Hormones and Our Minds

saw palmetto botanical herb picture

Hormones and Our Minds

Some practitioners continue to proclaim that all estrogens are the same and all progesterones (synthetic included) are alike. It’s quite clear that there is sufficient scientific research to claim otherwise: very small differences between molecules can result in significant differences in effects on the body. The KEEPS study in particular has made a huge dent in the misperception that all estrogens are the same. (See KEEPS Study for more info.)

The hormone progesterone does not have the same effects as the progestin, medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA). This synthetic progestin was reported to increase breast cancer risk in the Women’s Health Initiative Study. The linking of bio-identical progesterone to synthetic progesterones has huge drawbacks in medical care as doctors are less likely to prescribe bio-identical progesterone to women without a uterus because of the increased risks with their synthetic versions. Yet, we know, that progesterone’s has a myriad of beneficial effect in our body reaching beyond uterine cancer protection.

Dr. Katarina Dalton was a pioneer in the field of women’s reproductive health and over 40 years ago she wrote that women who had undergone surgical removal of their uterus where living with a progesterone deficiency and needed replacement at least until the age of natural menopause if not longer.

One of Dr. Dalton’s findings was that progesterone helped women cure their premenstrual epileptic seizures. The science behind the interaction between sex hormones such as progesterone and its metabolite allopregnanolone and “neurosteroids” (hormones produced locally by our nerve cells) is just getting started. It’s extremely complicated but very exciting as hormones may now also prove useful for treating neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s!

Science has shown that our neural tissue responds to our sex/steroidal hormones (estrogen, progesterone, DHEA, testosterone ) circulating in the blood stream as well as to the neurosteroids (hormones produced by the nerves themselves).

Steroidal hormones are believed to help heal damaged neural tissue. For example, in the disease ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), it’s suggested that it may be affected by a deficiency in receptors for testosterone. While excess estrogen may worsen ALS by causing neuronal excitement and progesterone may be helpful by repairing the myelin sheath.

With Alzheimer’s disease, research suggests that hormones affect the mitochondria’s ability to use oxygen. The mitochondria is important for energy production and its dependent on optimal thyroid function. Optimal thyroid hormones production can be interfered by estrogen, iron and other toxins.

As this research continues, we might find progesterone to be one of the most beneficial hormones for neurosteroid synthesis and therefore helpful for cognition, memory, mood and a healthy nervous system in general. Ultimately, it’s all about balance.

As a certified Menopause Clinician I’m well versed in the complex interactions of hormones on our endocrine system. Please feel free to call me if you need some support and guidance with identifying any hormonal blocks that are preventing you from living a full, energetic, whole life. I’m here to help and keep a practice in Vancouver, BC. For those residing outside of the city, I am able to consult via phone.


  • Once a Month: Understanding and Treating PMS by Katrina Dalton, MD; Hunter House Inc.; Alameda, CA; 1999.
  • “Demystifying Dementia, Protective Progesterone” in Ray Peat’s Newsletter, January 2013.
  • Neurosteroids and the Nervous System by Steven R. King; SpringerBriefs in Neuroscience; Springer Science+Business Media; New York, NY; 2013.
  • “Progesterone as a neuroactive neurosteroid with special reference to the effect of progesterone on myelination” by Baulieu et al; Steroids; 65 (2000) 605-612.
  • “Novel Perspectives for Progesterone in Hormone Replacement Therapy with Special Reference to the Nervous System“ by Schumacher et al; Endocrine Reviews; 28 (4) 387-439; 2007.