HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY
by Lawrence Wilson, MD
© July 2015, The Center for Development
Biochemical research has made it possible to replace some common hormones such as estrogen, progesterone and others. However, with nutritional balancing science, in almost every case, it is possible to restore the body’s normal hormone production unless the gland has been surgically or otherwise removed or destroyed.
Many doctors I speak with do not believe this, but it is my experience with nutritional balancing science. Restoring natural hormone production is far superior to replacing hormones for several reasons. This article discusses many aspects of hormone replacement therapy.
PROBLEMS WITH BIO-IDENTICAL HORMONE THERAPY
1. Hormone therapy can cause cancer. I mention this as a warning, because it can occur. Worsening some types of hormone-dependent cancers is probably the biggest danger of the use of artificial and natural or so-called bio-identical hormone therapies.
For this reason alone, I would warn the reader:
A. AVOID ALL SYNTHETIC HORMONE REPLACEMENT, IF AT ALL POSSIBLE, FOR THIS REASON. The only exception I can think of is the use of insulin for severe diabetes. A nutritional balancing program may take care of diabetes in time, but insulin might be needed until health can be rebuilt.
B. Avoid all bio-identical hormone therapy, especially estrogens. These are known carcinogens, and it does not matter if they are synthetic or natural (bio-identical).
2. Bio-identical hormone therapy is not bio-identical at all. The reasons are:
a. So-called bio-identical hormones are synthesized products. By this I mean these products are extracted from plants, mainly. Then they must be processed, in some cases, to purify them and to otherwise make them acceptable for human use. They may be the same chemically as our hormones, but they are not the identical human hormones, by any means. They should be called “similar” hormones, not identical.
b. So-called bio-identical hormones are delivered in ways that are totally unnatural. Our bodies produce hormones as they are needed, using a complex feedback system that involves the pituitary gland, hypothalamus, and other structures that carefully regulate their production, secretion and ultimate destruction.
Hormone replacement therapies attempt to sidestep this delicate balancing system. While this therapy can relieve some symptoms, it is not natural or bio-identical. It is a drug therapy, and a symptomatic approach to healing.
3. Hormone replacement seriously upsets the delicate hormone feedback systems in the body. This is especially true of the steroid hormones (DHEA, pregnenolone, estrogen, progesterone, cortisone, androsterone and testosterone). However, it is true of taking thyroid hormone replacement, insulin replacement and others as well. Testosterone therapy is one of the least harmful in this respect.
In other words, hormone replacement, including bio-identical hormone replacement therapy, may do more harm than good by upsetting the delicate feedback mechanisms of the body that are designed to regulate hormone production.
Giving one hormone always affects others, and may affect many areas of physical functioning. The feedback system is quite complex and not well understood. It is difficult, if not impossible, to adequately monitor the system to know how much one needs on a daily or hourly basis.
4. Bio-identical or any hormone replacement therapy violates the ‘chaos principle’ of the body’s complex, self-regulating system. This principle is that the body must alter the amounts of hormones continuously, in response to stress and other factors, in order for the whole system to function properly. This is called a chaos principle because the constant changing of the hormone secretion introduces a certain amount of chaos into the human whole system behavior that is necessary for its proper functioning.
5. Hormone therapy rarely addresses the root causes of illness. Instead, it mainly treats symptoms. Causes of hormone imbalances include nutrient deficiencies, toxic metal excesses, toxic chemicals and the effects of radiation, emotional imbalances and stress from other causes. The only time hormone replacement addresses a root cause is when the gland that produces the hormone has been surgically removed or is so damaged so that it cannot function.
Menopause. In the case of menopause, it is true that the ovaries stop or drastically reduce their hormone secretion. However, in most cases, the body handles this change of life very well. In other words, menopause should not be a disease that requires treatment. This applies to surgically-caused menopause (removal of the ovaries) as well as that which occurs with age.
Millions of women do fine without hormone replacement at menopause. If symptoms arise such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness or others, in all cases her adrenal glands and perhaps thyroid are not functioning well. As health improves on a nutritional balancing program, the symptoms usually vanish without the need for hormone replacement. I have encountered only very rarely a case when hormone replacement is needed or helpful at menopause. For more on this topic, read Menopause on this site.
6. Hormone replacement therapy often masks underlying problems. As with all symptomatic therapies, natural hormone replacement may give relief from some symptoms. However, underlying problems such as heavy metal toxicity, nutrient deficiencies or chemical toxicity continue unrecognized and unaddressed. This often leads to more serious illness in the future.
7. Even so-called bio-identical hormones are toxic. This is most evident with insulin. Every physician is familiar with the care that must be used in administering insulin, even though modern insulin is technically a bio-identical hormone. Too much or too little can cause a fatal reaction.
When I hear doctors say that natural hormones are not toxic, I cringe because it is not true. Estrogens, cortisol, cortisone, progesterone, DHEA, pregnenelone and the others are all powerful substances that all have toxic effects when not produced inside the body in just the right quantity at just the right time.
8. One cannot provide the correct dosage of replacement hormones. The body’s natural hormone secretion varies every minute of every day and night. It depends on hundreds of factors such as lifestyle, diet, mental attitude, stressors, illnesses and many others. This is impossible to duplicate with hormone replacement therapy of any kind.
Replacement therapy substitutes a rigid and strict routine for the delicate balancing act the body performs all day with its hormone secretion. This will eventually upset the body severely.
9. A hormone's metabolic effect is what is most important, not its serum, urine or saliva level. However, serum, urine or saliva are the way hormone levels are usually measured. This is particularly a problem with thyroid and adrenal hormone monitoring.
The metabolic effects of hormones are extremely complex and not easy to measure. The effects depend not only upon the level of circulating hormone, but often moreso on how much of the hormone actually enters the cells and is metabolized properly within the cells. For this reason, cellular tests such as hair mineral testing often reveal a very different picture than blood, urine and saliva tests that only measure circulating hormone levels.
10. Hormone replacement therapy is costly. The costs include 1) the hormones, 2) repeated testing that is absolutely required to prescribe them properly and 3) longer-term costs because one must usually stay on them for years. Other hidden costs may be the damage they cause to the body.
In addition to the financial burden, one becomes dependent on tests and doctors that in itself extracts a human cost. Cost is not important if it saves a life, but it is important for most people, especially if less expensive alternatives such as nutritional balancing can be used instead.
MYTHS OF HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY
1. Bio-identical hormone therapy is a natural or naturopathic therapy. No! It is an allopathic and symptomatic approach. Just because some naturopaths offer hormone replacement therapy does not make it a natural therapy. No hormone replacement therapy is ever natural because hormones are supposed to be produced within the body.
The only natural approach to hormone correction is to rebuild the organ or gland that produces the hormones. This can be done in over 90% of the cases using nutritional balancing science.
2. Hormone replacement is just like taking vitamins, minerals or other substances needed by the body. Absolutely not! Hormones are supposed to be produced inside the body, in complex combinations, and in quantities that vary every minute of the day and night.
In contrast, vitamins, minerals and other phytochemicals are supposed to be obtained from outside of the body from our food, water or other supplements. Most can be stored, and they can be ingested in rough quantities at mealtimes, with no harm at all to the body. The body has complex buffering systems that protect one from ingesting too much calcium at a meal, for example. This is not true of hormones and it makes hormone therapy intrinsically far more toxic and dangerous.
This is an extremely important difference between supplements of vitamins and mineral therapy versus hormone therapy. Yet most holistic and naturopathic doctors think that natural hormones are just like natural minerals and vitamins. They could not be more wrong!
3. Once a person’s hormone levels have become low due to age, toxicity, disease or for other reasons, one must take replacement hormones to restore normal body functioning. This is not true. However, most medical, holistic and naturopathic doctors do not know how to truly restore the body, in my experience. The articles on this website and my books can help correct this problem.
4. Bio-identical hormones are the same as those produced within the body. This is not true, and the reasons are explained in the section of this article above.
5. Bio-identical hormones are non-toxic. This has been discussed above. All hormones are toxic substances to a degree.
6. Hormone replacement schedules can mimic the body’s own production of hormones. This is never true because the body changes the level of its hormones minute by minute, and this can never be duplicated with pills, patches, shots or any other manmade delivery system.
7. Blood, urine and saliva tests are accurate to assess how much replacement hormone is needed at any time. I find this is simply not true. What matters is the effect of the hormones, rather than the level of circulating hormones.
For example, many patients have normal serum thyroid tests. However, they suffer all the symptoms of hypothyroidism and benefit greatly from a program to improve thyroid activity such as the use of kelp and other products, along with diet and lifestyle correction. This is the most common example of the failure of blood and other tests to assess hormone activity. However, many others could be cited.
WHY HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY RELIEVES SYMPTOMS SOME OF THE TIME, BUT NOT ALL OF THE TIME
Clients report to us that taking replacement hormones, such as Naturethroid or others, helps in some cases, but not in others. This is somewhat of a mystery to doctors and patients alike.
The explanation is that hormone imbalances are not simply about hormones. They are often about other factors related to one’s hormones. These include:
1. Moving the hormones from the gland where they were produced to where they are needed in the body. This is a problem with circulation.
2. Moving the hormones through the cell walls. They can move in too fast or too slowly.
3. Problems with hormone receptors, which allow the body to utilize the hormones. This is an intra-cellular problem.
4. Possible problems with the feedback mechanism that tells the brain when to secrete more hormone-stimulating chemicals.
Blood tests cannot distinguish well between all of these problems. When blood tests indicate low hormone levels, many doctors just prescribe replacement hormones. However, if the problem is with circulation, cell permeability, or hormone receptors, then simply adding more hormones will not help much, if at all. This is why hormone replacement therapy relieves symptoms only some of the time.
Nutritional balancing programs use a different method to correct hormone imbalances. Rather than just give more hormones, the program is aimed at correcting all of the imbalances along the pathway from the original production of hormones, to their movement to and into the cells, and their utilization inside the cells. As we do this, most hormone imbalances go away without the need for replacement hormones, no matter what the age of the person. This method will not work if one’s thyroid or other gland has been removed surgically or destroyed with radiation. In this case, replacement hormones are needed.
WHEN HORMONE REPLACEMENT IS HELPFUL AND/OR NEEDED
Insulin for type 1 diabetes, at times. Type 1 diabetes can often be corrected with a nutritional balancing program, but it can take several years. Insulin is needed to sustain a person during this time. Insulin may also useful in emergencies.
Causes for Type 1 diabetes may be 1) an infection in the pancreas that reduces insulin production, or perhaps 2) a toxic metal or chemical such as iron or manganese in the pancreas that reduces insulin secretion.
Type 2 diabetes. Most Type 2 diabetics can lower their blood sugar with dietary and lifestyle changes alone, however. In particular, they must reduce carbohydrates drastically and make sure they are well-hydrated – with water, not coffee, tea, juices, soda pop, etc.
Fruit should be eliminated completely. Most grains must be eliminated as well, especially wheat. Replacing them with cooked vegetables three times daily improves health and causes rapid weight loss in most cases. They also need animal protein and a few nutritional supplements.
Most must drink more spring water, and must stop drinking coffee, alcohol and other caffeinated beverages. If they will do this, the blood sugar level usually plummets within days or a week.
Many type 2 diabetics are also toxic with iron, manganese, lead, cadmium, mercury and other heavy metals. Many need more bioavailable chromium, zinc and manganese. For much more on this topic, read Diabetes on this website. Several other articles on this website discuss Carbohydrates, Fruit-eating, Fructose, and Sugar.
Thyroid hormone Replacement. If the thyroid gland has been removed surgically, or destroyed by irradiation or RAI, thyroid hormone replacement is often needed. However, in my experience with nutritional balancing science, in time the body will often regenerate the thyroid if a small amount of thyroid tissue is left in the body. Often this is the case, especially after RAI or radioactive iodine therapy for Grave’s disease or hyperthyroidism. In these cases, thyroid hormone replacement may sometimes be stopped after months or a few years of rebuilding the thyroid and improving overall health.
If the thyroid gland is present in the body and has not been irradiated to destroy it, I find that thyroid replacement hormones, even natural thyroid hormones, are usually not needed. In fact, they get in the way of overall healing and literally stop healing at deeper levels at a certain point. Doctors will say that one must stay on the thyroid hormones for life. However, most people who follow a nutritional balancing program can stop their synthetic and/or natural thyroid hormones, and they do just fine without them.
In most cases, natural or synthetic thyroid hormone replacement simply masks deeper imbalances. These are, in almost all cases, iodine deficiency, and toxicity with copper, mercury, fluoride, bromides, and chlorides from the environment. Other possible causes for low thyroid can be selenium and zinc deficiencies, and more subtle imbalances such as an imbalanced oxidation rate, pituitary tumors, and even muscle tension in the neck area or chiropractic problems in this area of the body.
Another cause of thyroid problems is a compensation for adrenal gland weakness. Exhaustion of the sympathetic or fight-or-flight nervous system also contributes to thyroid imbalance.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, also called Hashimoto’s disease. This condition is common. It is an infection in the thyroid that is associated with reduced hormone output. In almost all cases, the infection goes away quickly on a nutritional balancing program. Normalizing the levels of all the thyroid hormones takes longer, but it occurs, as well. The use of thyroid hormone replacement will slow the corrective process in all cases and is usually not needed.
If one is already taking thyroid replacement hormones, nutritional balancing practitioners do not take people off prescribed medication, as this can be dangerous. Please work with your doctor on reducing your medication. Always reduce the amount of hormone medication SLOWLY, and wait at least several months after you begin a nutritional balancing program before starting to reduce your medication. For more on this topic, read Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Quitting Thyroid Hormones.
Grave’s disease or hyperthyroidism. While hormones are not prescribed for this condition, it is a common thyroid imbalance that, in my experience, is due to a toxin in the pituitary gland, or due to stress, copper or mercury toxicity.
The solution is never to destroy the thyroid gland with surgery or radiation. It is to address the causes, as is done with a nutritional balancing program, and the condition goes away permanently.
If stress, copper or mercury are the causes, it often disappears in a few months. If a pituitary toxin must be removed, it takes a few years to completely resolve. Nutritional balancing programs need special modifications for Grave’s disease. For more on this, read Grave’s Disease on this site.
Emergencies. As with the other hormones, thyroid
hormone can be helpful in rare emergencies for a short time only. For more information about thyroid problems
and natural approaches to solving them, see the article on this website, Thyroid Disease.
Addison’s disease. According to medical texts, cortisol or cortisone replacement therapy are needed in these cases. However, I have worked with a number of people with a diagnosis of Addison’s disease. So far, in every case, a nutritional balancing program has been sufficient to correct it, without ever needing adrenal hormone replacement therapy. In fact, adrenal hormones get in the way of correction.
To read more about this topic, click on Addison’s Disease, Adrenal Insufficiency and Adrenal Burnout Syndrome. The side effects of even low-dose cortisone therapy are so devastating that its use should be reserved as a last resort only if all else fails.
Other hormones. The principle is the same. If the gland or organ that produces the hormone has been removed surgically or damaged or atrophied beyond repair, then hormone replacement is needed.
A possible exception to this is the surgical removal of the ovaries. In these cases, often the ovarian hormones can be made by the adrenal glands and other sites in the body. In some cases, ovary removal, which should be done only rarely in the case of overwhelming pathology, can render some women so unwell that hormones may be the only answer for a while, until they improve their overall health. Then they should not be needed at all.
Topical hormone therapy, for example, for dermatitis and other skin problems, is far less toxic than ingesting corticosteroids. However, it will eventually thin the skin if used repeatedly. Therefore, it should be used only occasionally, if at all.
Short-term therapy for emergencies. For example, cortisone may be used for a few days to stop swelling of the brain after a head trauma. As long as it is not a longer-term therapy, it can be life-saving.
If a person will not or cannot follow a nutritional balancing program. In these cases, hormone replacement is the second best choice as it may provide relief from symptoms. This might occur if a person is very old, very ill, or simply unable or unwilling to follow a strict diet, lifestyle, supplement and detoxification program.
Melatonin. This hormone is secreted by the pineal gland. It is helpful for many people to promote restful sleep, especially if one has jet lag, for example. It appears to be fairly safe, especially for occasional use.
Natural progesterone, testosterone and natural thyroid. These are occasionally helpful remedies for premenstrual syndrome, fatigue and problems related to aging. However, we find they are rarely needed if one will follow a nutritional balancing program. They might be needed for a short time, if one has a lot of toxic metals to remove that will take months, for example. These approaches are described elsewhere on this website in articles such as Premenstrual Syndrome.
HORMONES FROM THE ENVIRONMENT
Some readers may disagree with this article on the grounds that we all ingest some hormones from food products and even in our drinking water. I would answer that this type of “hormone replacement” is almost always extremely harmful. Common examples of hormones ingested from the food or water are:
Š Estrogens and others found in dairy products and meats. Some of these occur naturally, and many are chemicals fed to the livestock to increase their weight or for other reasons. Dairy products containing these hormone residues generally make the product far less healthful.
Š Soy and a few other foods contain genistin and other compounds that bind to estrogen binding sites in the body. Once again, many scientists believe this is not a good thing, except perhaps for some menopausal women, a rather small subgroup of the population. I don’t think it is healthful for anyone, and is the main reason that traditional people have fermented their soy products to remove these chemicals.
Š Contaminated tap water. Most American and Western European municipal water supplies contain residues of medical drugs, including hormones. Once again, this is not considered a healthful situation.
Š Some pesticides and plastic materials contain hormone-like toxic chemicals that can mimic estrogens. These are very common today, unfortunately, and also quite harmful.
In summary, most of our food-based and water-based hormone sources are decidedly negative for health.
SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT AND HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY
Unless hormone therapy saves one’s life, another problem with it is that it slows and possibly stops what is called on this website spiritual or mental development. This is a precise process that is described in several articles on this site including Spiritual Development, Development – Why And Why Now? and others.
The reasons why hormone replacement therapy of any kind slows or stops development include the following:
Š Any therapy that is even slightly toxic is not helpful for development.
Š Any therapy that restricts the normal feedback systems of the body is harmful for development. All hormone replacement therapies do this to some degree, as they cannot perfectly mimic the body’s self-regulating tendencies.
Š All therapies that involve the use of synthetic substances, in particular, often slow development.
CONFUSING HORMONE-RELATED SITUATIONS ON HAIR MINERAL ANALYSES
Hair mineral analyses often reveal more about hormone cellular effects than they do about circulating hormone levels. This is a very complex subject. It is, however, a very helpful measure in some cases. Here are a few of the most confusing situations that practitioners encounter when evaluating hormone metabolism and trying to use serum, urine, saliva and hair for assessment:
A hair analysis indicates low adrenal and thyroid effect or response (slow oxidation), but adrenal and thyroid hormone levels are normal. This occurs often. It means that hormone secretion is okay, but the body is not able to respond to the hormones. Reasons for this include:
Š The hormones the body is secreting may not be of good enough quality to act properly.
Š A deficiency of a co-factor or releasing factor is making the body’s hormones less effective.
Š Reduced cell permeability is reducing the hormone’s ability to enter the cells.
Š Once in the cells, the body is not able to utilize the hormones properly.
A person is on “adequate” hormone replacement according to serum or saliva hormone tests, but a hair analysis and the person’s symptoms indicate low hormone effect. This is extremely common. It means the replacement hormones are not balancing the body enough, and could be making things worse by upsetting the body’s natural hormone feedback systems.
The reason for this is the problem is not a lack of hormones, but usually such causes as toxic metals, nutrient deficiencies and other biochemical imbalances. A nutritional balancing program will slowly enable the person to get off the replacement hormones after a time. In some cases, staying on the replacement product slows or can even stop progress. However, I do not take people off prescription drugs, as that is a more personal decision that is often made best with the approval of the prescribing doctor.
Serum or saliva hormone levels are low, but a hair analysis reveals fast oxidation or an excessive hormone effect. This is also very common. Possibly, excessive cell permeability (if fast oxidation is present) is allowing hormones to enter the cells faster than is ideal. It is an adaptive mechanism and part of the alarm reaction. In this case, taking supplemental hormones can be very dangerous and can even lead to death. However, convincing a client of this fact can be difficult, especially if the person feels better on the hormones.
Other causes for low thyroid and adrenal hormones in a fast oxidizer, for example, include a temporary stress reaction, or that the hormone test was done at a time when hormones were low, while a hair mineral test represents an average reading over a three month time period. Other complicating factors are also possible, such as a falsely elevated sodium or potassium reading due to using a water softener, swimming in pools often, or for some other reason that should be checked carefully. Finally, the hair test reflects the stress response, and not hormone levels. This must be recalled and one needs to understand both types of tests to evaluate the differences properly. However, in most cases, giving thyroid or adrenal hormones to fast oxidizers is not helpful and can be dangerous!
A hair analysis shows a complex metabolic pattern such as four lows, four highs or another, but hormone levels appear within normal limits. The same principles apply. The nutritional balancing program will slowly undo the complex patterns on the hair analysis. Stopping supplementary hormones is often helpful if the client desires it, and is best done with the blessing of the prescribing doctor for legal reasons.
The client has Grave’s disease or hyperthyroidism, but a hair analysis indicates sluggish thyroid activity and slow oxidation. This is the rule, not the exception. See the article on Thyroid Disease for a deeper understanding of why this occurs in almost every case.
WEANING YOURSELF OFF CORTISONE THERAPY
A fact that is not well known is that therapy with hydrocortisone, Prednisone and related products often causes a low level of B-complex vitamins. The only way to remedy this in the short term is to take extra amounts of vitamin B complex. When one does this, many people find it much easier to wean themselves off hydrocortisone therapy. This is a research topic.