Spin this

It’s hard enough to put a good spin on bad news, but when the news trend keeps going from bad to worse, all the spin in the world won’t make a rotten egg fresh again.

Yesterday the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) released more results from the Women’s Health Initiative study on synthetic hormone replacement therapy (HRT). This time the medical mainstream was expecting good news about HRT and Alzheimer’s disease. They were in for a shock.

As an e-Alert reader and HSI member you already know that there are safe and effective natural alternatives to prescription HRT. But now, more than ever, it’s time to get the word out and tell your friends.

A fly in the ointment

By now you’ve probably heard the television news sound bites stating that HRT increases the risk of Alzheimer’s. But as usual, TV talking heads rarely stop to define what constitutes this particular “HRT,” and most of them haven’t been reporting the full story that clearly underlines the fact that the most popular form of HRT (the type used in these studies) is simply dangerous.

Here’s a quick recap of the new study: More than 4,500 women, aged 65 and older, were divided into two groups. Half took a placebo, and the other half took Prempro, an HRT combination of estrogen and progestin. Four years later, the women in the HRT group had developed Alzheimer’s disease at TWICE the rate of those taking placebo (40 in the HRT group, and 21 in the placebo).

To say this was a surprise to researchers is to put it mildly. The exact opposite results had been hoped for.

Spin cycle

Right away the mainstream started spinning the news, pointing out that only a small number of women actually developed Alzheimer’s. My personal favorite spin came from Dr. Samuel E. Gandy, vice chairman of the medical and scientific advisory council of the Alzheimer’s Association, who told the New York Times that, “A small number doubled is still a small number.”

I can’t help but think that statement could only come from someone who’s not taking the medication. What looks small to Dr. Gandy probably appears quite large to those women who can now thank synthetic HRT for sending them down the road toward Alzheimers. And I can’t imagine most of these women are thinking, “Oh, that’s just a small number, la de da.”

Given the fact that there are already many doctors prescribing this particular HRT therapy to prevent Alzheimer’s, Dr. Gandy’s comment misses the point completely. Prempro doesn’t prevent Alzheimer’s at all – it increases the risk.

But that’s only part of the problem. The current issue of JAMA also carries two additional reports. One found that women using HRT performed poorly on cognitive tests compared to women taking placebo, and the other confirmed earlier studies that demonstrated how Prempro increases the risk of stroke.

So here’s the “logic” behind taking Prempr Estrogen has been shown to cause cancer of the uterus. So Prempro combines estrogen with progestin, which protects the uterus. In other words, when you’re taking Prempro, you’re taking a medication that causes cancer, along with a “protective” agent that has now been shown to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s, breast cancer, stroke, and gallstones.

What’s wrong with this picture!?

Healthy voices

In an e-Alert I sent you last year (“Hiding The R” 11/4/02) I told you about a common trigger for menopausal side effects called “estrogen dominance,” which is an imbalance between two hormones: estrogen and progesterone. Many women report remarkable results in maintaining hormonal balance with natural progesterone treatments (such as progesterone cream) that are available without a doctor’s prescription.

Several HSI members shared the natural methods that have worked for them in a December e-Alert (“Turning Down The Heat” 2/17/02). Donna, for instance, wrote to tell about the effectiveness of a wild yam progesterone cream, “a friend of mine told me she was using a cream called yam cream. Guess what? It worked great! I rarely had a hot flash from then on.”

Jeanne told us that taking the element indium, as indium sulfate, “proved to be an absolute miracle” in reducing hot flashes and anxiety, while restoring energy and concentration. And a member named Glo said that daily doses of 2000 mg of vitamin C and 400 IU of vitamin E reduced her frequency of hot flashes from 10 each day, to only one.

We also heard from a Dr. V. who added this nutritional advice: “Please do not forget those wonderful [omega-3] essential fatty acids for hormonal health. I cannot tell you the degree of satisfaction I achieve just adding essential fatty acids, equivalent of 2-3 tbsp. daily, and digestive enzymes, preferably broad spectrum and above average potency, along with watching your starch or complex carb intake. Don’t forget the importance also of eating fermented foods such as organic yogurt (no fat free stuff), sauerkraut, and apple cider vinegar. The health of your intestinal flora will also keep healthy estrogens recirculating thereby helping to control pre-ms and post-ms symptoms. We should always choose natural over synthetic hormones.”

And I’ve also told you about various botanical treatments (most notably black cohosh and red clover) that have been shown to help maintain hormonal balance.

Share the news

With all the known dangers of synthetic combination HRT therapy, it’s becoming harder to imagine why women would use this treatment without first trying alternatives that don’t carry the risk of debilitating or life-threatening diseases.

Please share this e-Alert with friends and family members who might be using or considering the use of prescription drugs to address the concerns of menopause. Let them know they don’t have to place their health at risk in return for comfort and peace of mind.

Share this HSI e-Alert with a friend.

Bull in a china shop

This past Monday things got ugly in Lancaster, England. It was almost as if a bull was turned loose in a china shop, but not quite.

On my way home from work yesterday I heard a report on National Public Radio about a bull that escaped from a cattle market in northeast England, then made a bee line into a nearby antiques store. Not quite a china shop, but it’ll do.

Was the bull looking for refuge, or was it just in the mood for some mischief? We’ll never know, but once inside the shop it did what any bull would do in the same situation. It ran amok. Terrified customers fled for the exits as gravy boats sailed through the air and grandfather clocks tipped like dominos. No doubt, some fine china was crunched under hoof.

And this story taught us what eventually must happen to a bull in a china shop, or an antiques shop, or probably any kind of shop: the police shot him. Not nice, perhaps, but where are you going to get a tranquilizer gun on short notice in Lancaster?

While writing today’s e-Alert, I thought to compare synthetic HRT to a bull in a china shop. At some point the risks become too great to do nothing. Maybe it’s time the medical police pull that trigger.

“Estrogen Plus Progestin and the Incidence of Dementia and Mild Cognitive Impairment in Postmenopausal Women” Journal of the American Medical Association, 2003;289:2651-2662, jama.ama-assn.org
“Effect of Estrogen Plus Progestin on Global Cognitive Function in Postmenopausal Women” Journal of the American Medical Association, 2003;289: 2663-2672, jama.ama-assn.org
“Hormone Use Found to Raise Dementia Risk” Denise Grady, The New York Times, 5/28/03, nytimes.com