharmaceutical advertising and education
(usually the only source of information they receive about these
products)-often overrides a woman's natural instincts.
It's time to unravel the myths that hide the real story.
MYTHS OF OSTEOPOROSIS
Dr John Lee, author of What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About
Menopause, writes this about the myths of osteoporosis:
Myth #1: Osteoporosis is a calcium-deficiency disease.
Most women with osteoporosis are getting plenty of calcium in their
diet. It is quite easy to get the minimum daily requirement of
calcium in even a relatively poor diet. The truth is that
osteoporosis is a disease of excessive calcium-loss caused by many
factors. In osteoporosis, calcium is being lost from the bones faster
than it is being added, regardless of how much calcium a woman
Myth #2: Osteoporosis is an oestrogen-deficiency disease.
Not even basic medical texts agree with this. It is a fabrication
of the pharmaceutical industry with no scientific evidence to support
it. Osteoporosis begins long before oestrogen levels fall, and
accelerates for a few years at menopause. Taking oestrogen can slow
bone-loss for those few years, but its effect wears off within a few
years after menopause. Most importantly, oestrogen cannot rebuild new
Myth #3: Osteoporosis is a disease of menopause.
This is at least a decade short of the truth. Osteoporosis begins
anywhere from five to 20 years prior to menopause, when oestrogen
levels are still high. Osteoporosis accelerates at menopause or when
a woman's ovaries are surgically removed or become non-functional,
such as can happen after hysterectomy. It is staggering to think how
many thousands or millions of women have been doomed to a crippled
old age or early death because their ovaries and/or uterus were
unnecessarily removed before menopause and natural progesterone
replacement was ignored.
To understand osteoporosis it is important to know a bit about
bones. Bone-forming cells are of two different kinds. One type are
called osteoclasts, and their job is to travel through the bone in
search of old bone that is in need of renewal. Osteoclasts dissolve
bone and leave behind tiny unfilled spaces. Osteoblasts move into
these spaces in order to build new bone. A lack of oestrogens, as
experienced at menopause, indirectly stimulates the growth of
osteoclasts, thus increasing the risk for developing osteoporosis.
HRT containing oestrogen should therefore help prevent osteoporosis.
From this point of view it does.
However, osteoclast cells have been shown to have no oestrogen
receptors in themselves, so cannot directly build new bone. On the
other hand, osteoblast cells, which are responsible for making new
bone, have been shown to have not oestrogen but progesterone
receptors. What this means is that it is progesterone (the natural
form, not the synthetic progestins), not oestrogen, which is
responsible for building bone tissue.
This view is upheld in the Scientific American Updated Medicine
Text 1991, which states, "Oestrogens decrease bone resorption,
but associated with the decrease in bone resorption is a decrease in
bone formation. Therefore, oestrogen should not be expected to
increase bone mass." The authors also discuss oestrogen side-effects,
including the risk of endometrial cancer which "is increased sixfold
in women who receive oestrogen therapy for up to five years; the risk
is increased to fifteenfold in long-term users."
Dr Kitty Little from Oxford found masses of tiny clots in the bones
of rabbits treated with hormones. She is convinced that HRT in the
form of oestrogen and progestins will increase the risk of
osteoporosis. Blood clots originate from sticky clumps of platelet
cells in the blood. She believes that blood clots in the bones can
cause bone to break down, leading to osteoporosis.16
More and more research findings are emerging that challenge the
oestrogen-deficiency/osteoporosis relationship and reinforce the
progesterone-deficiency link. The results of a three-year study of 63
post-menopausal women with osteoporosis verify this. Women using
transdermal progesterone cream experienced an average 7 to 8 per cent
bone-mass density increase in the first year, 4 to 5 per cent
in the second year, and 3 to 4 per cent in the third year! Untreated
women in this age category typically lose 1.5 per cent
bone-mass density per year! These results have not been found with
any other form of hormone replacement therapy or dietary
Bone loss is the result of many other factors besides progesterone
deficiency. Excess protein in the form of meat and dairy products
(contrary to the dairy industry's advertising) contributes to bone
loss. An acidic condition is created in the blood which then pulls
out calcium from the bones to neutralise it. Another major factor is
lack of exercise. Bone growth is dependent on weight- bearing
exercise. In addition, sugar, diuretics, antibiotics, fluoride,
cigarettes, alcohol abuse and cortisone are all deleterious to
To sum it up, post-menopausal osteoporosis is a disease of excess
bone-loss caused by a progesterone deficiency and, secondarily, by a
poor diet and lack of exercise. Progesterone restores bone mass.
Natural progesterone hormone is an essential factor in the prevention
and proper treatment of osteoporosis at any age.18
Oestrogen is being touted by mainstream medicine as a great
preventer of cardiovascular disease in women and therefore a major
reason to have women on HRT.
According to Dr Lee, the one notable study which formed the entire
basis of the positive oestrogen-cardiovascular link-the 1991 New
England Journal of Medicine report known as the Nurses'
Questionnaire Study, conducted with a large sampling of nurses-was
radically flawed and the statistics manipulated.19 Although there is
ample evidence from numerous other studies showing that, indeed, the
opposite is true-that oestrogen is a significant factor in
creating heart disease-these findings have been virtually
ignored in the frenzy for profits. He goes on to say that the
pharmaceutical advertisements also neglected to mention the fact that
stroke death incidence from that study was 50 per cent higher among
the oestrogen users.
Nancy Beckham's research into the oestrogen-cardiovascular link
reveals the following:20
High doses of oestrogens are likely to be thrombogenic
(blood-clotting) during use, and it is possible that even moderate
doses may increase the risk of clotting among women who smoke or who
already have clogged arteries. Reports are now starting to come in,
indicating that high-dose oestrogens, particularly as experienced
with oestradiol implants, cause hypercoagulability, which means that
the blood has a tendency to clot, thereby increasing the risk of
heart attack and stroke.
A British medical report also states that the cardiovascular effects
of synthetic progestins used with oestrogen in the much larger number
of women who have not undergone hysterectomy are unknown.
Some researchers do not consider that heart disease is linked to the
cessation of the body's oestrogen production. (Actually, it is
inaccurate to use the word "cessation", since oestrogen production is
only reduced in menopause.)
Natural progesterone also seems to play a significant role in
protecting women from cardiovascular disease. We know now that
anovulatory cycles and lowered progesterone levels occur prior to
menopause, and progesterone levels after menopause are close to zero.
Oestrogen, on the other hand, falls only 40 to 60 per cent with
menopause. A woman's passage through menopause results in a greater
loss of progesterone than of oestrogen. Perhaps the increase in heart
risk after menopause is due more to progesterone deficiency than to
oestrogen deficiency. Dr Lee has noted in his clinical experience
that lipid profiles improve when progesterone is supplemented.21
What is known about progesterone is that it increases the burning
of fats for energy and, in addition, has an anti-inflammatory effect.
Both of these actions could be protective against coronary heart
disease. Progesterone protects the integrity and function of cell
membranes, whereas oestrogen allows the influx of sodium and water
while allowing the loss of potassium and magnesium. Progesterone, a
natural diuretic, promotes better sleep patterns and helps one deal
with stress. When the known actions of progesterone are reviewed, it
is clear that many of its actions are also beneficial to the
When it comes to increased risk of coronary heart disease, dietary
factors are extremely important. Heart disease risk is increased by
the following: overeating in general; animal fat, sugar and refined
carbohydrates; overprocessed foods; excess salt or sodium;
trans-fatty acids; lack of fibre; magnesium and/or potassium
deficiency; and lack of antioxidant-rich food or supplements such as
vitamins C, E, and A, beta-carotene and selenium. Stress is also a
risk factor for heart deaths.
The evidence connecting female cancers of the breast, uterus and
ovaries with high oestrogen levels is growing. Oestrogen's job in the
uterus is to cause proliferation of the cells. Under the influence of
oestrogen, uterine cells multiply faster, and then progesterone
should normally come on the scene with ovulation and stop the cells
from multiplying. Progesterone causes the cells to mature and enter
the secretory phase that causes the maturing of the uterine lining,
which is now ready to receive a possible fertilised egg. Oestrogen is
the hormone that stimulates cell proliferation, and progesterone is
the hormone that stops growth and stimulates ripening.
Oestrogen dominance also stimulates breast tissue. Premenstrual women
who suffer from oestrogen dominance often suffer from breast-swelling
and tenderness. Progesterone, as a hormone of maturation, brings the
cells back into balance and thus can eliminate breast tenderness.
There is certainly an alarmingly high incidence of breast and uterine
cancer amongst Western women. There is evidence that breast cancer
occurs most often at the stage of life when oestrogen is dominant for
the full month and progesterone is not coming in at the halfway point
of ovulation. Dr Graham Colditz, of Harvard University, maintains
that unopposed oestrogen is responsible for 30 to 35 per cent of
breast cancers.22 Some experts would put that percentage even
Johns Hopkins Private Obstetrics and Gynecology Clinic accumulated 40
years of research which was published in the American Journal of
Epidemiology in 1981.23 What they discovered was that, when the
low-progesterone group was compared to the normal-progesterone group,
the occurrence of breast cancer was 5.4 times greater in the women in
the low-progesterone group. That is, the incidence of breast cancer
in the low-progesterone group was over 80 per cent greater than in
the normal-progesterone group.
When the study looked at the low-progesterone group for all types of
cancer, they found that women in this group experienced a tenfold
increase for all malignant cancers, compared to the
normal-progesterone group. This would suggest that having a normal
level of progesterone protected women from nine-tenths of all cancers
that might otherwise have occurred.24
It is interesting to note that the study disappeared into oblivion
when there was no money available to pursue the obvious implications
of a progesterone-deficiency role in cancer.
In a 1995 study published in the Journal of Fertility and
Sterility, researchers did a double-blind randomised study
examining the use of topical progesterone cream and/or topical
oestrogen in regard to breast cell growth. The results showed that
women using progesterone had dramatically reduced cell-multiplication
rates compared to the women using either the placebo or oestrogen.
The women using only oestrogen had significantly higher cell
multiplication rates than any of the other groups. The women using a
combination of progesterone and oestrogen were closer to the placebo
This exciting study provides some of the first direct evidence
that oestradiol significantly increases breast cell growth, and that
progesterone impressively decreases cell proliferation rates even
when oestrogen is also supplemented.
At this point, it's important to explore the implications of the
experimental drug Tamoxifen which is being prescribed to women with
breast cancer. Since it is proposed to have anti-oestrogenic effects,
it is used as a breast cancer treatment since it blocks the uptake of
oestradiol and oestrone (the cell-proliferating oestrogens), thereby
protecting the breast tissue from the cancer-promoting oestrogens
present in the body. A growing number of doctors insist that the same
results can be achieved by giving natural progesterone.
Uterine cancer is one of the possible side-effects of Tamoxifen. One
study showed that 27 per cent of women taking Tamoxifen showed
hyperplastic (unfavourable new growth) changes in their wombs within
Tamoxifen is carcinogenic and can cause an early menopause,
osteoporosis, endometrial cancer, liver cancer and clotting disease.
Taking 20 milligrams of Tamoxifen per day can increase the risk for
developing endometrial cancer by up to five times. Clotting disorders
are seven times more frequent. One study showed just a meagre 0.7 per
cent benefit for women taking Tamoxifen preventively to reduce the
risk of developing further tumours in the breast.27
It is also interesting to note that menstruating women who have
breast surgery carried out during the second half of their menstrual
cycle-the luteal phase, when progesterone is high in order to balance
oestrogens-survive far longer than do women whose surgery is done
early on in their cycle during the oestrogen-dominant follicular
The only known cause of endometrial cancer is unopposed oestrogen.
Here again, the culprits are oestradiol and oestrone. Oestrogen
supplements given to post-menopausal women for five years increase
the risk of endometrial cancer sixfold, and longer-term use increases
it fifteenfold. In pre-menopausal women, endometrial cancer is
extremely rare, except during the five to 10 years before menopause
when oestrogen dominance is common.29
Synthetic hormones are also linked to cervical cancer. The cells
of the cervix are extremely hormone-sensitive. Levels of synthetic
progestins, low enough not to alter the cells of the lining of the
womb, have been shown to change the cells that line the cervix.
Progestins dry up cervical secretions, and this may be part of the
reason why cancer of the cervix develops quickly in the presence of
It was predicted in the 1960s that the Pill would increase the
chances of a woman developing a melanoma, the most lethal of all skin
cancers. Hormones control the pigmentation of our skin, and melanoma
cancer cells have oestrogen receptors which can make the growth of
cancer more likely. Women taking HRT are at greater risk of
developing melanomas than the average woman.31
Dr Lee strongly believes that because of its many benefits, its
great safety, and particularly its ability to oppose the carcinogenic
effects of oestrogens, natural progesterone deserves far more
attention and application than it is generally given in the
prevention and care of women's health problems today.
The long road we have been travelling over the past 35 years, that
has encouraged and promoted the wide range of synthetic hormone
products, is taking us to a deadly dead-end. The scare-tactic
techniques and intimidation employed by doctors and pharmaceutical
companies alike to use such products, often overriding a woman's
better judgement, have pushed millions of women into using drugs that
are unproven and unsafe. It is no surprise, therefore, that Dr Lee
has issued an ominous warning when he says, "We will soon regard
making oestrogen the key ingredient in hormone replacement therapy as
a major medical mistake."32
Women must be able to make educated, informed choices about their
bodies and their health treatment preferences. It's impossible to
make important health decisions if fundamental facts are missing or
misconstrued. It is also evident that the health care providers, whom
we have come to rely upon, either have not received adequate,
unbiased education themselves or have become imprisoned by their own
arrogant and narrow-minded points of view.
It is really up to every woman to read, question, trust her natural
instincts and learn about her own body. It is also essential that a
woman honour her own cyclic nature and intuitive wisdom. It is a
woman's right to choose with dignity the best approach to her own
1. Greer, Germaine, The Change, Hamish Hamilton, London,
2. Lee, John R., M.D., What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About
Menopause, Warner Books, New York, 1996, pp. 67-68.
3. Op. cit., pp. 42-43.
4. Kenton, Leslie, Passage to Power, Random House, London,
1995, p. 34.
5. Archer, John, The Water You Drink: How Safe Is It?, Pure
Water Press, Australia, 1996, p. 34.
6. Kenton, Leslie, op. cit., p. 32.
7. Lee, John, op. cit., p. 50.
8. Op. cit., p. 56.
9. Wheel of Hormones, TV production with Lars Mortensen, TV2
10. Lee, John, op. cit., p. 44.
11. Archer, John, Bad Medicine, Simon and Schuster, Australia,
1995, p. 210.
12. Neil, Kate, Balancing Hormones Naturally, ION Press,
London, 1994, p. 28.
13. Beckham, Nancy, Menopause-A Positive Approach Using Natural
Therapies, Penguin Books, Australia, 1995, pp. 36-37.
14. Ibid., p. 36.
15. British Medical Bulletin (1992) 48:458-68.
16. Neil, Kate, op. cit., p. 46.
17. Lee, J. R., "Osteoporosis Reversal: The Role of Progesterone",
Intern. Clin. Nutr. Rev. (1990) 10:384-391.
18. Lee, John R., M.D., What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About
Menopause, p. 183.
19. Op. cit., p. 18.
20. Beckham, Nancy, ibid., pp. 42-43.
21. Lee, John, op. cit., p. 197.
22. Op. cit., p. 207.
24. Op. cit., p. 208.
25. Chuang, King-Jen, M.D., T. Y. Tigris, Lee, M.D., Gustavo
Linares-Cruz, M.D., Sabine Fournier, Ph.D., Bruno de
Lignières, M.D., "Influences of percutaneous administration of
estradiol and progesterone of human breast epithelial cell cycle
in vivo", Journal of Fertility and Sterility 63:4
785-791, April 1995.
26. Beckham, Nancy, op. cit., p. 48.
27. Neil, Kate, op. cit., p. 40.
28. Kenton, Leslie, op. cit., p. 94.
29. Lee, John, op. cit., p. 220.
30. Neil, Kate, op. cit., p. 41.
32. The Sunday Telegraph, London, 12 May 1996.
About the Author:
Sherrill Sellman presently lives in Melbourne where she conducts
a private psychotherapy practice, in addition to giving lectures,
researching and writing about topics of interest and concern to her
relating to women's health empowerment. She is a contributing writer
to holistic publications in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the
For further information about natural progesterone, please send a
self-addressed envelope to: Light Unlimited, Locked Bag 8000 - MDC,
Kew, Victoria 3101, Australia; phone +61 (0)3 9810 9591; fax +61 (0)3
9855 9991; e-mail:
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