by Virginia Hopkins

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Dr. Lee famously coined the term “estrogen dominance”

John R. Lee, M.D. was internationally acknowledged as a pioneer and expert in the study and use of the hormone progesterone, and on the subject of hormone replacement therapy for women.

He used transdermal progesterone extensively in his clinical practice for nearly a decade, doing research which showed that it can reverse osteoporosis. Dr. Lee also famously coined the term “estrogen dominance,” meaning a relative lack of progesterone compared to estrogen, which causes a list of symptoms familiar to millions of women.

Dr. Lee had a distinguished medical career, including graduating from Harvard and the University of Minnesota Medical School.

He was a family doctor in Northern California when, in the early 1970s, he began seeing a lot of menopausal women with health complaints who weren’t able to use estrogen because of a high cancer risk, heart disease, or diabetes for example.

About that time he attended a lecture by Raymond Peat, Ph.D. who claimed that estrogen was the wrong hormone to be giving menopausal women, and that what they really needed was progesterone. Dr. Lee took a list of Dr. Peat’s references and checked them out, and sure enough, it looked like Dr. Peat was right.

Focus on Progesterone

Dr. Lee began telling his menopausal patients to try using a progesterone cream, and to his amazement they were delighted with the results.

They reported relief from menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats and insomnia, and they also reported relief from a wide array of other symptoms as diverse as dry eyes, bloating, irritability, gall bladder problems, osteoporosis pain, hair loss, and lumpy or sore breasts, for example.

As a result of this unanimously positive feedback, Dr. Lee began to collect detailed data on these patients, and also began to research progesterone more in-depth, gathering studies from his local medical library, and communicating with scientists around the world to discuss their work.

He realized that progesterone probably had a positive effect on bone health and began to get bone density tests for his patients on progesterone. Within a few years he realized that these women were gaining significant bone density – particularly those with the worst bone density to begin with.

Dr Lee’s first books

Dr. Lee was so convinced that his clinical experience with progesterone could have a major positive impact on the health of menopausal women, that he retired from his family practice and devoted all of his time to writing about natural progesterone and giving talks about it.

He self-published a book for doctors called: Natural Progesterone: The Multiple Roles of a Remarkable Hormone and sold it out of his garage, and soon was engaged in a voluminous correspondence with hundreds of women, doctors and scientists from around the world.

He also self-published a book called Optimal Health Guidelines, a general guide to good health written for the class he taught at College of Marin for 15 years.


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A few years later a medical writer named Virginia Hopkins who was suffering herself from early menopausal symptoms came across Dr. Lee’s book and called him to say, “You need to get this information out to the millions of women who are suffering from these symptoms, how about if we do a book together?” Dr. Lee agreed to the plan, and his second book, What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause (Warner Books) was published in 1996.

This book is a “translation” of the medical language in the first book, and expands significantly on the original information.

Progesterone cream takes off

Meanwhile, a progesterone cream industry was springing up, and soon there were dozens of companies selling progesterone cream.

It literally became a multi-million dollar industry within a few years. Why? Because progesterone cream really works to alleviate the symptoms of estrogen dominance and menopausal symptoms in general, and conventional medicine has failed to address these concerns in a safe, effective manner.

Women have intuitively known for decades that they were being mistreated by the medical profession when it came to hormone replacement therapy and have enthusiastically embraced this intuitively obvious and safe solution. Again, the bottom line is that for most women, it works very well and used as directed it is extremely safe. Occasionally there is a flurry of articles claiming that progesterone is not safe, but the research that these claims are based on has always been about the synthetic progestins, not on natural progesterone.

For a detailed explanation of the difference between natural progesterone and synthetic progestins, read What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About The Menopause

Talking to women from thirty to fifty about hormone imbalance

As Dr. Lee traveled around the world giving talks and attending conferences, he soon discovered that at least half of his audience and maybe more was pre-menopausal women from their mid-thirties to their late forties. These women were suffering from a long list of symptoms, including PMS, fibroids, fibrocystic breasts, weight gain, fatigue, endometriosis, irregular or heavy periods, infertility, and miscarriage, which they intuitively knew were due to hormonal imbalance.

When they tried progesterone cream they found that it worked wonderfully well to alleviate their symptoms, and Dr. Lee began to collect stacks of mail from women who had avoided hysterectomy, lost weight, had fibroids shrink, found relief from PMS, and had finally been able to conceive after years of trying.

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This experience led to writing the book What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Premenopause: Balance Your Hormones and Your Life from Thirty to Fifty (Warner).

For this effort, Dr. Lee and Virginia Hopkins teamed up with Jesse Hanley, M.D., a Malibu, CA-based physician with a family practice, who specializes in helping women balance their hormones naturally.

Dr. Hanley brought a rich new dimension to this book of the psychological, spiritual and emotional aspects of the premenopause years, as well as her extensive experience in using herbs and nutritional supplements to achieve hormone balance.

John R. Lee, M.D. passed away unexpectedly on Friday October 17th, 2003, of a heart attack. His work continues however and over the coming weeks we will be featuring some articles by the late Dr Lee which are still very informative on bioidentical hormones and the use of natural progesterone.

Reprinted by permission from The Official Web Site of Dr. John R. Lee, M.D.