Book Review

Dr. Whitaker's Guide to Natural Hormone Replacement

Julian Whittaker
Phillips Publishing, Inc.

Whitaker describes this handbook as a “special report” focusing on hormone supplementation as a means of achieving and maintaining optimal health, its goal being to separate fact from fiction in devising personal hormone replacement strategies. To help the reader fully understand, the author discusses what hormones are and how they work, explaining where and from what substances hormones are produced. He also describes their function as messengers from the brain, explaining how they tell vital organs to function. His aim is not to be exhaustive but merely to show how hormone supplementation, along with proper diet, nutritional supplements and exercise, helps achieve optimal health.

Whitaker describes how estrogens and progesterone are used to alleviate symptoms of menopause and premenstrual symptoms (PMS). His discussion of estrogen focuses on alleviating menopausal symptoms. He describes estrogen as three different substances rather than a single agent; and discusses the way these three substances circulate and affect a woman’s body, taking time to explain how low estrogen levels contribute to disorders such as heart disease, osteoporosis, memory loss, and classic menopausal symptoms. He tries to impress upon the reader the importance of progesterone in balancing estrogenic effects, making a point to differentiate between natural and synthetic progesterone or progestin and differences in the way they affect the body. Whitaker offers dosing guidelines for progesterone and estrogen therapy. He recommends progesterone be used as a topical cream, applied twice daily in teaspoons, and recommends combination estrogen therapy. A chart describes conversions from Premarin® therapy to triestrogen and estriol. Triestrogen is a common name given to the three estrogens, in a ratio of 80% estriol, 10% estradiol, and 10% estrone. A chart is also provided describing how to use topical progesterone for PMS and osteoporosis. Since Whitaker also encourages proper diet and supplementation, he gives several examples of foods and herbs that alleviate the symptoms of female hormone imbalances.

The author discusses andropause, or male menopause, with its declining levels of testosterone. Testosterone is the masculinizing hormone; however, it also serves other functions: it has been shown to protect against coronary artery disease and maintain low levels of triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. For men, Whitaker recommends 100 mg of testosterone cypionate every week, as well as 160 mg of saw palmetto extract to protect the prostate. As an aside he reports using testosterone for lack of libido in both sexes.

Whitaker discusses the natural thyroid hormone, noting that, while some people develop hyperthyroidism, most develop hypothyroidism. Hyperthyroid treatment usually consists of destruction or removal of the gland, while hypothyroidism can be treated by supplementation. The author describes how hypothyroidism might occur and its common signs, along with the difficulty in testing for and treating it. For better overall thyroid function, thyroid extract should be prescribed, he states.

Whitaker looks at various precursor hormones. All other hormones are produced from pregnenolone and dehydroepiandosterone (DHEA). Pregnenolone, referred to as a neurohormone or neurosteroid, has recently resurfaced for therapy involving the brain and central nervous system. As a neurohormone it brings harmony to the brain. When stimuli are needed, pregnenolone causes uptake of glutamate; when sedation is needed, pregnenolone activates gamma-aminobutyric acid. Pregnenolone used supplementally can improve mood disorders and memory loss. Whitaker describes DHEA as the “mother” hormone, shown to be effective in treating cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypercholestolemia, obesity, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, memory deficits and many other conditions. He suggests that DHEA may be an antiaging drug that can improve one’s quality of life.

Whitaker then discusses melatonin and human growth hormone (hGH). Melatonin, produced by the pineal gland, controls body rhythms and the release of hormones. It is used for insomnia and jet lag, with the potential of life-extending properties. However, the author feels that hGH is more likely to be a “fountain-of-youth” drug and indicates that candidates for hGH include anyone over 50 showing signs of aging. Whitaker ascribes its limited use to costs, which can be as much as $250 a week. Glutamine is a much cheaper way to raise hGH levels, says Whitaker, and he gives dosing guidelines for this, as well as other dietary supplements for raising hGH levels.

Whitaker concludes by discussing how to enhance hormone replacement effectiveness, saying that the single most powerful medical therapy available is diet and that proper exercise will enhance the benefits of taking hormones. He includes a chart on nutritional supplements and daily amounts, indicating that these efforts, along with natural hormones, should get hormone levels up to their physical peak.

Reviewed By:  Gina Ford, RPh
In:  Jan/Feb 1998