We’ve all heard the saying ‘with age comes wisdom’. We also all know that’s not always the case – especially when it comes to our judges and politicians.
The more grey hair I have, the more teaching I’m asked to do, usually about bio-identical hormones or nutritional therapies, which I do happen to know something about.
So this month, let’s review a presentation of mine that’s popular with professionals and non-professionals alike. It’s titled Aspects of Women’s Health Care. It includes information about bio-identical hormones, and quite a bit about other women’s health issues. But rather than tell you what it includes, let’s just jump in.
The first item is a recent update to this presentation, published in 2013. Authored by three female physician-researchers located in Texas, it summarizes the results of a three-year study involving bio-identical hormone replacement used by 75 peri-menopausal and post-menopausal women.1 The researchers wrote: “… Administration of compounded transdermal bio-identical hormone therapy in doses targeted to physiologic reference ranges… significantly relieved menopausal symptoms in peri/postmenopausal women. Cardiovascular biomarkers, inflammatory factors, immune signalling factors, and health outcomes were favourably impacted… there were no associated adverse events.”
Now you’re probably thinking that we’ve already known for years now that bio-identical hormones are safe and effective. So you may be wondering what’s new here. Even though comprehensive bio-identical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) has been used in the United States for over 30 years – almost always with favourable effects and minimal, if any, adverse effects – there’s actually been very little controlled research done about BHRT.
Academic sources have been critical. Patent medicine companies have worked to cast BHRT in a negative light and have tried to persuade the medical authorities to abolish parts or all of it. But none of these groups has done actual research. So even though the outcome of the research was quite predictable, it’s good to see the results confirming those predictions!
Top up oestrogen levels and breathe better
Now for a brief review of oestrogen and women’s lung function. In a series of publications,2,3,4,5 researchers from the Lung Biology Laboratory at Georgetown University demonstrated that less oestrogen leads to more rapid deterioration of lungs in female animals. This same oestrogen-linked effect is seen in humans when we look at the female-to-male ratio of people with COPD: among those who never smoked tobacco, there are six to eight times more women than men!
In a recent report, researchers wrote: “…Lungs isolated from old mice (24-months old, oestrogen-deficient) demonstrated decreased lung volume and decreased alveolar surface area… Oestrogen replacement restored lung volume, alveolar surface area, and alveolar wall thickness to that of a young mouse.”6 Although controlled research hasn’t yet been reported in humans, all the evidence we do have indicates that to maintain good lung function after menopause women should seriously consider BHRT!
The critical ratio that could keep cancer at bay
In 2013 there was a tempest-in-a-teapot controversy about the utility of measuring the ratio of 2-hydroxyoestrogens to 16α-hydroxyoestrogens (the ‘2/16 ratio’). The controversy was started by physicians who concluded that it wasn’t important. But research has proven that even if the 2/16 ratio isn’t important to some physicians it’s VERY important when we look at the growth rate of the human papilloma virus (HPV) that causes polyps to grow on the vocal cords and in the lungs, and also causes cervical cancer.
When the 2/16 ratio is high, these viruses grow and reproduce much more slowly; when the ratio is low, they grow and reproduce much more rapidly.7 When given idole- 3-carbinol (I3C) – a natural substance which raises the 2/16 ratio – 63% of individuals with severe respiratory polyps had either complete remission or a significant reduction in severity.8 The rate of cervical cancer in mice with HPV transgenes not given I3C was 76%, while only 8% of those given I3C developed cervical cancer.
Most importantly, in a group of 27 women with cervical intra-epithelial neoplasia (cancer still limited to the cervix of the uterus) four of eight women who took 200mg of I3C daily had complete regression (yes, a cancer breakthrough for 50%!), four of nine women who took 400mg of I3C daily also had complete regression (44%). None of 10 women in the placebo group had any remission at all (0 percent).
Have you read anywhere else that there’s actually a natural, non-surgical breakthrough for 44% to 50% of women with early cervical cancer? Same ol’ story, no patent means no publicity.
But prevention is always better than any cure! That’s why eating broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, pak choi and other cruciferous vegetables – which naturally contain I3C, di-indolylmethane, and other cancer-fighting compounds – significantly reduces the risk of breast and other cancers.
Skip inaccurate saliva and blood testing
There are still ‘experts’ in women’s BHRT who monitor hormone levels using salivary tests. While it’s true that for those powered by their own hormones (‘endogenous’ hormones in medicalese) saliva tests are reasonably accurate,11 for those using BHRT saliva tests aren’t just inaccurate, but sometimes even wildly so.
Unfortunately, blood tests for women’s oestrogens and progesterone aren’t as exacting as they should be. Unlike men’s tests, which check total and free testosterone, typically blood tests for oestrogens and progesterone check only the total hormone, but not the active free fraction. Worse, oestriol (the most abundant anti-carcinogenic oestrogen) has such a short half-life in blood serum that blood tests routinely find none or almost none.
Urine testing is usually your best bet for measuring the free natural steroid hormone most accurately. Occasionally, combined urine and blood testing is necessary. For further details, see Stay Young and Sexy with Bio-identical Hormones: the Science Explained by Dr. Lane Lenard and myself.
No need to bleed to protect against cancer!
Copying nature as closely as possible is always best! But when women want to know if they can take enough BHRT to do them good without having a menstrual period every month until they’re 97 years old, the answer is ‘Yes, you can’. This is especially true if you donate blood once or twice a year (or a little more often). There are two reasons for this.
In 1993, researchers reported a five-year study on post-menopausal women, which included regular biopsies of the uterine lining (endometrium) as well as breast checks and mammograms. Some of these women took enough hormones to induce monthly bleeding cycles while others took less and had no bleeding cycles. After those five years, they wrote “… Induction of withdrawal bleeding and endometrial secretory transformation, which require larger doses of progesterone, do not provide additional benefit for prevention of hyperplasia.” In English, that means there is no need to bleed to protect against endometrial cancers and precancerous conditions.
About that yearly blood donation: It reduces the thickness of the blood (as does menstrual bleeding) significantly reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke! For further details about the highly effective way to prevent heart attack and stroke, see the January 2012 issue of Nutrition & Healing and/or the book The Origin of Atherosclerosis by Dr. Ken Kensey and Dr. Young Cho.
The ‘man’s hormone’ keeps WOMEN strong too
Don’t want to become a ‘feeble little old lady’, even when you’re 93? Make sure to have your testosterone level checked, and make it part of your BHRT programme if it’s found to be low. Your muscles will thank you by staying stronger than most older grandmas’ muscles! Correcting low testosterone and DHEA can help lessen anxiety, too. And if your libido just isn’t what it was, these androgens often help here, too.
Don’t forget that women’s bodies by Nature transform most testosterone and considerable DHEA into oestrogens, but in women with type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome or even a family history of type 2 diabetes, this transformation can happen to excess because of a high insulin signal which precedes type 2 diabetes by decades. Make sure you talk to your BHRT-savvy doctor about this!
Less than a year ago, researchers reported that the hormone oxytocin (which declines with age as do most hormones) is also very important for maintaining and regenerating muscle. They wrote “… systemic administration of oxytocin rapidly improves muscle regeneration by enhancing aged muscle stem cell activation/proliferation through activation of the MAPK/ERK signalling pathway.”
Oxytocin is often called the bonding hormone, and the work of Dr. Jorge Flechas has taught us that it improves orgasmic response for both women and men. And it’s likely that oxytocin helps in many other areas not even researched yet! If you’re past menopause, have your oxytocin levels checked, preferably in a 24- hour urine collection.
Simple hormone solution to the dry eye dilemma
Are you past menopause and suffering from dry eyes? It’s not caused by a deficiency of artificial tears or need for a duct-unplugging surgery. In 2002 Dr. D.A. Sullivan and his research group reported that the oil-producing glands in the eyelids are stimulated in both men and women by androgens, specifically testosterone. No wonder many more women than men have this problem!
In 2003, acting on Dr. Sullivan’s research, another researcher reported: “Transdermal delivery of testosterone appears to be a safe and effective treatment for dry eye… Postmenopausal females perceived the greatest relief of symptoms from the treatment, while males had the least benefit.”
Since that time, every woman and most men with dry eyes for whom I’ve prescribed testosterone has had a complete correction of their dry eyes. Usually we start with just a little rubbed directly into the eyelids, but as nearly all who have dry eyes have low urine and blood testosterone, inclusion of testosterone in systemic BHRT usually takes over so that direct application into the eyelids is no longer necessary.
Live LONGER and BETTER by boosting sagging DHEA
If you’re a woman with a family or personal history of heart problems, don’t forget to give some serious attention to your DHEA levels. In a large research study of women who had ‘coronary angiograpy’ (examination of the heart arteries with X-ray and injected dyes), lower DHEA levels were associated with higher mortality from cardiovascular disease as well as higher mortality from all other causes except trauma. The DHEA component of BHRT can help women live longer!
Another group of researchers reported about the effects of intravaginally applied DHEA versus a placebo for women diagnosed with sexual dysfunction (in medicalese, ‘functional sexual disorder’ or ‘FSD’). Compared with the placebo, arousal and sensation was improved by 68%, lubrication by 39%, dryness by 57%, and orgasm improved by 75%.17 They wrote: “… the present data clearly show that intravaginal DHEA is a very efficient treatment for FSD without significant systemic exposure…”
DHEA has also been found to cause ‘a significant improvement in comparison with vitamin D in sexual function and in frequency of sexual intercourse in early postmenopausal women’18 and leads to ‘increases in mental and physical sexual arousal ratings significantly increased in response to an acute dose of DHEA in postmenopausal women’.19 (An acute dose translates to a dose taken approximately an hour before.)
And apparently DHEA has these effects, and more, for women over 70 years of age, too! Women 60-79 years old took 50mg of DHEA daily (a better route of administration is rubbing it into mucous membranes, but most researchers haven’t learned that yet) or a placebo for a year. The women who took DHEA had a significant improvement in libido, as well as improved skin thickness and hydration, sebum production, and pigmentation.20
That’s the hormone-related half of my presentation. Be sure to look for the second half in a future issue of Nutrition & Healing.
Wishing you the best of health,
Dr. Jonathan V. Wright
Nutrition & Healing
Vol. 9, Issue 1 • January 2015
Full references and citations for this article are available in the downloadable PDF version of the monthly Nutrition and Healing issue in which this article appears.