Men's Articles

Latest Remedies For PMS And Menopausal Symptoms

Four years ago, junior college teacher Lucy was an unhappy woman. Every month, angry, pimple-like bumps would faithfully erupt on her chin a week or two before her period and last for two weeks. The 38-year-old tried everything, from pimple creams to antibiotics, calamine lotion and coal tar (a common but messy remedy for skin inflammation) to alleviate her hormonal breakouts but to no avail.

She was almost resigned to her fate when her aesthetic doctor prescribed her a "compounded", that is, customised progesterone cream. The results were amazing. "I use it once a day from the 14th to the 21st day of my menstrual cycle, and twice a day from the 22nd to the first day of my period;' she says. "Within three months, my problem was under control:"

These days, Lucy gets a few spots but nothing more. The scars from previous outbreaks took about six months to a year to disappear. Apart from going spot-free, there were other bonuses, too. She was able to control her temper better, and had fewer episodes of migraine.

Escape From PMS Hell

Lucy's progesterone cream is just one example of how natural customised hormone replacement can alleviate pre-menstrual symptoms. And a growing number of women are recognising that. Dr Alicia, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, started prescribing compounded hormones to her patients two years ago. Today, she gets at least two patients a day who request them.

"They're most commonly prescribed for irregular menses and PMS symptoms such as breast tenderness and mood swings. Sometimes, it is used to support early pregnancies." These natural hormones, which are available by prescription only, are called bio-identical hormones since they copy our body's own hormones. Derived from soy and yam, they are bio-chemically made to look and function exactly like the oestrogen and progesterone produced by our body.

The hormone combinations and dosage that patients are prescribed are based on their hormone profile. It is this custom-made aspect of bio-identical hormones that gives them an edge over generic, one-dose-fits-all synthetic hormone pills. Dr Julinda, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist says, "Very often, the dose of oestrogen required to deal with menopausal symptoms may be less than that found in conventional hormone replacement preparations."

By using a lower dose of bio-identical oestrogen, women are better shielded from the risk of oestrogen-dependent tumours. Another difference is the involvement of compounding pharmacies. Natural as they may be for our bodies, bio-identical hormones are not totally free of cancer risks. "Bioidentical hormones are still hormones and have the same stimulatory effect on the lining of the uterus and breast tissue," says Dr Alicia.

"Therefore, indiscriminate use of these hormones can still increase the risk of cancer." For example, if a high enough dose of bio-identical hormone is used on the breast and for a sufficiently long period of time, the risk of breast cancer can still be increased, explains Dr Alicia. 

It is also important that bio-identical hormones are dispensed by the right hands. Don't accept compounded hormones from sources other than a compounding pharmacy. This way, should any issue arise from negligence, the prescribing doctor and the compounding pharmacist has to be responsible for the efficacy, safety and quality of each and every medicinal preparation which they prescribe, compound and dispense to their patients.

There are more reasons why users find bio-identical hormones more appealing than synthetic ones. For one, synthetic oestrogen such as Premarin is made from the urine of pregnant horses. And Provera is a man-made progesterone cooked up in the lab. So while they may act like our bodies' hormones, they are nothing like our own. Another downside is the proportion of oestrogen and progesterone found in these synthetic hormones.

Your body actually produces three types of oestrogens: estrone, estradiol, and estriol. Premarin, however, contains largely estrone, and the rest, horse oestrogens. Oestrogen patches and creams don't even come close with their 100 per cent estradiol content. The most alarming revelation was the large-scale US study in 2002 which said that synthetic hormones could increase the risk of breast cancer and heart disease. 

"After the results of the study made headline news in the media, we had many women, who were on hormone replacement therapy, knocking on our doors and asking to be taken off," says obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Julinda. So why have such synthetic hormones been allowed for decades? It's a case of "if it acts like an oestrogen, it must be an oestrogen", writes Dr Jonathan Wright in his book, Natural Hormone Replacement For Women Over 45.

Not many people understand "the way these substances produce their hormone-like effects", and most importantly, the way our bodies interact with them, he says. Which is why going natural is preferable for women like Lucy. In fact, even her 63-year-old mother has been on natural hormone replacement therapy for the last four years. "I could have gone on the Pill since it helps to get rid of acne. But I feel safer with the progesterone cream because it's all natural. I feel safe using it for the long term, like when I hit menopause because I've seen it work for my mother too."

Phytoestrogens = Bio-Identical Horones?

Can plant oestrogens or phytoestrogens be used to alleviate menopausal symptoms like bio-identical hormones? Apparently not, even though they are both derived from soy. "Even the strongest phytoestrogens have at most one to two per cent of the potency of human oestrogens," writes Dr Jonathan Wright in his book, Natural Hormone Replacement For Women Over 45. That's because molecularly, phytoestrogens are even further from human hormones than horse hormones. For these reasons, phytoestrogens aren't a good replacement for human hormones.


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