Posted before Dec-31-2007
In the present day scenario, natural hormones are among the greatest areas of mystification in the area of complementary or corresponding medicine. Everyone, including the medical practitioners, educators, drug manufacturers, the consumers as well as the media has played some role or the other in providing half truths and misinterpretation in this regard. Here, in this write-up, efforts are being made to elucidate the subject and explicate the functions and roles hormones have in our well being.
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The common question most people ask is 'what is a hormone'. Simply speaking, hormones are chemicals produced by different glands and organs in the body and they act as emissaries carrying information regarding various actions. The hormones pass all through the blood tributaries and enter the tissues and cells carrying messages to turn on and turn off different body functions. The pituitary gland, hypothalamus, pineal gland, adrenals, thyroid glands, pancreas as well as the ovaries and testes are in charge of producing and controlling the hormones.
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Natural hormones are basically of two types. While some hormones are made up of bulky proteins, the others are composed of petite fatty or greasy matter that is drawn from cholesterol. And again, one type of hormones drawn from cholesterol is members of a family known as steroids. The steroid family is again classified in six major groups - pregnenolone, progestagens, androgens, estrogens, glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids. In fact, the cholesterol in the blood vessels is altered to mother steroid hormone known as pregnenolone. This is again changed to various other hormones in the ovaries, testes and adrenals according to the protein-hormone messages received from the cerebral system.
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Hormones therapies similar to the structure of the hormones produced by the human body both bio-chemically as well as molecularly, but actually obtained from the plants are generally described as 'natural hormones'. It may be mentioned here that the soy beans and the Mexican wild yam are the two specific plants used to obtain natural hormones. Either of these plants may be processed to get natural hormones. An element called beta-sitosterol is drawn out from the soy beans and then it is processed in the laboratory with several enzymes to produce the natural hormone. On the other hand, the substance known as diosgenin is extracted from the Mexican wild yam for the production of natural hormones in the laboratory.
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People have often wanted to know the dissimilarity between a natural hormone and the traditional hormone replacement therapy (HRT) like the conjugated (including substitute chemical bonds) equine estrogens, also known as Premarin, or artificial hormones like medroxy progesterone acetate, also called Provera. Talking in simple terms, though derived from plants, the natural hormones are alike the hormones produced by different glands and organs in our body both in terms of bio-chemical and molecular structure. On the contrary, artificial or synthetic hormones that are usually prepared from the urine of pregnant mares, do not match the hormones produced by the human body.
In addition, the synthetic hormones are not only unlike the hormones produced by the human body, but also not something that are recognized by our body as natural. It may be mentioned here that most scientists and medical practitioners are of the opinion that owing to this difference between the natural and synthetic hormones, our body often encounters short-term or long-term problems following the traditional hormone replacement therapy (HRT). They further believe that the hormone replacement therapy may not work out well for the women and burden or harm their metabolic system. It is possible that following the administration of the conventional hormone replacement therapy, women may encounter metabolic disorders that may lead to adverse interface with their composition. The alien hormones take a longer time to get out of the body and during their prolonged presence in the system; the synthetic hormones may well influence the body in an adverse manner eventually proving to be detrimental to the well being. Clinical studies as well as practice have demonstrated that generally women are able to endure the natural hormones better than the synthetic products.
Though the most regularly exploited natural hormone remedy is the important progesterone cream or ointment, even this is not free from a muddle of perplexity. Normally, there are two types of progesterone creams available in the markets - the first type comprises only wild yam and nothing of progesterone, while the second encloses progesterone that has been adapted from diosgenin. However, it is really regrettable that the drug manufacturers are neither transparent about the exact classification of their progesterone cream, nor do they specify the potency of the cream. What is worse is that they do not even assert whether the cream actually comprise progesterone. It has been found that the skin of different individuals absorbs or soak up progesterone differently and hence there is a need to undertake further studies with progesterone with a view to comprehend the dependability of their use. On the other hand, oral use of micronized (reduced particles of few microns) progesterone offers appropriate pharmacological intensities, but it is only available through licensed medical practitioners and not over the counter.
As mentioned earlier, estriol, estradiol and estrone are the three prevailing estrogens found in the human body. Holistic medical practitioners or physicians who consider all aspects while treating any ailment are able to recommend an amalgamation of these estrogens to turn out a hormone that is more forthcoming for an individual with the help of compounding pharmacies - pharmacies that prepare customized drugs. It is important to note that these customized hormones prepared by compounding pharmacies are more safe, pure and familiar to the natural hormones that are produced and used by the human body. Presently, the trend is to use a tri-estrogen amalgam comprising 80% of estriol, 10% of estrone and 10% of estradiol. Jonathon Wright, M.D., has evolved this tri-estrogen compound through a laboratory resolution. Wright has asserted that the tri-estrogen amalgam is the standard physiologic ratio of the three predominant estrogens present in the body. Despite such claims by Wright, questions have been raised over the formulation of the tri-estrogen amalgam and hence more research is needed to settle on the precision of these proportions.
Time and again, everyone, including the scientists, medical practitioners, manufacturers as well as the consumers, has felt the urgent need for more awareness as well as research on natural hormones. Both men and women want to use the normal hormones as they are definitely safer and more sound compared to the conventional hormone replacement treatment (HRT). In addition, the normal hormones offer a number of advantages and alternatives, which is not available with HRT. For instance, normal hormones offer the option of customized dosages and formulations through compounding pharmacies. This aspect of normal hormones is unique, as this helps to meet the requirements of each individual separately.
It is worthwhile to mention here that currently more and more medical practitioners are appreciating the significance of supplementing people's diets with testosterone and DHEA keeping in view the well being of both men and women. Use of testosterone and DHEA as dietary supplements has demonstrated enhancement in growth of bones, checking mood swings, developing a general sense of well being as well as alleviating menopausal signs and symptoms. All these advantages of taking testosterone and DHEA as dietary supplements have been documented by scientists.
Speaking hypothetically, usual hormones obtained from the plants but similar to those produced by the body are supposed to be more safe and sound compared to the synthetic hormones or those produced artificially prepared by man. This is not only believed by many medical practitioners, but there are others who will swear by this quoting clinical as well as statistical or numerical information. Again there are many physicians who believe that the hazards of developing cancer may be decreased substantially by applying this kind of therapy compared to the more conventional or usual medical alternatives. Interestingly, there are contrasting views too and there have been results that were contradictory to the claims made by these medical practitioners regarding the safety of natural hormones. These reports come from not one, but various sources. Therefore, it is advisable not to take hormones, if you don't need to take them. Instead, if you find that you are benefiting from other means such as dietary or herbal substitutes continue with them. However, if you find that these alternatives are not working to your benefit, then you may of course switch to natural hormones.
It may be mentioned here that there is a great need for more research and focus on natural hormones. Since normal hormones are more safe and sound compared to the hormone replacement therapy (HRT), more and more men and women are seeking them these days. Moreover, the normal hormones offer several additional options and benefits such as customized dosages and formulation to suit the individual requirements. Hence, it is important that more research is conducted with normal hormones to understand and discover their optimum utility for the human body.