Suzanne Somers was a passionate advocate for functional medicine, wellness, and healthy living. While she is, sadly, no longer with us, her legacy will live on.
As part of that legacy, Suzanne created Forever Health, a free service that helps patients find qualified physicians who specialize in Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT), as well as preventive and integrative medicine.
One of those physicians is Dr. Lyn Berutti, whom Suzanne interviewed a few years back. In this lively and wide-ranging interview, they discussed vital information about how to achieve a lifetime of health and wellness.
As Suzanne put it when describing the interview:
“Do you often feel like your body is running on empty? You eat right and sleep well, but you still feel like your tank isn’t full? Your adrenal glands might be telling you something. Many people don’t even realize they have adrenal issues. In this interview, Dr. Lyn Berutti and I discuss the adrenals, minor hormones, gut health, cortisol, thyroid, and how it all works together — like a symphony in your body. Watch and learn what you need to get your life back!”
Read the Transcript of This Fascinating Interview with Suzanne Somers of Forever Health
We’ve separated the transcript into sections so you can easily find what you’re looking for.
Suzanne Somers: “Hello, everyone. I’m here today with Dr. Lyn Berutti from Southlake, Texas. I love my Texas doctors. You are so cutting-edge down there and open to new ideas and new ways. What made you get into this arena?’
Dr. Berutti: “I’ve practiced internal medicine for about 23 years and got tired of doing the 10-minute appointments where the patient comes in, we hand them a couple of prescriptions, and we couldn’t really connect with the patient. I decided to go back to get training in functional medicine to learn more root-cause medicine. And during that journey, I also started learning about hormones and cortisol imbalances and how this all impacts the health of the patient. I wanted to get into a practice where I could spend an hour with the patient if I need to.”
SS: “I imagine that the bulk of your patients are either midlife or approaching midlife, where everything changes and nobody understands what’s happening to their bodies. I think being able to have this kind of time with the doctor is so crucial.”
SS: “ I see that you treat adrenal issues. Adrenal issues are tricky.”
Dr. B: “They are. When I first started writing for hormones, I didn’t realize the impact that cortisol can have on your hormonal balance. It is very important, and a lot of people have gone a lot of years with having adrenal issues, and they don’t even know it. I do have a lot of screening questionnaires that I start with. It helps me zero in on what’s going on. The paperwork takes about 45 minutes, so that helps narrow where their symptoms are coming from. I check everyone’s cortisol and hormone levels.”
SS: “For the people thinking that they just need hormones, they need to know it is a symphony, right?”
Dr. B: “Yes, it is. If you have an imbalance of one, the other hormones may not work as well. Especially in light of cortisol, because if cortisol is high it can actually block the receptor site so it can appear as if you don’t have enough. You need to look at the cortisol alongside the hormones.”
SS: “When you test for high cortisol and high/low thyroid, when it comes back and the cortisol is high, is the remedy for you hydrocortisone? How do you get it down?”
Dr. B: “If the cortisol is high, that is a problem. I do start looking for other illnesses that might be triggering it such as infection or autoimmune. These may be triggering the cortisol to run high and it is a defense mechanism where the body is trying to resolve another issue. So, we try to find out if there is a secondary cause. Is it a medical cause or is it a lifestyle issue? A lot of people have lifestyle issues where they’re just Type A, they never rest, they are burning the candle at both ends, they’re taking care of their parents or kids, or they are never sleeping. If the cortisol is high, we need to first find out why and start looking at lifestyle.
SS: “Would an indicator be to you if this patient says that they cannot sleep?”
Dr. B: “It very well could be. When they come in, I have a 50-question survey that they take on their sleep, so it does help me narrow in, and then I also test the cortisol. The cortisol can rise at night, which can cause them to have trouble sleeping because it is supposed to be at the lowest level at night. We can direct treatment not only on lifestyle but also with herbal therapies, vitamins, minerals, adaptogenic herbs, and ashwagandha rhodiola.”
SS: “I notice that you did not mention sleeping pills as a remedy. You are first trying all natural supplements to get the cortisol down. Is it true that chronic high cortisol leads to heart attack, stroke, and diabetes?”
Dr. B: “For sure. It is just not an issue of the cortisol being high and trying to lower it, it can have long term ramifications.”
SS: “When you think of what kills women, it is heart attack and stroke. Is the impetus for this low hormones and if your estrogen and progesterone are low then your cortisol goes high and now we have messed up the whole symphony?”
Dr. B: “It can be. I end up looking at everything so that we end up balancing all the hormones of somebody that has a sleep issue, it may not just be a cortisol issue. Sometimes there are some lifestyle things we need to work on. We look at the cortisol, but then we balance the hormones, and in balancing the hormones it will sometimes help the sleep. Especially if they have low progesterone or estrogen.
Progesterone, Estrogen, and Testosterone
SS: “Let’s talk about low progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone. When a patient comes in, do they already know what is wrong? Is that how they found you?”
Dr. B: “I think many of them have looked on the internet or read books and they can tell me they have all the symptoms or maybe they don’t have their cycle anymore. A lot of the time they have zeroed in and think that they have hormonal issues. There have been cases that I find other things because I’m internal medicine trained, I will look for all types of diseases.”
SS: “Autoimmune disease seems to be a plague right now. I would imagine when someone comes in that has all the symptoms of hormone imbalance, that testing of the gut is key to the work you are doing, right?”
Dr. B: “Definitely. A lot of people will say that they don’t have any symptoms, diarrhea or constipation. I tell them to let me show them the test that we do. It measures how they digest their food, whether they need digestive enzymes, whether they have bacteria, and what their commensal bacteria looks like. We look at all of that. I try not to do all of the testing all at once. It is a time thing where we might gradually start with hormones and cortisol, and then we go into the gut and diet. But certainly if they have autoimmune we always start with the gut.”
SS: “Is that because of toxins getting into the GI tract and eating through the barrier wall leaking into the blood stream? Is that the leaky gut that everybody seems plagued with?”
Dr. B: “That can be an issue. Food allergies, toxins, lifestyle, and diet can all play a role in the leaky gut.”
SS: “So many people have food allergies now. It seems to be more of the norm than not. What do you think has caused that?”
Dr. B: “Over time, people seem to go the same food groups, and if they are not taking care of themselves, they don’t have enough nutrients, or they are stressed out, not sleeping enough or exercising, their immune system gets affected. I think there are some signals that your immune system will start to recognize things as foreign, and then people can develop an allergy.”
SS: “When I was a kid, I never heard the words lupus or fibromyalgia. Hormones were something that women never heard of until much later in life or even. What has changed?”
Dr. B: “There has been a lot of research and a lot of women stepping forward trying to get their questions answered. There has been a lot more safety information coming out about hormones. Initially there was a whole scare of synthetics. I think women are starting to demand answers.”
Finding the Right Doctor
SS: “And then finding the right doctor has been an impediment to wellness because so many of my girlfriends who are baby boomer age, the sixth, seventh, eighth decades of life, believe in that doctor that they have been going to forever. They end up on the “allopathic cocktail.” Is it a re-education for your patients to say “Let’s start eliminating the drugs you’re taking and try to balance with natural substances?”
Dr. B: “Definitely. Even to get patients to see that there are other options. Some patients don’t even realize there are other options. For low blood pressure, they may just be low on some nutrients, or they may have sleep apnea. Just trying to look at the root cause of what is going on with them. It is not that I don’t write for any prescription drugs, but I try to either use it in conjunction or if we can eliminate certain drugs, I will work towards that.”
SS: “I’m not an anti-pharmaceutical. I know you need them sometimes, but if possible, I want to do it without a pharmaceutical. As I watch my older friends who’ve been on allopathic only, I’m seeing an alarming trend on the downturn in their health. One pill leads to the next pill. I applaud what you are doing because in the standard of care it is not a popular direction to take. Thankfully, there are more and more of you.
SS: “How do you treat the patients? Does everybody get the same thing or is it all in one pill? Do you slap some estrogen or progesterone on them? Do you take a blood test?”
Dr. B: “It is extremely individualized. I wish it was easier. I do measure levels, but people do have different detoxification systems in different scenarios, so one dose for one person may not be right for the next. The best thing to do is to measure. We start out with the baseline. I usually measure in saliva to get the estrogen/progesterone ration because that is important in your overall health. Then we test again at two months after we start the hormones. It is just depending on what hormones they need and what age group it is. If they are perimenopausal or menopausal.”
Menopause and Hormone Balance
SS: “If you’re menopausal, which no perimenopausal women thinks she is, why is it so important to become balanced?”
Dr. B: “One of the things is that you can start to lose your progesterone or it can start declining, and your estrogen may still be high. So, you have an imbalance of the two. When this happens, you can end up having an increased risk for breast cancer, weight gain, hair growth where you don’t want it, and moodiness. You don’t want to wait until your tank is empty. It is better to get started early and if you are having symptoms then get tested. I have younger patients where we have just started with the adrenal and we didn’t even need to use the hormones yet.”
SS: “This is such sound advice. I went three years with no hormones. I was miserable. I honestly believe that the reason that I got my breast cancer was my lack of understanding about progesterone drain out. From what I know, that is usually the first hormone to decline. What are those symptoms?”
Dr. B: “It can be weight gain, insomnia, anxiety, bloating, breast tenderness, and moodiness. Those tend to be the more common symptoms.”
SS: “What she is trying to say is estrogen is carcinogenic. Everybody’s afraid of estrogen but nature is so perfect in that progesterone is an anti-carcinogenic. If I had understood that my progesterone was so low, and all I needed to do was fill that tank, I might have dodged that breast cancer bullet. That would have been great information to have. So, going to a doctor like Dr. Berutti, can actually save your life.
Hormones and Quality of Life
SS: “Hormones give you quality of life, right?”
Dr. B: “For sure. As you age, you are going to lose bone strength, sight, sex drive and memory. All of the hormones can work on those things. You definitely don’t want to lose your memory, fall and break a hip, or lose your eyesight. Those are the things that most people worry about. Sex drive is important because it can help with your overall mood and give you a zest for life. It helps with your relationships. It is important to keep your marriage together. A lot of people come in and have no sex drive at all and there could be multiple factors causing that.”
SS: “There is something so unfair about this time of life, because we have done all of the right things for ourselves and then to get to this time of life and find our significant other again and then prefer to have a smoothie over spending time with your person. Some women say that they are so past that. I tell them that they have just forgotten that a healthy person is a sexual person. If you are not a healthy person you want to sleep, eat, and be left alone. It is a whole symphony that works together and it takes time.
What Gets Tested First
SS: “When a patient comes to you, you are going to get their minor hormones first. Estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, DHEA, and pregnenolone. What is the next thing you will look at?”
Dr. B: “The first visit, I will look at all of those, including cortisol. The next time they follow up, we are going to go through more questionnaires and see where their symptoms are and find out if they need testing. Most of them do. Sometimes, we will do nutrient depletion tests. I will do blood tests that will tell us exactly what nutrients they need. Sometimes I do neurotransmitter testing if they are still having issues with mood or depression.”
SS: “Some people are having issues with malabsorption of minerals and nutrients. Why do we care about this?”
Dr. B: “Pretty much all of your health can be fixed with your nutrients. Balancing somebody’s nutrients is very important. The testing for this is not very expensive. We can target, instead of guessing, what nutrients you need. It has been shown that nutrient depletion has led to a lot of chronic illnesses. You can name any chronic illness and there will be a nutrient depletion associated with it.”
SS: “Can you describe why thyroid balance is so important?”
Dr. B: “Thyroid is important for your heart, metabolism, brain, energy, hair, and nails. If you don’t have enough thyroid, you can end up being depressed, lethargic, have weight gain, brain fog, and joint aches just to name a few things.”
SS: “I have two friends in particular who experienced extreme low thyroid or hypothyroid and one was hospitalized and they brought in neurosurgeons and cancer specialists and they put her in a straight jacket. I asked if anyone had look at her thyroid. The doctors took months to look at her thyroid. The other friend of mine went into a depression so severe that she had no will to live and it turned out to be low thyroid. The mainstream doctors don’t have the understanding of the thyroid and the adrenals as those of you who have gone into alternative and integrative medicine. When you look at a patient, you are taught as doctors, that you can assess within the first five minutes what is wrong, but what is a key trigger that would make you question if it is a thyroid imbalance?”
Dr. B: “Lack of motivation, significant weight gain, dry skin, constipation, fatigue, issues with hair, nails or eyebrows.”
SS: “You do toxic screening. Is that to determine the toxic burden in the body?”
Dr. B: “I will do some mineral testing to check for different types of toxins and sometimes I will use some other testing by another company that will zero in on other different toxins. I don’t do it in the initial screenings, but I will talk to the patient if things are pointing in that direction. Then I will order it.”
SS: “It is important to know that Dr. Berutti is measured in that she is not trying to bombard you when you first come in. She is going help you in increments, which is when you’re hormonally imbalanced you need to take it nice and easy. You also deal with weight issues and aesthetics.
Dr. B: “I also do a test called Pathway Fit. It is a genetic blood test; it will help zero in on exactly what diet type is best for your genetics. It comes with a guide that gives you a dietary guide that gives you a printout of food and food groups and how much percentage you need from fats, proteins, or carbohydrates. It will also tell you what type of exercise is best for you and what nutrients you might be depleted in.”
SS: “Is there final advice to give?”
Dr. B: “Find a doctor that is functionally medicine trained that can spend the time with you and do the research. I do talk to each patient personally before we schedule, so I will see if they’re right for the practice and whether or not I can help them or not. I encourage people to keep reading your books and arm yourself with knowledge.”
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