Autoimmune disorders and the role of bioidentical hormones for women and men
Hi Catherine, My friend (19) is diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease. Could this be related to estrogen dominance? Do you have any suggestions on where she can go for information/help? ~ Jody
I am 62 years of age and have just been diagnosed with Lupus, which I believe I have been dealing with since my early twenties. Male doctors would not listen to me, brushing everything off as exhaustion, from caring for the family then, when that could no longe be used, they said the problems were stress, “Find out what is bothering you and take care of it.” They had no clue what was causing the knots in my muscles throughout my entire body and prescribed muscle relaxant. Finally a female doctor that believes a woman when she says something is wrong, and finds out what it is. A simple blood test said Lupus! Can progesterone help the effects of Lupus? Recently I have been introduced to a progesterone cream, do you have any information you can offer? ~ Rita
I live in the stone age land of Central California. Doctors here are of no help concerning Progesterone. I really appreciate your web site and all the information. About 15 years ago I took Progesterone through rectal suspension. I quit not really understanding the advantage of Progesterone and because the doctor I was going to was in Southern California (6 hours away) and it became too difficult to go to him. Since then I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I am on Betaseron (Interferon beta-1b), injected under the skin (subcutaneous) every other day with a small needle. I have been doing the Progesterone cream for about a month now and feel much better. A lot of my symptoms that were really bothering me are gone. I even notice improvement in some of my MS troubles. I don’t know if this is true or if I just think it is true. ~ Pam
Catherine responds …
As I’m sure you are already aware, autoimmune disorders are those disease states in which your own antibodies attack some gland or tissue in your body.
The development of an autoimmune disease may be influenced by the genes a person inherits together with the way the person’s immune system responds to certain triggers or environmental influences.
- Multiple sclerosis is a disease in which the immune system targets nerve tissues of the central nervous system. Most commonly, damage to the central nervous system occurs intermittently, allowing a person to lead a fairly normal life. At the other extreme, the symptoms may become constant, resulting in a progressive disease with possible blindness, paralysis, and premature death.
- Patients with systemic lupus erythematosus most commonly experience profound fatigue, rashes, and joint pains. In severe cases, the immune system may attack and damage several organs such as the kidney, brain, or lung.
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Grave’s disease result from immune system destruction or stimulation of thyroid tissue. Symptoms of low (hypo-) or overactive (hyper-) thyroid function are nonspecific and can develop slowly or suddenly; these include fatigue, nervousness, cold or heat intolerance, weakness, changes in hair texture or amount, and weight gain or loss.
The onset of autoimmune disorders occurs most often in middle-aged women – the time of life when estrogen dominance becomes common.
Studies have shown that women who use HRT containing estrogen (estradiol) are more likely to get lupus. Birth control pills also cause autoimmune diseases by causing the body to form antibodies to its own hormones.
A 2014 study at Ohio State University of men and women with and without lupus strengthens the theory that estrogen may trigger the release of proteins called toll-like receptors that are involved in the autoimmune response.
According to Dr Wright, estriol can reduce the risk of and help alleviate auto-immune diseases. UCLA researchers demonstrated that women with MS responded dramatically to large doses of estriol because it stimulated an estrogen receptor known as “estrogen receptor alpha”. Estriol stimulates “estrogen receptor alpha” in just the way needed to decrease the symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
UCLA Neurology were the first to prove the clinical observation in laboratory studies that females were more susceptible to multiple sclerosis than males. They continued studying sex differences that included testosterone in men and the pregnancy hormone, estriol, in women for multiple sclerosis. They kept finding similar outcomes. Both were anti-inflammatory and neuro-protective. Their clinical trials for estriol in women to reduce relapses and cognitive degeneration are in Phase III planning now and testosterone for men in Phase II.
It’s well known that autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis often go into remission during pregnancy (when our body manufactures high levels of progesterone and estriol), only to return in force after child-birth.
Correcting estrogen dominance by blocking estradiol estrogen action using estriol in conjunction with progesterone can lead to a gradual improvement.
It has long been know that progesterone is produced in the central nervous system and that it plays a role in helping nerves communicate with each other. This is why progesterone, like other hormones such as estrogen and testosterone, is related to neurotransmitters, that is, substances that carry messages from nerve to nerve and help run the vast communication network within the body.
Researchers found that progesterone is produced in yet another site in the nervous system, in special cells called Schwann cells. These are found in the peripheral nervous system, the collection of nerves that branch off from the central nervous system. In the peripheral nervous system, progesterone may play a previously undetected role in the maintenance of nerves.
Progesterone promotes the formation of the myelin sheath, the fatty substance that surrounds and protects nerve fibers. The myelin sheath is to nerves what plastic insulation is to electrical wires. In multiple sclerosis, a disease of the central nervous sytem, the loss of myelin results in a breakdown of the nerve signaling system throughout the body.
Progesterone is the main precursor to corticosteroids and in progesterone-deficient women, restoration of normal progesterone levels may enhance corticosteroid production, thus suppressing the autoimmune attack.
Cortisol ~ Thyroid
Cortisol, secreted by the cortex of the adrenal glands, suppresses autoimmune reactions. But when the adrenal glands release too little cortisol, the virulence of antigen / antibody reactions is enhanced. Autoimmune attacks on normal body proteins will then proceed swiftly.
Adrenal cortical suppression is especially common in patients with hypo-thyroidism and thyroid hormone resistance.
Adrenal function returns to normal in the hypothyroid or thyroid hormone resistance patient after she begins taking enough of the proper form of thyroid hormone. Her increased cortisol level may then slow down or halt autoimmune destruction of her thyroid gland.
DHEA is a mild androgen (or male hormone) produced by the adrenal glands, and used by the body to make other powerful hormones including the sex hormones testosterone and estrogen. Researchers have been investigating DHEA’s effect on lupus since the 1980s. Studies in humans, so far, have focused on women, who make up 90 percent of those with lupus.
Researchers aren’t sure of the mechanism by which DHEA affects lupus. But they do have clues. They know that DHEA levels are low in women with lupus, and that DHEA increases testosterone and estrogen levels, along with other hormones. Because DHEA has been shown to increase estrogen and testosterone levels, there’s concern it could contribute to existing hormonally influenced cancers, such as breast, ovarian and uterine cancers in women and prostate cancer in men.
If you’re suffering from a debilitating autoimmune disease, you don’t have to wait for the academic research to accumulate. Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) at physiological doses delivered transdermally is proving relatively safe, and, if nothing else has worked for you, it is certainly an option you and your physician should consider exploring.
And, as always, if you have any questions, I’m here to offer my support and guidance.
In love & appreciation,
Catherine P. Rollins
Founder & CEO
Ethically Supporting Women’s Choice of BHRT Since 2001
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