Dr. Maria Benito-Herrero
Maria (Adi) Benito-Herrero, M.D. is board-certified in Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism. She attended medical school in Spain and completed a residency in Internal Medicine at Pennsylvania Hospital (University of Pennsylvania Health System) and a fellowship in Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism at the University of Pennsylvania. She has also completed a two-year fellowship in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona Center of Excellence in Integrative Medicine, where she is guest faculty. She has developed the curriculum for an integrative endocrinology module which has been incorporated to the fellowship. She is a certified meditation teacher (Khalsa Healing Arts and Yoga Center) under the mentorship of Mahan Rishi Singh and Nirbhe Kaur Khalsa and she is currently studying herbal medicine at the David Winston's Center for Herbal Studies.
Your area of specialization is so interesting: developing integrative treatment plans for the prevention of endocrine disorders and treating Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, osteopenia and osteoporosis, metabolic syndrome, polycystic ovarian syndrome, pre-diabetes, menopausal symptoms, and patients with diabetes. How did you arrive at this area of focus?
I trained as an endocrinologist evaluating and treating people’s hormonal status. In my current practice, I work developing integrative treatment or preventive plans for those with hormonal disorders. An integrative plan incorporates medications when needed, lifestyle, mind-body, and botanicals or supplements. It is very rewarding to help prevent medical conditions such as diabetes, which is why I like to work with those diagnosed with PCOS and prediabetes, as well as helping women with menopausal symptoms and those with thyroid disease.
How did you first begin integrating alternative medical modalities into your practice?
My initial path to integrative medicine was fueled by a desire to learn more about nutrition and by the need to guide my patients when looking for a supplement. I also wanted to help patients feel better, especially those who found that there was no allopathic cause (or treatment) for their dis-ease. I joined the Integrative Medicine Fellowship at the University of Arizona and learned about how to integrate nutrition, mind-body, complementary systems, supplements and botanicals into my treatment plans. When I finished, I wanted to learn more about herbs. Once I had the tools, I began to incorporate those into my treatment plans.
Take us through your process for developing a patient’s course of treatment in your practice.
In general, I evaluate patients much like any other physician does: I take a history, perform a medical examination and have them undergo laboratory tests. Once I understand their problem and what is causing it, I design a treatment protocol which might involve a combination of allopathic treatments (thyroid hormone or other medications), dietary modifications, botanicals as appropriate for the patient, and/or specific supplements. So, let’s say I am treating a patient who has Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune condition which is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the Western world. That person might need medical treatment with thyroid hormone, and I will review the options for treatment with the patient. In addition, that person is at risk for other autoimmune conditions, such as celiac disease and others associated with low vitamin B12 and iron, and I will test for (and treat) those conditions. When addressing the person, I will choose botanicals that help autoimmunity, and which are specific to the person’s concerns, so I might use ashwagandha if the person has anxiety (Hashimoto’s has been associated with anxiety), combine it with reishi if there a history of allergies or poor sleep, and add bacopa if the person has brain fog, and/or black cumin seed, if in addition to anxiety and brain fog there are gastrointestinal complaints. I find that botanicals work well to support my patients’ wellbeing.
You studied herbal medicine under David Winston. How did you find David, and how has herbalist training augmented your medical practice?
I completed my herbal studies with David Winston in 2017. I took the 2-year class and then the two one-year post-graduate programs David offers. David is a fantastic clinician. I learned a tremendous amount about botanicals; most importantly how to use them for a particular person (not for a particular condition). I loved learning and practicing the triune system of formulating. Learning about botanicals and how to use them has significantly enhanced my practice. Because of my herbalist training with David, I can safely and effectively offer patients botanical formulations to complement their allopathic treatment plan and most importantly to optimize their wellbeing.