It’s a great pity that Dr John Lee never got round to writing a book on osteoporosis, particularly after what I have been reading this week.
I was fortunate enough to meet him and co-present his London seminars with him and what everyone who met him was struck by was his openness, kindness and generosity. Would his fellow medical professionals had felt the same way about him?
His constant message was that it was going to be down to women to take the message about the very real health benefits of using natural hormones forward as Doctors were, and still are, sceptical.
Dr Lee died in 2003, and he was indeed prophetic because it is women themselves who ask the questions about using natural hormones and are battling against the lack of real information about them in the medical world.
Don’t believe me? Well what I can tell you is that it is a wonder I am not bald from the number of times I tear my hear out on receiving yet another email telling me their doctor has told them they don’t need progesterone after a hysterectomy or menopause, only oestrogen, and that brittle bones need drugs not hormones.
Why Are Drugs The Only Option?
A column in a mainstream newspaper by their resident Doctor ‘reassured’ a woman who had osteoporosis but struggled with the drug’s many side effects, that she had been ‘unlucky’ to react badly to the previous treatments.
They suggested that one reason these drugs are not always well tolerated was ‘first, the side-effect of heartburn, which affects many patients; and, second, whether the patient is able to comply with the instructions for taking them’.
Hardly surprising when you are told it’s essential you remain upright for half an hour after taking the drug, so traces do not remain in the gullet, causing irritation and you can’t eat for up to two hours before and after taking it, so it is absorbed properly.
Not exactly a simple regime, but she was assured there are still many options available to her. Well yes there are, but those suggested involve either an annual injection of zoledronic acid, another type of bisphosphonate, which does not demand such a strict regimen while taking it and does not cause gastric problems.
What it does mean is an annual 15-minute infusion directly into the vein so that a trip to hospital is required, or a twice-yearly injection of another drug, denosumab, which can be administered at the surgery. Either way you are going to have to live with the side effects for quite some time.
A Simpler, More Natural Option
Instead of trying yet another drug variant isn’t it simpler to apply daily – at home – a transdermal progesterone cream that has additional health benefits? Nowhere in the options mentioned is bioidentical natural progesterone suggested or offered.
Instead this woman is told that postmenopausal women are at increased risk of osteoporosis because their ovaries no longer make the hormone oestrogen, which has a bone-preserving effect.
They also don’t make progesterone either which goes one better than bone preserving by providing the conditions needed for actual bone growth.
Our bones continue to grow throughout our lives in a continuous process of old bone being broken down and replaced with new bone. For osteoporosis, the most widely prescribed drugs are bisphosphonates which slow down the normal process of bone loss and which it is claimed makes the bone grow stronger.
What it actually means is that the normal process of bone breakdown is put on hold, and old bone is being retained longer and no new bone is being produced.
Not an ideal situation as older bone is more vulnerable, that’s why the body very sensibly has a ’schedule’ of breaking down and replacing old bone with new stronger bone and it is doing this every day of your life.
John Lee had many patients with osteoporosis whose year on year bone scans showed increased density and growth, whatever age they began supplementing with progesterone. However this is merely ‘anecdotal’ and not medically acceptable, though a great relief to the women it helped.
Time For A New Approach?
You would have thought that studying anatomy at medical school would mean the elements of bone building and it’s necessary component parts are well known to Doctors.
Progesterone is a key element in that process so why this reluctance to try a natural hormone that has no side effects, unlike the drugs prescribed for osteoporosis?
I am not suggesting they stop prescribing what they clearly believe to be helpful but that they expand their thinking to include a wider perspective. They are now more willing to suggest weight bearing exercise and changes in diet so why not natural treatment as well?
Cost is what is often given as the reason – but 2-3 months of a progesterone cream for under £20 a time compared to £366 for the twice yearly injection, and £377 for the annual one including the hospital cost, just doesn’t add up to me.
‘What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About…’ by John Lee, MD is a series of books including PMS, Menopause and Breast Cancer available online or in bookstores.