Why Synthetic Progesterone Should Be Avoided
and What to Do Instead
In women, progesterone is a hormone produced in the ovaries, adrenal glands and, during pregnancy, by the placenta. One of its primary purposes is to support reproduction and a healthy pregnancy, and during this time a woman's progesterone levels rise dramatically.
By the time a woman goes through menopause, her progesterone levels drop to nearly zero.
Aside from its role in pregnancy, however, is its ability to oppose the action of another hormone, estrogen. If your body has too much estrogen, a condition called "estrogen dominance," a variety of health problems can result. Estrogen dominance can occur due to elevated estrogen levels -- which can be caused by estrogen-mimicking chemicals found in pesticides, cosmetics, plastics and more -- or because of too little progesterone.
By the time a woman reaches menopause, her estrogen levels may drop 40-60 percent. Her progesterone may drop even more than that, however, and after menopause a woman's progesterone level falls to nearly zero.
This means that she is no longer benefiting from progesterone's numerous functions, which include:
Balancing blood sugar levels
Enhancing the action of thyroid hormones
Reducing depression and anxiety
Supporting a good night's sleep
Enhancing the production of new bone
Inhibiting breast tissue overgrowth
Restoring proper cell oxygen levels
Supporting healthy blood clotting
Increasing metabolism and weight loss
Meanwhile, signs that you may have a progesterone deficiency or imbalance include:
Mood changes such as anxiety or irritability
Headaches or migraines before menstruation
Breast tenderness and heavy periods
Methods of Restoring Progesterone
Women who wish to increase their progesterone levels should talk to a health care professional who specializes in hormones. On the most basic level, however, you should know the difference between natural progesterone and synthetic.
Maintaining balanced hormones as you age may boost your mood, energy levels and sex drive!
Natural progesterone is a type of bioidentical hormone that has an identical molecular structure to the hormones made in your body. This is the preferred form, as synthetic progesterone, or progestins, are not identical to your body's hormones and only "act like" them.
The problem is that progestins do not always act exactly the way natural progesterone would in your body, which is why the synthetic version is not only ineffective for fertility issues but has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, heart disease and blood clots.
The widely reported Women's Health Initiative trial was actually stopped short because people receiving a combination of estrogen and progestin (synthetic progesterone) had an increased risk of breast cancer compared to women receiving estrogen only.
However, bioidentical (natural) progesterone has been found not to increase the risk of breast cancer when used in combined hormone therapy with estrogens, and in fact may even help prevent it.
Within the "natural" progesterone varieties on the market, the best is micronized, as the micronization process helps the hormone be steadily and evenly absorbed by your body.
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What About Wild Yam Progesterone?
You've probably seen ads for progesterone creams made from wild yam, as there are many on the market. Wild yam is a plant source for a saponin called diosgenin (the active component in wild yams), which can be converted in a laboratory into progesterone.
However, your body cannot convert diosgenin into progesterone, DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) or any other sex hormone, and wild yam does not naturally contain any progesterone that your body can use. The progesterone that is made from wild yam is known as pharmaceutical progesterone because it only exists after a chemical conversion process has been performed in a lab.
So, wild yam products that say they contain "natural progesterone" can be misleading because progesterone does not actually exist in wild yams, nor can your body convert any wild yam components into it.
Women looking to relieve symptoms of hormonal imbalance should look for USP progesterone -- not the "natural" progesterone that wild yam creams claim to contain.
Many manufacturing companies prefer to use synthetic diosgenin or wild yam as primary ingredients in their products, though, simply because they're nearly half the cost of real progesterone.
If you suspect that your hormone levels are not where they should be, it is highly recommended that you discuss testing your levels with your doctor.
And, if you're looking for a natural source of real progesterone to help rebalance your hormones and relieve some of the symptoms of hormonal imbalance (again, these include hot flashes, mood swings, weight gain, night sweats, bloating, fatigue, loss of sex drive and headaches, to name just a few), we highly recommend Renaissance Natural Progesterone Cream -- it's one of the ONLY progesterone creams on the market containing 100 percent pure micronized USP progesterone powder in a topical cream.
Renaissance Natural Progesterone contains absolutely NO synthetic progestin, NO wild Mexican yam and NO pharmaceutical-grade progesterone. Best of all, real USP Progesterone has provided relief for women for over 20 years with no reported side effects. It is the most effective hormone balance supplement you can take.
The Real Facts on Natural Progesterone: What Women Need to Know
The Four Most Common Hormone Disorders in Women
LE Magazine April 2006, "Progesterone Misconceptions"
Fournier A, Berrino F, Riboli E, Avenel V, Clavel-Chapelon F. Breast cancer risk in relation to different types of hormone replacement therapy in the E3N-EPIC cohort. Int J Cancer 2005; 114(3):448-54.