In January of this year, Oprah Winfrey invited Suzanne Somers on her show to talk about health tips. The 62-year-old actress uses bio-identical estrogen cream and progesterone on her other arm two weeks a month.
According to Somers, the bio-identical hormones are identical to the ones created by the human body, unlike conventional hormones, which are made from mare’s urine.
The result has been a media firestorm condemning both Somers and Oprah, including the hit piece in Newsweek linked below. The authors of the piece, Weston Kosova and Pat Wingert, argue that bio-identical hormones are just as synthetic as conventional hormones -- although they don’t much discuss the fact that conventional hormones are actually different from the 17-beta-estradiol made by your body, while the bio-identical hormones are 17-beta-estradiol itself.
The real reason for the attacks on bio-identical hormones?
As Somers points out, many doctors, scientists and media figures make a good deal of money off of the pharmaceutical industry.
And one thing you won’t see mentioned in the Newsweek article is the fact that Pat Wingert is the co-author of a pharmaceutically biased book on hormones and menopause, and that Newsweek is heavily funded by pharmaceutical companies.
This resembles an incident a few years ago when the cattle industry actually sued Oprah Winfrey just for talking about Mad Cow Disease.
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The authors of this Newsweek article clearly had a bone to pick with alternative medicine of all kinds. Newsweek does not just ridicule Suzanne Somers for her endorsement of bioidentical hormones, they blast Jenny McCarthy’s stance on vaccine adjuvants being a culprit in causing autism, and even criticize Dr. Christiane Northrup for warning Oprah’s audience of the HPV vaccine and recommending dietary and lifestyle changes to enhance their natural immunity instead. In their article they counter this advice with the statement,
“It is true that of the millions of women who have received the vaccine, 32 have died in the days or weeks afterward. But in each case, the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration investigated the deaths and found that they were coincidental and were not related to the shot.”
This is the kind of blanket dismissal one could only expect from those who have not bothered to do any serious investigations of their own on a topic.
And as for the idea that your thoughts and beliefs may have the slightest to do with your physical health? Ridiculous, according to these two authors.
Apparently they’ve never heard of epigenetics.
Dr. Bruce Lipton, a forerunner in the field of epigenetics and The New Biology, has carefully documented how emotions are one of the most important factors in your health. According to his research, the controlling factor in deciding what your genes express -- in deciding how your future health will play out -- is not your genes, your family history or even the strength of your immune system. It is YOUR MIND.
These are the kind of myopic viewpoints you have to contend with when dealing with conventional medicine, big pharma, and their mouthpieces. But that doesn’t mean they’re any more right, or any less ridiculous, than the people and alternative strategies they try to dismiss with little more than parroted catch-phrases.
Is an Organized Smear Campaign Underway?
Now, Oprah has been targeted by big industries before, such as when she dared talk about Mad Cow disease on her show – a topic that brought her a lawsuit by the meat industry.
But Oprah is not the only one in the crosshairs of what can only be described as an organized smear campaign against alternative medicine.
There’s a disturbing trend taking shape, with a recent onslaught of media articles seeking to put a bad spin on various complementary, alternative medicine and natural medicine options. The misinformation campaign is shifting into higher gear. Is it a very deliberate and concerted media strategy?
Could there be any coincidence that this is all occurring just as the government is preparing health care reform? What would happen If much of alternative medicine was determined illegal?
Robert Zieve, MD, who gave me many of these links, believes that it smells like a witch hunt.
Recent headlines include:
Contaminants lurk in many ‘natural’ products. Tests find some herbal supplements may be doing more harm than good.
Cancer patients turning to alternative remedies. 60 percent seek natural ‘cures’ despite warnings from doctors.
Doctors eager to try ‘mystical mumbo jumbo’. Alternative remedies gain acceptance despite lack of evidence.
Many ‘natural’ products make dubious claims. A product with "natural" ingredients may be no better for you than one with artificial ingredients, but a lot of us still trust advertisements that suggest as much.
Reality check on supplements, remedies. Americans increasingly turn to alternative medicine. But does it really help?
$2.5 Billion spent, no alternative cures found. Big government-funded studies show most work no better than placebos.
Alternative heart disease treatment probed. Government investigating whether patients were told enough about risks.
Dr. Deepak Chopra responded to the Oprah bashing with this Alternet article, where he states,
"The criticism the medical establishment is directing at Oprah through this article only exposes their own frustration in having squandered their credibility with the public. They hope that if they can successfully attack Oprah's immense credibility, then they can magically get some of that credibility back for themselves. However, if people still trusted the health care industry to act in their best interest the way they did decades ago, then it would be unnecessary to brand Oprah for "crazy talk" simply because she occasionally provides a forum for ideas outside of mainstream medicine.
The medical profession is burdened with a host of problems that Oprah addresses with more candor and force than the AMA. She promotes wellness and prevention, two areas that drastically need improvement. She brings up creative solutions to problems that medical science is baffled by, such as the healing response itself and the role of subjectivity in patient response. These are issues that few M.D.s are willing to explore, yet she has done so for decades.
... What this tells me is that medicine needs Oprah and other patient advocates who are demanding that official medicine heal itself. To accuse them of lacking medical credibility is a red herring. Patients aren't supposed to know more than their physicians. The fact that they often do, at least insofar as alternative treatment goes, is both a sign of hope and cause for distress."
Is Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) Dangerous?
It has been overwhelmingly proven that conventional hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which science, as little as ten years ago, massively touted, has now been shown to be very dangerous. So there’s no argument there.
Studies looking at the long-term usage of synthetic estrogen have revealed many negative side effects, including heart attacks, strokes, blood clots, high blood pressure and vaginal bleeding. But perhaps most strikingly, just one year after millions of women quit taking hormone replacement therapy, incidents of breast cancer fell dramatically—by 7 percent!
The following prescriptions now carry black box warnings and need to be avoided:
Premarin. Premarin is an estrogen extracted from Pregnant Mare’s Urine. We now know it is associated with an increased risk of heart disease.
Estrogen Therapy. Estrogen, which is extracted from Premarin, was effective in combating some menopausal symptoms but proved to have serious, negative side effects, such as the increased risk of breast cancer and an increase in insulin levels.
Provera. This drug is a progestin or a synthetic form of progesterone, which probably makes it even more toxic than Premarin. Its well-documented, negative side effects include blood clotting.
But to lump bioidentical hormones in with the rest, and attributing the same dangers to them as their synthetic versions is likely unjustified.
The Truth About Bioidentical Hormones
Bioidenticals, unlike synthetic hormones or natural ones from animals, are natural hormones that are bioidentical to your own.
The bioidentical hormone that is prescribed 80 percent of the time is estriol. It’s natural -- not a drug -- and you get it at compounding pharmacies.
And, although the article above states there are no conclusive clinical studies showing that bioidenticals are any less risky than synthetic hormones, the FDA also admits it’s unaware of any adverse effects of bioidentical hormones.
The fact is that estriol has been used safely for decades, and I believe it’s particularly useful when your ovaries have been removed or you’ve had a hysterectomy. Dr. Johathan Wright, who I’ve interviewed for my Expert Inner Circle program, is a pioneer in bioidenticals, and you can see what he has to say about their value in this short video.
The crux is that natural estriol can’t be patented, so there are no major profits to be made, and hence it gets little attention.
The FDA Effectively “Banned” Estriol, But May Approve an Unsafe Prescription Instead
Although not an FDA-approved drug, the FDA has proposed to allow estriol-containing prescriptions to be filled if they’re accompanied by an Investigational New Drug (IND) application, if and when a physician believes it’s in his patient’s best interest.
However, the IND places a significant financial burden on physicians, most notably by requiring them to submit applications to an Institutional Review Boards (IRB).
This process effectively bans most prescriptions for estriol.
Meanwhile, the FDA is in the process of considering the approval of Trimesta, a knock-off of natural estriol. Clearly, the FDA has never been concerned with estriol being used in an unsafe manner -- they were concerned that their drug-company buddies were not getting their fair share of the profits.
Aside from the obvious bias, this is even more troubling because Trimesta may not be a safe version of natural estriol.
According to Dr. Jonathan Wright, the problem with Trimesta is that it’s taken in pill form. Taking this hormone orally is known to be a greater risk factor for endometrial cancer than taking the hormone transdermally (through your skin).
As Dr. Wright said:
"...When the inevitable findings of excessive endometrial cancer are ultimately disclosed, you can bet the blame will fall on the bio-identical hormone itself -- and not on the oral route of administration, which is known to be more risky."
Do You Need Hormone Replacement?
The issue of hormone replacement generally does not come up until the classic symptoms of menopause strike. Menopause occurs when you stop producing estrogen and progesterone, and your periods cease. This can occur naturally, or be induced by a hysterectomy or by having your ovaries removed.
Typical menopausal symptoms include:
Short- and long-term strategies can help you control these symptoms. The best approaches are preventive and involve diet and exercise. But in some cases where diet and lifestyle changes are not enough to counteract the more troublesome symptoms of menopause, bioidentical hormones may be able to help.
However, you’ll want to make sure you get your hormonal levels checked properly before embarking on any kind of hormone supplementation program.
I recommend you review Michael Borkin’s article, Women’s Hormones, for more in-depth information about the many variables involved in your sexual and overall health.
Oftentimes the cumulative physiological effects of stress can cause disruption of the natural rhythms and balancing mechanisms of your hormones, which can compromise your overall health as well as your sexual and reproductive health.
Both estrogen and progesterone are necessary in the female cycle, and their balance is key for optimal health. Many women have an imbalance of these hormones, regardless of their age. And if you have insufficient levels of progesterone to counter excessive estrogen, this imbalance can be further exacerbated by chronic stress.
So your answer might not necessarily lie in using hormones, but rather addressing your stress levels so that your body can normalize your hormone levels naturally.
Alternatives to Hormone Replacement
Prevention is always the best cure, and diet and exercise are as powerful in the prevention of future menopausal symptoms as for most other health concerns. Eating right for your nutritional type and exercising regularly can go a long way to keeping your hormones balanced as you age.
Consuming plenty of phytoestrogens (plant-estrogens) such as licorice and alfalfa before menopause can also help moderate your day-to-day estrogen levels so that when menopause comes, the drop won’t be so dramatic.
Beware, however, that soy is not a good option. In fact, non-fermented soy products are likely to damage your health even further.
You’ll also want to make sure your vitamin D levels are optimized. Vitamin D has gotten the short shrift, thanks to fears about tanning and skin cancer, but Vitamin D is a must for gene regulation and optimal health. For more information, I recommend you watch my one-hour video lecture on this essential nutrient.
As for supplements, these have been shown to be beneficial in tempering symptoms of menopause:
Polyphenols. Certain polyphenols have been shown to have some HRT-like benefits without the drawbacks, and are associated with a lowered risk of heart disease. Royal Macha seems to be an amazing adaptogenic herbal solution for menopause that has helped many women. Be sure to avoid the inexpensive ones, as they typically don’t work. Get the real deal from Peru.
Black Cohosh may help regulate body temperature and hot flashes.
Implementing these lifestyle changes will help control symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, without resorting to hormone replacement.