As an advocate of the use of oral natural hormones in the treatment of PMS, migraine headaches, depression, post-partum depression, infertility, menopause and other female conditions, our mainstream detractors continue to object to our successful solutions. The latest objection now concerns the liver.
The topic of the liver has come up on several occasions regarding its interaction with natural hormones. There appears to be a lot disinformation, particularly amongst health professionals, trying to discredit the use of oral supplements and oral natural hormones by saying that the liver is a problem.
They say that the liver is a problem in one of two ways: First, the naysayers think that the liver metabolizes too much of any oral product, hormone or otherwise; and second, that the liver somehow gets damaged when taking any hormone.
Both of these “problems” are completely bogus. Let me explain first some background regarding the role of the liver in the digestion process.
The physiology of digestion has been worked out fairly well and is thoroughly understood by physiologists. Whenever you eat or swallow anything, the body breaks down whatever you eat or drink into the smallest absorbable piece. Whether it is a steak dinner or a bowl of granola cereal, enzymes in the stomach and the small intestine actively pick apart the solid substance into its final components. These final components end up as fats, carbohydrates and proteins in the form of fatty acid derivative, various sugar molecules and numerous amino acid chains. Then the cells that line the intestine absorb these nutrients where the next phase begins.
The digestive cells along the gut have a drainage system which are a network of veins. These veins all lead to the liver. The liver then becomes the gatekeeper for all substances that enter the body through the mouth. The passage of everything through the liver is called the “first pass” effect.
The liver then proceeds to metabolize the various proteins, fats and carbohydrates and any other chemicals it comes in contact with. After the liver does its metabolizing, then the final products are distributed throughout the body.
If you swallow pills, whether an aspirin or a bio-identical hormone, these are also absorbed into the cells lining the intestine. The veins draining the intestinal cells go to the liver, where the liver continues to do its job of processing and metabolizing everything thing that passes through it, including medicines.
In the case of medications, the liver will metabolize (breakdown into smaller constituents) about 90% of what passes through it. That leaves the other 10% intact and exits to the rest of the body.
The pharmaceutical industry is well aware of the “first pass” effect of medicines. They know that 90% of any medication whether it is an aspirin, vitamin C or a hormone will be 90% metabolized. Therefore, the dose is manufactured accordingly to anticipate the 90% first pass bite that the liver will take out it.
So, the long winded answer is that when we give you an oral dose of anything we plan on 90% of it being metabolized and the remaining 10% doing its intended job. It becomes a mathematical equation to predict and we get pretty good at it.
Now for the second part of the objection being “liver damage”, the mainstream medical community still cannot distinguish the difference between a natural (bio-identical) hormone and a synthetic, chemically altered hormone. The synthetic hormones that you likely have taken in the form of a birth control pill or synthetic HRT in the form of Premarin or PremPro, for example, can actually damage the liver if taken in high enough doses. There is one study that noted a methylated testosterone hormone (not natural testosterone) was clearly shown to cause liver damage in some men who took them.
This is where the “liver damage” comes from; The use of synthetic, man-made chemicals that masquerade as hormones, but they are just foreign poisons to the body. All the medical establishment hears is the word “hormone” and confuses these lab-altered chemicals with the real, natural hormones that are circulating in your body and the kind that we recommend for supplementation when you have PMS, migraines, depression, menopause and the like.
Natural hormones do not harm the liver in any way. Ask yourself this question, “Why would mother nature create a substance that is necessary for your survival (natural hormones) only to have them become toxic to your liver?” The answer is that no natural substance that is freely found in your body, that is necessary for propagation of the species (sex hormones), can ever be a danger to your liver or any other part of your body. This is the same reason why cancers are not caused by natural hormones, but rather by some distortion of them (like synthetic hormones).
Finally, the advocates of creams say that topical (skin) introduction of hormones bypasses the liver. That is true, but as I state in my websites and my books, there are numerous problems with cream based hormone treatments. Inconsistency is probably the worst problem and just one of many reasons NOT to rely on creams. Oral use of natural hormone supplementation is mathematically more predictable, more reliable, more consistent, more convenient, more effective and less expensive than creams.
This is why we advocate oral natural hormones and why the mainstream medical community continues to stammer in ignorance on the entire topic of hormones in general.
Andrew Jones, M.D.
Medical Director, Women’s Health Institute of Texas