Quick Survey: Natural and Synthetic Progesterone
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Natural and Synthetic Progesterone

I've heard a lot about natural progesterone lately. What's the difference between natural and synthetic progesterone?

Natural progesterone is one of the two main female hormones made by the female ovaries. The other main hormone is estrogen which occurs in the female body in three main forms: estrone, estradiol and estriol. Natural progesterone, on the other hand, has only one form but many beneficial roles in the female body. It is essential during pregnancy, and predominates during the second half of the menstrual cycle. It can be turned into other hormones inside the body, including adrenal hormones, estrogen and testosterone.

According to Dr. John Lee, in his book, What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause (Warner, 1996) , other functions of natural progesterone include a natural diuretic, a natural antidepressant, promoting the action of thyroid hormones, normalization of blood sugar levels as well as copper and zinc levels, stimulation of bone building, restoration of proper cell oxygen levels and finally protection against both breast and uterine cancer. Dr. Lee believes that environmental pollution with chemicals and pesticides that mimic the action of estrogen has caused many women to be in a progesterone deficient state by the time they are in their mid thirties.

By contrast synthetic progesterone (actually called progestins and not progesterone, but everyone uses the words inter-changeably, causing much confusion) does not resemble the body's own progesterone and may cause many undesirable side effects. These include mood swings, irritability, depression and bloating. After menopause, progestins can also cause bleeding or spotting.

Natural progesterone is destroyed by stomach acid and thus can only be absorbed in the form of a skin cream, vaginal suppository or specially made oral capsule.

In the 1950's it was discovered that wild yams contain plant estrogens but no natural progesterone. What wild yam does contain is a substance called diosgenin, which can be made into natural progesterone through a three step chemical process.

A confusing number of wild yam creams all claim to contain natural progesterone, but with no concrete information at all to support that claim. Make sure if you are using a natural progesterone cream, you know how many milligrams of actual natural progesterone is contained in each jar.

Natural progesterone can be used as part of a treatment programme for endometriosis, fibroids, PMS, cystic breasts, irregular bleeding and menopause. Be sure to have your care supervised by a qualified practitioner.

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