One of the reasons I decided to pursue a master’s degree in endocrinology was to challenge my own bias and what I had learnt from reading the works of people like Ray Peat PhD and Dr Katherina Dalton. Prior to my thesis I had to undertake a post graduate diploma due to my lack of medical training. It became apparent early on that discussions were heavily centred around endocrine mechanisms that occur in isolation that have become almost indoctrinated throughout text books and the plethora of funded research to support these narratives. My own research investigated the dogmatic belief that thyroid blood tests are accurate when faced with ongoing stress, nutrition and pollution issues that can render such blood tests inaccurate and more often than not appear normal. I thought having better conversations with clinicians might be a positive outcome of this study but anytime I attempt to discuss its always the same deflection that blood tests are accurate. It’s clear they are not in many different scenarios
One of the biggest problems and what could indeed be deemed as the biggest hoax in medicine (although the perpetuation of the need to lower cholesterol levels with statins is on a par with that) is the dogmatic belief that a female becomes estrogen deficient during the menopause. After reading Ray Peat’s PhD thesis and book (Peat, 1997)(Peat, 1972) that stated the counter argument, I’ve tried to look at this argument extensively over the last few years. It seems complex on the outside but consider the following and think about if for a minute or two.
Why is pregnancy protective?
When a woman becomes pregnant, she can produce up to 100 x more progesterone than normal. Why? It’s well known that progesterone is a hormone of organisation. It’s been shown to be associated with differentiation (regulate tissue growth induced by estrogen) compared to estrogen’s action of tissue growth, therefore just like thyroid hormone it’s a potent factor in creating tissue oxygenation and enhances blood sugar regulation. It’s well known that many miscarriages occur in the first trimester due to hypoxia induced by increased estrogen levels. Excess estrogen is also associated with disorganised biology and cancer. We know progesterone is protective and organisational so why does the madness persist that ovarian decline is associated with a lack of estrogen?
Recently I’ve thought about the comparison between economics and environment and how analogous it is with an excess of estrogen. The world needs more progesterone, it’s exposure to estrogen like processes of growth, unrestricted profits and resource draining that is excessive and unrestrained. It needs less leadership, more organisation, more differentiation and more cooperation. So do cells when they are exposed to the same forces.
The biggest study to date assessing the effects of hormone replacement therapy or HRT was the women’s health initiative (Rossouw et al., 2002). The main findings of this study were that HRT increased breast cancer and cardiovascular risk by increasing thrombosis. Further problems were encountered when progestins were added to estrogen replacement therapy.
Now go back and read that last part again because this is where a vast problem exists in medicine and advice given to females. Not just going through menopause but equally any advice they are generally given related to hormone health, effects of contraception etc. Why? Because progestins are not progesterone, they are synthetic versions of progesterone that act very differently to natural progesterone and the real problem is the acceptance by medical practitioners that they are one in the same.
Why so much confusion?
Take the following paper Progesterone action in endometrial cancer, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, and breast cancer by Kim et al (Kim, Kurita, & Bulun, 2013). This is a well-respected group of progesterone researchers who do make the distinction that progesterone antagonizes estrogen driven growth in the endometrium and that insufficient progesterone increases endometrial cancer. Throughout the paper they often cite the negative effects of supplemental progesterone (particularly with breast cancer) combined with estrogens that increase the progesterone receptor (PR) and increase cancer growth. Yet all the studies cited have used progestins and not natural progesterone. This is a primary factor in the perpetuation of mass confusion between progestins and natural progesterone.
Not that the receptor is a great way to test a hormones actions and in particular the PR can be stimulated by estrogen, other hormones such as cortisol and like other receptors can be hijacked and regulated by a variety of pollutants that mimic estrogen. Ray Peat points out that receptors have been proposed for everything in biology to bring order to complexity and an attempt to limit biology to lock and key mechanisms. Receptors do exist but they don’t explain all the processes that occur.
Progesterone is protective across many aspects of function
There are many studies on progesterone and its broad actions on fertility, blood sugar, sleep, mood and more. Katherina Dalton who produced over one hundred and fifty publications on the role of progesterone and showed that issues such as post-natal depression and morning sickness often resolved with additional progesterone Dr Dalton even helped individuals in court whose aggressive actions were mediated by progesterone deficiency (Dalton, 1980). Many people often state that we’ve moved on from old medicine but in reality we have moved away from medicine that doesn’t make vast profits for companies. It wouldn’t be unscrupulous to suggest that the blurred lines have been purposeful to confuse both clinicians and the public alike. Don’t just take my word for it, there’s plenty of data to review . In a systematic review of thirteen studies of progesterone by Spark and Willis (Spark & Willis, 2012) they state:
Expanding that large randomised control studies in progesterone have not been undertaken and this might primarily be due to poor profit margins from a natural versus synthetic compounds. It’s hard not to sound a like a conspiracy theorist but there really is no vast sums of money for large corporations when progesterone is used. Given that it also drastically reduces the need for blood pressure, blood sugar, infertility and menopausal medications it starts to make some sense.
Some old books on progesterone, post natal depression and PMS by Katherina Dalton are worth a read. I picked all mine up for a quid or two a few years back but you can still get them.
Ray Peats website has dozens of excellent articles too http://raypeat.com/
Dalton, K. (1980). CYCLICAL CRIMINAL ACTS IN PREMENSTRUAL SYNDROME. The Lancet. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(80)92286-2
Kim, J. J., Kurita, T., & Bulun, S. E. (2013). Progesterone action in endometrial cancer, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, and breast cancer. Endocrine Reviews. https://doi.org/10.1210/er.2012-1043
Peat, R. (1972). Age Related Oxidative Changes in the Hamster Uterus. University of Oregon.
Peat, R. (1997). From PMS to Menopause: Female Hormones in context.
Rossouw, J. E., Anderson, G. L., Prentice, R. L., LaCroix, A. Z., Kooperberg, C., Stefanick, M. L., … Writing Group for the Women’s Health Initiative Investigators. (2002). Risks and benefits of estrogen plus progestin in healthy postmenopausal women: principal results From the Women’s Health Initiative randomized controlled trial. JAMA.
Spark, M. J., & Willis, J. (2012). Systematic review of progesterone use by midlife and menopausal women. Maturitas. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.maturitas.2012.03.015