The Estrogen Errors” why progesterone is better for women’s health, by Susan Baxter and Jerilyn Prior, MD – A book review by Dr. Katherine Dale, ND
Medicine has moved towards a “focus on the paradigm of curing [the disease] rather than ‘caring’ [for the patient]” (p.112).
In the book, The Estrogen Errors, Why Progesterone is Better for Women’s Health, Dr. Jerrilyn Prior and Susan Baxter present the “truth” behind the research on women’s health. They are taking a courageous risk to speak in opposition to the status quo that is presented by a conventional medical profession. Baxter and Prior have presented a detailed history of the discovery, use and ensuing miss-use of estrogen, the much-heralded elixir of femininity and youth. Dr. Jerilyn Prior is an endocrinologist researcher and lecturer at the Center for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research (CEMCOR) at the University of British Columbia. Susan Baxter is a lecturer and writer in British Columbia. This collaboration combines Dr. Prior’s depth of research and Baxter breadth of knowledge of the health care profession. This is Dr. Prior’s second book on the topic of women’s hormone health, her first book Estrogen Storm was written for the layperson. Prior and Baxter present the research that shows the dangers of using estrogen and the direct benefits of using progesterone for women’s health for perimenopause symptoms; bone-loss; and preventing some cancers. Estrogen Errors is a comprehensive analysis of the research into the “estrogen debacle” presenting solid scientific evidence to support both medical industry professionals considering providing alternate treatment for female patients and for the informed and curious patient.
The evidence supporting progesterone use is often suppressed, due to the great advocacy power of the Medial Industry. Due to the powerful force of the health industry to define reality the estrogen debacle became a “reality”. The medical industry, including medical doctors, pharmaceutical companies, and research and development companies, has the power to: define and create disease from symptoms; develop the diagnostic tools to identify disease; and manufacture the medicines to cure the diseases. Thus the disease itself becomes animated providing opportunities for commerce through the manufacturing of pharmaceutical drugs; development and promotion of diagnostic testing; and advocacy campaigns to further fund research and development. The health industry is involved in disease mongering: creating, locating, and curing disease rather than caring for people. Women’s bodies and women’s health have been fodder for this mongering for years as our bodies have been medicalized and compromised for the benefit of business.
The health industry has been focused on the use of estrogen for women’s health issues for over 40 years. Despite the history of estrogen errors with DES in the 1940s, estrogen use continued to be supported. In the 1990s the HERS studies found the estrogen had not been preventative for cardiovascular health but in fact resulted in net harm for the female subjects. The health industry continues to advocate for the use of estrogen. Dr. Robert Wilson wrote a book, in 1966, entitled “Feminine Forever”, wherein he explained to women that menopause caused an estrogen deficiency and resulted in “genital atrophy and castration”. These changes to a woman’s body stole away her femininity and her purpose in “modern society” (p.16). This “purpose” was to act as a housewife and mother (p.17). Dr. Wilson proposed the miraculous benefits of the use of estrogen for the treatment and cure of menopause. Thus Wilson established menopause as a disease that needed curing. Along with Dr. Wilson’s creation of a disease called menopause, he also promoted the pharmaceutical cure of estrogen for the ailment. The pharmaceutical business benefited for many years from the promotion of estrogen as a cure-all for women’s health. Eventually it was discovered that in the years leading up to the publishing of Feminine Forever, the Wilson’s Trust Foundation had received funds from three pharmaceutical companies who were manufacturers of the medical hormone estrogen. With the discovery of an inexpensive way to manufacture the hormone estrogen the pharmaceutical industry needed a market and Dr. Wilson provided the public advocacy required. The trend towards estrogen use started by Wilson continued into the next century until 2002, when the results of study showed the problems with estrogen. The Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study began as a study of 160,000 women between the ages of 59 and 79: two controlled placebo studies were studying estrogen use as compared to placebo. However, the study was stopped early, in 2002 due to an increase in the number of cases of breast cancer, blood clots and strokes found in the study participants who were prescribed estrogen. With the increased use of HRT, the rate of breast cancer diagnosis increased by 60-85% (p.154). In studies of infertile women with Anovulatory Androgen Excess (an excess of estrogen), the risks of cancers were 360 times the normal. The results are clear, women are not benefitting from estrogen – it causes harm.
Not only are perimenopausal women being prescribed the wrong treatment protocol, often the diagnosis is incorrect as well. Menopause is define as starting “one year from the last menstrual period”, thus many medical doctors do not have a diagnosis for the time leading up to menopause. As well because the symptoms of perimenopause are “as unique as the woman experiencing it”, including: “insulin resistance, weight gain, and irrational food binges” medical practitioners often overlook the actual cause and treat women for other diseases (p.69). And because the diagnostic markers are so varied (FSH can be up or down and estrogen is often high rather than low) perimenopause has not been given the proper treatment and attention. The high ratio of estrogen to progesterone causes the symptoms, from vasomotor symptoms, such as hot flashes; to mood changes and anxiety; to aches and pains. Even the authors themselves profess that progesterone “reduced those disabling and onerous perimenopausal symptoms, as both authors discovered” (p. 23). What medical doctors are not realising is women need progesterone during perimenopause.
Another need of women that is overlooked is for women to have the freedom from the continuous probing of our bodies and experimental treatments said to be for “preventative” purposes. Osteoporosis, originally consider a measurement of risk, is an example of a disease that was created, located and treated all at once. Originally used to prevent the build up of calcium on plumbing pipes, biophosphonates were found to prevent calcium removal from bones when ingested by humans. The popularity of osteoporosis as a disease rather than a risk factor also increased with the ability to observe bone mineral density (BMD). The designation of osteoporosis as a disease also provided an opportunity to increase the sale of medical diagnostic machinery. What is disturbing about the diagnosis of osteoporosis is that studies show that doctors disagree with each other 80% of the time when reading the same BMD tests (p.145). Although fractures are considered a huge risk factor for menopausal women, the studies show that it is in fact elderly women over the age of 80 living in nursing homes that are experiencing fractures. Thus the risk of fractures is minimal for women younger than 80. However, in a recent conversation with Dr. Prior she quoted research from CEMCOR that had found “progesterone plus estrogen increase BMD [bone mineral density] 24% more than estrogen alone (in a meta-analysis of RCTs) [Randomized Control Trials. Prior suggests a more valid method to decrease fractures should include regular vision checks, avoiding medication which causes dizziness and creating a safe, barrier-free environment in nursing homes. A second diagnostic test Baxter and Prior suggest that is used merely for the sake of giving function form is the mammogram, or the ability to observe breast tissue. In Estrogen Errors, Prior and Baxter quote 16 year studies that have found equal numbers of deaths occur from cancer whether or not a woman has opted to have mammograms.
The evidence is in, women’s bodies are a testing ground for the disease-mongers of the medical industry through: HRT use for menopause and the ensuing rise in breast cancer cases and deaths; DES use in the 1940s; ignoring and misdiagnosing women’s premenopausal symptoms; and the forcing of women into diagnostic testing (e.g., BMD and mammograms). The needs of women are considered as secondary to the profit-making needs of the health care industry. It is time for a revolution to occur. However, perhaps it is too soon for the people of the world to accept the revolutionary ideas of Dr. Prior and Ms. Baxter as “…medicine continues to be as slow as it ever was in terms of changing its practices, beliefs, and firmly held convictions”(p 168). Most of the world is caught up in the illusion of the health care profession as having the best interests of the patient in mind, when in reality it is a business that wants to continue to grow not only new cures, but also new diseases. I admire and respect Dr. Prior for continuously taking risks to expose the reality of the dangers of estrogen treatment. Dr. Jerilynn Prior and Susan Baxter are harbingers of the truth, trying to expose the estrogen debacle and the reality to those who are willing and ready to listen. Dr. Prior and Baxter have researched independently and have interpreted existing studies on women’s hormones and now they have found a new way to bring good health and happiness to women, through progesterone. This book presents many challenges which require the admittance of error and a losing of face for the medical profession. We cannot cure others when we are creating a false consciousness, with false words, ideas and beliefs. It is only with clarity and an acceptance of the truth that people can begin to move towards health and healing. I recommend the reading of this book for all medical doctors with female clients. The estrogen debacle has gone on too long; it is time to start helping women to help themselves. Throughout their book Prior and Baxter call for women to make informed choices and not to take “evidence – even good evidence – to necessarily mean “truth” (p.174). It is our responsibility as women, physicians and scientists to interpret the results and the studies and to keep the true purpose of healthcare in mind: caring for the patient. In my own dealings as a Naturopathic Doctor with my patients, and with all friends and family I continuously advocate for the use of progesterone. This book is a profession of the facts without anger or resentment; and a call for the profession of truth of the dangers of estrogen, to allow healing for all of us.