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PremPro Study, progesterone, St John's Wort, Vitamin D

August 2002 - Print | Index

It was no surprise to us when the directors of the Women's Health Initiative study on PremPro announced that they will send letters to the study's 16,000 participants, telling them to stop taking the estrogen and progestin combination. News stories reported that the drug combination showed an increase in the risk of invasive breast cancer, though some failed to report increases in the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and blood clots as well. Declines in risk were found for colorectal cancers and hip fractures.

At least they didn't confuse "Progestin" with "Progesterone." And the day of the announcement, one official from NIH interviewed on the PBS News Hour actually said that women at risk for osteoporosis who stopped taking the hormones might find calcium and vitamin D to be a good alternative. I nearly fell off my chair.

During menopause, ovarian function gradually declines, changing the amounts of four hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle: estrogen, progesterone, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), and luteinizing hormone (LH). Why serious researchers would think that a treatment comprised of one equine hormone and a synthetic analog of one human hormone could be free of problems is probably the same reason that both casinos and pharmaceutical drug companies are so profitable. Except, of course, that casinos make no bones about letting you know your odds of winning are slim to nada.

The redoubtable New York Times, ever committed to ferreting out the truth no matter what the cost, immediately contacted the North American director of Wyeth BioPharma, Dr. Victoria Kusiak, who is also VP of Clinical Affairs. Wyeth is, you may recall, the biggest producer of the hormones. The paper reported that Dr. Kusiak "emphasized that there were no other effective treatments for the symptoms of menopause."1 None, that is, in the extremely limited world of patentable drugs...

Our customers have found they can control or even eliminate "symptoms" of menopause through diet, exercise, and proper supplementation. First and foremost is the use of natural progesterone cream, detailed in an excellent article by Clara Felix, which summarizes the work of Dr. John Lee with Pro-Gest Cream.2 If you haven't read Clara's article since we first published it online 6 years ago, reviewing it might further your understanding of why the WHI study never had much of a chance.

Other nutritional supplements can also help to correct the imbalances of menopause. Good reports come from the use of Calcium, Magnesium, Vitamin E, B vitamins such as Pantothenic Acid and Vitamin B-6, and Evening Primrose Oil, a source of the essential fatty acid GLA. The most popular phyto-estrogenic balancing herb in Europe is Black Cohosh. Other commonly used herbs for menopause include Schizandra, Chaste Berry (Vitex agnus-castus), Dong Quai (Angelica sinensis), Red Clover, Horsetail, Licorice, Damiana, and Bitter Melon Extract. A newsletter reader reports how she uses St. John's Wort to completely eliminate the problems of menopause ("Say It Again: St. John's Wort," below).

One of our best women's formulas is by New Chapter. It's called Estrotone, and was formulated by master Herbalist, Paul Schulick. For information on other women's formulas, a good starting point is here.

1. Citing Risks, U.S. Will Halt Study of Drugs for Hormones, By Gina Kolata, July 9, 2002, http://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/09/national/09HORM.html
2. Pro-Gest Cream information at http://www.vitaminexpress.com/ordrhorm.htm#prog

Say It Again: St. John's Wort

A subscriber in Australia wrote an eloquent reply to our article, "Can Media Stories be a Health Hazard?", from the May 2002 Newsletter, which considered the negative effects of the biased news reports about St. John's Wort. With her permission, we reprint her comments:

"Thank you for your very informative newsletter. I want to share with you another beneficial use of St. John's Wort.

I am currently 50 years old. Some 5 years ago I started having 'hot flushes' which were more flush than hot. After a flush which would only last 1 or 2 minutes, I would be drenched, need to change my top, and my hair would look as if I'd just come in from the rain. While visiting Holland, someone suggested a Dutch brand of Hypericum, or St. John's Wort. I noticed after about 3-4 weeks that I no longer had the hot flushes and happily continued using it (one tablet of about 2 grains each morning and evening).

About a year later, I talked to a woman who told me about her menopause symptoms, and I recommended St. John's Wort. She told me that I should not be using it long-term, as it was 'Nature's Prozac' and could do more harm than good. I was a little worried, not wanting to be addicted to Prozac, and stopped. Sure enough, within less than 2 weeks my day and night sweats returned. I went back on it, and they disappeared again.

Since then I call them my 'happy pills' and religiously take them. They keep the sweats completely away and do not seem to have any side effects. I had my last full period in March 2001, had a short version in October, and just the tiniest bit at the moment. Blood tests have shown that my hormone levels are 'consistent with post menopausal levels', and I am feeling absolutely wonderful, no mood swings, no aches or pains and no hot flushes. Although this is not proven in research, I know what my body tells me and am happy with it, as are a few of my friends. I feel sorry for those who allow themselves to be scared by the medical profession into going on HRT.

Kind regards, Maddy Broekhuysen"

Testing Crucial for Vitamin D

Nutritionist Krispin Sullivan has recently reported that it's very important for people to get tested before taking higher amounts of vitamin D, and to test again periodically. She has found that many of her clients need more D, but there are some that don't, and also some who supplemented with D who obtained excessive amounts.

Lab One, a nationwide testing service, now offers vitamin D testing. Your physician can give you the requisition form, and you just go into your local Lab One office and have a blood sample drawn. The results will be sent to your doctor, who will inform you of the results. Here in California the cost of going to Lab One is around $60 for this test, and they offer Lab One cards that give an automatic 20% discount on all their tests.

Krispin recommends testing for the vitamin D precursor 25(OH)D, as it is the best marker of vitamin D status. For many years the acceptable level of 25(OH)D was 9 ng/ml; however, more careful research shows that below 20 ng/ml is sub-optimal, and optimal levels are now considered to be at least 32-40 ng/ml. Blood levels exceeding 65 ng/ml for extended periods of time may be associated with chronic toxicity. Although short-term overdosing of vitamin D quickly resolves when supplementation is stopped, long-term overdoing may have serious consequences. Vitamin D is important: don't get too much or too little.

We do not mean to imply that it's likely that most people have sufficient vitamin D. Evidence continues to come out that vitamin D deficiency may be widespread. For instance, it was recently reported by a team of researchers in Massachusetts that many young adults are not getting enough vitamin D, particularly during the winter months.1

The researchers screened 165 men and women at the end of winter, and 142 individuals at the end of summer. Thirty percent (30%) of the end-of-winter group were deficient in vitamin D, and so were 11% of the group tested at the end of summer. The 18-to-29-year-old group were even worse off, showing 36% deficient in vitamin D at the end of winter.

The authors speculate that the vitamin D deficiency among young adults may occur because they eat less fortified milk and cereals and oily fish, and because of their decreased exposure to sunlight (most were students). Interestingly, they also report that, even though over half of both groups reported drinking almost two glasses of milk per day, this was not associated with higher vitamin D levels. We wonder if fortified milk is really a good source of vitamin D?

However, the study participants who reported taking daily multivitamin supplements had vitamin D levels 30% higher than those who did not take the supplements. In a rash departure from the unwritten rule that disallows researchers from actually recommending nutritional supplements no matter what the results of their research, one researcher was quoted as saying, "Young adults who do not regularly eat vitamin D-containing foods should take a multivitamin, especially during the winter months."

How important is vitamin D? Since our detailed discussion of vitamin D, research continues to come out about how important vitamin D is for the immune system, circulatory system, nerves and the brain (emotions), blood sugar, hormone balance, the digestive tract, chronic health conditions, and of course the frame of the body (bones).

Recently it was reported at the American Heart Association's Asia Pacific Scientific Forum meeting that women over the age of 65 who took vitamin D had nearly one-third less risk of dying from heart disease as women who did not take it. Earlier studies have shown that low vitamin D levels might play a role in the calcification of the arteries. "In fact, women with osteoporosis tend to have more calcium in the walls of their arteries than women with normal bones," said researcher Varosy.2

Unfortunately, the researchers did not obtain details on the type or amount of vitamin D taken. They speculate that most of the women got the standard daily dose of 400 IU contained in multivitamin tablets. But if most of the women only took 400 IU per day of "whatever" kind of vitamin D, it's very possible that the results would have been significantly better had the women taken 1000 IU of a good fish liver oil vitamin D, or even better, had they gotten a daily dose of non-burning exposure to noontime sunlight.

Krispin's new book, Naked at Noon, Understanding the Importance of Sunlight and Vitamin D, is now scheduled to be published in early 2003. We will let you know as soon as it is available. In the meantime, more information about vitamin D is available here. Krispin's work can be seen at http://sunlightandvitamind.com. Get tested, and take your vitamin D if you need it!

1. Study finds many young adults lack Vitamin D, (SOURCE: The American Journal of Medicine 2002;112:659-662), (Reuters.com - 2002-06-20)
2. Vitamin D gets top results for treating heart disease, 24/04/02, http://www.nutraingredients.com/news/news.asp?id=4325

Keep Speaking Up

WebMD recently reported that increasing numbers of doctors want alternative medicine information. Why is that happening? It's not because there is pressure from the "top," from medical school faculty and the schools' funders, the PharmaDrug companies. It's because more and more Americans are using alternative medicine, based on their self-education and experimentation. Despite the more-or-less constant stream of warnings about the dangers of supplements that appear in the mainstream news, millions of Americans have discovered that supplements are safe and effective.

The May 27 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine reports that in a survey of 700 Denver-area doctors, almost half had recommended an alternative therapy. Female physicians were more likely to do so than were males, and doctors who themselves use alternative therapy were seven times as likely to recommend them to patients.

"Patients look to their doctors to have the answers when it comes to their health. I think a lot of this interest is due to grassroots pressure from patients who are demanding that their doctors know about these therapies." - Susan Lord, MD1

Remember that you do have the power to make a difference in your own life and in other's lives, by communicating the truths that are important to you. You, the knowledgeable consumer of supplements, are making a difference.

1. Web MD. HEALTH - 2002-05-31, http://dyna.drrath.com/news-system/read.phtml. As reported on Dr. Rath's http://dyna.drrath.com/news-system/read.phtml?conf=02&typ=read&id=1242


The BEST of health to you!
Michael LeVesque, President

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products listed in this newsletter are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Consult with your physician before taking any of these products.