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Unravelling The Mystery Of Natural Hormones

    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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What is a hormone?

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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Steroid hormones

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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What functions do hormones provide?

Pregnenolone
Pregnenolone is also known as the mother steroid hormone and is manufactured in the adrenal glands. In addition pregnenolone is also produced in the liver, brain, ovaries, testes and the substances surrounding the nerves or nerve myelin cover. Pregnenolone is called the mother hormone as all other major steroid hormones like DHEA, cortisol, testosterone, progesterone and estrogens are prepared from it. Researches have demonstrated that pregnenolone also improves the temper, vigor and remembrance among people.
Estrogens
Estrogens, including estradiol, estrone and estriol, does not mean one hormone, but a collection of steroid hormones. This steroid hormone is essential for the female resultant sex features as well as menstrual cycle. Among the steroid hormones in this group, estradiol is believed to be the most powerful estrogen and invigorates the breast tissues the most. Estradiol is mainly produced in the ovaries. On the other hand, estrone is found widely in the female body after the menopause phase and is formed in the adrenal glands as well as fat cells. Estriol is primarily produced during pregnancy and is considered to be the primary circulating or passing around estrogen among young women. Interestingly, estriol is prepared from estrone and estradiol and has the slightest stimulating effect on the breast tissue.
It may be mentioned here that lack of adequate estrogen intensity in the body may cause hot flushes, dryness of the vagina, fast aging of the skin, and unwarranted loss of bones as well as urinary troubles. On the other hand, surplus estrogen in the body may lead to increase in weight, fluid withholding, migraines and over stimulation of the breasts, ovaries and uterus that may sometimes be the reason for developing cancerous growth. Compared to testosterone, when there is surplus presence of estrogen in the male body it may often be a major cause of prostate development, including cancer.
Progestagens
Progestagens or progesterone are steroid hormones that make up the inside layer of the uterus for embedding an ovum as well as preservation of pregnancy. Significantly, progestagens are formed in the ovary immediately before and after the ovulation (implantation of an ovum in the ovary) period. This steroid hormone is prepared by the placenta in substantial amounts during the pregnancy period and also in small quantity by the adrenal glands. It may be noted that progestagens improve the functioning of the estrogens as control the symptoms associated with excessive estrogen presence in the body. Progestagens are very helpful in treating fluid retention, build up of fats, uterine bleeding as well as changes in moods. In addition, this steroid hormone is useful in endorsing the functioning of thyroid and is believed to invigorate the cells required to form new bones in the body. In men, progestagens are essential for preserving the well being of prostate. It may be mentioned here that the expression progestin denotes artificial by-products of the natural steroid hormone progesterone.
Androgens
Androgens, including D REA, testosterone and androstenedione, are accountable for the male resultant sex features. Androgens are mainly formed in the testes in men. Some amount of it is also produced by the adrenal gland. On the other hand, in women, androgens like testosterone are produced in the ovaries as well as the adrenal glands. Androgens are useful in preserving the density of bones, sex drive, the slender body mass, skin elasticity and even well being of the cardiovascular system in both men and women. In fact, androgens appear to be more useful to men than women. This is because the natural steroid hormones comprising androgens help men in developing their bones and muscles.
DHEA (natural steroid hormone) is the main androgen present in both the sexes and its intensity reduced with advancing age. When the DHEA goes into the cells, it may well be changed to other forms of natural hormones such as testosterone and estrogens. Intake of DHEA as supplements helps to reinstate vigor, get rid of depression, enhance the performance of the immune system and also perk up the mental function. It may be noted here that the androgen called androstenedione is a forerunner for both the natural hormones estrogen and testosterone, particularly in women. There may be surplus formation of androstenedione in ovaries during the menopause phase resulting to the women losing hair on their scalp and also grow facial hair.
Glucocorticoids
Normal hormone glucocorticoids, including cortisol and hydrocortisone help in the metabolism of sugar, fat and proteins. Formed in the adrenal glands, glucocorticoids are highly useful in the functioning of the immune system, combating inflammation, protecting against infection, countering stressful actions like emotional turmoil, surgical treatments, physical work outs, ailments and hunger or malnourishment. It may be mentioned here that the intensity of cortisol in the body is maximum during the day break to fight the pressure of overnight fasting or hunger and organize the body for the activities of the day ahead.
Mineralocorticoids
This natural hormone, comprising aldosterone, influences the functioning of the kidneys enabling them to manage the blood pressure as well as the volume of blood in the body. This natural steroid hormone is formed in the adrenal glands.
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What are natural hormones?

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.

Progesterone creams

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.

Safety of natural hormones

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.

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