The Use of Natural Progesterone in Women From A Historical Perspective
Throughout recorded history, as little girls developed into women, they usually progressed through the cycles of womanhood (menstruation, pregnancy, birth and menopause) with very little difficulty or discomfort. In fact, in many Native American cultures, "menopause marked the transition into the third phase of a woman's life, corresponded to the waning moon, and was the initiation into the wise woman or elder phase of a woman's life." (Goddesses in Older Women: Archetypes in Women Over Fifty. © 2001 by Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D.)
With the emergence of the Industrial Revolution, in the early 1900s, the ease of this normal, cyclic progression through womanhood started to change. Women began to report a wide variety of ailments related to their menstrual cycles and menopause until now, at the beginning of the 21st century, these problems have reached epidemic proportions affecting at least 50% of the women in North America over the age of 35 (reported by Jerilyn Prior, MD, Professor of Endocrinology at the University of British Columbia). When women's complaints first began to occur, doctors blamed psychological disorders, and then blamed a deficiency of estrogen for their discomfort.
In 1938, the "Journal of the American Medical Association" (JAMA) published a letter by Leon Israel, MD, (a noted gynecologist from Harvard University) stating that these menstrual and menopausal discomforts may be the result of a low level of progesterone in the body instead of low estrogen and that this progesterone deficiency may be causing the symptoms that women were reporting. He believed that these problems could be corrected by giving women natural progesterone supplements to increase the body's progesterone levels, instead of giving estrogen supplements, but he never tested his theory.
Dr. Israel's theory was largely ignored until the 1950s when Katharina Dalton, MD, from England, tested this theory in pre-menopausal women. Dr. Dalton soon emerged as the leading authority on the importance and use of natural progesterone in pre menopausal women. Dr. Dalton has written many books on the importance of natural progesterone including her 1964 best seller, Premenstrual Syndrome followed by The Menstrual Cycle, The Premenstrual Syndrome and Progesterone Therapy, Once a Month, Depression After Childbirth, Premenstrual Syndrome Goes to Court, and Premenstrual Syndrome Illustrated.
Next, Joel Hargrove, MD, from Vanderbilt University investigated the use of natural progesterone supplementation in post menopausal women. He found that natural progesterone supplementation worked just as well for relieving menopausal symptoms.
Then, in 1979, John R. Lee, MD, attended a seminar on the importance of natural progesterone in women given by Ray Peat, PhD. Dr. Lee reports, in his 1996 book, What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause, that he took Dr. Peat's work to heart and started investigating for himself the benefits of administering natural progesterone for increasing bone density levels in women suffering from osteoporosis who couldn't tolerate estrogen. He reports in his books, that natural progesterone did work to increase the bone density of his patients and found that the best way to administer the natural progesterone was with the application of a topical cream containing between 450mg and 550mg of micronized, USP natural progesterone per ounce. Dr. Lee spent the final years of his life educating women all through the industrialized world about the importance of natural progesterone cream supplementation.
In the September/October 1999 issue of the International Journal of Pharmaceutical Compounding, Dr. Katherina Dalton was interviewed. When asked about the best way to administer natural progesterone to women, she responded: "I am not so sure that oral progesterone is what we want, because all progesterone administered orally goes through the portal systems direct to the liver, where there are numerous progesterone receptors that metabolize the progesterone before it reaches the systemic circulation. Progesterone administered vaginally, rectally or transdermally (through the skin) goes directly into the systemic circulation."
After discovering the dramatic benefits of natural progesterone cream for myself, I sponsored Dr. Lee to speak at 2 seminars for women - in Phoenix and Minneapolis. Because of this, I spoke to Dr. Lee many times. I recall a conversation that I had with him before one of those seminars. I asked him why he thought the estrogen/progesterone imbalance was almost epidemic in women in industrialized countries. He told me that while no one was completely sure, that he believed the problem was linked to petroleum. He told me that while the petroleum molecule is not exactly the same as the estrogen molecule, it is close. He theorized that when petroleum entered the body through the lungs or the skin, the body interpreted it as estrogen, and stored it in fat as estrogen. He felt that petroleum and other chemical estrogen mimics (called xeno-estrogens) somehow damaged the progesterone production mechanism in the body, causing the imbalance that he referred to as estrogen dominance. He believed that this imbalance caused symptoms of breast tenderness, decreased sex drive, fatigue, fibrocystic breast disease, heavy menstrual bleeding and clotting, poor concentration, headaches, infertility, irritability, mood swings, PMS, uterine fibroids, water retention or weight gain.
Because of this conversation with Dr. Lee, I started investigating all the ways that petroleum touches our lives. It is much more pervasive than I initially thought. Besides the obvious gas and oil used in all modes and types of transportation and manufacturing processes, petroleum is a key ingredient in plastics, pesticides, herbicides, cleaning products and derivatives of it are used in our personal care products and pharmaceutical drugs - even in our food. It is safe to say that as a citizen of any country in the industrialized world we are exposed to large amounts of petroleum on a daily basis. So, it should come as no surprise that progesterone deficiency has reached epidemic proportions in North America, as stated previously by Dr. Jerilyn Prior.
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© Copyright 2004 by Cynthia Drasler MBA
Cynthia Drasler, MBA