ESTROGEN AND PROGESTERONE BALANCE
Dr. John Lee was a world-renowned authority on natural hormonal balance and author of many books. (Dr. Lee died in October 2003). He treated thousands of menopausal women in the 1980s and 1990s with a program that was contrary to popular medical thinking at that time. Instead of prescribing estrogen alone (the standard of medical practice then), Dr. Lee prescribed natural progesterone alone for treatment of menopausal symptoms. In addition to relieving the menopausal symptoms, the treatment was able to reverse osteoporosis and prevent cancer. Studies have confirmed that Dr. Lee’s approach of using progesterone alone had very helpful effects. Dr. Lee has helped many women understand more about menopause and estrogen progesterone balance.
As Dr. Lee states in his book “What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause”: “The prevailing myth in mainstream medicine is that menopause is an estrogen deficiency disease, but estrogen levels drop only 40 to 60 percent at menopause, while progesterone levels can drop to nearly zero.” According to Dr. Lee, what is commonly perceived as an absolute estrogen level deficiency during the menopausal years is in effect estrogen dominance caused by extremely low progesterone level. Since the progesterone’s role is to balance estrogen, the extremely low level of progesterone experienced after menopause leads to a relative dominance of estrogen.
The key to Dr. Lee’s approach was to understand the balance between estrogen and progesterone. In pre-menopausal women, estrogen is always in balance with progesterone. When these two important hormones are out of balance, hormone related illnesses would emerge. Symptoms include weight gain, fatigue, auto-immune disorders, fibrocystic diseases, loss of libido, depression, headaches, joint pain and mood swings. These are just some of the common symptoms experienced during menopause, peri-menopause and the pre-menstrual period.
“Progesterone has an opposing, or balancing effect on estrogen. When progesterone levels drop to near zero, we have Estrogen Dominance, which causes a long list of symptoms. Estrogen Dominance does not necessarily mean a woman has too much estrogen; it simply means that estrogen levels are relatively higher than progesterone, creating hormonal imbalance with its estrogenic side effects.”
Estrogen “deficiency” is quite often used as an explanation of menopausal symptoms or health problems. However, it is not supported by sound research. When a woman’s menstrual cycle is functioning normally, estrogen is the dominant hormone for the first two weeks and is balanced by progesterone, which is the dominant hormone for the latter two weeks. After menopause, estrogen is still present and continues to be manufactured in fat cells. Most menopausal women have too little estrogen to support pregnancy, but sufficient amounts for other normal body functions. Few women are truly deficient in estrogen; most become progesterone deficient. If estrogen becomes the dominant hormone and progesterone is deficient, excess estrogen becomes toxic to the body. Progesterone has a balancing effect on estrogen.
Dr. Lee treats menopause as an estrogen dominance syndrome. His treatment is simple – reduce estrogen to progesterone ratio by increasing progesterone. When the opposing force of progesterone is increased, the toxic effect of estrogen is decreased. Fortunately for many women who follow Dr. Lee’s advice, their menopausal symptoms remarkably reduced.