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Wayne Post
  • COMMENTARY JOEL FREEDMAN: The ugly side of hormone replacement therapy

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  • A federal study of women undergoing hormone replacement therapy cautions against the use of hormones to relieve hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms (Associated Press article, Oct. 2).
    A compilation of more than 50 studies in 21 countries shows that women taking horse-urine derived estrogen replacements, such as Premarin or Prempro, significantly increase their risks of developing breast and uterine cancer, hypertension, blood clots in their legs, gallbladder problems, strokes and heart attacks.
    Many physicians recommend low-fat, high-fiber diets (which vegan diets provide) and a physical exercise program to alleviate menopausal symptoms. Or they prescribe plant-derived and synthetic hormone replacement treatments they consider safer than horse estrogens. There are also over-the-counter remedies.
    German researchers have discovered that ER-731, the name of the extract derived from rhubarb, significantly reduces the number and intensity of hot flashes in premenopausal women, compared with women given placebos. The researchers claim no harmful side effects have been associated with this extract.
    There are opposing viewpoints in the medical community about whether plant-derived estrogen sources such as yams or soy are more effective or safer than horse-derived estrogen, but at least plant sources don’t include cruelty as an ingredient.
    People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Last Chance for Animals, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and most other animal protection organizations denounce conditions at PMU (pregnant mare urine) farms. For seven months, pregnant mares are confined in stalls so narrow they can’t turn around or lie down comfortably. Workers strap painful socks to their groins. A pulley system collects their estrogen-rich urine. To obtain the purest estrogen possible, the mares receive only enough water to survive, resulting in liver and kidney disorders, swollen joints, edema and dehydration for the mares.
    After giving birth, the mares are given two months to pasture with their offspring. Then the cycle of pregnancy and confinement for urine collection continues for many years.
    If the mares don’t die prematurely, once they become barren, they usually share the fate of their colts and are transported to slaughterhouses in Canada, suffering terribly during inhumane transport and the brutal butchering process. They are cut up into steaks for shipment to European and Japanese markets where horse meat is considered to be a delicacy.
    In a letter published in the New York Times 15 years ago, Dr. Phillip Warner, an obstetrician-gynecologist who directed the Menopause Institute of Northern California, wrote that “the notion that a substance derived from horse urine is ‘natural’ to the human female is simply a tribute to 50 years of successful advertising.” Last year, Dr. Freya Schnabel, of New York University’s Langone Medical Center, cautioned, “I think from this point onward any woman who is considering taking hormone replacement therapy will need to genuinely consider the risks.”
    I recently spoke with Susan Thompson, founder of Dreamchaser Horse Rescue and Rehabilitation in New River, Az. Thompson took Premarin for 28 years before she learned about the pain and horror horses endure to produce it, and the adverse side effects risked by women who take horse-derived estrogen. Established 11 years ago, Dreamchaser provides a safe sanctuary for 50 horses liberated from the PMU industry. Thompson also shares her experiences with other women in order to encourage them to seek alternatives to horse-derived estrogen.
    Page 2 of 2 - A study published in “The Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology” concluded that “natural menopause is a benign event for the majority of middle-aged healthy women.” Only about one in 10 women experience severe hot flashes. Depression is more likely to be a predictor, rather than a consequence of menopausal problems.
    Menopause, the cessation of ovulation and menstruation as a result of changes in the estrogen levels produced in a woman’s body, should be regarded as a normal change in human development. If symptoms become troublesome, women should seek treatments that contain no hidden ingredients of cruelty and that don’t jeopardize their own health.
    Joel Freedman of Canandaigua chairs the public education committee of Animal Rights Advocates of Upstate New York. He is a frequent Messenger Post contributor and a member of the Daily Messenger Reader Advisory Board. His opinions do not reflect those of the Advisory Board.

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