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Dr. John R. Lee - The Pioneer of Natural Progesterone Therapy

Dr. John Lee M.D. was internationally regarded as one of the pioneers of natural progesterone therapy and a staunch advocate against the medicalization of women’s reproductive issues.

Dr. Lee began his career as a family practitioner in North Carolina, but quickly noticed that many of his female patients were suffering from a variety of seemingly unrelated symptoms that could all be explained by hormonal imbalance—in particular, an elevated estrogen/progesterone ratio.

It was Dr. Lee who coined the term “estrogen dominance” to explain the array of distressing symptoms experienced by both pre-menopausal and menopausal women. Symptoms such as dry eyes, moodiness, gall bladder problems, unexplained weight gain, hair loss, lumpy and painful breasts, and joint pain, were all found to result from a deficiency in progesterone. The standard medical treatment at the time was synthetic estrogen supplementation, but many of Dr. Lee’s patients were unable to tolerate estrogen due to other health issues.


Fortunately for his patients, and ultimately women around the world, Dr. Lee was influenced by the work of biochemist Dr. Ray Peat, PhD, who stated in a scathing criticism of the medical profession that the latter had ignored the importance of natural progesterone in the care of women’s health. As Dr. Lee was to later comment:

We had all been taught that menopause leads to a variety of female complaints that represented estrogen deficiency. We had believed it obvious to treat such patients with estrogen. Yet here was a PhD in biochemistry telling us we were wrong.

Dr. Lee’s subsequent success in treating the symptoms of his pre-menopausal and menopausal patients with natural progesterone led to a revolution in the treatment of women’s reproductive problems. However, the message was slow to disseminate among his colleagues, largely due to the powerful influence of pharmaceutical companies who had vested interests in women continuing to take prescribed synthetic hormones. It proved to be a long and difficult battle and led to the release of several books, most prominently his second publication: What your Doctor may not tell you about Menopause, which ultimately became a world-wide best seller.

Dr Lee explains that the reason why it has been so difficult to obtain accurate information regarding natural progesterone from traditional health-care providers is that:

Pharmaceutical sales success and profit are…also dependent on the patentability of the compounds to be sold. Since natural compounds (i.e.., the hormone molecule as made by the ovary) cannot be patented, it is in the interest of the pharmaceutical industry to create compounds which are not identical to the natural hormone and are nowhere found in nature.

He notoriously quipped that:

The medical mindset of estrogen prescribed alone represents a victory of advertising over science.

Dr. Lee had a distinguished medical career, graduating from both Harvard and the University of Minnesota Medical School. His 30-year family medical practice provided fertile ground for assisting thousands of women who sought his help, and his research skills triggered a lifetime interest in the study and use of natural progesterone therapy. He was instrumental in changing the way in which women’s health is both taught and practiced, and will long be remembered as the voice of reason who spoke out strongly against both the medical establishment and the power of multinational drug companies.

Dr. John Lee passed away on October 17, 2003.