Ep. 99: Hormones, Birth Control, and Your and Your Daughter’s Health Interview with Dr. Jolene Brighten
Today we talk with Dr. Jolene Brighten. She is a Women’s Health expert and the leading authority on Post-Birth Control Syndrome. She’s a functional medicine naturopathic doctor. She’s the founder of Rubus Health in Portland, Oregon. She’s a best selling author. She’s a speaker and a regular contributor to MindBodyGreen and other online publications. And she’s a medical advisor for one of the first ever data driven apps to help women get personalized birth control recommendations. Having graduated with a degree in nutritional biochemsitry and clinical nutrition, she understands the science behind the issues but also clearly recognizes and understands the uniqueness of each of us as individuals and works closely in partnership with her patients to unearth their own root cause and help them reclaim their health and their life. The discussion we have in this episode is especially important for anyone having been on birth control or has a daughter or loved one who ever has or is considering getting on the pill.
LINKS AND RESOURCES:
Connect with Dr. Brighten: Click Here
Pre-Order Dr. Brighten’s Book “Ditch the Pill”: Click Here
Get the Free 9 Questions For Your Natural Hormone Replacement Doctor: Click Here
Learn more about The Hormone Health Revolution: Click Here
Robyn: Hey everyone, it’s Robyn Openshaw and Welcome back to The Vibe show. I have some great announcements of stuff coming up. Next week, it’s our hundredth episode, so we’re really excited around here and we’ve been thinking how we can best serve you and celebrate our hundredth episode anniversary at the same time. And so we are kicking off a series called “Learn from Our Elders”.
Dr. Jeffrey Bland is who I interviewed first and he is really maybe one of the biggest pioneers of the functional medicine movement. He’s a massively published author. I think he has 250 peer reviewed journal articles published as well as about a dozen books, plus he’s just a delightful person. I’ve never met one of his colleagues who’s been in medicine and a clinical nutrition and some of these other fields for 10 or 20 years who don’t think the world of him. So I’m very excited to interview him because he’s 72 and he’s doing his best work yet.
That’s who we are interviewing is, I wanted people who are over 65 years old and they don’t live in the Blue Zones. Right? We’ve been talking a lot on the show about the blue zones and what we learned about a long and vibrant, fun, exciting, rich tapestry of a life in the five cultures of the world that live to be over 100 in high numbers. But what about here in the modern world? In the first world where the only blue zone that comes out of the first world is in Loma Linda, California, where the Seventh Day Adventists eat a plant based diet and the only thing they drink is water and there’s lots to learn there.
But I wanted to find people who were over 65 and they haven’t gone to pasture. They’re not, you know, hanging out in a lawn chair at the pool. They are out there creating and they’re taking that massive amount of academic and life experience knowledge and putting it to use to serve their communities. And they have major roles in their families. Their minds are sharp, their bodies are fit. I want to learn what they know.
So we’re going to be interviewing people like Mimi Kirk who was named by PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the sexiest Vegan alive. I think the sexiest female Vegan alive in her, I think in her late sixties or something like that. So you learn how old she is and what she has learned along the way that you and I really want to tap into. So Jeffrey Bland will be our first speaker in this series and we might just intersperse some other content for the next couple of months.
But I am really excited about this series because I almost in Grad school, specialized in a geriatric therapy or working with elders because I love to sit and listen to their stories. They have so much to offer. And our culture here in the US doesn’t do a very good job of respecting and downloading the wisdom of our elders. So we are going to turn that all around and we’re going to do it here on The Vibe Show.
But I’m also excited about today’s interview because it’s a friend of mine, Dr. Jolene Brighten. And she kicks off a really exciting new thing that we’ve been working on all year here at GreenSmoothieGirl. And there’s a freebie for you that you can get right now or you can get it after the podcast episode. But Dr Alan Christianson, another friend who I have interviewed here on the show before and I collaborated on a resource for you to educate you about how to find a good functional medicine practitioner for your hormone health.
My observation is that the vast majority of women over 40 and an increasing number of women over 30, and men, have major hormone dysregulation. And it’s causing all kinds of symptoms from unexplained weight gain to loss of energy to hair falling out, to hands and feet being cold when they shouldn’t be, to loss of libido. And probably the most common symptom is just fatigue. And so many women complain of this to us, but then they have a hard time finding a good practitioner. Because, your typical medical doctor, is going to prescribe you synthetic chemicals instead of natural hormone replacement.
So we’ve created a course and it is by Dr. Jolene Brighten who you’re about to hear from. She has five video modules that are incredible. She is so fantastic! In our course called “The Healthy Hormone Revolution Video Masterclass”.
We also have five modules by a local doctor, Dr. Rob Jones, who he and his wife, who is known in the LDS faith as Sister Joy D. Jones. She is, uh, one of the few female LDS general authorities. And they showed up at my Swiss retreat this summer and everybody who came was completely blown away by a really down to earth, lots of examples in it, talk by Dr. Rob Jones about hormones. So he is the second doctor featured in it. He has five video modules.
And then my dear friend, Dr. Alan Christianson, who is a bit of a mentor for me, we mastermind together. He did 17 video modules, all three of these experts, he’s in Scottsdale, Arizona. He’s been treating people with his naturopathic medical doctor degree for a couple of decades now.
And between the three of them, we are bringing you an incredible course. Uh, there’s a huge discount going on while we launch it, which is this week, if you’re hearing this as we release this episode. And you could find the course at: greensmoothiegirl.com/hormones. You can also find the nine questions for your natural hormone replacement doctor. You can get that for free at greensmoothiegirl.com/9questions. That’s numeral nine, greensmoothiegirl.com/9 questions. Make sure you download that and print it out because it’s going to be a really great resource for you to know how to talk to a functional medicine practitioner to make sure that he or she is a right fit for you to make sure that they know as much as you need them to know to be a really excellent partner in getting your hormones back on track.
Now, maybe you haven’t been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s like I was when I was 33. Maybe you don’t know what the diagnosis is. Maybe you’re very early in wondering, do I have hormone dysregulation? Well, most people in the toxic world, unless they’ve been eating an organic, mostly plant based Diet, they live where the air is clean, etc. Most people unfortunately have some hormone dysfunction. It could cause some serious misery. It’s not something where you know it’s a rush you into surgery like cancer, but it can overtime do some real damage to your emotional health as well as your physical health.
So I’m really excited to introduce you today to Dr. Jolene Brighten. She’s a functional medicine naturopathic doctor, and she’s the founder of Rubus Health in Portland, Oregon. It’s a women’s medicine clinic and it specializes in women’s hormones. She’s about to come out with a book on post-birth control syndrome. And so a lot of the folks who listen to our show, are parents and they’re parents of young adult children like I am. This is one that you’re going to want to have your adult children listen to because she can speak like almost no one else I know to the long term side effects associated with hormonal contraceptives.
She’s a best-selling author. She’s a speaker, she’s a regular contributor to MindBodyGreen and other online publications. And she’s a medical advisor for one of the first ever data driven apps to help women get personalized birth control recommendations. You’re going to learn here a lot about women’s hormone health, uh, but make sure that any young woman, you know who’s considering using chemical birth control or is using it, hears this episode.
So welcome, to The Vibe Show, Dr. Jolene Brighten.
Jolene Brighten: Hi there. Thanks so much for having me.
Robyn: So what are you most excited about these days?
Jolene Brighten: You know, my kid just went back to school, so that’s pretty exciting right now. I know any mom listening knows how exciting that can be. Um, so that’s one thing I’m very excited about because I actually love making my kids’ lunches. Um, it’s like very cathartic for me.
Robyn: I’ve heard exactly zero women say that ever.
Jolene Brighten: Haha. Well you should get on my Instagram and check out the lunches I make. I have like a whole formula I go by, like a minimum of three protein, three vegetables, like um, it’s fun. And my kid, he’s not a picky eater. He loves just about anything and everything. So It makes it enjoyable to pack his lunch and put it together. And yeah, he doesn’t bother, other moms will tell me, “My kid wouldn’t even eat half of that. How do you get them to eat that?” I’m like, it’s just, this is the only food he’s ever known. I’ve always put it in front of them. So I kinda had a leg up with that.
Robyn: Yeah, that’s so great. if you, you know, people are always like, my kid won’t eat this. And I’m like well if that’s all there is to eat, he will after, after a while.
Jolene Brighten: True story. And you have four, so you, you are definitely more seasoned than I am in the food battles that can happen.
Robyn: I thought I had it all figured out because the first three kids were just vacuum cleaners, you know, whatever I put in front of them, it was like smushed up raw broccoli, whatever they would eat it. And then the fourth one happened and he was a picky eater and I’m like, how did I get a picky eater? I don’t even give you any bad food, but yeah, so it’s a real thing. The struggle is real.
But I’m really excited to talk to you today, Jolene, because you have this book coming out and I think it’s a really important subject. I think there’s so few young women getting on the pill, I got on the pill myself when I was 20, and was getting married and I had no idea what I was about to unleash on my body. So you are an expert in post-birth control syndrome. Before I knew you, I had heard you on some other podcasts. I’m excited we’re finally making this happen and we’ll talk about your book that hasn’t released yet, but I think it’s going to be a runaway best seller. And I think it’s going to do a lot of premenopausal women a lot of good. Let’s talk a minute about how many women are on the pill and what they’re using it for?
Jolene Brighten: Oh, totally, you know, I love talking about this because so many of us just did not know. So I did the pill for 10 years and I don’t judge any woman for doing the pill or any birth control. But it’s really something that as doctors we’re doing women a great disservice by not cluing them into all the ways they need to protect their body. But also what can these hormones really do to us?
And you know this really, when you start to think about it in that way, we’ve got a 100 million women worldwide. There’s estimated about 11 million or more in America are using hormonal birth control. And what’s really scary about it is that there have been studies done showing that upwards of 60, some surveys have even said 65 percent of women, their number one reason for using hormonal birth control is to manage symptoms and not prevent pregnancy.
Now that can be a secondary reason, but this is really startling because it’s, you know, and your whole tribe knows, because I know you’re so good at educating your women. Our symptoms have a root cause. And when we come in with something like birth control, uh, you know, 60 percent of women being given this to treat symptoms, we can find ourselves, you know, developing things down the line that could have been prevented or being met with a diagnosis of infertility and sometimes even scarier things.
Robyn: Yeah. Until I knew you, I never connected my one year on the pill to my then five years of infertility. Question though? What percentage of women on the pill do we have like certain number of millions?
Jolene Brighten: In America, it’s about 11 million women.
Robyn: Wow. Yeah. This is a really, really important message. I can see why you’re so passionate about it just because I know your content. I just this last week watched your five video modules in the hormone course we have, “Healthy Hormone Revolution”. It’s at greensmoothiegirl.com/hormones right now as we’re releasing this and it’s absolutely fantastic. We’re not going to cover everything that you talked about in those video modules. And I asked you to do one on STIs or aka STDs and I learned some really interesting things. But every woman who is sexually active, every woman who’s considering the pill, every woman who’s in childbearing years should hear what you have to say. So, are they using birth control to prevent pregnancy for the most part or not?
Jolene Brighten: So the estimate is, that it’s less than half of women are actually using birth control for pregnancy prevention. Now it’s a hard thing to really flesh out because there’s, there’s this, okay, it can take care of your acne, we can treat your acne, and by the way you won’t get pregnant. And so, you know, it’s a hard thing to quantify right now, but what the experts are saying is that the majority are using it for symptom management. And it’s something to keep in mind that, you know, hormonal birth control, so the pill specifically was the first drug ever introduced into our market that was for healthy women, for healthy people. And so this was revolutionary for the pharmaceutical industry because now they could offer a medication to people who are healthy, which you know, up until that point it was that you had to be sick and get a diagnosis first.
And you know, it’s something that in our history I want to say absolutely it’s been instrumental in moving us forward as women. Like I’m a first generation college student, I went all the way to the doctor and part of that is because I had the pill and I didn’t get pregnant. And so we can absolutely recognize that. But we can also see that in a lot of ways, you know, we kind of got misled with all of this because what followed after the introduction of the pill was, the story about being a woman.
And I call it the old story because I think we’re really starting to step in and write the new story. And that old story is that you are inherently broken, your hormones in your body are betraying you and the only thing that’s gonna save you is a pharmaceutical intervention. And most of the time that’s the pill, and then the IUD came out and we started to get these other contraceptive options.
But you know, they come with a lot of side effects and they don’t really address the root cause. And really like the message of my book. And I’m always telling people I am not anti-birth control. I am pro-informed consent. That you have all the knowledge, all the information so you can make the best decision for yourself because you as an individual matter greatly in all of this. And at the same time, I want to show women that these symptoms, like nobody likes PMS or insomnia or hot flashes or acne. Nobody likes any of that, but they’re your body’s way of telling you something’s going on.
And you are smart enough. And this is the other story we’ve been sold, is that we’re not smart enough to figure out our hormones because they’re just too complicated. And that’s why when you asked me to be part of your series “The Hormone Revolution”, I’m like, “Yeah, sign me up”. Because women are smart enough and they live in their body, which means that they’re the experts on themselves. And you can actually educate women.
I’ve seen this in my clinical practice. You know, there’s the series that you’re doing. And what I aim to do with my book is to show women that there are better solutions beyond birth control that you can use to really not just manage your symptoms, but to, you know, get your hormones in a place of balance and optimize them so that you can leverage them for what their benefits are. Which our hormones, I mean, just the brain alone is so impacted by these hormones. These synthetic hormones, they do us a disservice. And your natural hormones actually make you like a multitasking ninja, helps you connect to community. I mean there’s so many ways that we can leverage our own natural hormones to feel amazing.
Robyn: So if we use chemical birth control and maybe you want to run through some of the brand names out there, and maybe talk about the how the copper IUD now, the Mirena, is people think they’re getting the copper IUD, but really they’re getting something a little extra that isn’t so great. But, what are some of the brand names and if it’s used for symptom management, does chemical birth control even have the ability to help balance hormones?
Jolene Brighten: Oh! I love that question. This is why I love talking with you. Because this is what women are asking me all the time is, you know, they’ll say, my doctor gave me hormonal birth control to balance my hormones. Like he said, this is the only, or she sometimes, this is the only thing that will balance my hormones. And the reality is, is that hormonal birth control works by shutting down communication between your brain and your ovaries. So if you’re taking a pharmaceutical or using any kind of synthetic hormone, I just want to flush out, these aren’t the same as bio-identical and we can certainly talk more about that. But if you’re using synthetic hormones that shut down your entire reproductive system, how on earth could they balance your hormones? Your hormones aren’t even functioning or working at that point.
And so, you know, with birth control, and there are so many wonderful, beautiful names for birth control, um, there really are. I mean, when you think about like Mirena and Skyla those are our IUDs, Kyleena, they’re pretty names. And so those are some of the progestin based IUDs. It’s very important to understand that progestin is not progesterone and even your doctor and pharmacist get confused about that. Your natural progesterone helps your mood, helps with, uh, you know, losing water weight. So it’s a natural diuretic. It helps you sleep, maintain a healthy pregnancy.
Whereas, progestins can actually, you know, they can be harmful in pregnancy. These synthetic progestins are associated with mood disorders. They can actually cause heart Issues and we see that, uh, so like heart attack and stroke and we see the progestins that are in the specific brands of birth control known as Yaz, Yasmin, and Ocella, those ones in particular because of how they are, they cause shifts in your electrolytes, they’ve been associated with higher risk of stroke and heart attack. And so those are some of the most common ones for women to look out for.
And then to your point with the copper IUD. So you know, the copper IUD is the only non-hormonal IUD. So that’s a very important thing to understand. You’ve only got one choice and it’s the copper IUD. And with the copper IUD, you know, it’s a very interesting thing, you know, women’s medicine is interesting and how little research we actually have. But you know, we see that some women do great with the copper IUD. and I, and I say this because if a woman in my practice, so I never make their birth control decision, it is my job as a physician to provide them with the information and then to have them come to that decision on their own and then get supported in whatever that decision is.
And so when it comes to any birth control with the copper IUD being no exception, we get baseline labs, we get baseline symptoms and then once they have that placed, then we go from there monitoring. And with the copper IUD, you know, something that’s interesting about it is there’s women who love their copper IUD and there’s women who do great. Then there’s other women like me and other patients I have. Um, I had heavy, painful periods before I went on the birth control, which made the birth control pill a Savior for me in a lot of ways. I wish someone would have just told me I had an estrogen dominance and elevated prostoglandins because I would have handled that so much easier.
But I got a copper IUD after I came off the pill. I didn’t want to get pregnant and because I had a history of heavy periods and painful periods, they got a whole lot worse. And I’m just a stubborn person, which is why I did it. And I thought like, oh, I know better. Nope. It was real. So if you have heavy or painful periods, copper IUD is not for you. It’ll make it worse.
But the other thing about the copper IUD is that sometimes we do start to see changes with zinc in particular. Um, there’s research saying that the copper stays localized. Um, the body just doesn’t work like that. The uterus is not an air vacuum container. Things don’t necessarily stay localized. But the research will say yes, the copper can become elevated in the uterine space. Like you’re gonna have higher concentration, but it’s not to be worried about, it doesn’t go synthetic.
And then they’ll say, but if you have a copper storage disease, that means that you build up copper toxicity easier than the average human, you shouldn’t use that. So to me that says we just don’t know and we should monitor and we should watch. Because the other thing we see is that sometimes after the copper IUD is placed, um, thyroid conditions can start to develop. And it’s very much again something we need more research in.
On the flip side though, there has been research showing that, uh, having the copper IUD placed, actually can help with clearing human papillomavirus, HPV, which is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections there are that women need to be concerned about. And that hormonal birth control does not protect against.
Robyn: Okay, interesting. So the copper IUD is somewhat problematic. Still would be your preference versus any kind of chemical birth control?
Jolene Brighten: So again, it’s really up to the woman who is sitting in front of me. I really think if it comes to symptoms, I do not want you to using hormonal birth control because, so you know, for instance, let me use the example of polycystic ovarian syndrome, PCOS. So this is a condition that’s rooted in metabolic issues. So there’s insulin dysregulation, blood sugar dysregulation and inflammation. These women are in a much higher risk of developing heart disease and diabetes and stroke. And these are all things that hormonal birth control can push you towards.
Okay, so the average woman on hormonal birth control, so especially listen to this ladies, if you’ve been on hormonal birth control, there’s a recent study that came out, six months or more in your life, you have about a 35 percent increased risk of developing diabetes when you enter menopause. Like that’s no joke there. That’s what these hormones can do to your body.
So if you’re a woman with PCOS, how do you typically present to your doctor? Acne and irregular periods. To which your doctor meets you with hormonal birth control and says, “here we can make that skin better. And by the way, will regulate your period”. That period you’re having while you’re on the pill is a withdrawal bleed. It’s not really a period. So you are basically taking a medication that you withdraw from and that triggers a bleed. There’s no ovulation. So you don’t have real menstruation without ovulation.
So in a woman like that, if she’s met with the birth control pill as her only solution. She’s given that at like 14, 15. Then at 35, she wants to become pregnant, so now we’ve got decades of a hormone disrupting brain and ovarian communication, which by the way you need a good decade to mature that.
So if you get on the pill at any point, this is part of why post-birth control syndrome can just, you know, just be the worst for women and that’s because their brain in their ovaries have to kind of go through puberty again. They have to figure out how to communicate. So this woman’s 35, now she’s being met with a diagnosis of infertility because rather than addressing the root cause, her doctor has been masking it and she’s developing diabetes or maybe she’s got the diagnosis of pre-diabetic and we’re starting to see unfavorable changes with her heart as well.
That is very concerning for something that you could have educated a 14 year old girl about, that you could have taken care of her and that you could have supported her In a way that she could have conserved her fertility. And ladies, if you have PCOS and you’re listening to this, this does not seal the deal that you’re infertile. So just know that. Lots of PCOS women get pregnant and they often tend to get pregnant later in life, so they’re the ones that get pregnant at like 38 with a woops baby.
So you know that’s where I take issue, when we use it to manage symptoms without a question of why. Now, if you choose yourself to use that hormonal birth control to manage symptoms for whatever reason, you still need your doctor supporting it because there are many side effects that come along with this. But when it comes to your fertility and not wanting to have a baby, every form of birth control has its own side effects. So I of course would love to see more women opting towards fertility awareness method if that works for them.
Whether or not you use that to prevent a baby, I think it is, as a physician, I love it when ladies are practicing this because they know when they’re ovulating, they know their temperature spikes. They know if they’re seeing fertile cervical mucus. They have all of this data and information that really helps guide me in providing them the best care. So there’s the fertility awareness method, not to be confused with rhythm method. The fertility awareness method is much more scientifically based and it has more to do with your body temperature and tracking your own data. Whereas the rhythm method is a lot more about kind of guessing where you’re at in the calendar.
So then we have the copper IUD, we have condoms, we have diaphragms, we have the sponge. So we’ve got these other non-hormonal contraceptives. I actually have multiple articles on this because I get asked about it so much and I detail this in my book, “Ditch the Pill” because I’m not about to tell women, hey, there’s problems with your birth control and then have them feel like, well, my only option is to risk getting pregnant. But you know, if you cannot get pregnant and you cannot do hormonal birth control, a copper IUD is a good option. But you have to track your data, understand once it’s placed that it may not work for you, and to monitor that and speak up to your doctor.
If any contraceptive that you’re using doesn’t seem to work for you and you’re having new onset of symptoms. Don’t wait, go talk to your doctor. And if your doctor is like, yeah, it’s probably not related, but inside, even deep inside that little voice is like, yeah, no, I think it is. Get a second opinion. There’s no problem with disagreeing with your doctor and getting a second opinion and just checking in to see, hey, is there, is there another expert who may be able to help me here?
Robyn: Yeah. I’m so glad to hear you say that and I love your whole message of empowering women to make their own decisions. And that’s going to serve them well for a long, long time. Whether they’re you know, mothers or in their professional career. We’ve got to help women be able to find their voice, speak up, disagree with the authority if it doesn’t feel right, listen to our intuition. I love the name of your book. I love “Ditch the Pill” because it’s really, it’s so in keeping with how you talk to your audience, you talk to the millennials like a millennial.
Jolene Brighten: I’m older than millennials though for the record.
Robyn: You are, but not much. Not much. And you know, you know how to talk to them in their own language and I think that’s gonna be really useful in getting this message out. Because, I come from a holistic mom and a holistic grandmother, I mean, my grandmother did the Gerson therapy and said no to chemo and radiation, like we’re that kind of people, and I still didn’t know to not get on the pill. And I’ve told my daughters who are young adults, they are 21 and 23. I’ve said, “hey, you know, I don’t stick my nose into your business about very many things. Live your life, make your choices, but please, please don’t get on birth control without an extensive conversation with me because I have a lot to say about it and I want to save you from a lot of heartache.”
My own experience with the pill, it was less than a year, but I got off the pill because I didn’t like my husband anymore. I got on it and I was just like, get away from me. You don’t smell good, you don’t, I don’t want, no, just no. And obviously that’s bad for a newlywed. And so I got off of it just to get my libido back. So I think I hear you saying that if a woman stops birth control, she’s not necessarily going to go right back to health because there’s an entire syndrome around the fallout from that. Sometimes the long term consequences of it. And you mentioned infertility as being one of the things that more and more data is emerging about.
But what about libido? Talk about libido and the pill. And if they get off the pill, then do they get their libido back?
Jolene Brighten: Oh, I wish I could just say yes. So for every woman who is listening, you know, this is something really important to understand. I want you to hear it from a doctor. And that is that your libido, your interest in sex and your ability to have an orgasm are very important markers of your health and they are a sign of vitality. It is not normal to not want to have sex and to not be able to have an orgasm. And, you know, what you were talking about, getting on the pill and now you didn’t like the way your husband smelt. Well, we saw this in animals studies. So actually primates.
You know, decades ago, interestingly, you know, we’ve had this conversation before about how drug trials on primates actually showed that like they make the men crazy. Um, so ladies, it’s not just us but also it affects our mate selection. And so that all has to do with, I mean, I wrote about this a lot in my book, so if you’re a nerd, you’re going to love this, because it’s all about you trying to select the mate with the most genetic variation so that your baby has the most robust and strong immune system.
And so when women get on hormonal birth control, they can no longer be attracted to their mate. I have seen patients get divorced, fall out of love. But get off of these hormones, and suddenly they will want everything to do with that guy again. And I think I’ve shared this with you before, that, like I knew my husband for 10 years. We were friends. We went to college together. He was in love with me. I was like, whatever, whatever. I went off of birth control. I rolled out of my post-birth control syndrome because I went through that too. And then I was like, I can’t get enough of him. And it was his smell. Like he was the one when I was writing my book and I was telling him about this research and he was like, “do you remember how like I would ride my bike” (he’s a bike commuter) “and I would get home and you’d be like, you stink. So good!” Like I love that.
So you know, this is a real phenomenon. and it very much, there’s a lot of experts starting to call attention to the fact that we’re messing with mate selection when we are putting women on hormonal birth control and that may be having a long term impact on the genetics of the human species. Which kind of gives me goosebumps because that’s just scary. You know, it was like, “yay, we can control our reproductive health”. And now we’re like, “oh woops, maybe we’re doing a little more damage than good in some of these regards”. And it’s just something we need more research on, we need to reflect on and we need to have honest conversations about.
Now to your point about libido. Because, I had to preface with all that. Sometimes it is the guy, sometimes it is about that dude, you’re just not having a good relationship and he’s not for you. And that’s okay. So we just have to acknowledge that first. But if you got on the pill and you lost your libido, I mean the, the running joke is, is the way that hormonal birth control works best is to kill your libido. Now you don’t even want to have sex. What is going on on the physiological level is that that hormonal birth control is very hard on the liver. So your liver has got to detox all of that. And what it actually does is it changes the genetic expression of a protein known as sex hormone binding globulin.
So let that sink in. Hormonal birth control changes the genes in your liver so that you put out more sex hormone binding globulin, which then grabs onto your testosterone. And that’s how it can help with that cystic acne that’s being driven by testosterone or you know, the hair growth on the chin, chest and abdomen, like women with PCOS get. But the problem is, is that it’s too much of a good thing in a lot of regards. In that these proteins go out, they gobble up all of that testosterone, so it’s also affecting your thyroid hormone. It’s affecting your adrenal hormones. So even if you can make these things, then you’re not going to be able to use them because we only use free hormones, not hormones bound to protein.
Now, interestingly, in the research, they wanted to know, does this come back? And you know, women can be on the pill, is what they we’re studying, for a short period of time and have this genetic change happen. And what they found is that even five years later that protein was still elevated beyond what you see in a woman who never used hormonal birth control. Which made the researchers conclude that this may be a permanent genetic change in which a woman may not ever be able to recover her libido because of that sex hormone binding globulin and the genetic shift in the liver.
Now that felt really ominous and let me assure you that yes, with my protocols, and I actually detail my protocols to a point in my book, where I feel kind of naked, where I’m like, I gave everything away on this. This is what I’ve been developing in my medical practice for years now. And we’ve seen that through supporting the liver, certain foods, taking you through a physician grade supplement detox. And I know that you run people through detox as well. Doing a detox, so not like just, you know, do a juice fast or things along those lines. Doing a detox that really hones in on your entire detox pathways and really supports the liver. That is one step closer to getting your libido back.
And so there are things you can do to get your libido back. And I also have to say that it’s a use it or lose it kind of situation here. Because you’ve got to reinforce the nervous system and the brain that you like having pleasure and stimulation. So we’ve got to, even if we don’t want to, now if you don’t want to have sex with someone because you don’t like them, that’s not what I’m saying. If you don’t, if you’re like, I’m not in the mood, I still encourage my patients to try. To, you know, try new things and to stimulate the area because that will actually reinforce the neuronal connections. So building up that nervous system, getting circulation to the pelvic floor and reminding the body.
Sometimes we have to wake up in this regard, but it’s just like other nerve tissues. And we know that if we stimulate these tissues, that we can actually increase mitochondria in the brain where that tissue should be stimulated. So that neuronal connection from the brain to your tissues, those, you know, we’re really mainly thinking about like, oh, so we’re talking about the clitoris and the vagina, but you know, there’s also like your nipples and your breasts and any and for some women, you know, there’s other tissues that for them our erotic. And so whatever that stimulation looks like for you can actually start to change the brain, help get more oxygenation there and more mitochondria production so that it gets stronger.
So this is why I prescribe orgasms to women. And I mean the research on orgasms are amazing. I went through all of this in my book as well because, you know, it’s so often women would come to me and they’d tell these stories about their doctor was unconcerned about the fact that they hadn’t been able to have an orgasm in years. I’m like, okay, so if you’re not orgasming, it’s harder to shift your hormones into balance. We know the immune system actually self regulates, so it’s important for women with autoimmune disease. We lower inflammation. We bump oxytocin, which, hello, anti-aging hormone. There’s all these wonderful things orgasms can do. So, I mean, we could seriously have a conversation for like three hours about orgasms and I still wouldn’t shut up about them because they’re that good for you.
Robyn: Okay. So have more sex. Orgasms are good for you. Got it.
Jolene Brighten: Yeah, I know. It’s hard, it’s a hard knock life there.
Robyn: I don’t think anyone’s going to really argue with you there. But yeah, I’m sure that so many doctors are hearing that from women and just saying, “sorry, I don’t know how to help you. That sounds like a thing you need some training in or something”. But it can be related to the endocrine system. And so why let that stand and why use a form of birth control that is going to get in the way of pleasure in life and in enjoying a relationship? And we also, you know, I always like to pop in with the psychotherapist point of view, it’s also very strengthening to your relationship. The more orgasm you have, the more you bond to your partner and you kind of need that if you’re going to raise a family together. Yes?
Jolene Brighten: Oh yeah. And nature made no mistake with like bumping oxytocin. So for women who don’t know what oxytocin is, it’s a bonding hormone. And so it’s why we love our baby and we want to bond with them, and they are really cute too, so there’s that. But it’s also with our partners. So when you have an orgasm with your partner, you release oxytocin, now you feel more chill, more calm, more in love with them, more in love with your family, more in love with your life. And you know, getting into that state of gratitude is so much easier.
But the other thing about oxytocin is that it actually combats the negative effects of cortisol. So cortisol is an adrenal hormone. It helps modulate the immune system. It helps with inflammation. It does a whole lot of really good things in the body until there’s way too much of it from chronic stress. And oxytocin can actually help combat it because at the cellular level cortisol will age you, but oxytocin will come in for the win and say, “no, no, no, no, no, we’re not, we’re not going to let any of that happen. We’re going to stay young and we’re going to stay healthy at the cellular level”.
Robyn: Yeah, it was years after my first, uh, I did three different 20 day detoxes in my twenties and I was just new to that whole concept. I didn’t know that I would go on to research and research and develop a protocol based on the best I could find out there from different clinicians and researchers. And, now we have had 13,000 people do our 26 day protocol. But when I did, and I’m really glad that your book has that, as part of what you put a premenopausal woman through, especially if she’s been on chemical birth control.
Because you know, after five years of infertility testing and treatments, I mean I had the blow the blue dye surgery. It’s surgical, like literally general anesthesia and stick a scope in through my belly button twice, had it twice because we went through all the test twice. And they never did find anything wrong with us, but um, they found like low sperm motility and lot of dead sperm in his sample, but they didn’t ever find any, any reason for me. So I have wondered if it’s related to my year on birth control.
But also after I did my first 20 day detox and it was hardcore eating very little. What I did eat was super, super clean, organic, you know, all plants. And our protocol, it uses a bunch of different practices to increase the throughput and optimize those detoxification pathways. But I’ll tell you, after five years of infertility treatment, and I’m talking about, I dragged my husband to resolve support groups where we cried it out with other infertile couples. I mean, we we’re starting to really go down the bunny trail there. I did those detoxes and boom, boom, boom, boom. Had four babies.
Jolene Brighten: That’s the thing that always gets forgotten in women’s health is how important the liver is. Um, and you know, we are super sensitive as women to environmental toxins. So when you’re talking about encouraging people to eat organic food, like, you know, the research has not caught up with like what could be going on here in terms of a woman’s body. I think it’s fantastic that you just kind of took, you know, took the reigns. And really this is what I encourage in so many women is, focus on your health, focus on getting as healthy as possible because the side effect of being healthy is being fertile when you’re in that reproductive window.
When your body is like, okay, the environment is safe. I’m taken care of, I’m sleeping well. That’s when we will see, and this is something too that I wrote about in my book, is that we’re not paying enough attention to, and it’s not just environmental toxins but light pollutants as well. Because this is another thing where women are super sensitive. And you know, most women will find themselves cycling with the moon and that has to do with light. I think there’s also something to do with like, you know, how it governs tides and fluids on the planet itself. But now we’re inundated with light pollution and you know, it’s just something where like, ladies, there are a lot of ways that your system is being bombarded.
And it’s something that I encourage women, like you’re going to need to do a good detox protocol at least once a year. For myself personally, I put myself through a 14 to 21 day detox about every three to four months. Because I know that’s how I stay optimal. I have autoimmune disease. I know when I’m doing that. I mean you’ve hung out with me. I have boundless energy. I’m not fatigued and not crawling across my house, uh, after my kid. And so it’s something that I think it’s fantastic that you were able to do that. And then four babies later, there’s a question in my mind of like, did birth control, did it impact, you know, your body, your liver in this way.
And we now have seen some research. We again, I mean, how many times can I say we need more research, but ladies, we need so much more research. Because there is preliminary studies showing that it actually alters the stem cells in the uterine lining and can downregulate receptors to our hormones. And the research just doesn’t know right now if that’s permanent. And we all get told, I was told this. And it certainly still gets told to women, that birth control pill will have zero impact on your fertility.
Except that I’ve spoken with thousands of women who have absolutely had it impact their fertility. Where they’re like, hey, I had regular clockwork periods. I knew I ovulated. You know, there was all these signs when we go through their history. And then they come off birth control and suddenly they don’t even have a period. Their period is gone. And you know, when you get into the research, it can take an average woman in some studies up to 18 months to recover her period after coming off birth control.
And so it’s something that we have to think about, not only could it possibly impact your fertility, but also that we didn’t come out with a birth control pill and design it to be taken for two to three decades of life. These studies don’t go that long. Looking at what’s the impact with that? Or what’s the impact when we use it for symptoms? And when there is this underlying issue going on? Or what about the fact that like women are pursuing careers and they don’t want to get pregnant until after age 35? But you just told them to stay on the birth control pill and it would have no impact. Well, we don’t actually know.
Robyn: Yeah. Fascinating. Well, I’m really excited about your book coming out. I think it’s available for preorder. Is that right?
Jolene Brighten: Oh yeah!
Robyn: When does it actually release?
Jolene Brighten: It will be out in January of 2019. And I have been writing feverishly, um, you wrote a book, you know, how long these things take. And we actually turned this around really fast because it was part of my deal with the publisher. They were like, can you wait a couple more years? And I was like, there are so many women, so many women who need this now, like I’m bringing it and it’s either going to be with you or I’m going to have to do this solo. And I had an awesome publisher who was like, we’re with you. Women need this information now. And so I’m super excited that we got it coming out in January 2019. It is available for pre-order. Um, it’s already hit number one, new release in fertility and all these categories. It’s been super exciting so far.
Robyn: Well, I’m excited for you and I’m excited for all the women who will read it. I think it’s going to be a great gift to get for any premenopausal woman or a woman of childbearing age because I bet it’s a fraction of one percent of these young women who understand the risk they’re taking on themselves when they get on the pill. Was it 11 million women, did you say?
Jolene Brighten: Just in The United States. And I love that you say is a great gift because I absolutely see it that way. And really, you know, when I got my period, nobody talked to me about my body. So this is something where people always say to me like, you must’ve had awesome parents who educated you. I’m like, no, actually, um, when I got my period I didn’t understand the difference between my vagina and my urethra. So if that’s true for you, no shame to that. But you know, I set out to write the book that I wish I would’ve had when I got my period through my twenties, I’m now in my thirties and you know, it’s called “Ditch the Pill”. It’s about, getting off of birth control seamlessly, about alternatives to birth control, so working with your body naturally, but also staying safe if you do need to be on it. If you absolutely are like, this is my only option and this is what I need to do, then I want to make sure that you’re supported as well.
But you know, I go so much deeper than just birth control in helping women understand what do your symptoms mean and what can you do about it? And in that way, I mean that’s really something that is so central and core to my message in that women can heal their bodies, they absolutely can heal their body. And their body is not broken. And it doesn’t mean they always need a medication. And yes, there is a time and a place for a pharmaceutical. Like we’ve all been there where, I mean I had a dog bite my hand and I was really grateful for some antibiotics. So you know, I didn’t get sepsis.
But it is also a situation where women should feel like they have a choice and that is what I’m so passionate about is you should have the choice and you should feel like you made that choice rather than being told the only thing you can do is take birth control, suppress your hormones, and then go for IVF If you wan’t to have a baby,
Robyn: Well I think it’s going to stand the women who read it in good stead to continue to question medical protocols that make them uncomfortable because later on down the line they may have some questions about the whole vaccine schedule. I saw with alarm as I was having my babies that more and more vaccines were being delivered in one visit and I became concerned about the toxic load and I made some different decisions. I made different decisions than what the doctors told me.
And I think it’ll do more even more than help them make choices that won’t devastate their health, with regard to their birth control, I think it will help to educate them that they are the captain of the ship. And that medical doctors have a very specific take on things and have a very specific kind of education that might be missing some things. And so I’m also just grateful for, uh, just that there are naturopathic physicians. I don’t think you all, as a class, make the money that medical doctors do, but you do it because you want to actually serve people’s health. And I think you do a fine job of it. So I’m excited to support your book coming out. And any final comments about anything that we missed or where people can find you online?
Jolene Brighten: Yeah. So you can find me at drbrighten.com. And there I have the post-birth control syndrome quick start guide. It’s what to do if you’re on hormonal birth control or coming off of it or have symptoms of post-birth control syndrome, of just taking care of your body now. And I have a ton of articles and resources there to support you. And then you can also find me, I’m on Facebook and I’m on Instagram at Dr. Jolene Brighten. And here I am on your podcast and I’ll be part of your hormones series, which is going to change a lot of women’s lives too. So I’m super honored, uh, to be collaborating with you and to be making this change in women’s health.
Robyn: Yeah. When we. I was working with Dr. Alan Christianson, who I know you think very highly of as well, and then we had gone to Arizona and we had filmed 17 video modules with him. And then Rob Jones showed up at my retreat in Switzerland and we went and filmed him because he’s just a wealth of knowledge and women really, really responded to him in Switzerland. And I learned something listening to him, even though I’ve been treated for a hormone dysregulation, I’ve been completely a symptom free and in remission from Hashimoto’s for 16 or 17 years now.. Loved him.
And then I was like, wait a minute, where’s the woman in this picture? I need a female doctor. And I’m like, Holy cow, why do I not have Jolene in this? And I need someone who speaks specifically to the premenopausal women. So between the three of you, it’s like yin and yang. It’s so perfect. It’s so complete. And so you’ve made a massive contribution to the Healthy Hormone Revolution video masterclass. You can get it at greensmoothiegirl.com/hormones. And you can also get the nine questions for your natural hormone practitioner at greensmoothiegirl.com/9questions. That’s numeral nine. And make sure you pick up copies, you can preorder them now for any premenopausal woman you think would be well served by it, “Ditch the Pill” on Amazon or wherever books are sold. Thank you for being with us, Dr. Jolene Brighten.
Jolene Brighten: Thank you so much.