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HORMONES: YOU CAN'T LIVE WITH 'EM -- YOU CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT 'EM

Whether you're a young girl starting out on her hormonal journey or a mature woman in postmenopause, this article will more than likely interest you. And if you're a man, perhaps the following information will help you to understand some of the dilemmas us women go through while temporarily housed in this small wonder we call the body.

I don't think there's a male alive who hasn't had their fill of hearing the opposite sex complain about everything from PMS to hot flashes. Some doctors think it's all in our heads, others treat us as if we have an illness. I don't know how you feel about it, but since when did menstrual cycles and menopause become diseases?

With over 30 million menopausal women in North America, and another 20 million women close behind, it doesn't take a Harvard genius to recognize that pharmaceutical companies have seen a potential diamond mine in the production of synthetic hormones and have been raking us over the coals ever since. For example, "Premarin" (derived from the words "pregnant mare urine") is a popular estrogen substitute prescribed by countless doctors and manufactured by the US pharmaceutical giant, the Wyeth-Ayerst Company, taking in over $700 million dollars in 1992 alone. Women, it's time to open your eyes! A large percentage of their advertising and research dollars are spent trying to convince us that estrogen will cure everything from heart disease to Alzheimer's, but the reality is that synthetic estrogens are highly toxic and carcinogenic.

And if that isn't bad enough, are you aware of how Premarin is manufactured? I am, and it's despicable. Pregnant mares are confined to tiny stalls for up to six months at a time without sufficient amounts of water, exercise and veterinary care. They're hooked up to uncomfortable urine collection systems known as "pee-lines." And for what? So that big business can continue to generate incredible amounts of money by making products that actually harm us? And what about the 75,000 or so foals produced by this industry each year -- what happens to these "unwanted by-products?" I'll tell you what happens to them. They're fattened up, trucked to God knows where, then slaughtered, their flesh sold to Japanese consumers or dog food companies. Not only does this disgust me, it's totally unnecessary.

There are a number of natural estrogen products available to us today, including "Estriol," that will safely replace those created by the human ovary. We don't have to abuse and kill animals to get them.

I became very interested in this subject after experiencing a skin itching problem some four years ago. In January of 1993, I woke up one morning feeling fine. Then suddenly, after taking a shower, I began combing my hair out when my scalp began to itch. It was a burning itch. It went from my head to my neck, down to my hands and feet, and before long, my entire body was itching as though I had hives. There was no sign of anything on my skin, yet my husband, Gregory, found me on the floor of the kitchen, hysterically crying from the pain. He ran out to buy me some Benadryl which stopped the itching for a while, but made me feel drugged-out all day.

Not long after that, I called my twin sister, and when I explained to her what was going on with me, she chuckled saying, "None of us ever said anything about it, but the family was wondering if you'd ever get the curse..." Apparently, she had bouts of similar itching, her doctors prescribing Atarax, a skin tranquilizer, to help subside the problem. My older sister began itching when she was 33 (18 years ago), at which time she was prescribed Periactin, another skin tranquilizer. Unbeknownst to me, my mother had been treated for years with synthetic cortisone for her itching, and needless to say, is now suffering the terrible effects of that drug.

Interestingly enough, following menopause, both my mother and older sister were placed on Premarin, and both wound up with not only hysterectomies, but my mom later contacted lymphoma cancer, and my sister just recently had a mastectomy. It wasn't until it was too late that their doctors decided to take them off Premarin. One of the possible side effects of Premarin is breast cancer.

Being an author, actress, and stuntwoman, there was no way I could take Atarax or Periactin and be alert on the job. So I began experimenting with every possible kind of vitamin, mineral, herb and amino acid that I thought might help me to alleviate my insatiable itching. You name it, I tried it! But the only thing that really helped me was taking ice cold showers or packing my arms and legs in ice-packs. Doctor after doctor had no solution for me other than prescribing drugs that either might cause drowsiness or had the potential to cause birth defects in fetuses. What's really curious is the day I got pregnant, all the itching went away, and the day I gave birth, all the itching came back.

Whatever was really wrong with me was a nightmare. My hair began to fall out, my skin became extremely dry, I was losing all my body lubrication and sex drive, and I had all the signs of thyroid problems. Every professional I went to said they had no idea what was wrong with me. Most just asked me why I didn't want to take drugs to feel better. Sound familiar? Why does conventional medicine tend to want to treat the symptom and not the cause?

I don't know how, maybe it was divine intervention, but with time, I put two and two together and came up with the theory that my problem was actually due to an extreme hormonal imbalance, despite the results of blood tests that said differently. I finally met a doctor who explained to me that an elevation of estrogen can not only block the absorption of the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) across the blood brain barrier, but it also suppresses the levels of progesterone in the body. Quite possibly, my pregnancy shot my estrogen up and it never came down. So, against my better judgment, I took his advice and tried taking a prescription of progesterone pills. At first, the itching did subside, but after a month, I began feeling depressed and the headaches were unbearable.

I wasn't about to give up, though, and I continued my search for the real answer. Then one day, like manna from heaven, validation of my theory actually came to me by one of my readers, Kim Jacob, who with no prior knowledge of my condition, miraculously sent me a tape by John R. Lee, M.D. Kim belongs to a very reputable nutritional company called Life Plus, so Gregory and I took the tape seriously and began to listen to information that for the first time was answering all my questions including, "How could I be in such great shape and feel this bad?"

Dr. Lee began his orientation by explaining that men, and particularly women, today are suffering from hormonal imbalances around the world. What he discovered early on in his career was that the patients he had been treating with estrogen for menopause and/or osteoporosis were not, by and large, getting better. In fact, many of them eventually began to complain about dry skin, loss of hair, low sex drive, vaginal dryness, depression, hot flashes, water retention, weight gain, headaches, fatigue, body aches and bone mineral loss. He knew there must be another part to the puzzle, and later realized that whenever he and other doctors in the past had prescribed only estrogen without progesterone (which is known as unopposed estrogen), they were actually making a big mistake without realizing it. Their patients were becoming hormonally imbalanced. According to Dr. Lee today, in nature's wisdom, the two hormones are meant to work together.

In an attempt to balance the ratio of estrogen and progesterone in his clients, Dr. Lee began experimenting with a natural progesterone cream he found that was made from plants, and the results were phenomenal. The women he was treating with it began to report that their hair was becoming fuller, their skin was becoming smoother, their fibrocystic breasts were normalizing, their vaginal lubrication was coming back, their aches and pains were disappearing, and above all, their osteoporosis was not only halting, but their bone mass density was actually getting denser.

Dr. Lee chose a natural cream because he realized that drug companies like to alter their products. You see, drug companies cannot patent a natural substance (take for instance a simple yam), and so they go out of their way to synthetically change its natural molecular structure just enough so they can call it their own. And the problem is synthetic hormones have molecules that are not intrinsic to nature and therefore cannot be properly broken down, regulated or absorbed. Thus, the body will eventually illicit a negative reaction from these abnormal molecular configurations, which is why the progesterone pills I originally took caused me to eventually dive into depression and headaches -- their natural progesterone content was isolated and slightly transformed.

In his book, "What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause," Dr. Lee also goes on to explain that the most accurate of hormonal tests are those analyzed through saliva rather than blood. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) has been using saliva tests for years because of their accuracy and cheaper price. Bingo! -- I knew right then and there that getting a saliva test was the way to go. I immediately called Aeron Labs in San Leandro, California (800/631-7900) and requested the saliva test. At that point, I intuitively felt I was getting closer to the answers I was looking for, but I still didn't really understand why I itched in the first place or why it stopped during my pregnancy.

Further research into the nervous system, however, did finally put the remaining pieces together for me. We all know that the brain communicates with all the tissues and cells of the body via neurotransmitters circulating in the bloodstream and generated by nerve extensions throughout the body. We also know that when carried any distance, nerves are sheathed in an off-white insulating covering called "myelin," which protects them from trauma and chemical erosion, and prevents short-circuiting of the electric impulse along the way. As in my case, if for any reason these sheaths become eroded, nerve function is adversely affected. Ergo, one can begin to itch. And guess what keeps the body's myelin sheaths strong and healthy? You got it -- progesterone. And as progesterone is made in the body, natural enzymes help change it into other hormones as well, such as corticosterone and cortisol which are responsible for mineral balance, sugar control, and response to stresses of all sorts, including trauma, inflammation, emotional stress, and immune responses.

Now you can understand why my itching stopped when I was pregnant, not to mention why my hair was thick, my skin was soft and smooth, and my body felt like I was hormonally seventeen years-old again. Under normal circumstances, a woman produces roughly 20 mg's of progesterone a day. When she's pregnant she can produce up to 400 mg's. This was the final piece to my puzzle, so it didn't take me long to order a natural progesterone cream that had at least 400 mg's per once. According to Dr. Lee, anything less will not supply sufficient progesterone if you're truly deficient, and even when a natural cream does contain progesterone, it may not be effective if it isn't suspended in the right medium. For instance, products containing mineral oil will prevent the progesterone from being absorbed into the skin.

When I finally received the results from my saliva test, my conclusions once and for all were confirmed... My progesterone levels were actually lower than a postmenopausal woman. Pretty frightening, huh? I applied the cream and waited for my next itching spell, but it never came, and was Gregory ever happy to hear that my sex drive was back!

If you wish to know more about this subject or would like a list of different progesterone creams available, I urge you to purchase Dr. John R. Lee's book (published by Warner Books) and get hip to your hormones. I guess the real question to ask is why we're all becoming hormonally imbalanced to begin with. Could it be that man's breakdown of the environment is ironically breaking him (or should I say her?) down?

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