HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY

by Lawrence Wilson, MD

© September 2010, The Center for Development

 

Hormones are very powerful substances that are supposed to made inside the body.  When they are not made in sufficient quantity, one can definitely develop many types of symptoms.  Biochemical research has made it possible to replace some common hormones such as estrogen, progesterone and others.  However, we find that with nutritional balancing science, almost all of the time we can restore the body’s normal hormone production.  This is far superior to the use of any hormone replacement.  This article discusses many aspects of hormone replacement therapy.

PROBLEMS WITH BIO-IDENTICAL HORMONE THERAPY

1. Hormone therapy can cause cancer.  I mention this as a warning, even using natural products such as glandular extracts used by nutritionists and holistic doctors.  Glandulars and hormone replacement should be avoided, in my view, if one has a diagnosed cancer and even in some instances if one strongly suspects a full-blown cancer, even if it has not been diagnosed.

Cancer is probably the biggest danger of the use of artificial and even natural hormone therapies.  This applies specifically for hormone-related cancers such as breast and prostate cancer.  The reason prostate and breast cancer are so prevalent, in part, is that we are exposed to hormone “replacement” products all day.  These include plastics, or so-called xenoestrogens.  These function like estrogens in our bodies.

Also, dairy products and meat naturally contain hormones, which is why some natural cancer therapies suggest avoiding them for a while at the beginning of the treatment.  Avoiding them altogether for long periods of time, however, is usually not helpful, as meat and raw dairy products are excellent sources of many nutrients..

Other sources are hormones injected into livestock, poultry and other animals that we either eat outright or use products made from these animal bodies.  Many processed and prepared foods contain flavorings and other animal-based products that vegetarians are even unaware of.  The only way to avoid them is to eat at home all the time of fresh, organic foods.

Other natural sources of hormones are found in certain plant-based foods such as most soy products unless they are fermented.  Other sources include wild yam, sea vegetables (but not kelp and certain others), cactus-derived products and, in fact, many other foods in smaller amounts.  Most do not pose a problem.  However, for the cancer patient they certainly can pose an added risk.

This is one reason I recommend quite strict diets for people, and why we use near infrared sauna therapy to help remove thousands of toxic plastics and other chemicals from the body quickly and efficiently with few side effects.  This is only possible when the sauna is used enough, and in the correct way.  For much more information about saunas, read Sauna Therapy on this site.  For even more information I offer a book, Sauna Therapy.

2. Hormone replacement upsets the delicate hormone feedback systems in the body.  This is especially true of the steroid hormones (DHEA, pregnenolone, estrogen, progesterone, cortisone, androsterone and testosterone). 

                  Hormone replacement may do much more harm than good by upsetting the delicate feedback mechanisms.  Giving a hormone affects others and may affect many areas of physical functioning.  The feedback systems are exceedingly complex.  It is difficult to monitor and figure out exactly how to regulate hormones, especially adrenal hormones.

3. Hormone therapy rarely addresses the root causes of health problems.  Instead, it mainly treats symptoms. 

Causes of hormone imbalances include nutrient deficiencies, toxic metal excesses, toxic chemicals and the effects of radiation, emotional imbalances and stress from other causes.  The only time hormone replacement addresses the root cause is when the organ that produces the hormone is irreparably damaged so that it cannot function. 

                  In the case of ovarian hormones such as estrogens and progesterone given to menopausal women, these also do not address the real problem.  Menopause is not a disease that requires treatment.  It is a natural stage of life.  Many women do fine without hormone replacement at menopause.  If a woman experience hot flashes, vaginal dryness and other symptoms at this time of life, in all cases her adrenal glands are not functioning well.  Often thyroid imbalance is also present.  When these are corrected, the symptoms go away without the need for hormone replacement.

4. Hormone replacement therapy often masks underlying problems.  Hormone replacement may give relief from hot flashes, exhaustion or other annoying symptoms.  However, underlying problems such as heavy metal toxicity, nutrient deficiencies or chemical toxicity continue unrecognized and unaddressed.  This often leads to more serious illness in the future.

5. One cannot provide the correct dosage of replacement hormones.  The body’s natural hormone secretion varies every minute of the day and night.  It depends on hundreds of factors such as lifestyle, diet, mental attitude, stressors, illnesses and many others.  This is literally impossible to duplicate with hormone replacement therapy of any kind.

Replacement therapy substitutes a rigid routine for the delicate balancing act the body performs all day with its hormone secretion.  This will eventually upset the body severely.

6. A hormone's metabolic effect is what is most important, not its serum, urine or saliva level.  However, serum, urine or saliva are how hormone levels are usually measured.   This is particularly a problem with thyroid and adrenal hormone monitoring. 

The metabolic effects of hormones are extremely complex and hard to measure.  They often depends less upon the level of circulating hormone and more on how much enters the cells and is metabolized properly within the cells.   For this reason, cellular tests such as hair mineral testing often reveal a very different picture than blood, urine and saliva tests that measure circulating hormone levels.

7. Even bio-identical hormones are toxic.  This is most evident with insulin.  Every physician is familiar with the care that must be used in administering insulin, even though modern insulin is technically a bio-identical hormone.  Too much or too little can cause a fatal reaction. 

When I hear doctors say that natural hormones are not toxic, I cringe because it is not true.  Estrogens, cortisol, cortisone, progesterone, DHEA, pregnenelone and the others are all powerful substances and all have toxic effects when not produced inside the body in just the right quantity at just the right time.

8. Bio-identical hormones are not identical to the hormones produced by the body.  I routinely see toxicity from bio-identical hormone therapy.  This would indicate that bio-identical and other replacement hormones are not the same as those produced by the body. 

Perhaps, for example, the reason is that hormones made inside the body are absolutely fresh and clean.  This is impossible to duplicate with any products taken in from outside the body.

Another possibility is that subtle differences may exist between individuals in terms of the chemical composition of their hormones.  Therefore, it is not easy or perhaps even possible to duplicate the body’s complex hormone production system.

9. Hormone replacement therapy is costly.  The costs include 1) the hormones, 2) repeated testing that is absolutely required to prescribe them properly and 3) longer-term costs because one must usually stay on them for years.  Other hidden costs may be the damage they cause to the body.

In addition to the financial burden, one becomes dependent on tests and doctors that in itself extracts a human cost.  Cost is not important if it saves a life, but it is important for most people, especially if less expensive alternatives such as nutritional balancing can be used instead.

MYTHS OF HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY

1. Bio-identical hormone therapy is a natural or naturopathic therapy.  No!  It is an allopathic and symptomatic approach in almost all cases.  I would say that no hormone replacement therapy is natural because hormones are naturally supposed to be produced within the body.

The only natural approach to hormone correction is to rebuild the organ or gland that produces the hormones.  This can be done in over 90% of the cases using nutritional balancing science.

2. Hormone replacement is just like taking vitamins, minerals or other substances needed by the body. Absolutely not.  Hormones are supposed to be produced inside the body, in complex combinations, and in quantities that vary every minute of the day and night. 

In contrast, vitamins, minerals and other phytochemicals are supposed to be obtained from outside of the body.  Most can be stored, and they can be ingested in rough quantities at mealtimes, with no harm at all to the body.  The body has complex buffering systems that protect one from ingesting too much calcium at a meal, for example.  This is not true of hormones and it makes hormone therapy intrinsically far more toxic and dangerous.

This is an extremely important difference between supplements of vitamins and mineral therapy versus hormone therapy.  Yet most holistic and naturopathic doctors think that natural hormones are just like natural minerals and vitamins.  They could not be more wrong!

3. Once a person’s hormone levels have become low due to age, toxicity, disease or for other reasons, one must take replacement hormones to restore normal body functioning.  This is not true.  However, most medical, holistic and naturopathic doctors do not know how to truly restore the body, in my experience.  The articles on this website and my books can help correct this problem.

4. Bio-identical hormones are the same as those produced within the body. This may be true in theory, but in practice we find that even bio-identical hormones cause toxicity, so I do not believe they are actually the same as the substances produced by the body itself.

5. Bio-identical hormones are non-toxic. This has been discussed above.  All hormones are toxic substances that must be used with extreme caution.

6. Hormone replacement schedules can mimic the body’s own production of hormones. This is never true because the body changes the level of its hormones minute by minute and this can never be duplicated with pills, patches or shots.

7. Blood, urine and saliva tests are accurate to assess how much replacement hormone is needed at any time. I find this is simply not true.  What matters is the effect of the hormones, rather than the level of circulating hormones. 

For example, many patients have normal serum thyroid tests.  However, they suffer all the symptoms of hypothyroidism and benefit greatly from a program to improve thyroid activity such as the use of kelp and other products, along with diet and lifestyle correction.  This is the most common example of the failure of blood and other tests to assess hormone activity.  However, many others could be cited.

 

WHEN HORMONE REPLACEMENT IS HELPFUL AND/OR NEEDED

Insulin. Type 1 diabetics, in particular, may need insulin replacement.  It appears that an infection affecting the pancreas can effectively reduce insulin production sufficiently that the organ no longer functions.  Insulin might be needed in a few other cases, especially emergencies.    

Type 2 diabetes. Most Type 2 diabetics can lower their blood sugar with dietary and lifestyle changes.  In particular, they must reduce carbohydrates drastically and make sure they are well-hydrated.  Replacing most grains and sweets of all kinds, including fruit and all juices, with cooked vegetables improves health and causes rapid weight loss in most cases.  They also need animal protein and a few supplements.  Most must  drink more spring water, and must stop drinking coffee, alcohol and other caffeinated beverages.  If they will do this, the blood sugar level usually plummets within days or a week.

Many type 2 diabetics, in particular, have iron and, at times, toxicity with lead, cadmium, mercury and other poison metals.  Many need more bioavailable chromium, zinc and manganese. For much more information about diabetes, read Diabetes on this website.  Several other articles on this website discuss carbohydrates in the diet, sugars in the diet and other topics related to diabetes.

 

Thyroid hormones. If the thyroid gland has been removed surgically or irradiated, thyroid hormone replacement is needed.  However, if the gland is present, I find that thyroid replacement hormones, even natural thyroid hormones, are usually not needed and, in fact, get in the way of overall healing.

Thyroid hormone replacement is not as harmful, in my experience, as the use of adrenal hormones such as DHEA and pregnenelone.  Most likely, the reason is the feedback system for thyroid hormone production is simpler than the feedback system for the steroid hormones.  Only two hormones are involved, and their metabolism is relatively simple.

Thyroid hormone replacement therapy can mask deeper imbalances, and it does not address the usual causal factors such as copper, mercury or fluoride toxicity, iodine deficiency, fast or slow oxidation, and even postural tension that can affect the thyroid and pituitary glands.

                  Adrenal weakness often contributes to thyroid imbalance as the thyroid gland seeks to compensate.  Exhaustion of the sympathetic or fight-or-flight nervous system also contributes to thyroid imbalance. 

                  If one must replace thyroid hormones, most patients do better on natural thyroid (Naturethroid or Westhroid, for example), which contain all the hormones and nutritional factors as well.

 

Grave’s disease or hyperthyroidism. Adrenal exhaustion can contribute to hyperthyroid conditions or Grave's disease.  This is revealed on hair mineral tests that often reveal low cellular thyroid effect.  In these individuals, cell permeability is impaired and the thyroid gland compensates by secreting more hormones, causing symptoms of hyperthyroidism.

                  Most people diagnosed with hyperthyroidism in my experience are also very stressed, and this must be corrected for natural healing of this condition, which is usually very easy. Copper and particularly mercury toxicity are also important factors in almost all cases.  The solution is not to destroy the thyroid gland, and definitely not to use radioactive iodine treatment that can cause cancers later.  It is to address the causes, as can be done with nutritional balancing science quite easily.   Programs may need special modifications, however, for Grave’s disease. 

Hashimoto’s disease. Even in these cases, the thyroid can usually be restored quite easily and quickly without a need for thyroid hormones. 

As with the other hormones, thyroid hormone is helpful in rare emergencies for a short time only.  For more information about thyroid problems and natural approaches to solving them, see the article on this website, Thyroid Healing.
 

Addison’s disease. According to medical texts, Cortisol or cortisone replacement therapy are needed in these cases.  However, I have never encountered such a case in which natural methods would not be sufficient.  To read much more about this topic, click on Adrenal Burnout Syndrome. The side effects of even low-dose cortisone therapy are so devastating that its use should be reserved as a last resort only if all else fails.

Other hormones.  The principle is the same.  If the gland or organ that produces the hormone has been removed surgically or damaged or atrophied beyond repair, then hormone replacement is needed.

A possible exception to this is the surgical removal of the ovaries.  In these cases, often the ovarian hormones can be made by the adrenal glands and other sites in the body.  In some cases, ovary removal, which should be done only rarely in the case of overwhelming pathology, can render some women so unwell that hormones may be the only answer for a while, until they improve their overall health.   Then they should not be needed at all.

Topical hormone therapy, for example, for dermatitis and other skin problems, is far less toxic than ingesting corticosteroids.  However, it will eventually thin the skin if used repeatedly.  Therefore, it should be used only occasionally, if at all.

Short-term therapy for emergencies.  For example, cortisone may be used for a few days to stop swelling of the brain after a head trauma.  As long as it is not a longer-term therapy, it can be life-saving

If a person will not or cannot follow a nutritional balancing program.  In these cases, hormone replacement is the second best choice as it may provide relief from symptoms.  This might occur if a person is very old, very ill, or simply unable or unwilling to follow a strict diet, lifestyle, supplement and detoxification program.

 Melatonin.  This hormone is secreted by the pineal gland.  It is helpful for many people to promote restful sleep, especially if one has jet lag, for example.  It appears to be fairly safe, especially for occasional use. 

Natural progesterone, testosterone and natural thyroid. These are occasionally helpful remedies for premenstrual syndrome, fatigue and problems related to aging.  However, we find they are rarely needed if one will follow a nutritional balancing program.  They might be needed for a short time, if one has a lot of toxic metals to remove that will take months, for example.  These approaches are described elsewhere on this website in articles such as Premenstrual Syndrome.

 

HORMONES FROM THE ENVIRONMENT

Some readers may disagree with this article on the grounds that we all ingest some hormones from food products and even in our drinking water.  I would answer that this type of “hormone replacement” is almost always extremely harmful.  Common examples of hormones ingested from the food or water are:

·           Estrogens and others found in dairy products and meats.  Some of these occur naturally, and many are chemicals fed to the livestock to increase their weight or for other reasons.  Dairy products containing these hormone residues generally make the product far less healthful.  

·           Soy and a few other foods contain genistin and other compounds that bind to estrogen binding sites in the body.  Once again, many scientists believe this is not a good thing, except perhaps for some menopausal women,  a rather small subgroup of the population.  I don’t think it is healthful for anyone, and is the main reason that traditional people have fermented their soy products to remove these chemicals.

·           Contaminated tap water.  Most American and Western European municipal water supplies contain residues of medical drugs, including hormones.  Once again, this is not considered a healthful situation.

·           Some pesticides and plastic materials contain hormone-like toxic chemicals that can mimic estrogens.  These are very common today, unfortunately, and also quite harmful.

 

In summary, most of our food-based and water-based hormone sources are decidedly negative for health. 

SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT AND HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY

                  Unless hormone therapy saves one’s life, another problem with it is that it slows and possibly stops what is called on this website spiritual or mental development.  This is a precise process that is described in several articles on this site including Spiritual Development, Development – Why And Why Now?  and others.

                  The reasons why hormone replacement therapy of any kind slows or stops development include the following:

·           Any therapy that is even slightly toxic is not helpful for development.

·           Any therapy that restricts the normal feedback systems of the body is harmful for development.  All hormone replacement therapies do this to some degree, as they cannot perfectly mimic the body’s self-regulating tendencies.

·           All therapies that involve the use of synthetic substances, in particular, often slow development.

 

CONFUSING HORMONE-RELATED SITUATIONS ON HAIR MINERAL ANALYSES

                  Hair mineral analyses often reveal more about hormone cellular effects than they do about circulating hormone levels.  This is a very complex subject.  It is, however, a very helpful measure in some cases.  Here are a few of the most confusing  situations that practitioners encounter when evaluating hormone metabolism and trying to use serum, urine, saliva and hair for assessment:

A hair analysis indicates low adrenal and thyroid effect or response (slow oxidation), but adrenal and thyroid hormone levels are normal.  This occurs often.  It means that hormone secretion is okay, but the body is not able to respond to the hormones.  Reasons for this include:

·           The hormones the body is secreting may not be of good enough quality to act properly.

·           A deficiency of a co-factor or releasing factor is making the body’s hormones less effective.

·           Reduced cell permeability is reducing the hormone’s ability to enter the cells.

·           Once in the cells, the body is not able to utilize the hormones properly.

A person is on “adequate” hormone replacement according to serum or saliva hormone tests, but a hair analysis and the person’s symptoms indicate low hormone effect.  This is extremely common.  It means the replacement hormones are not balancing the body enough, and could be making things worse by upsetting the body’s natural hormone feedback systems.

The reason for this is the problem is not a lack of hormones, but usually such causes as toxic metals, nutrient deficiencies and other biochemical imbalances.  A nutritional balancing program will slowly enable the person to get off the replacement hormones after a time.  In some cases, staying on the replacement product slows or can even stop progress.  However, I do not take people off prescription drugs, as that is a more personal decision that is often made best with the approval of the prescribing doctor.

Serum or saliva hormone levels are low, but a hair analysis reveals fast oxidation or an excessive hormone effect.  This is also very common.  Possibly, excessive cell permeability (if fast oxidation is present) is allowing hormones to enter the cells faster than is ideal.  It is an adaptive mechanism and part of the alarm reaction.  In this case, taking supplemental hormones can be very dangerous and can even lead to death.  However, convincing a client of this fact can be difficult, especially if the person feels better on the hormones.

Other causes for low thyroid and adrenal hormones in a fast oxidizer, for example, include a temporary stress reaction, or that the hormone test was done at a time when hormones were low, while a hair mineral test represents an average reading over a three month time period.  Other complicating factors are also possible, such as a falsely elevated sodium or potassium reading due to using a water softener, swimming in pools often, or for some other reason that should be checked carefully.  Finally, the hair test reflects the stress response, and not hormone levels.  This must be recalled and one needs to understand both types of tests to evaluate the differences properly.  However, in most cases, giving thyroid or adrenal hormones to fast oxidizers is not helpful and can be dangerous!

A hair analysis shows a complex metabolic pattern such as four lows, four highs or another, but hormone levels appear within normal limits.  The same principles apply.  The nutritional balancing program will slowly undo the complex patterns on the hair analysis.  Stopping supplementary hormones is often helpful if the client desires it, and is best done with the blessing of the prescribing doctor for legal reasons.

The client has Grave’s disease or hyperthyroidism, but a hair analysis indicates sluggish thyroid activity and slow oxidation. This is the rule, not the exception.  See the article on Thyroid Disease for a deeper understanding of why this occurs in almost every case.

HOW TO WEAN YOURSELF OFF CORTISONE THERAPY OR EVEN THE NEED FOR HIGH DOSES OF ADRENAL SUPPLEMENTS

A fact that is not well known is that therapy with hydrocortisone, Prednisone and related products often causes a low level of B-complex vitamins.  The only way to remedy this in the short term is to take extra amounts of vitamin B complex.  Often up to 100 mg per day or more of the B-complex vitamins are needed to offset this effect of cortisone therapy.  When one does this, many people find it much easier to wean themselves off hydrocortisone therapy.