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Devaki Lindsey Berkson on Bioidentical Hormones for Long-Term Health

Apr 30, 2021 09:30AM ● By Linda Sechrist
Hormone scholar and nutrition and gut expert Dr. Devaki Lindsey Berkson

Hormone scholar Dr. Devaki Lindsey Berkson, a nutrition and gut expert as well as a continuing education professor for medical doctors and pharmacists, frequently lectures at conferences to clarify misinformation about hormones, such as the difference between synthetic hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and plant-based bioidentical hormone therapy (BHT). 

This peer-reviewed, published researcher is the bestselling author of Safe Hormones Smart Women and Sexy Brain: How Sizzling Intimacy & Balanced Hormones Prevent Alzheimer’s, Cancer, Depression & Divorce and a breast cancer survivor of 26 years. 

Why do you refer to hormones as nature’s physiologic internet system?

Hormones send invaluable “email” signals to cells throughout the entire body and brain.

What is the difference between HRT and BHT?

Synthetic hormones are altered by pharmaceutical companies to make them profitable. Bioidentical hormones are like those made by the body and designed by Mother Nature. I advise tracking hormone levels every decade throughout life to determine which levels help an individual feel their best. Unfortunately, doctors are still being taught that hormones are mainly important for reproductive or sexy things, addressing issues like peri- or post-menopause, andropause, erectile dysfunction or disease.

How did the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) affect the use of hormones?

Up until 2002, when WHI prematurely stopped one of its hormone study groups which was prescribed a combination of Premarin plus synthetic progesterone, estrogen therapies were the recommended standard of care for menopausal women and the biggest-selling pharmaceuticals in history. Medical journals, research institutions and expert cancer doctors accepted that estrogen was safe and did not increase the risk of breast cancer.

Carried out by the U.S. National Institutes of Health from 2002 to 2008, WHI conducted a series of 40 group studies following the health of 161,809 postmenopausal women. Studies covered various aspects of aging women’s health from diet, bone health and nutrients to heart health and the risk of hormone-driven cancers, as well as two randomized trials on hormone therapies. The resulting claims that the HRT combo of Premarin plus synthetic progestin significantly increased the risks of breast cancer, cardiac events, Alzheimer’s disease and stroke alarmed the public and huge numbers of U.S. doctors stopped prescribing hormones.

What has changed?

By 2004, re-analysis of the combo study demonstrated opposite findings, and a 19-year follow-up WHI analysis revealed that estrogen protects against breast cancer while on it and even 10 years after, while progestins do the opposite. Dr. Leon Speroff, professor at the University of Oregon and the physician who authored Clinical Gynecologic Endocrinology and Infertility, twice concluded after reviewing every statistical nuance of the WHI, “There continues to be good reason to believe that there are benefits associated with treatment, including improvement of quality of life beyond the relief of hot flushes, maximal protection against osteoporotic fractures, a reduction in colorectal cancers, maintenance of skin elasticity and the possibility of primary prevention of coronary heart disease and Alzheimer’s.”

Although new science clearly showed that hormones rule body and brain health and are critical for staying healthy, fighting illness long-term rather than short-term and lowering mortality timing by preventing heart attacks and strokes, CEOs of Big Pharma companies that provided the synthetic hormones used in the WHI trials continued to fight hard against BHT formulated by compounding pharmacists. Now these very same CEOs have released a BHT combination of estradiol and progesterone and are writing in peer review studies about how much better and safer it is. Big Pharma intends be the sole source of supply. They plan to do that by eliminating their competition: compounding pharmacies. 

What is your experience with compounding pharmacists?

The FDA purports that compounding pharmacies are dangerous, unregulated and use items that are too complicated to compound. Not true. Compounding pharmacists are skilled professionals at mixing bioidentical hormones to a doctor’s prescription. I’ve successfully been using compounding pharmacies for more than 30 years. A compounding pharmacist should be part of the health team when natural, bioidentical hormones are prescribed. Their knowledge can provide a wealth of experience for doctor and the patient. Furthermore, they provide an invaluable service at manufacturing a safe product that is unique for a particular patient.

Hormones are so critical that even if you’re prescribed HRT, it’s better than losing out for decades on the hormone signals that keep your body younger and less inflamed. To be without healthy hormone signals is an aging and pro-inflammatory process to the body. In other words, get hormones any way you can. While synthetic is better than nothing, bioidentical trumps synthetic.

Dr. Lindsey Berkson offers a podcast archive, blog, newsletter and membership opportunities that include live, monthly, Zoom conversations.

Linda Sechrist is a senior staff writer for Natural Awakenings.

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