ACHIEVING HORMONAL BALANCE WITH PHYTOSTEROLS
The endocrine (hormone) system is the part of the body that regulates how we metabolize food, function sexually, repair tissue damage, as well as greatly influencing our moods and energy levels. This is accomplished through a number of glands that produce various pro-hormones and hormones. Pro-hormones like pregnenolone, DHEA, and progesterone are converted by the body into testosterone, estrogens, cortisol, cortisone, and other natural steroid hormones. These hormones are critical to good health. There are many physical problems that can be traced to hormonal imbalances.
There are two ways to balance hormones: drugs and phytosterols. Steroid drugs are available from your physician and some are even available as over-the-counter medications in your local drug store. Unfortunately, all synthetic hormones have potential side effects. There has been significant new data on the risk of taking synthetic hormones.
Phytosterols, in contrast, are totally natural molecules from plant sources. These molecules provide the raw materials for, and stimulate the production of pro-hormones which are precursors to hormones. When ingested, they have shown to be effective at balancing our hormonal system by increasing the number of precursor molecules available to the different endocrine glands. You are not supplementing your body with hormones, rather you are giving it the raw materials to make hormones as it deems necessary. The body has an incredible ability to heal and regulate itself if it has the proper nutrients to support those functions. The most abundant source of phytosterols can be found in dioscorea or Mexican Wild Yam. It was first discovered by a molecular biologist named Russell Marker in 1941.
The Primary Pathways to Converting Phytosterols to Hormones/ Phytosterols from Dioscorea -> Pregnenolone -> Progesterone -> DHEA -> Cortisone and Cortisol, Testosterone and Estrogens.
WHAT DOES PROGESTERONE DO?
Reduces Symptoms of PMS -- A Natural Antidepressant -- Protects Against/ Eliminates Breast Fibrocysts -- Is a Natural Diuretic -- Helps use Fat for Energy -- Helps Thyroid Hormone Action -- Normalizes blood Clotting -- Maintains Libido (Sex Drive) -- Helps Normalize Blood Sugar Levels -- Normalizes Zinc and Copper Levels -- Restores Proper Cell Oxygen Levels -- Protects against Endometrial Cancer -- Helps Protect against Breast Cancer -- Protects against Osteoporosis -- Modulates the Function of the Hypothalamus in the brain.
THE IMPORTANCE OF ESTROGEN / PROGESTERONE BALANCE IN THE NORMAL MENSTRUAL CYCLE
No one really knows what causes PMS but there is a theory that women with PMS have lower than normal progesterone levels. Estrogen is the dominant hormone for the first week after menses. After ovulation, progesterone should become the dominant hormone for the next 2 weeks until menses starts again. If there is a lack of progesterone, estrogen becomes dominant in this period causing such symptoms as: -- Breast Stimulation -- Increased Body Fat -- Salt and fluid Retention -- Depression -- Headaches -- Impaired blood Sugar control Progesterone levels also affect the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that controls body temperature, blood pressure, hunger, thirst, sex drive, and emotional reactions such as fear and anger. Deficiencies in progesterone can cause the hypothalamus to become hyperactive thus affecting its ability to function properly. Consuming phytosterols will help increase your progesterone levels and relieve symptoms of PMS without the possible side effects related to the use of synthetic hormones.
WHAT HAPPENS IN MENOPAUSE
Some time between the ages of 40 and 55 estrogen produced by a woman's ovaries starts to decline to the point where menstrual cycles stop. Although estrogen levels drop, the body continues to make estrogen to some degree. We are also exposed to petrochemical pollutants, pesticides, and some other compounds called xenoestrogens that have estrogen like activities. Unfortunately, progesterone production stops altogether so you end up with chronic estrogen dominance.
ARE MENOPAUSAL SYMPTOMS NORMAL?
In cultures where diets are rich in fresh vegetables that are high in phytosterols women have very mild or no menopausal symptoms. They continue to have normal sex drive and strong bones, showing that foods rich in phytosterols promote progesterone production.
WHAT IS DHEA?
DHEA is known as the "mother hormone". It is a precursor molecule that the body uses to produce at least 50 other hormones that are essential for normal health. It is produced primarily by the adrenal gland with small amounts coming from the gonads and the brain. It has been shown scientifically that DHEA production declines with age. In fact scientist can determine a persons age by looking at DHEA levels in the blood. After the age of 20 our levels of DHEA decrease by 3% per year until, by the age of 85, they have diminished by 95%. To cope with this decreased amount of DHEA pro-hormone our body has to prioritize which endocrine glands have the most need for hormone production. This leaves other organs in short supply which eventually can lead to disease or dysfunction of that system. Since phytosterols can be converted to DHEA, supplementing your diet with these molecules can make a significant improvement in achieving hormonal balance.
OTHER BENEFITS OF PHYTOSTEROLS: PROSTATE HEALTH
There is research that shows beta-sitosterol (a phytosterol) is just as effective as drugs at reducing urinary tract symptoms that suggest benign prostatic obstruction. There are also studies that show phytosterols are effective at reducing such prostate problems as frequent urination, abdominal heaviness, residual urine, voiding volume, prostate volume, and peak flow. (Goepelm 1999, Kobayashi 1998, Klingeberg 1981) Approximately half of all men will have a prostate problem of some kind by age 60 and 97% of all men will be afflicted with prostate problems in their lifetime.
There are a number of articles in medical literature that connect obesity with DHEA levels. One of these articles in The New England Journal of Medicine (Barrett-Conner 1986) linked the assimilation of new fat into the system to an enzyme in the body called G6PD. Research indicates that DHEA blocks this enzyme. Increased levels of DHEA can be used to block the uptake of fat in the system. It is also known that DHEA works with the pituitary gland to control the burning of fat so that calories are burned rather than stored.
A study was done on the Isle of Guernsey over a 20 year period (Bulbrook 1971). The study found that 100% of the women in the study (5,186 women) who developed breast cancer had a significant drop in DHEA levels up to 9 years earlier. From this study, researchers were able to predict the onset of breast cancer in women who later got the disease. Another study (Gordon 1991) showed that men and women with high blood levels of DHEA appeared to have a decreased risk for the development of bladder cancer.
Dr. Elizabeth Barrett-Conner from UCSD conducted a study (Barret-Conner 1986) that tracked the blood DHEA levels of 242 men, aged 20 to 79, for 12 years. She found that men with high levels of DHEA were 48% less likely to die from heart disease. Another study, done in 1988 at Johns-Hopkins with rabbits, showed that natural DHEA treatment resulted in an almost 50% reduction in arterial plaque (Moore 1994).
MEMORY FUNCTION The loss of memory is a common problem as we age. Alzheimer's disease is also increasing in the elderly. A study (MacEwen,et al 1991) showed that DHEA levels were 48% lower in patients with Alzheimer's than other patients the same age without the disease. According to Dr. Ward Dean in Smart Drugs and Nutrients "DHEA protects the brain cells from Alzheimer's disease and other senility-associated degenerative conditions."
CHOLESTEROL It has been shown that phytosterols can reduce blood levels of cholesterol. A study reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Jones 1999) showed that men who were on a cholesterol reducing diet and phytosterols reduced their cholesterol levels more then those on a cholesterol reducing diet alone.
THE EVIDENCE IS THERE
Phytosterols have been around a long time and have significant scientific data to support their effectiveness as a nutritional support to our endocrine system. The most important factor is that you are taking a natural plant product and not a synthetic hormone. You are giving your body the raw materials it needs to produce hormones, not taking hormones. Our bodies have the ability to maintain optimal hormonal balance if they have the right nutritional support. Unfortunately, not all phytosterols supplements are of equal quality and strength. It is important that you get a consistent dose in a bio-available formula for your body to use it effectively. I recommend a product called Plus.
Dr. Roy Murrell, DC 200 NE 20th Avenue, Suite 140 Portland Oregon 97232 - disclaimer - 971-312-9497