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Long-term progesterone use and overload / toxicity / overdose

New, or continuing, or worsening health problems may very well be from the progesterone a person is taking (natural or synthetic).  If you or someone you know are taking progesterone of any type and any dose, I highly suggest you keep reading.

Here are the things about ANY and ALL hormone therapies that I absolutely believe:

  1. Hormones are the MOST POWERFUL things in the human body, for better or WORSE.  Pay attention to that "WORSE" part.
  2. If one plays with fire, they will eventually get BURNED.  One doesn't realize they have overdosed into toxicity until they are THERE.
  3. Sex hormones (estrogens, progesterones, androgens) are fat-soluble and can and do accumulate if one takes more than their body can get rid of!
  4. Much like Poison/"Vitamin A", measuring blood levels of hormones doesn't tell you how much storage you have of things in the BODYFAT.
  5. While people often feel great at the start of hormone therapies, this is definitely a "honeymoon" phase, and absolutely fades with time.  There is NOTHING about any hormone therapy that is actually "treating the CAUSE", it's merely addressing a SYMPTOM.  What CAUSED the "hormone deficiency" in the first place?  Don't you think that should be addressed?  Excess toxicity and nutrient deficiencies have been shown all over the research to affect hormone levels!
  6. Of course, if one is missing hormone-producing glands due to sickness or surgery, then that person would need hormone replacement therapy of whatever type is indicated.  This is a different situation than what most people are in.

So...here are some articles one might want to read to see if their doctor, or "Doctor Google", or an interwebz health guru might be poisoning you with progesterone.  One quick note on my opinion on this...if you are being given 100-200mg progesterone a day, you WILL develop toxicity over time, and these are common HRT doses.  Lower doses can absolutely cause problems too.  "How much poison does it take?"  The answer is, "Just enough."

A Warning About Natural Progesterone

Dear Editor:

In response to Dr. Ellen Grant's excellent comments about natural progesterone cream, I want to warn others about this popular, so-called "safe" product.

My initial suffering from fatigue, weight gain, and depression were brought on by the Pill, which I took during the first year I was married.

Oral contraceptives also caused my thyroid to malfunction, and I developed hypothyroidism.

What I didn't know until much later was that often the ill-effects of the Pill on brain chemistry and metabolism ~ not to mention a myriad of other bodily systems ~ can be chronic even after ceasing usage. I knew something dramatic had changed, because I had not had health problems earlier in life.

I had been constantly researching, trying to find ways of returning to real wellness. Unfortunately, I ran across the wrong book...Dr. John Lee’s 'What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Pre-Menopause.' The consequences of his advice were devastating.

On his recommendations, I used natural progesterone cream. Dr. Lee claimed that it is impossible to overdose on the transdermal cream, and that there are no significant side effects. At first, I believed him.

Following the manufacturer's information and instructions, the amount of progesterone I used per day was between 20-30mg, split between morning and evening doses. When I first took the cream, beginning in May 2003, I felt great. In fact, I had more energy and ability to lose weight than I had in about five years. I didn't need near as much sleep, and found that I no longer struggled with depression.

However...

Within about two months of starting the cream, I developed sharp pain in my legs, and then a lump of swelling, bruising, and localized soreness in my calf which just got worse. That ended up being the first of two episodes with venous blood clots in the six months I was on the cream. Little did I know that progesterone is heavily implicated in clotting disorders, much as the Pill is. Not one of my doctors ever made the
connection between my blood clots and the progesterone.

We also noticed that my "resting" heart rate was going through the roof. One day when I had been on the cream about two months, we stopped at a blood pressure machine, and my heart rate (while wandering aimlessly around a store) was over 120! There were several times when my heart felt like it was pounding out of my chest. I kept putting this down to thyroid trouble. As a doctor in LA told me later, "Yes, no wonder you were losing weight...at the expense of your heart!"

Something else that got my attention was that I started to become emotional in a way that I had never been in my life. Even though I wasn't feeling overtly depressed (that I was aware of), I would burst out crying at the strangest times, and a lot more frequently than ever before. I started feeling overwhelmed and annoyed by things that used to be no big deal. My temper got shorter with the kids and with my husband. This feeling crept up on me a little at a time, but it began to get worse and worse. I now realize, from extensive reading about the actions of progesterone, that this is typical for a large segment of those using hormones.

By August 2003, I knew something was really "wrong," but I couldn't put my finger on it. I had this feeling of unease that was growing and growing. A pattern started where, during the week before my period and often the week of, I would become extremely nauseous. For several months, we were sure I was pregnant. I never was.

At the beginning of October 2003, something in my body "snapped" and the nausea took hold in a frightening way. If I had known then that it would last ~ without relief, for months straight ~ I don't know if I could have borne it.

When I couldn't stop throwing up and couldn't eat and it had been three weeks - that was when I ran across the first doctor who said, "Well, if there's one thing I know that makes pregnant women sick as dogs, it's progesterone. I'd look there first, if you want to know why you can't stop vomiting." I quit the cream on October 26, 2003.

The bad news, which I got soon after, was that progesterone cream builds up in the tissues and takes anywhere from three to six months to be cleared by the body. This timeline ended up being almost exactly true for me. I was sick, sick, sick until about two weeks ago.

The symptoms during those six months of illness as I rebounded from the cream are almost too many to list, but they include: severe nausea and vomiting, gastro-intestinal problems (marked heartburn, bouts of diarrhea, and bouts of constipation), uncontrollable shaking, acne and extremely oily skin, hirtuism, depression, anxiety, tingling/burning sensations on the back of my arms, neck, and head, insomnia, hypersensitivity to medications and foods, hot flashes, and serious withdrawal symptoms. To my great relief, most all of these issues have finally, completely resolved. Today, only the insomnia remains.

It turns out that *lots* of people are having trouble with natural progesterone cream. A hormone researcher confirmed that my symptoms were quite consistent with excess progesterone.

On his web site, Dr. Mark Rhodes writes:

"Many people overdose from prolonged use of progesterone cream. It is promoted so heavily, so easily available, so inexpensive, and so readily absorbed. The real problem is several-fold in my opinion. It is difficult to get an exact individual dose. Because it does relieve a number of symptoms of estrogen dominance, I am sure that some use more than they should. But the most insidious problem comes from long-term use. Many women who use a topical progesterone product end up having it accumulate in their tissues. It then can release into the blood stream at very high levels . And we see this high-level release occur for months after the patient quits application..."

Information about other doctors experiencing problems in patients taking progesterone cream available at: http://www.mercola.com/article/progesterone/cream.htm

Neither blood serum nor saliva tests are accurately revealing the high levels of progesterone that the creams can cause. Many women - and I'm one of them - show up in these tests as having LOW progesterone levels even when their bodies have become toxic due to overdose! This really threw my doctors off the trail. They wanted to put me back ON progesterone, but thankfully I was never willing.

Lots of researchers seem to be catching on to the fact that natural progesterone can be anything but harmless. The following information was released last week by the American Society of Clinical Pharmacologists: http://ascpt.org/press/2004/2004NewResearch.htm

I realize this letter is long, but if one woman is spared the misery I endured, it will be worth sharing what happened. I hope that more and more people will seriously reconsider their advocacy and use of hormones, whether "natural" or not.

Cathy Groves

Here are some other articles:

If one is taking any amount of progesterone, by any route, and your health issues are slowly increasing or getting worse, one must take a look at the distinct possibility of progesterone toxicity.  If a person decides to abruptly quit progesterone, I would highly suggest reading all the articles above thoroughly so that a person would know what to expect (fat-soluble compounds that reach toxicity levels absolutely cause "detox" symptoms when they come out).

This is why my practice focuses around eliminating toxicity and restoring nutrients.  Hormone manipulation from the outside will generally end badly, and the most obvious thing that will show this are anti-aging doctors and celebrities starting to keel over very early in life from a false sense of safety in hormone therapies.

Dr. Garrett Smith, the "Nutrition Detective"
Licensed Naturopathic Physician (NMD) in Arizona
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