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Dr. Jonathan V. Wright Interview: Natural Progesterone - The Answer to PMS, Menopause, and Osteoporosis

by John Morgenthaler

Jonathan V. Wright, M.D., is the co-author (with John Morgenthaler) of the best-selling book "Natural Hormone Replacement for Women Over 45" and "Maximize Your Vitality and Potency For Men Over 40"  and "Stay Young and Sexy with Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement - The Science Explained" (with Lane Lenard, Ph.D.). He is also the author of the best-selling "Dr. Wright's Guide to Healing With Nutrition" (600,000 copies sold).

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He is medical director of the Tahoma Clinic in Kent, Washington, and has treated over 2,000 women with natural hormone replacement since 1982. Dr. Wright has also been a monthly medical columnist in Prevention (1976-1986) and Let's Live (1986-1996) magazines. Along with Dr. Alan Gaby, Dr. Wright has taught "Nutritional Therapy in Medical Practice," a four-day, intensive seminar for health care practitioners, annually since 1982. This course is based on the Wright/Gaby research library, a compilation of over 35,000 medical journal articles dating from 1920 to the present.

SPU: What is your clinical and research background in the area of hormones?

Wright: The same education in medical school as everyone else. Unfortunately, except perhaps for the part on insulin, most of it turned out to be fairly useless. We were educated in how to use partial-thyroid replacement rather than whole-thyroid replacement. We were told about using horse hormones for human females. We were advised to use molecules that have never before been found in men's bodies called methyl-testosterone. So, that part of the background was fairly useless. After I had my own practice, working in natural medicine in the 1970s, I started looking more and more at what actually was natural or has been "endogenous" to the human body.

SPU: As opposed to xenobiotic?

Wright: As opposed to stuff that has never been found in the human body and in many cases never before found in the planet until someone made it in a test tube, hung a patent on it and sold it for a very large price.

SPU: Now for guys like you and me, perhaps it goes without saying that natural is better, but I don't think it really does go without saying. Perhaps you can describe why you have such a strong philosophical orientation toward what is natural.

Wright: It's not just philosophical. As you know, John, it's practical. Let's use a non-natural example to illustrate why natural is better. If you have an old Ford Mustang car, and it breaks down. You want to fix that old classic so you go to great lengths to look for old Mustang parts. If it's a valuable antique you go through catalogs for people who sell parts for antiques of your model. You do that because you know that if you start using Mustang parts from a car 40 years newer or start using parts from a Plymouth or a Pontiac or Buick there's a very strong likelihood they won't work at all. If they do work they probably won't fit quite right and even if they work for a little while, it'll break down in your old Mustang very rapidly. It not only will break down but do more damage by using those non-original replacement parts or non-fitting replacement parts.

SPU: Yeah, but maybe the pharmaceutical companies will make higher profits.

Wright: Well, maybe the people who are trying to talk you into putting Pontiac parts in your Mustang will make greater profits, too.

SPU: I like the metaphor a lot, so to put it more succinctly: Your definition — and mine too, by the way — of natural is that if a substance might, under normal conditions, be found inside the human body, then it is natural.

Wright: That's half of the definition. The other half of the definition is: If it might be found somewhere in nature where both human bodies and the natural environment evolved or have been created at the same time. That's because all the things fit together. Some say humans evolved eating certain foods. The very recent introduction into the diet of molecules such as additives and preservatives that folks have never ever eaten in history are bound to cause disruption in the system if we did them long enough or in enough quantity.

SPU: But let's take for instance an herb that only grows in one small region in the planet. Can you really say that humans and that herb co-evolved?

Wright: Yeah, you can because they co-evolved on the same planet over the same time period. You can't ever say that some herb is bound to be perfectly safe. But we can say with a great deal of assurance that any dozen such herbs are invariably going to be safer than any dozen patentable pharmaceutical molecules. Lets move onto hormones for a moment.

SPU: Yes, we might as well do that.

What Makes a Hormone "Natural"?

Wright: Well I'm going to do that because actually talking about hormones fits your first definition of natural better than, lets say, nutrients or botanicals or whatever. That is because hormones are molecules that are entirely synthesized within the body of the person or animal making those hormones. So, a natural hormone indeed is found within the human system, and the only trouble is we have to make the definition fit. We have to stretch it slightly to say that if we have a molecule that is in every way, size, shape, length — in every way is identical to the human hormone — then we are going to call that natural, even if it wasn't found in the human body. There are very practical reasons why we are going to do that.

The biggest practical reason is that we're not going to be Dr. Josef Mengele and go out and murder people for their hormones. We have to manufacture them from somewhere. (Dr. Mengele is the Nazi scientist who did research on living people.)

So to find the natural hormones we stretch it a tiny bit to say that a hormone arose within a human body or is exactly identical in every molecular size, shape, weight, length, the whole number.

SPU: How about the exact tertiary (three-dimensional) structure of natural progesterone? Is it the same as what's in the human body?

Wright: Yes.

SPU: O.K.

Wright: It has to always be that way and it's natural. Now, back to our automobile example for a moment: A natural hormone is very similar to that carburetor found in that original engine; it simply can't be duplicated anywhere else.

SPU: So far we've talked about the distinctions between natural and xenobiotic and we've talked about hormones in a general way. I want to start focusing on two types of hormones in particular, specifically natural progesterone as well as the natural triple estrogen as formulated by you. Now, about natural progesterone: Earlier you talked about how your philosophy about the use of natural progesterone differs a bit from John Lee's and some others. Can you define that a little bit? What are the differences and why?

Putting Your Hormones on a Monthly Cycle

Wright: Well, the differences I have is not in the molecular compound of progesterone or even in the dosage. I agree with Dr. Lee and most other authorities on the type of progesterone and its dosage. While we agree on those subjects, there are some differences and I want to make sure these differences are clear. A major disagreement is in the timing of the administration of these hormones. Now, many authorities will say that progesterone cream, especially after menopause, should be used every day, around the calendar. What is true is that there is a small amount of progesterone in everyone's body, both men and women. Every day our bodies make that small amount and there's no question that it's there. It is also true that there's a great fluctuation in the natural production of progesterone, especially in women's bodies.

Let's go over why there's a small amount of natural progesterone at all times. Progesterone, in addition to being a molecule that works on its own, is also what's called a precursor molecule which means it turns into other things. For example, we've all heard of the hormone cortisol and cortisone; progesterone is a precursor to those two and a little bit of progesterone is turned into a little bit of cortisol and cortisone everyday. We would literally drop dead in about 48 hours from a lack of cortisol and cortisone and since they come from progesterone and beyond that from pregnenolone, our bodies must turn out those precursor molecules every day.

However, any woman will tell you that the amount of progesterone her body makes during the second half of her menstrual cycle is considerably larger than the amount made in the first half. Of course, if that's not the case sometimes symptoms such as PMS can ensue. Prior to menopause one of the uses for progesterone is for handling PMS symptoms. A little bit more progesterone helps many women. I won't say all here, just many women . So there definitely is a cycling of progesterone once women's menstrual cycle starts until they stop and for many women that's 35 to 40 years.

Well, it must be that there is a design of not only the hormone output but what are called hormone receptors to operate on a cycle. It occurs to me that if something operates on a cycle for 35 to 40 years and after that we start overriding that cycle by taking the hormone in the same quantity every day with no regard to that cycle and with no break (that break being the functional equivalent of the menstrual period) when there's very little progesterone around, and if we start overriding that cycle that's been going on for several years, there's a very strong likelihood this will cause problems.

More Research Is Needed

We have to admit that there is no research on this point. We're so busy (we being the scientific community) handing out these hormones and non-progesterone (which is also called progestogen) instead of natural hormones that after 40 years we haven't gotten around to researching this point. But we do have some clues and the clues come from animal research. For example, it turns out that one of the estrogen hormones called estriol is generally conceded to be either anticarcinogenic, or at the worst neutral, but not procarcinogenic. And all animal research studies have shown it to be so with the exception of when the estriol is given continuously. The longer the estriol is given continuously the more likely it is to be a carcinogen to that animal.

SPU: Okay, so your idea of cycling your supplementation of these natural hormones is, in a sense, an extension of your definition of natural. Not only do you like to use the same molecule with the same dosages, but you also like to do it on the same cycle that nature has done it.

Wright: Right. My motto here, John, is we don't have to be very smart to do natural medicine. All we have to do is be incredibly good copycats. So we have to observe what happens in nature and copy it as well as we can. Not to be perfect, but as best as we can. So not only do we want a molecule with the same size, same structure, the same weight, the same wave length, the same everything. We also we want the molecule on the same schedule as is found in nature.

If rigorous research shows that it's incorrect, I'll be real happy to accept the results. Until we have such rigorous research, however, we best just be very good copycats if we're going to keep the administration of natural hormones as safe as possible.

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1 Comment

I think the interview of Dr. Jonathan helped me a lot to get few answers regarding my doubts on PMS and Osteoporosis. John you have done a great job by sharing Dr. Jonathan’s interview. That has created a good platform for clearing the doubts of many people like me.

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