Q. “Since reading about the side effects of synthetic hormones found in the Women’s Health Initiative study, I am wondering: How is natural progesterone different than Provera, the synthetic progesterone? What are the benefits and side effects of natural progesterone? And will natural progesterone increase my bone density?”
A. Natural progesterone has a different chemical composition than Provera, the synthetic progesterone used in the study. Natural progesterone is biologically identical to the progesterone that your own body produces. To date, no long-term studies have been done on natural progesterone and its role in cardiovascular, bone and breast health. However, a study published in the journal Medical Hypothesis in February 2001 suggested that natural progesterone may be safer than synthetic progesterone.
Recent research has shown that natural progesterone has a number of benefits when used correctly. It can ease menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and insomnia, decrease premenstrual syndrome, regulate a woman’s menstrual cycle and decrease heavy menstrual bleeding. However, when used in excess natural progesterone can have side effects, including nausea, acne, headaches, vertigo, drowsiness and irregular menstrual bleeding.
Natural progesterone is available as a cream, pill (micronized progesterone), vaginal suppository, or a sublingual (under-the-tongue) preparation. There are many over-the-counter skin cream preparations, some of which contain little, if any, progesterone, and others which contain more than 400 milligrams of progesterone per two ounce jar. Because over-the-counter progesterone creams are considered a cosmetic, the FDA does not require labeling the amount of progesterone they contain.
Unfortunately, this has led to women taking too little or too much progesterone. Women should have their progesterone levels tested before taking natural progesterone, and only high-quality progesterone preparations should be used.
Dr. John Lee, in an article for Medical Hypotheses in 1991, stated that natural progesterone, not estrogen, may be the missing factor in reversing osteoporosis. However, no studies have been able to validate Lee’s hypothesis that natural progesterone can increase bone density.
Lee based his theory on his in-office observations of female patients who used natural progesterone. He published books on the subject which spawned an entire industry on natural progesterone therapy for reversing osteoporosis. While natural progesterone is effective for the treatment of numerous hormonal imbalances, it is not the osteoporosis cure that women have hoped for. The best way of reducing your risk of osteoporosis is to lead a lifestyle that includes a healthy diet and regular exercise with weights.
Article was originally printed in the Honolulu Advertiser, honoluluadvertiser.com