Hormones As Messengers



Our endocrine glands are responsible for secreting hormones. These hormones are then carried to other organs, tissues and cells to elicit a response at that particular site. Various enzymes interact with molecular components to create these specific chemicals we call hormones. It is a synergistic and precise dance that creates each hormone, each having its own powerful and specific message. Though each of these hormones looks molecularly similar, each one has some slight variation in its configuration and therefore biological effect. In this way, cholesterol becomes pregnenolone, which can become DHEA and progesterone. These two hormones can create other cortico-steroids and testosterone, which can then change into estridiol or estrone, which can be metabolized into estriol. So you can see the formation of hormones is a complex and intricate symphony. Though we will not be talking about the chakra system in this text, suffice it to say that the endocrine glands have an energetic correspondence to the chakra system. You can read more about this topic on my web pages

Progesterone and estrogen are the two main hormones made by the ovaries of menstruating women. Progesterone is also made in smaller amounts by the adrenal glands in both men and women and in the testes of men. It is a precursor of adrenal cortical hormones and other sex hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone. The ratio of 1(estrogen) to 300 (progesterone) is considered normal when testing these levels in the saliva. Progesterone makes the survival of the fertilized egg possible. It also has many other beneficial actions throughout the body.

Progesterone's effects include: protection from fibrocystic formations, acting as a natural diuretic, helping to use fat for energy, acting as a natural anti-depressant, helping thyroid hormone action, normalizing blood clotting, restoring libido, helping to normalize blood sugar levels, normalizing zinc and copper levels, restoring proper cell oxygen levels, protecting against endometrial and breast cancers, stimulating osteoblast- mediated bone building and ensuring the survival of the embryo throughout gestation.

The amount of estrogen in the body helps determine sex-related body development. Estrogen's effects can lead to: breast tissue stimulation, increasing body fat, proliferation of endometrial tissue, depression, headaches, the interference of thyroid hormone, increasing blood clotting, decreasing libido, impaired blood sugar control, a loss of zinc, the retention of copper, reduced oxygen levels in all cells, an increased risk of breast and endometrial cancers, a reduction of vascular tone and the slight restraint of osteoclast functions (dissolving old bone tissue). Estrogen is not one hormone but a group of similar hormones produced by the ovaries. The most recognized are estrone, estradiol and estriol.

Estrogen and progesterone work together in nature. It is important that there is a balance between these important hormones. Many of estrogen's undesirable effects can be prevented when we have adequate progesterone levels in the body. In today's world there is a tendency for many people to eat a high-fat, animal source diet. This diet is high in calories and many times can be nutritionally deficient. An animal based diet, unless organic, is also high in xeno-estrogens. These xeno-estrogens are present in the petrochemicals, plastics, adhesives and additives, all of which are abundant in our environment. These xeno-estrogens create an imbalance of estrogen to progesterone in our system. Because of this imbalance, more and more men, women and even children are experiencing the disease symptoms these imbalances create. Many children today are experiencing the signs of early puberty. Some studies reported children as young as eight or nine years of age with menses. Young boys developing breasts were also being reported. Something is terribly wrong with this picture.

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Many women are not producing enough progesterone. They are exposed to many strong estrogenic compounds in today's world that affect the levels of estrogen in the body. This does not include the ones being prescribed by doctors. These exogenous estrogens come to us from plants, called phyto-estrogens and from petroleum products, called xeno-estrogens. According to research, these toxic petroleum compounds (xeno-estrogens) are also contributing to cancers in women and low sperm levels in men. Our exposure to harsh plastics, adhesives and additives in our environment and food chain are increasing. As a result estrogen dominance is created and along with it some bothersome signs and symptoms. These include water retention and edema, breast swelling, fibrocystic breasts, premenstrual mood swings, depression, loss of libido, heavy or irregular menses, uterine fibroids, craving for sweets and weight gain with fat deposition at hips and thighs, headaches, high blood pressure, insomnia and anxiety. Estrogen deficiency in menopause seems like a myth created by the pharmaceutical industry to justify selling supplementation.

Reading texts such as those written by Dr. John Lee, (What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause and What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Pre-menopause), one gathers that it is common knowledge that women do not have estrogen levels dropping to zero after menopause as some would have us believe. There is support from other glands in the body helping to create estrogen. It is also created from body stores of fat. These levels are adequate in most cases to support healthy female bodily functions, excluding pregnancy. According to Dr. Lee, estrogen should only be given to woman clearly deficient and even then, it should never be given without progesterone at any age. This is true whether you have a uterus or not.

Symptoms of estrogen deficiency are persistent vaginal dryness, vaginal mucus membrane atrophy (thinning) and urinary tract problems despite adequate progesterone levels. Only if these symptoms persist should women take estrogen and then at the smallest amount possible to take care of the symptoms. In our present estrogen-contaminated world it is rare that a woman has true estrogen deficiency.

Often women are given doses estrogen that are far too high either way. I have read reports indicating one-tenth of the amount generally prescribed could afford the needed replacement levels in woman who really do need replacement. Many women who are pre or post-menopausal coming to a doctor with ANY symptoms are assumed to be deficient in estrogen. Since it is more likely they are progesterone deficient, the high estrogen level created from supplementation leads to more symptoms which the doctor often associates with the woman not getting enough estrogen. So her dose is increased. Cervical hyperplasia can ensue and a D&C can be recommended next, with a total hysterectomy soon after, as symptoms get worse not better. Doctors are relying on blood tests from plasma or serum to determine hormone levels. This does not give a true measure of hormonal levels. Hormones are fat-soluble and plasma serum is a water medium. Therefore precise level of hormones can not be adequately measured from this source. Saliva testing is better than serum or plasma testing for determining hormone levels in the body.

Hot flashes are also blamed on low estrogen levels. Actually, it is hormonal fluctuations that cause this bothersome symptom, with progesterone deficiency the main antagonist. Without adequate progesterone you cannot maintain adequate estrogen receptor availability. This means that even though you may have enough estrogen, your cells can not use it effectively. If you maintain the proper level of progesterone you can take advantage of the estrogen you do have. From the reports I have read, most woman receive relief from hot flashes from using progesterone cream alone.

Over 50% of premenstrual women are not producing adequate progesterone and many post-menstrual women are being given estrogen without progesterone, supposedly to prevent osteoporosis. This is really a shame as it is really progesterone that helps to build bones, not estrogen. Estrogen will only help stop the creation of more bone loss. In fact, bone loss which is rapid at the beginning of menopause will usually regain balance in several years after menopause ensues. This can only happen when progesterone levels are adequate.

Osteoporosis in women starts in their mid-thirties and accelerates at the time of menopause. If it were a lack of estrogen that were causing this loss then why would it happen at this early age (mid-thirties) when estrogen levels are generally high? It is more likely occurring from the lack of progesterone which starts decreasing at this time. In fact, many women menstruate without ovulation (they have a period but no eggs are released) because of low progestrone levels.

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Progesterone is given its name because of the function it has in promoting gestation, thus pro-gest-erone. It is responsible for the rise in libido at the time of ovulation and should conception take place, it keeps the endometrium, which is nourishing the embryo, from shedding. Were it to drop or be blocked at its receptor sites the embryo would detach and a miscarriage would take place. As the placenta develops more progesterone is produced and continues to rise, with high levels of more than 300 mg./day until the birth of the baby.

There are approximately seven different synthetic progesterone-type hormones, called progestins. Though they are very similar to progesterone, they are in no way natural and are less easily metabolized and excreted. These synthetics will bond to receptor sites as will the natural progesterone. However, the synthetics will have a slightly different message for the target cell. This difference is the reason they have a list of warnings, adverse reactions, contraindications and precautions associated with them. These reactions are not characteristic of natural progesterone; progesterone in physiological doses has no known side effects.

Why then have progestin (synthetic progesterone) drugs become so dominant in our society? The answer lies in their use as birth control. They were developed at a time when there was more sexual freedom. A time when natural progesterone supplementation required expensive, painful injections, rectal or vaginal suppositories. Synthetics have a guaranteed consistency and potency. Since they are not easily metabolized, they have a longer duration of action. Probably the most important reason they are used is the fact that they can be patented and therefore are a very profitable product. Because of this the pharmaceutical industry could really get behind them. The potentially serious side effects of these drugs are written in small letters in the Physician's Desk Reference (PDR) and on informational drug data sheets. Not too many people really want to know about them anyway, they just do not want to become pregnant. The progestins also got a foothold as more women were being given estrogen replacement, which increased the risks of breast and endometrial cancer. It was agreed that this tragic side effect could be lessened if progesterone was included along with the estrogen. So, the synthetics took over the market as the pharmaceutical industry had more to gain by using them.

Commercial progesterone is synthesized from plant fat (sterols) and oil, unlike the pharmaceuticals which come from horse urine etc.  It is identical to the progesterone synthesized by the body from cholesterol. Absorption of this natural progesterone cream is as much as ten times more efficient when taken through the skin (transdermal) than if taken orally. The best sites to apply natural progesterone cream are the areas of the body that blush, where capillaries are closer to the skin's surface and more plentiful. These areas include the face, neck, back of hands, breast, inner arm and chest. Alternate the sites when applying. Using two or three different sites each time is a good idea as the other ingredients in the cream could get in the way of absorption if left to accumulate in just one area.

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Remember hormone replacement does not take place in a vacuum—there are complex metabolic interconnections taking place. It is good to enlist your health professional to help you determine the underlying causes of the symptoms you are experiencing. Some of these symptoms can come from a multitude of other causes besides hormone imbalance. The lifestyle choices one makes and other factors such as medication use can affect hormone balance. Medications such as certain antidepressants can inhibit neuronal serotonin uptake that disturbs hormone balance. Note that progesterone has high levels in the brain as well as in the reproductive tissues. Several elders I heard about were given progesterone cream with amazing results: they went from TV-couch potatoes to becoming involved and active just within a few weeks.

Some drugs impair liver function (tranquilizers and antihistamines) that reduce estrogen excretion and therefore contribute to higher estrogen levels. Diets high in sugar and refined carbohydrates can contribute to high estrogen levels. Bowel health can exert an influence on estrogen levels and exercising also lessens the possibility of estrogen dominance. Dietary deficiencies which can inhibit proper hormone synthesis and metabolism and are addressed below.

So, there is a lot to consider. For instance progesterone can help the thyroid work better. Many times it is estrogen dominance that is causing the thyroid to work less efficiently and once progesterone is added, the thyroid hormone is more accessible for improved thyroid function to take place. If one is taking thyroid hormone, the dosage will need to be adjusted possibly once progesterone is added. In times of stress cortisol levels can be elevated which can block progesterone receptors. In these cases the progesterone cream dose may need to be higher until the stress is alleviated.

It is important to know the concentration of the progesterone cream you are using. It is also important to know what other ingredients are in your product. It is a good idea to keep track of levels through saliva testing. If too much progesterone is taken, receptor sites will lose their proper functioning. Thus your progesterone function will be diminished. Be sure you can easily get about 20 mg of progesterone per day. Less, not more, is all that is needed most likely. An exception would be in cases of high cortisol levels competing for progesterone receptor sites. This can be the case in PMS when high stress levels are one of the contributing factors. In these cases 30-40 mg a day of progesterone may be needed for the 10 days before menses.

There are times when a doctor may use progesterone at 40-50 mg a day to prevent miscarriage when a woman is not producing enough progesterone to save the pregnancy. Some women have continued its usage until the last weeks of the pregnancy. Progesterone inhibits uterine contractions so should not be continued too close to the delivery date.

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According to Dr. John Lee, osteoporosis is the most common metabolic bone disorder, causing an astounding 1.3 million fractures a year in post menopausal-women. It is more common in women who smoke cigarettes, under-exercise, are deficient in vitamin D, calcium or magnesium and whose diets are meat-based rather than whole-grain and vegetable based. There can also be a genetic component contributing to osteoporosis, with subsequent fractures. Also, women who are alcoholics are at a higher risk. So you can see there are many factors involved when determining whether a person is at risk for fractures.

Many times women let fear of fracturing move them toward taking medications and estrogen replacement. In actuality they may need to take more seriously what they are eating and how they are otherwise caring for themselves. Women, along with their physicians, started thinking that if they were post menopausal and showed any signs of a low bone density they should be taking medications and hormone replacement so they would not suffer fractures in their older age. So it seemed as though Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) took on a sinister life of its own.

The pharmaceutical industry saw a potential market to sell hormones as medicine to meet the needs of women not wanting to succumb to osteoporosis. There were massive advertising campaigns, symposiums, samples given, visits by drug salesman, articles written and grants offered from the industry in an effort to tout the benefits of estrogen in preventing bone loss. Synthetic progesterone, called progestins, were also given to protect against endometrial cancer. There was already reliable evidence that progesterone deficiency was the real reason for bone loss no matter how adequate the estrogen levels were. Isn't it amazing that advertising can create a mindset that can override scientific facts? This is seen more and more with TV advertising today. Now we have drugs that allow you to eat as much as and anything you want as long as you have your Pepcid on hand to take care of those annoying symptoms. Or,  "Do you have problems with being impotent? Well look no further we have Viagra for you".

It also might be mentioned here that bone density scans may indicate a number as being "normal" which may not actually be normal for all women. For instance, if a woman is slightly built her normal may not be the same normal of a much larger woman. Though bone density scanning has some shortcomings, scanning is still a good way to determine if the therapy you are using is effective (providing you use the same technique of testing each time). There are two exceptions to this rule. If one is taking drugs that prevent resorption of old bone, such as Fosamax, or one has high levels of fluoride in the body, from fluorinated water, the bone scan will show a higher density of bone while the actually strength of this bone will be lesser in quality. Therefore, mineral density is not a true indicator of bone strength. Bone collagen quality is also important and this vital factor is not being measured by Bone Mineral Density (BMD) scanning. Poor bone collagen is a result of poor nutrition, lack of exercise and the excess of fluoride intake. Fluoride from toothpaste should also be avoided.

Many factors come into consideration in a successful bone-building program. Calcium is the most well known factor in such a program, as it is the most prevalent mineral in the bones. It is used to re-mineralize bones and also as a reserve which can be accessed for other bodily processes. The parathyroid gland helps facilitate this utilization process. If all other factors are equally being taken into consideration in a bone-building program, than about 800 mg of calcium daily is adequate. About 98-99% of available calcium is taken into the bones.

Plants are a prime source of very easily absorbed calcium since they contain the minerals and vitamins needed to facilitate absorption. Vitamin D and Hydrochloric Acid (HCL) are also needed for absorption. If HCL, found in the stomach, is deficient then calcium absorption can be limited. This is often the case with elders. This deficiency of HCL can be remedied with supplementation. The dairy industry would prefer us to believe that dairy products are the best source of calcium. NOT! First of all, cows are receiving calcium from the plants they eat and many people (over 70%) live in areas of the world where dairy is not used. These peoples are using plants for their calcium needs and many of them have stronger bones than those of more industrialized nations.

Vegetarian's bones are usually more mineralized than those of meat eaters. Meat is high in protein and creates an acid ash in the body. In order to create homeostasis, the kidneys will pull minerals from body stores, such as the bones, if there is not enough in the food eaten. This is done to maintain alkalinity. If more protein is eaten than needed, the body does not store this excess, as it would store extra fat for instance. Protein must be broken down then excreted by the kidneys. This excretion will cause the excretion of calcium along with it. Meat eaters need almost twice as much calcium per day to prevent osteoporosis, with daily recommendations being 1200-1500 mg. per day. You can read more about acid-alkaline balance on my web site here.

Since most of us cannot eat enough vegetables every day to obtain enough calcium, we need to supplement. Products such as Garden of Life's Perfect Food, a nutrient-dense green powder, allow us to have the equivalent of 8 full servings of calcium-rich vegetables.

There are also many other types of calcium supplementation. Not all are the same. Calcium carbonate is the least well absorbed, though the least expensive. Calcium citrate is more expensive and better absorbed. I have been using calcium carbonate in the form of Coral Calcium. This full spectrum, whole-food calcium supplement, seems to be very absorbable. It has 78 trace minerals and is in its natural form. This is a marine-form that is found in nature and is not an isolate. Garden Of Life also has a wonderful whole food calcium product called Living Calcium. You can read more about calcium in general and Coral Calcium specifically on my web pages, here.

Magnesium is also an important factor in a bone-building program and is the third most prevalent mineral found in bones. Magnesium works with enzymes to catalyze calcium's incorporation into the bones and increases its absorption. If magnesium is deficient, calcium can end up as calcifications in the soft tissue, such as tendons and joints. These conditions are commonly known as arthritis, tendonitis and bone spurs, to name a few. Magnesium is deficient in our soil due to modern farming practices. This deficiency then shows up in our foods. Fertilizers used today contain large amounts of potassium, which is a magnesium antagonist. Refining not only causes the depletion of magnesium and other minerals but also enzymes and vitamins from our foods. Meat and dairy both have low magnesium to calcium ratios, so again prove not to be the best foods to eat for bone mineralizing. Keep in mind chocolate is high in magnesium. This fact may be the reason why those craving it are doing so because they have low magnesium levels. If magnesium is brought to adequate levels, the craving fades. Alcohol and sugar consumption increases the rate of magnesium excretion from the kidneys and would best be avoided in a bone-building program.

Phosphorus is the second most prevalent mineral in the bones. An ideal ratio of phosphorus/calcium is 1.5 to 1. There will be decreased calcium absorption if the phosphorus level is increased in this ratio. Through a complicated process of metabolism, the increase of the phosphorus to calcium ratio can lead to actual bone loss. This is why carbonated soda, which is high in phosphorus and low in calcium, can lead to bone loss if consumed on a regular basis. Minerals such as zinc, manganese, boron, silicon, copper and strontium are important in building the collagen matrix of cartilage and bone. Therefore eating unprocessed, whole foods will be helpful in providing the body with these valuable minerals in adequate levels. It should be mentioned here that those taking diuretics have an increased loss of minerals through urinary excretion. Diuretics are often used in medicine to treat water retention from any cause. This must be factored in if one is taking such medications.

Vitamin D is a key player in bone mineralizing. It is needed for calcium and phosphorus transport from the intestines into the blood plasma. It also helps resorption of both minerals from the urine. Lack of vitamin D will cause conditions such as rickets in children and soft bones (osteomalacia) in adults. The sun's ultra-violet light plays an important part in these metabolic processes. Getting 15-20 minutes of sun on your skin a day will help. Be sure to do this in the early morning or later in the afternoon, as the effects of the sun at high noon can be detrimental.
It is not recommended to take high doses of vitamin D as a supplement, since over-dosing can lead to the deposit of calcium in the soft tissues of the joints, kidneys, myocardium, pancreas and uterus. Cod Liver Oil can help add Vitamin D to your diet. However, the brand is important because otherwise it may not be processed in the optimum manner for retaining vitamin content and freshness. One good brand is from Garden of Life.

Vitamin A is another vitamin essential to synthesizing connective tissue and the collagen of bone and cartilage. It is produced from the precursor, beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is found in all yellow, orange and deep green foods. Zinc must also be present in adequate amounts for this conversion to take place. Again, this mineral may be deficient in today's diet because of refining processes. If supplementing, water-soluble Vitamin A is preferable. The fat-soluble variety found in fish oils must be processed through the liver where much of it can be lost. Excesses of Vitamin A can be toxic to the liver and the brain.

Vitamin C is another essential player in the synthesis and repair of cartilage, bone and all collagen. We do not synthesize this vitamin naturally, as many other animals do. Our diets are generally low and inadequate in this vital vitamin. If taking supplementation, 2 grams a day is recommended. A whole food source of Vitamin C, such as Garden Of Life's Living C, is a good choice for supplementing one's diet.

Another vitamin important to bone building is vitamin K. It reduces calcium excretion and helps in the binding process of an important calcium-protein needed for bone building. Vitamin K is important in blood clotting also. Our intestinal health is important to vitamin K levels, as colon bacteria synthesize vitamin K in our bodies. Antibiotic use can lead to a diminished level of beneficial bacteria in the intestines and therefore these colonies must be replenished for proper vitamin K synthesis. You can ensure intestinal health with the help of a wonderful product called Primal Defense.

Pyridoxine, which is a B vitamin called B-6, is another big player in bone formation. It also is essential to the production of progesterone. It works as a co-catalyst with magnesium. It is also involved with collagen repair and is helpful in reducing inflammatory reactions in connective tissue.

Exercise is also needed in a bone-building program. If a person is immobilized for any prolonged period of time, bone loss will result. Bone is a crystalline structure and responds to stress. It is this force that distorts the crystalline arrangement and generates an electric voltage, known as a piezoelectric effect. This produces a small electric current. Our modern day conveniences and devices keep us under-exercised. This creates a diminishing of the stimuli needed to create bone strength and growth. This, along with nutritional deficiencies, is good cause for inadequate bone density. As reported in The Lancet, bones studied from 2000 years ago showed better BMD readings than today's bones. It is not so important what exercise you do, just so there is some resistance involved. Weight-bearing exercise is a good choice. Remember, if you already have osteoporosis, be careful not to cause any excessive force that could risk fracture.

Those with hyperthyroidism, which can be the result of excess L-thyroxin supplementation, may show signs of accelerated bone resorption and osteoporosis. If one is receiving such supplements it is wise to have TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) levels checked routinely.

You can read more about all of the vitamins and minerals mentioned above on my web pages here.

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Men benefit from progesterone too. It is naturally produced in the testes and is a precursor to other hormones. It is important to the functioning of the male counterpart of the uterus, called the prostate gland. The prostate gland can be affected by hormonal imbalance just as well as the uterus can. If men have low progesterone levels their estradiol levels can increase. This increase can lead to cancer of the prostate, just as it leads to breast and uterine cancer in women. Dr. John Lee talks about how he found men with elevated PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) levels having decreases of these levels when using progesterone cream daily. There were no progressions of their prostate lesions. Many men who were putting the cream on their wives also reported that urinary frequency and urgency symptoms of prostate enlargement (BPH) had decreased.

Prostate cancer has been treated by the use of hormone-suppressing drugs that reduce testosterone levels. Many times the treatment benefits last only a few years then the cancer progresses. If unopposed estrogen is known to cause endometrial cancer then why would it not be the cause of prostate cancer, since both these organs originate from the same embryonic cells? Also progesterone inhibits the enzyme that converts testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is known to stimulate prostate cell growth. When there are low levels of progesterone, this allows more testosterone to convert to DHT. Testosterone is a direct antagonist to estradiol, as testosterone levels are lowered estradiol effects increase. This can lead to increased prostate cell growth and cancer.

The metabolic imbalance of estrogen dominance is operating in all hormone-dependent cancers. So possibly it is not about lowering testosterone levels. If testosterone is the culprit, why don't younger men with high levels of testosterone get prostate cancer? A radical approach to treating prostate cancer has been castration. It was thought that its effectiveness was due to the testosterone reduction. It may actually be helpful in reducing the cancer because of the effects castration would have in reducing estradiol.

A healthy prostate health program would include: avoiding all sugars, refined carbohydrates and other high-glycemic foods, as well as high estrogen foods such as animal products, avoiding xeno-estrogens such as pesticides and some plastics, maintaining a high anti-oxidant intake with high levels of zinc, vitamin C, selenium, vitamin A, D, E, and K, monitoring saliva hormone levels of progesterone and testosterone, adequate exercise and a happy active sex life. Most of the advice concerning supplementation listed above for women will also apply to men.

We can see the important benefits of hormonal balance for both men and women. I hope this text has given you some solid information to help you create this balance.

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Should you decide to test your hormone levels, I have saliva test kits available. A number of hormones can be tested from one sample. The tests available include those for progesterone, three types of estrogen, DHEA, cortisol and testosterone. The tests run $30 per hormone and come in a pre-paid mailer. The test results are returned to you within 2 weeks. You will be given your levels as compared to baseline ranges and a professional assessment of the results. A high quality plant-based natural progesterone cream is also available from me. It comes in a pump bottle for $25. It contains 48 applications, with each ¼ inch containing 25 mg of progesterone. There are NO petrochemicals in the cream base.


What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause Dr John Lee and Virginia Hopkins, Warner Books, 1996

What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Premenopause Dr John Lee, Dr Jesse
Hanley and Virginia Hopkins, Warner Books, 1999

Natural Progesterone
John R. Lee MD, BLL Publishing, 1993

Super Nutrition for Menopause
Ann Louise Gittleman, Pocket Books,1993

Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom
Christiane Northrup MD, Bantam Books

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