Highest Self Podcast 325: Holistic Hormonal Balance + Birth Control with Dr Jolene Brighten


Hormonal balance is intrinsically related to spirituality and healing hormonal imbalances is often a catalyst for spiritual growth. In this episode, I sit down with Dr. Jolene Brighten to talk all things coming off birth control, natural alternatives, Fertility Awareness Method, PCOS, amennorhea and other common hormonal imbalances. If you are a womban– this episode is a must-listen! Connect with Dr Brighten at drbrighten.com

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Episode 325: Holistic Hormonal Balance + Birth Control with Dr Jolene Brighten
By Sahara Rose
Namaste. It’s Sahara Rose and welcome back to The Highest Self Podcast, a place where we discuss what makes You, Your Soul’s Highest Evolvement.
I am soul excited to be recording this Podcast from my new place in Miami. It has been a long time coming and a dream of mine to live here. I remember last year I was here, exactly at this time, for our Rose Gold Goddesses Miami Launch party, and I told all of the girls at the party that one day I will live in Miami. But I wasn’t sure how that was possible because my husband works in the music industry and has an office in LA. So I wasn’t sure how I would be able to somehow move to Miami; and he would move, despite the office, but I held the space anyways, and here I am, a year later, living out my Miami dreams, taking walks outside by the warm ocean that I could literally dive into, and it’s so turquoise and blue, and I’m super-excited, when things open up, to go to more dance classes and tap into the beautiful multi-cultural community here.

So, I’m sharing this with you because I know that my move has been a topic that I‘ve been keeping you guys on board on, throughout this journey, and it finally happened, and I’m here. And it feels like such an upgrade and so expansive in every way.

So, if you are thinking about moving or if you are wanting to start a new life somewhere, have a fresh start with all of the shifts and changes that are happening; perhaps you are feeling this call to recreate something somewhere else or to just expand more into nature, oe by the mountains, or by the ocean, or the city, or whatever it is that is calling you, this is my reminder to you that you can make it happen no matter what is the limitation that you may think is there right now, just know that any limitation can be surpassed if that true desire is there.
And I am excited to see how it unfolds for all of you.

So, in today’s Episode, we are talking about all things female hormones. Female hormones is, to me, such a catalyst into spirituality. And not only is it catalyst, but it’s actually like a sister, it’s something that you always go back and forth with.
For me, it was very much a catalyst into my spirituality, but it’s also something, the moment things feel off hormonally, I know something is off spiritually, and that’s why you hear me and so many people, speaking about menstrual cycles and our wombs, and our sacred sexuality and sensuality, and all of these things, because it is inherently connected with our femininity and our divine nature. And we can only achieve wholeness when we do address the underlying imbalances that are happening within our wombs. And, whether you have a physical womb or not; if you are someone who identifies as being a female, you have a vulva, you have female hormones, you are affected by this all.

So, some questions that I commonly get and I see a lot happening in the Rose Gold Goddesses Community, that I really wanted to bring a doctor, an expert, on to ask is firstly, birth control. So many of us are wanting to get off birth control and now knowing what to do instead; what are other options out there that are more natural; and feeling really confused because maybe your doctors, when they put you on the pill, and you’re like “I can’t do this!” So, it’s really important for us to see that there are other options available for us, and also know the pros and the cons because unfortunately, no type of birth control yet, is perfect. And to me, it boggles my mind that we can go to the Moon but we can’t just fix this most basic issue that every single woman has (maybe because it’s a woman’s issue, not a men’s issue, but I’ll get to that later).

So this topic of birth control – how we can find a form of birth control that works for us.
I know I was on the pill when I was in college and got off of it, and coming off of it reeled a lot of hormonal imbalances for me. So for a lot of people getting off it now, they’re realizing maybe there’s underlying PCOS or they’re experiencing Amenorrhea, or Endometriosis or whatever else it is. So we talk a lot about birth control in this conversation.

Another big thing I see a lot of women have is PCOS, and PCOS is not just cysts. It stands for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome but what Dr. Brighten talks about on today’s Episode is that that’s not the best term for it because it doesn’t always show up as cysts. And that was just the initial name for it, and she describes why and how it’s been such a long battle for this to even be recognized as a medical condition. And again, it comes from further sexism, and really not looking at woman’s issues as serious as male issues.
So, we talk a lot about PCOS – how it affects our bodies; how to find balance hormonally. And some other issues as well from Fibroids, Endometriosis, painful periods – we really go about as many topics as we could fit into this hour to really give you the most benefit.

And I love Dr. Jolene Brighten, I follow her on Instagram and she has such great, great, incredible information about all things female, hormonal imbalance. So she is my go-to pick to take these questions to, who really understands from. She’s a Naturopathic Doctor so she’s really trained with herbs and holistic modalities, and understands the spiritual connection, and also, has done medical research and has been working with female hormones for decades now. So, she is someone that really has the knowledge as well as can understand our concerns and speak our language.
So, I’m super-excited for her to be on the Podcast today and break down so many questions that women have; so many questions that maybe our own doctors have not been able to answer for us; or our Google searches have not been able to find clarity on – I hope that this Episode helps give it to you. I know, for myself, having suffered from so many hormonal imbalances, namely, not getting my period for over two years, suffering from Amenorrhea, and I’m grateful for that because it was the catalyst for my growth journey, and I also know how scary it is.
So I am hoping that this can give you some clarity, some awareness, some action steps and some guidance, and how you can move forward and also get help from a medical professional.

So, without further ado, let’s welcome Dr. Brighten to The Highest Self Podcast.


[6:20] Interview

[6:21] Sahara:
Welcome Dr. Brighten to The Highest Self Podcast, it’s so great to have you here.

[6:24] Dr. Brighten:
Yeah, it’s so great to be here!

[6:26] Sahara:
And the first question I’d love to ask you is what makes you your highest self?

[6:30] Dr. Brighten:
I love this question, and it’s also like a challenging question. But I think the thing that makes me my highest self is really tapping into my intuition and keeping space every single day for that where I don’t get caught up in the busy, busy hustle, hustle (which is very common for entrepreneurs) and also to be in any type of personality. Always wanted to be like “Let’s be my most logical self in everything” but to really be at my highest self requires taking that time, even if it’s 10 minutes a day, to really go inward and do that internal check, it also helps me a lot show up better as a partner and a wife and the mother (the mother’s the big one).

[7:13] Sahara:
Yes! Totally! And we were just chatting about how you moved to Puerto Rico and just go snorkeling in your free time, which is just so incredible and just shows that we can take action to create that into our reality, and create more of those pockets of time. So, you inspired me girl, I’m moving to Puerto Rico too!

[7:32] Dr. Brighten:
And we get to hang around with a lot of octopi, cuttlefish, it’s a good time!

[7:36] Sahara:
There’s this new documentary on Netflix about the Octopus, did you see or hear of that?

[7:40] Dr. Brighten:
I’ve seen it and you know how Netflix just forces things on you.

[7:46] Sahara:
Yeah! “Watch this octopus documentary!”

[7:48] Dr. Brighten:
I’ve seen it. I haven’t watched it yet. I got a little emotional when I saw that the shark came into the scene, when you and I were talking, I get a little bit triggered by sharks and I was like “I can’t watch this, the octopus is going to get eaten by a shark!” But I do want to see it because here, I had a great day snorkeling, and one day I was just – If you just float and be still – talk about a practice of mindfulness is snorkeling, if you want to see the best stuff, you have to be still and just float, and be really present. And I got to see three octopi and that was incredible because they’ll see you and they get really shy, and then if you sit there long enough they’ll start to come out like “Okay, you’re not trying to get at me; you’re not trying to eat me.” And it’s something I’ve actually been trying to teach my son, I’m like “Dive down and look at things” which is fun, and he’s 7, and I get them, but explaining to him if you want to catch the most out of life it’s actually happening when you’re still, and it’s the space between the movement where you will see the most things.

[8:47] Sahara:
That is so beautiful and yes, what a great lesson for life.
So you are ‘the period whisperer’, you know so much; you’ve written an incredible book called “Beyond the Pill”; and you are a naturopathic doctor and really specialize in female hormones. And I know so many of my community members, my Rose Gold Goddesses are really diving deeper into their hormonal health. I think when we go on a wellness or spiritual journey, that’s just a very natural place that you either start, or eventually end up in because it plays such a huge role in our lives. And you know, different symptoms show up from PCOS, to Amenorrhea (which I suffered from) but then also just the questions that so many of us have about “Why is my period early or late, or this or that” and what that really means. So I thought that you were the perfect person to dive further into this and I’d love to start with – for those people who have made the decision that they want to transition off of birth control pills, but they don’t really know how; they’re a little bit afraid – what’s your suggestion for them?

[9:50] Dr. Brighten:
That’s a really interesting place that you start with, the segue of people who are working from the higher self, and they’re working on their spiritual self, and yet, that is something I find a lot of people arrive to when they’re like “I’m eating better, I’m exercising, I’m meditating, I’ve got everything on lock” and then they stand back and like “Well, why am I on the pill and what is that doing; or what’s going on with my IUD?” and it’s something that we’ve been encouraged very much in many different capacities, not just the doctors, to go on autopilot when it comes to our reproductive health of like “Just do what you’re told, don’t question it and you’re not going to get pregnant.” And listen, when I was 17 and I started the pill, I was like “Yes please, not getting pregnant; definitely a good thing” and yet, many of us don’t understand how it works. And so let’s talk about that, and we’ll talk about coming off.
So, the way that hormonal birth control works, if it is to stop your ovulation, it must work at the brain level. Now, this is always a big “Aha” for people because we’re so often told “Oh, you take these hormones for your ovaries to stop ovulating.” But the way ovulation works is it starts in your brain. So it is a cascade of hormones throughout the month that are leading to your period, if you don’t become pregnant, and it’s all orchestrated by the brain. The ovaries are taking the signals from the brain and they’re responding to that. So, for birth control to work, just shut down ovulation, it works at the brain level.
The IUD’s, the hormonal IUD’s, they don’t always shut down brain-ovarian communication, they can but it’s not like the pill where that’s the primary mechanism.
So, when you come off of hormonal birth control there can be sometime between brain-ovarian communication in being re-established. So that may look like Amenorrhea – we expect you to maybe not get your period back for about three months coming off birth control, if you had regular cycles when you started it. If you had ECS or irregular cycles before, we expect it can take about six months. For some, it can even take about eighteen months before you start ovulating again, which, if you try to come off of birth control to try to get pregnant, and this is especially true with the Depo shot, it can take longer for it to wear off.
You come off with the expectation to get pregnant and you don’t have a period – yes you do need a period to be able to get pregnant because what precedes that is ovulation and so that can have a lot of women panicked which is why, if you’re listening to this now or you’re debating off of it, I recommend going off of it in advance, at least six months, maybe even sooner, if you’re trying to get pregnant. And even if you don’t want to get pregnant, really for everyone – Step 1 is coming off – you need a back-up birth control method if you are having sex with a male partner and the reason for that is because:
1. We don’t know when you’re going to start ovulating again – so if you are someone who’s like “I want to do fertility awareness method” you might need a condom in the meantime; and
2. You don’t want to get pregnant right away because hormonal birth control is causing a lot of disruption in your system, in various ways, if you haven’t been taking care of yourself the whole time. So nutrient depletions – Zinc, Selenium, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, B Vitamins, ones that are crucial to pregnancy, but also just be a high functioning adult you have to replenish those nutrient stores. Yes, we want to dial and diet; yes, we want to make sure that we are digesting and absorbing our foods and tending to our diet, and we are going to likely need a supplement. If you’re on birth control right now, you definitely want to be on Multivitamin or Pre-natal. So, that’s a few of the things I talk about in my book. I could definitely go off for a long time talking about metabolic health, inflammation and all the other things we want to do, but I know that was a lot there at the beginning, so do you have an questions?

[13:24] Sahara:
Yeah, no, I think that’s really great advice and your book really outlines it so much more, and I think the next natural question for people is “Well if I get off birth control, what do you recommend as a more natural form of birth control?”

[13:37] Dr. Brighten:
Yeah, when it comes to birth control, there’s no one size fits all. That’s really the slippery slope that we’ve fallen into (that we’ve literally fallen into a pit with birth control at some point) because I think we’ve all had the story of trying the birth control method that didn’t work for us.
And so we really have to evaluate what’s true for your body; what’s going to work best for you. And when it comes to natural methods, we have barrier methods which, they open up a lot of play, a lot of people don’t talk about those, but barrier methods are the only thing that are going to protect you from HIV, HPV, other STI’s.

[14:11] Sahara:
And that would be like a male or female condom?

[14:13] Dr. Brighten:
Male/Female condom; dental dams – so those barrier methods. We also have cervical cap – those have a higher failure rate though, so, you also have to look at what is the typical use and what’s the perfect use. So, whenever you hear the pill is 99% effective – that’s if you’re perfect with it; but typical use is 91% effective and you’ll still hear people say “Well, it’s not that hard to do perfect use” and I’m like “Then why would we be reporting typical use, saying this is typically what people do” because there are issues that come up. Do you vomit within a couple hours of taking your pill? – Probably not going to be that effective. So, we’ve got the barrier method.
There’s also the copper IUD – there are some people who do right with it, they absolutely love it. I’ve monitored patients, so anytime we have a medical intervention I’m on Baseline Labs; I’m on Baseline Symptom Tracking for my patient, then in intervention and then we track. So, there are people out there, and there might be of so many comments like “How dare you recommend the copper IUD, what about the copper toxicity, you could die!” And it’s like “Yes, that can happen with some people but it doesn’t happen with all people, which is why you should be monitoring that with lab work, and definitely monitor your symptoms.” And if you’re taking a multivitamin or pre-natal, or you love oysters and you’re getting plenty of Zinc, then that can help counter any copper. There is not sufficient evidence to say that there is copper toxicity with a copper IUD that occurs. However, they do say that if you have copper storage disease, that you shouldn’t have a copper IUD, which should all get us paused to say “Well there is a possibility there.”
So, if you have Endometriosis, heavy or painful periods, the copper IUD is not or you. I have a whole TikTok video of “Three Reasons Not to Get a Copper IUD”, and that’s it, because it makes periods heavier and it definitely makes them more painful for people who already have painful periods. So, copper IUD is, I will say, highest efficacy rate, and hands down if it works for you – you love it: and if it doesn’t work for you, then you absolutely don’t.
And then there’s Fertility Awareness Method, which I love, because if you’re using barrier methods or you’re using a copper IUD, then you could also use Fertility Awareness Method. And why I love it is not because – I don’t want anyone to be “Well, Dr. Brighten loves it, therefore that should be my method” that’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is, I love it because you get so intimately involved with your body and its signs and its symptoms, that you understand when things are not normal and that you can clue in way sooner than labs will. We have this done, doctor’s office will tell them “Your labs are normal, therefore everything’s are normal.” Let me tell you that by the time the labs are showing that there are abnormals, the body is no longer compensating. The patient often experiences something in their body as is not normal and will say that before lab symptoms shift, and that’s what the Fertility Awareness Method can help you with as well. So, if people don’t know what this is – this is not the Rhythm Method; this is not the Calendar Method, that’s being like “Oh, we’re both ovulating on Day 14” – No, we do not. And ovulation can, for you, be Day 14 one month and Day 16 the next month, and Day 10 the month later. It can shift because as a cyclical creature, you’re very much in tune with your environment (Hello 2020, the biggest environmental disruption, the signals we’re getting) everybody’s periods are all over the place this year, and painful, and weird, where we’re like “Why am I having these symptoms? I’ve never had these symptoms before” because you’re in tune with the environment. So, with the Fertility Awareness Method you are attracting your basal body temperature – the minute you wake up you take your temperature. You’re tracking your symptoms. Do you see raw egg white consistency in your underwear? That’s fertile cervical mucus, it’s not a bad thing, it’s a very good thing, you have healthy hormones, we want to see that. That’s a sign that you are in your fertile window. We will see a temperature spike which is with the LH spike, that’s what the brain is saying to the ovaries, and then we will subsequently see ovulation happen.
The biggest, I have to say, we’re both on TikTok and it’s like a new, only 17 states mandated medically accurate sexual education, but I didn’t know how much of an impact that was really having. It wasn’t tangible for me until I had a video that had 2 million views where I told people “You’re only fertile one day out of the month.” If you have an egg that is liberated from your ovaries, that’s going to live 12-24 hours: it’s sperm that can live 5, maybe 6, maybe 7, but really you’ll need a 6-day fertile window, and people are like “No!” There were people arguing in the comments being like “This is a lie. This is misinformation. You can get pregnant any day of the month” and I’m like “Okay, have you ever tried to get pregnant?” because you can’t, it’s not the way that it works.
And so, the Fertility Awareness Method makes the assumption that we ovulate once a month, yes, there can be outliners, but typically you’re only going to ovulate once in a month. Sperm lives 5-6 days, so that means that if you’re really in the mood and you have fertile cervical mucus, don’t have unprotected sex because you’re probably going to get pregnant, and then you’re going to be tracking your physical symptoms, but also you can measure even the cervix height, which is a little tricky, and that’s if you’re going to get into that stage. And honestly, if you want to do Fertility Awareness Method, working with a Fertility Awareness Educator can be so tremendous and really helping you have your confidence, have it dialed in; and being able to meet your doctor and dialogue in a way where they don’t just dismiss you. I don’t think it’s funny and yet so many doctors think it’s funny to be like “Oh, Fertility Awareness Method, do you know what we call that? I’ll see you when you’re pregnant. That’s what we call that” I’m like “That’s so disempowering for you to say.” Instead, when somebody says “A New Fertility Awareness Method” I’m like “Tell me about your temperature tracking; tell me about your fertile cervical mucus” I go through and ask those questions and if they’re like “Yeah, what do you mean temperature?” I’m like “Okay, you’re not really doing Fertility Awareness Method, let’s talk about that!”

[20:00] Sahara:
I think these are really good because – yes, I do know a lot of people try doing it and they just assume “Okay, I can have sex during my period with ejaculation inside or right before or after because I can’t get pregnant” but sometimes that sperm lives for the 5-6 days and maybe they ovulate earlier than they thought and they’re just guessing, they’re not really taking the temperature. So then you hear stories like that and people are like “Oh my Gosh, this doesn’t actually work!”
So what would you say are the best methods to prevent anything from slipping up and would you still recommend you partner not ejaculating inside of you if you are using this method?

[20:40] Dr. Brighten:
Yes, so you’re talking about is doing the ‘pull out’ method which has been a 20% failure rate. If it’s done correctly, it’s up in the 90s in terms of its percent of successful, nobody gets pregnant, and so it only has about a 4% failure rate if done perfectly. The amount of body awareness it takes for a man (pretty tremendous) but also some men, their brains really get overridden by their hormones and everything that’s going on, so you really have to check in with your male partner about that. And you can use – I know people that use the Fertility Awareness Method with the ‘pull out’ method and I have patients who haven’t gotten pregnant for years, and then decided to get pregnant and they got pregnant. And so, that worked for them, will that work for you? Maybe, maybe not, if you can’t risk having a baby, you’re better off to use a Barrier Method, so, use a condom, and certainly during your fertile window, use that.
Now what you brought up is a really interesting point because people will say “Well, how did I get pregnant because I was on my period, and that’s when we had sex and I got pregnant?” Well, let’s say your period is 7 days long, so, you’re bleeding for 7 days, and then you ovulate on Day 10. So you had sex on Day 7 because you’re like “Well, I’m still on my period, it’ll be fine” 3 days later you ovulate. Now, here’s what’s really important to understand because we will often hear people talking about the menstrual cycle as four phases, which gets a little bit confusing. You’ll not hear doctors talk about that regularly because we focus on the three phases because the Follicular phase’s goal is ovulation. Is it wrong to say four phases? No, but when we’re saying four phases, what are we talking about? time of the uterus. We’re not talking about the ovaries. The ovaries do not care that the uterus is shedding, they’re like “We’re getting an egg ready” that’s their job. And so, to understand that, well your uterus may still be bleeding, you can ovulate, that can happen. Is that the best scenario for implantation? Absolutely not, because you need to have that endometrium built up. However, at the same time, to recognize that in a 3-day window, if your estrogen is spiking and then you ovulate, it is possible because what could have been left that you were bleeding, was actually left over blood and not so much the lining of the uterus, the lining of the uterus was already building up. So it’s a little bit confusing because your uterus is doing one thing and your ovaries are doing another thing; and then your doctor is saying one thing and then you’ll hear other people talking about four phases, and that’s another thing. So just to understand that the ovaries, during the follicular phase; primary goal is to get ready for ovulation. Ovulation is a 1-day event, then we move onto the Luteal phase. The uterus is menstruating, then it’s building up the lining. And then if there’s implantation things go a different route, if there’s not, after the Luteal phase, the lining sheds. Does that make sense?

[23:33] Sahara:
Totally! And I think you said something important. You said, you might ovulate Day 10, so would Day 1 be the first day of your menstruation?

[23:41] Dr. Brighten:
Yes. So Day 1 is the first day that you have flow, and sometimes we’ll have a little bit of spotting. If it’s less than a tablespoon (so a tablespoon or less) not really your period, that’s spotting. So many people are like “Oh there’s something wrong if you see spot” – it’s not uncommon to spot, and in some ways your body is like “Hey, don’t wear those white pants tomorrow! So that you know!”
So yeah, the first day is that you have a flow. And so, a typical period is about 3-5 days; 7 days is not abnormal; beyond that we start to get concerned. That’s a long period to be having. But you can have the spot, here’s the thing, spotting still counts at the end, you want to track it as that, so, 5 days then you have regular bleeding and then there’s brown spotting for two days, you want to be like “Okay, brown spotting for two days” your period, not the time you’re bleeding is roughly 7 days.

[24:35] Sahara:
Got it! Yeah, I think that’s super helpful for people because there seems to just be this assumption of like “Your ovulation is just 2 weeks after, that’s it” so I can just kind of keep that in mind or even, I feel like most people kind of count ovulation for a couple of days because you just don’t really know exactly what day it’s on. If you’re doing the FAM method for a long time, could you actually pinpoint the exact day that it happens or is it still this window of a couple days?

[25:01] Dr. Brighten:
It’s good still to count the couple days. I think if you just absolutely do not want to become pregnant, that’s like a total deal-breaker, and so with FAM though, I will say there are FAM-tech devices like natural cycles that’s FDA approved (contraceptive) that doesn’t mean that you just take your temperature and call it a day – still pay attention to your symptoms. And then there’s Daisy, which is a fertility monitor, and those are great because they really can get – they take an algorithm for them, and it’s like math meets chemistry in terms of managing your fertility, like the math beats the pill in some women in terms of – as we all know somebody on the pill. And so, with that, I think those are great devices to have on board. I personally find them way easier to use than a calendar charting method; I’m just not going to do it. I tried and I was like “I just can’t do this paper method with this ruler” but you can get it dialed in to where you are like “Okay, my temperature spiked, and it’s a very small spike.” I will also say that devices like the Oura Ring – I wear the Oura Ring and I’ve been surprised that I’m like “Wow! I can actually see when ovulation happened” there’s this little spike, is that what it’s approved for? No! But I am a bit of an expert.

[26:15] Sahara:
How much would the spike be point how many degrees?

[26:18] Dr. Brighten:
It can just be 0.2, 0.4 for some is very, very small spike. For some, they’ll even feel hotter that day, they’ll feel their body temperature go up, but it’s not enough to do just the temperature, and that’s what I really want to drive home because when they studied this, and the studies are like “Wow! There’s actually a high success rate with this method” we’re also paying attention to your symptoms. So, being in the mood, okay, when your libido upticks and you have no problems with vaginal lubrication, that’s yeah, you’re around ovulation, because that’s what your body is designed to do. So libido will actually spike before ovulation as a way; it’s Momma Nature being so smart like “Let’s capture some sperm because there’s going to be an egg” and that’s going to increase the success rate. And always, for people who are listening, who don’t want to have children, I totally get that, which is why you want to learn how Nature designed it because Nature wants you to procreate, that’s what is being driven here. So if you don’t want to, learn the game and play Nature’s game; and then you could outsmart it. And then I will say this though, as I said, someone always gets pregnant with the pill, I had said that the highest efficacy rate, IUD’s, there’s no failures, there’s no human failure variable in that, yet we all know an IUD baby – we all know these people who have gotten pregnant with these methods, and so, this is when I finally evolved into on social media, as I just say, as Jeff Goldblum says in Jurassic Park, that life finds a way; life will find a way. There are people, I’ve had patients in their 40s with an IUD who are like “I’m pregnant! Statistically I thought I wasn’t even going to be able to get pregnant, and yet, here I am with an IUD and I’m pregnant!” So, just to understand that no method is a 100% pregnancy-proof, except for abstinence, and that’s not realistic for a lot of people, and let’s just be real about it because I know there are people that are like, they pie the sky dreams that they can practice abstinence, but biology!

[28:24] Sahara:
Exactly! Well, thanks so much for explaining that. And I do want to know, I had a copper IUD but I got it done somewhere that they did not use an ultrasound, so it was not placed correctly, and it was scratching me and I thought that it was just – because they said you might have spotting for the first month. And I also, for me, I feel like I do a lot of yoga, and twists and stuff, so psychologically I was always afraid of – I was kind of thinking what if was scratching me, even though it already was scratching me. So, I would recommend for someone to go to a doctor that uses an ultrasound just to make sure it’s in the right place.

[28:59] Dr. Brighten:
Yeah, and your doctor should always – once you get an IUD placed, they should say to you if at any point it doesn’t feel right, you can’t feel the strings, you come in and we do a trans-vaginal ultrasound. So, for anyone listening, it’s not going to be an over the tummy ultrasound like you see on every pregnancy movie, this will be a trans-vaginal ultrasound – it’s a wand that is inserted into the vagina so that we can visualize the uterus. And so, the thing I will say is not every time Planned Parenthood has this available, so that’s the other thing too, is that if you are “Something’s not right” and you’re travelling, you can actually pop into a Planned Parenthood and they can visualize it right away. Perforation risk is low with IUD’s – people are always – so perforation, basically if the IUD is trying to bust out of your uterus, and so it’s going through the wall – that is a bad deal, this low. With the Marina IUD, which is a hormonal IUD, it’s less than 0.1% (very, very low) expulsion is much higher. So with the Marina IUD and the hormonal IUD is, we’ve got a higher rate; with the copper IUD it’s even higher, and that’s when your uterus is like “This is my house and you do not belong here” and it kicks it out.
And really, with that, it can be painful depending on if it gets lodged in the cervix – it’s a matter of you just need to have strings pulled and it will be removed pretty quickly. When you have a device, it’s just like the implant in your arm, even a device in your body – it’s a foreign object and it’s also an unknown; also it can always feel like something going on – you can get it visualized, you can always have your doctor check it out. But before it’s ever placed, they should be going over what are the risks and as part of the informed consent. And the informed consent isn’t just that I gave you the information, it’s that you asked all the questions and you fully understood the information. If you do not have all your questions answered; if your doctor was just like “Oh, it’s not that big of a deal” and kept on doing it, nope, that is not an informed consent, they need to back it up and repeat a correct answer because the informed consent is both a legal and ethical obligation that you are entitled to so that you can make the best decision for yourself, but also so you know when to seek help and you know when to see your doctor.
So with IUD’s, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease risk can be higher. There was an IUD a long time ago that was just a bad device, and that was before FDA was even approving devices, it was like “Yeah, sure, just put it in women”, and it was bad, it was a bad deal, and when we were getting PID. It’s much lower now but you still need to know that if you end up with a fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, low abdomen aching, weird discharge coming (and I have a whole discharge article at drbrighten.com). If it’s thick, mucusy, not like cervical mucus, it’s cloudy, it’s white, it’s green, it smells bad, this is a problem. If you’re having sex and your partner touches your cervix, because, yes that happens, and you want to scream (we call it the Chandelier Sign) where we’ll actually move the cervix between our fingers – when you move it back and forth, and we call it the Chandelier Sign because we will want to jump up and grab the chandelier because you are in so much pain. These are all signs of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. Yes, the risk is low, it’s much lower than it used to be, and yet, you still need to know what that is, because yes, it is an infection that is serious, you definitely need to go to the doctor – I call it the ‘do not hasgo, do not collect $200 and go directly to a clinician) get some treatment right away because it can scar you tubes, your fallopian tubes, and so, that can set you out. And that’s when women say “Well, my IUD caused infertility”, back it up, it’s not that the IUD caused infertility; the IUD increased the risk of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, and that led to your infertility. And that’s a very serious thing because sometimes we find ourselves not wanting a baby until the prospect of not being able to have a baby is there, and then we’re like “Okay, hold that, I’m re-evaluating everything!”

[32:51] Sahara:
Thanks so much for explaining that and definitely, guys, check out her website, so many great articles, and TikTok videos. So, such great advice!
So, a lot of people are sharing natural birth control herbs – using herbs for this. What are your thoughts? Do you think we could do in conjunction with things? My concern is that it could decrease your chances of fertility when you are ready (if you are ready) to have a child.

[33:20] Dr. Brighten:
Yeah, I don’t think we have any studies on long-term impacts on fertility, but this is the tricky thing, we just don’t have great studies on that and on herbs that would actually work for fertility. And the problem is, is that anything that’s natural can’t really be pend, and so, really, there’s not a lot of money in that. So, it doesn’t mean there isn’t efficacy there, but actually be careful here because if you absolutely cannot get pregnant, you’re rolling the dice there. And my concern is that something is preventing fertility, may also be messing with your hormones and messing with other issues. And so, it’s kind of like “Okay, so you’re not taking a pharmaceutical that’s messing with your hormones, now you’re trying to use herbs to mess with your hormones. And I know that in the current point of applyment, I just don’t know how I feel; I haven’t sat with this enough. I’ve seen TikTok videos educating women about abotrefacted teas and things that they can be drinking to have an at home abortion. And there’s one in particular that has a tea – it’s okay to drink, and it may or may not help you, but if you use the oil, you could die, and I kind of want to chime in and be like “But okay, if you use the oil, you could die” and please be careful because it’s not essential oils and it’s not more effective, and yet I’m like “I can’t really touch that right now” because this is just a bad idea to be educating in this way on social media. What if somebody’s trying to use that and they’re in their second trimester? That’s not appropriate, and nobody is doing the informed consent with them that an herb that’s an abortefacted may not work and may be a teratogen, which means that it is now, essentially, mutated your baby. That teratogen means monster for me and so, that’s, essentially, it can cause malformations, and you can have defects. And so, that’s something I get really concerned about, but I’m really concerned about that on the medicine front, and then as a human, I’m really concerned that this is the way things are going in our society that women are so afraid about having these things taken from them that they are now taking to social media to educate themselves; there are websites popping up – and these people are not licensed health-care providers, and some of them aren’t even trained in herby (like myself) and so, it makes me a bit concerned. So, if you want to use herbs in a capacity to – if there’s one thing like “Let’s take some Viton types to help support progesterone” where we’ll eat more broccoli to help clear our estrogen out. And Rhodiola, we’ve got some great studies on Rhodiola actually; and for energy, and stamina, and helping our hormones overall – that is different than being like “I want to totally modulate my fertility and prevent pregnancy with that.” And so, you do want to work with someone who is trained in that and there’s still not a lot of great evidence in doing that, and why do it when we have these other methods?
[36:15] Sahara:
I remember I was in Costa Rica and it was this one month off-grid experience in the mountains. And we were on our way up and there was this woman who was 8 months pregnant, she was about to give birth, and she was eating papaya and was like “I love eating up the papaya seeds” she’s just eating up all the papaya seeds, and I’m like “I’m pretty sure that that’s considered a natural birth control, a preventative birth control thing, and I told her that, and she was like “Oh, I’ve never heard of that before.” Have you heard of this?

[36:41] Dr. Brighten:
No I haven’t. It’s actually anti-parasitic though. I, very much, have had enough patients who, they crave things and we find things and I’m like “That actually makes sense for this kind of craving that you had.” And so, at the end it actually kind of makes me wonder – you’re in Costa Rica.

[37:00] Sahara:
Maybe it was the anti – because I was like “I’m pretty sure that’s not good for a baby but you just…” I wish there were more studies on these things so we could for sure know.
And the other thing that I heard was that Stevia (the Stevia plant) was used as a natural birth control in Panama for many years. Have you heard of this?

[37:18] Dr. Brighten:
I’ve heard of that, and then Parsley, another one as well. I was pregnant with my son and I had all this parsley that had overgrown, so I made this parsley pesto, and I was eating it, and this was something that one of my colleagues had said to me, she was like “That can actually be an abortefacted!” So, we’re not taught herbs to use them as abortefactents, we’re taught as a caution. Nobody takes tincture of parsley, that’s not something I was using regularly in my herbal wheel-house, and I was like “I think I’m going to okay if I eat this parsley pesto” and she’s like “It’s a lot of parsley” and I’m like “But it’s also like my gut; it’s not like a tincture.” And so, that’s the other thing, the forms of things that come they in, like oils are going to be way more potent – we don’t do essential oils internally or over gravid uterus (a gravid uterus is a pregnant uterus) a uterus that has a little human in it. And then also knowing that some things you don’t take as a tincture in pregnancy and yeah, it could be safe to drink as a tea and to have it in tea form or to have it added to your food. Culinary is generally regarded as safe; it’s when you go into the meniscal forms that you definitely want to consult someone with these things.
And again, without the studies or really knowing, you have to, that’s the other thing too, I’m always like “What happens if it fails? You find you’re pregnant and you want to keep this pregnancy, what happens? You were on this.” And so, we know that with Vitamin A in the form of retinal palmitate, it’s not just were you taking it at the time that you got pregnant; it’s what were you taking leading up to it? How high were those doses that can have an impact on the baby as well?

[39:00] Sahara:
So fascinating!
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[42:12] End of Advertisement

[42:13] Sahara:
So, a lot of women have told me “I wish I could track my cycle but I can’t because I have irregular periods” and a lot of them it’s because of PCOS. And I know this is something you speak about a lot.
Can you share with us, first of all, is PCOS showing up more today or are people just getting diagnosed with it more? It feels like everyone I talk to is having PCOS.

[42:36] Dr. Brighten:
Yeah, it’s definitely being recognized more. So, one in ten are estimated to have PCOS, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s more, a little bit more higher than that. And what we’ve come to understand is that it can take 2-3 years before a person with PCOS can actually find a provider to diagnose them and give them adequate treatment. And so, it can take years; there’s going to someone in the comments who’s going to be like “It took me a decade and I went through a dozen doctors.” There has been a big fight, for a long time, all things in women’s medicine to get it recognized. So PSOC has been one; Endometriosis; side-effects with birth control. Medicine is coming around a lot quicker with PCOS than Endometriosis, and is still very hesitant about any birth control side-effects being real; it’s such a bizarre thing to me.
So, with PCOS (this is Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome) it’s really important for people to know; it’s a very out-dated name and that not everybody has poly-cystic ovaries, however, women with PCOS had to fight so hard to even get it recognized by doctors that now, to change the name, would be a whole new battle. So, with that, you do not have to have poly-cystic ovaries to get the diagnosis. The younger you are, the more likely they’ll be there; the older you are, the less likely they’re going to be there because they’re not really cysts (as we’re coming to find out) what they more likely are, are follicles. Your body is really trying to ovulate and it’s like “Alright, we didn’t ovulate, let’s get even more follicles ready.” And so, it’s not that you have cysts as much as that you have eggs that are just really, really wanting to ovulate; they just really want to get there. But the hallmark of what we really see with PCOS – the Rotterdam criteria – there’s poly-cystic ovaries, so you have to have two out of three; the other is elevated androgens, and that can be found on lab work or that can be found – if you find it on lab work, you’re going to find it on the face, or the head, or the chest; and that is, you can have signs, so it can be clinical signs of excess androgen. So hair on the chin, chest, abdomen, hair loss on the head, you can also have cystic acne or backne, acne in other places as well, oily skin, some have really strong body odor that can be those androgens as well. And so, that’s what you’re going to see more of the time but something that you see in almost all cases that are uncontrolled or undiagnosed with PCOS is the irregular or lack of ovulation. And so, this is something where it gets tricky because there’s women who get diagnosed with PCOS and they’re like “My insulin looks good and my inflammation looks good, and I’m ovulating like every other month. I’m doing pretty good! I’m like “That’s because you’re figuring out how to manage it.” And that can make it harder sometimes because they are handling their symptoms and their doctors are like “Well, it’s not so pep and dry.” So I say that because it is possible to get to a regular menstrual cycle. It might be more like a 45-day cycle but it is possible. And so, that means that you’d be ovulating and it is also possible to get those androgens in check so you’re not struggling with those symptoms as well. But that’s PCOS, and are seeing more of it likely because the medical community is actually recognizing it; diagnosing it more often.

[45:42] Sahara:
What do you think about people prescribes Metformin for it?

[45:46] Dr. Brighten:
Metformin? I had a guest a couple weeks ago, and we were talking about Fluconazole and she was like “The F word one.”

[45:58] Sahara:
Exactly! Not a doctor here!

[45:59] Dr. Brighten:
It’s all good, it’s all good.
So, with the Metformin, it could really help with the insulin sensitivity issue, so if you are showing signs of pre-diabetes or diabetes, it can be a great go-to pharmaceutical to use, and it’s not a forever pharmaceutical, that’s what’s really important to understand. So I encourage people, that if your doctor is going to prescribe you a pharmaceutical, ask them what the plan is to get you off of it. Because with Metformin, so that’s going to help so that your blood sugar levels get in check, which is really, really important because with insulin issues, that stimulates the fetal cells and the ovaries to make more androgens, and that’s one way that we can help with androgen, but also prevent cardiovascular risks. What a lot of people don’t realize is that, and that’s because they get PCOS diagnosis that are doctors like “Here’s birth control”, send you on your way, I’m like “Did anyone tell you about fatty liver disease or cardiovascular issues, or diabetes, or any of these things that can come with PCOS. And so, you will hear a lot of people, and I will say too; if you’re listening to this, you may have been told that to have PSOC you have to be overweight – once upon a time we thought that, then we got new science, we did better, okay? So that’s old and your doctor should be shifting away from that mindset. Not everybody is overweight, but everybody with PCOS, everybody in the population in general, can benefit from strength training. And so, with that, if you’re to be put on Metformin, looking at diet and lifestyle, know that this is not – please, if you have PCOS, I’m not saying that “You just need to eat right and exercise, lose weight, that’s your problem” no, no, no! But looking at, maybe you want to run less cardio and do more strength training because that cardio can be toxing those adrenals and they can kick out DHEA (and I got more androgens that you’re dealing with) but in addition, building muscle mass helps sensitize insulin, burning fat – and okay, listen, if you are a woman you should have fat (this is normal – pits, butt, thighs, breasts, even jiggly arms) these things that are normal were meant to carry some fat. It is an endocrine organ though, just like your muscles can be, which means that it can be producing more estrogen – which estrogen can be problematic because if you’re not ovulating with PCOS, you don’t have progesterone to oppose it. Now we get Endometro-hyperplasia who’s going to get that wicked, heavy period and your doctor’s telling you that you’re going to get Endometro cancer one day.
You know, that is something that is a long, long time off for a lot of people if you – so I just want to say that because doctors will say that “You have to get on the pill right now or you’re going to get Endometro cancer” and you have some time to work on this other stuff and trying to get your body ovulating and work on this other stuff. So that’s going to be more like a year process down the line than an immediate thing. With that, building muscle mass, eating lots of plants, we all need to be eating lots of plants. I know there are people out there doing the carnivore diet, and they swear by it, and I’m like “Please, can we just study you because we don’t have enough data for me to feel; it goes against everything that I’ve ever known” as just being a human but also my nutrition degree and my doctorate, and everything what I’ve seen in patients, and yet, there are people who get really great benefits. I still contend that given what plants give you to balance your hormones, go with the plant. So, lots of plants so that you’re feeding that micro-biome so that you’ve got that fiber; so that you are staying full but you’re also moving your bowels regularly, that’s going to help with your estrogen as well. And so, eating in a way that’s focused on nutrient density and not focused on caloric depravation; or focused on bad foods. I hate the bad foods, I was part of the bad foods troop in my 20s, those working of the US DA food pyramid very ironically, I was like “Bad foods; bad foods! And I had to only have whole-grained foods!”

[49:43] Sahara:
Whole grain pasta for every meal!

[49:44] Dr. Brighten:
Whole grain everything; whole grain pasta; whole grain bread, “Oh my God, I’ve got to eat all this grain!”

[49:48] Sahara:
I didn’t eat bread today, shit!

[49:52] Dr. Brighten:
That was so me, and I seriously, I was trying to eat six servings of grains a day and I felt awful doing it, and I would struggle getting enough vegetables in it; and finally I was like “My goal is, I want to get nine servings of vegetables in”, I started shifting, I was like “All my joint inflammation is going away.” Oh yeah, it took a decade later for me to figure out “Oh you’re really gluten sensitive; you’re one of those special people” but not everybody is. We see a lot of that happens on social media, it happens in doctor’s offices, where people are like “That food is bad, don’t eat the bad food!” When we label it ‘bad’, psychologically what happens when you eat it, you think you’re bad. Cake is not bad, it’s delicious. How can something be that delicious and bad? But it’s one of those things that there is this human experience that we are here to have, and it is not one of deprivation and perfection. You came here to experience it all and sometimes that ‘all’ is going to be sleeping in, eating ice-cream late at night, watching a movie, skipping your workout. Those things will happen, and so really, what I like to focus on is nutrient density. And even in my book, we do a modified elimination diet, but, and I hope everybody reads up to that, where I talk about “These foods are not bad, we’re just testing what’s true for you.” Because for some people, dairy is driving their acne – let’s find out if that is true for you, and there’s studies, there’s science to back up, yes, dairy can drive acne in some people. And what I want everyone to really focus on is “What is true for me?” And only focus on that because I say all the time, I give a lot of great information but it’s not true for everyone, and there’s a lot of great information out there but it’s not going to always be true for you. We can’t apply everything. So I have been in nutrition for almost 2 decades now, I’m getting old that day, but with that, like the trends and the diet thing, and everything that I say “Fat is bad”, oh yeah, I was part of fat is bad; I was like “No fat” and I was on birth control and I wondered why I had no libido.

[52:02] Sahara:
I remember I ate guacamole once and I felt so guilty after it, I was like “I can’t believe I just ate all that guac” and now it’s like the ‘superfood.’

[52:12] Dr. Brighten:
Totally, right?! And you watch all of these trends, I mean they are, for a while gluten was the devil, it still is the devil in some cans, and when I explain to people is that maybe it is for you, maybe it’s not, and sometimes you go to some countries and you don’t have a problem with it; and sometimes it’s certain things; and we definitely know there’s cross activity with autoimmune disease. So if you have Hashimoto’s or if you have Celiac disease for sure, or Psoriasis, gluten’s probably not a good idea for you, but then there are people that are like “I don’t understand, I cut it out, I bring it in; I cut it out and I never have a problem” and I’m like “Maybe it’s not a problem for you, good for you, because I love sour dough bread and I wish I could have it.”

[52:52] Sahara:
Right! So I want to talk about (speaking of nutrition), I want to talk about intermittent fasting for female hormonal health because some people say it’s the best thing ever, some people say for hormonal health it’s the worst thing ever. What’s your take?

[53:06] Dr. Brighten:
Intermittent fasting – I’ve actually seen it works really well in menopause and it can work really well in your perimenopausal years. So once you get in your 40s, as you’re becoming less fertile, and it really depends what’s going on.
So, I actually had a head injury in 2016, I did Keto and intermittent fasting as part of rehabilitating my brain, I never stopped ovulating. My body is really resilient, this is why I come from this huge Hispanic family, because my body is like “I will ovulate no matter what, nothing will ever stop me.” But I didn’t have any disruption to menstrual cycle; I didn’t have the fasting to say “Oh, well did I have any major hormonal shifts” because I was also using progesterone therapy in my Luteal phase (so after ovulation); I would then start progesterone therapy as part of brain rehab. And I do well to intermittent fast when I travel, so I find that when I’m travelling I will fast for a period, I adjust to time zones a lot better. So I do find times that personally, it works really well for me, and I do it in a window where it’s like I close the kitchen at 7pm and then I don’t eat again until 7, 8, 9am, just depending on how I feel. And that’s something that didn’t work for me in previous years, I was too metabolically unstable for my adrenal glands, but a 12-hour fast window, most people can do that. That’s doable for most people, and that’s a great way for your gut, and most people don’t realize that’s intermittent fasting too (is that 12-hour window). So, and I’m not going to get into some more specifics about intermittent fasting, but we find there is a nervous system in your gut called the migraine motor complex, and it sweeps everything through, it’s why we have healthy bowel movements in the morning; that’s why we don’t get small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, those critters stay in the large intestine, it’s really important, and we don’t totally know what the enteric nervous system has to do with our entire nervous system, and parasympathetic and sympathetic activity. So, when you actually give that 12-hour break, that’s when you can get four sweep cycles. It’s very, very healthy for your digestion, so most people can do that.
Who can’t do that – people who have adrenal issues may not be able to do that. They will wake up in the middle of the night, they’ll feel hot; sweaty; anxious; and they’re hungry, that’s okay to not be doing the 12 hours. If you need to eat closer to bed, that’s okay, that’s a healing phase maneuver, totally okay to do. Sometimes people with diabetes, they are not able to do that; they have to eat a little bit closer. So, it really depends on what is true for you.
Now, there’s other forms of intermittent fasting where people will skip a whole day sometimes. And I will say, if you are cyclical, you are better off doing that, if you want to try it. Let’s be real here, I could say, it might mess with your hormones, but if you want to try it, you’re going to try it, right? And some women, they are just, they love to do little experiments on themselves (this person right here included, I like to do the same thing). So, the best time to try it would be prior to ovulation because after ovulation your insulin sensitivity switches and you’re a little less sensitive, and you’re going to be hungrier, you’re going to be like “I need more food.” Now, if you’re wanting to do the “I’m going to take the whole day off and fast” these are actually protocols we use when – sometimes when there’s chronic gut inflammation going on, we’ve really got to heal the gut. Even Crohn’s and ulcerated colitis, some things are like you’re going to take the whole day off and just drink water and just rest with that. So, there’s also a therapeutic benefit to that, in this way. The thing you have to mindful of though is that if you end up like “I’m going to start going in and doing the intermittent fasting” or “I’m only eating…” I personally couldn’t do the “I’m just going to eat in a 4-8 hour window” that feels stressful for me; it’s psychologically stressing me out. But if you’re going to do that, you need to be tracking your menstrual cycle; you need to be tracking all of your symptoms. If you get hungry, you start getting shakey; you get hot, sweaty; you get more irritable. Your body is telling you, don’t wait for your whole menstrual cycle to be thrown off, your body is telling you. But you want to track that and understand that it might take 3 months of you doing that before your body is like “Nope, we’re not going to compensate anymore” and then you have symptoms show up.
But when it comes to the research in terms of the beneficial key tones that we get, the autophagy, the research is there, and it’s been there for a long time. It’s getting a lot more attraction now, but back when I was getting my nutrition degree, caloric restrictions, going down to eating 1200 calories a day, having these short feeding windows, they were talking about it back then. They have done it with animal models and actually shown lengthening of telomeres – basically that’s your biological clock ticking down. So the science is there, keep in mind, most of the time science is being done on men, and you have to recognize that as a cyclical creature, you are interacting with your environment, you’re way more in tune with your environment than your male counterpart because your body is taking signals from the environment and saying “Do I have enough food to ovulate and get pregnant, and sustain myself, and a human, and then birth it, and then breastfeed it as well. Am I running, this more cardio can do us in sometimes; am I running really hard all the time, my body doesn’t know if it’s a lion, a tiger, a bear or is something coming after me? So, it’s about the signals. We need, and so in one way though, is that when you’re intermittent fasting is when you are eating, eating nutrient dense foods, so you are eating you’re not going fat-free on me, you are eating plants, you are getting as much nutrients in; high quality foods in; so that you are signaling from the environment. And to that pay, there are nutrients available.
It has been argues that we likely practice intermittent fasting as our cave men selves because it was feaster famine sometimes; we would hunt for things; go after things; forage for things. And so, sometimes you would get up and there wouldn’t be food so you’d be out; you’d be hiking; you’d be foraging; you’d be exercising, and it wasn’t contrary to the belief that the men were out doing all the – no, there were lots of women hunting as well. And this is funny because they’re just stereotypes that we’ve made up in Disney stories and they’re not rooted in reality. And so, women and men were doing that all along.
So, this again comes back to “Is it true for me?” And back to what I said before, I do find that the people who are most successful with Keto and with intermittent fasting tend to be more advanced in age, and so in your 20s, it may not work for you. If you are a marathon runner and you’re wanting to do intermittent fasting, know that you’re compounding the stress. If you come from a background that gave you a high allostatic load or your high A scores and you are now intermittent fasting – to understand that it’s not the individual stressor, it’s the totality of the stress that’s taking place and only you can truly examine that and answer “Is this the best thing for me in the context of everything that’s going on?” So this all is to say it depends.

[1:00:29] Sahara:
Yes, well that’s a really great explanation. I found for myself, when I was dealing with Amenorrhea, even though I wanted to do all the fasting, that was not right for me at the time because I needed to do, had to do basically no exercise, just stretching because I needed to – I also didn’t have body fat too, so it was just not the right move. Whereas now, I’ll do about 14 or 16 hour fast, which is basically skip breakfast, but I do drink a coffee that has MCT oil and stuff like that. But I do know a lot of other people say that coffee is not good for female hormonal health, and I know that we had a chat about this before because you’re a Portland coffee lover.
So what is your thought? Can we have coffee and still have healthy hormones?

[1:01:15] Dr. Brighten:
Oh absolutely! Coffee can actually help with estrogen metabolism. So if you’re estrogen dominant, sometimes coffee can help with that. The problem is that, one, if you’re drinking poor quality coffee that can likely be problematic. You know, sometimes the way that decaf is processed is worse for you than regular coffee because they’re using chemical compounds in there.
So again, it’s back to what is true for you. There is a small sub-set of the population, it’s a slow metabolizer, so they’re the kind of people (this is like my husband) that they have coffee at noon; midnight they’re still wide awake – that’s a slow metabolizer. So for you, you want to have coffee, you’re going to want to have it earlier in the day. If you find that you are jittery, you’re really hungry, you are anxious, you are sweating when you have coffee, it’s probably throwing catecholamine, so you’re getting a stress response to that, so that’s not great for you.
But when it comes to coffee, yeah it used to be that people would say “Yeah, depletes magnesium” and I’m like “Can we talk about alcohol for a minute then?” especially as everyone is in quarantine. But another thing I want to talk about too here is – as I bring up alcohol, it’s just being mindful of rituals as well – I think in a Western society we often forget how important rituals are. And it happens a lot in the wellness space where we just start taking stuff away from people without ever thinking about the ritual. And I actually had, when I was in medical school, one of my herbal medicine teachers, she taught herbal medicine class and she was one of the clinicians that I worked under, and she was Native American. And what was really interesting to me, she taught me and I carried that forward to my practice, is if someone’s smoking, you never take away that ritual – that is their ritual and tobacco is sacred; and really coming from that perspective where she’s like “Instead it’s about harm reduction.” So, a lot of my training was about harm reduction – how do we reduce harm? And about getting them to roll organic tobacco; if it’s that important to them, they get sacred, and what’s interesting is that you go through that process with people, you often find that ritual melts away and they find a new ritual; you help them find a new ritual that really serves them. So, that comes up as I’m like “A-ha! Being for alcohol” and I’m like “Well, there’s still this ritual of people coming home at the end of the day and having a glass of wine” when people are “That’s bad, breast cancer all of a sudden.” Yet, we have to recognize, well this is a ritual, and coffee can very much be – like for my husband, that’s like going to church in the morning, I swear, he’s like measuring everything by the grams, it’s a whole thing, everything is weighed, measured, all of that. And so, with that, as I say that, one of the best ways, though, for you to examine is coffee impacting you in a negative way, is to pull it out and then reintroduce it and see how you feel. Will you feel a little more energy? Yes you will, that’s not as much of a problem, but say you have fibrocystic breasts, so you have lumpy, bumpy breasts that get more tender before your period, and you take out coffee and then you find out that “Oh, my breasts weren’t tender this cycle” and the lumps and bumps will take some time to go away – well that’s a sign that that perhaps wasn’t working for you. But I think it’s really easy for us to vilify things and to be like “This is bad, it’s always bad” and yet, this is my personality type where it’s always like “It depends. In this context it could be bad.” If you are drinking a pot a day – that could go in a bad direction for you; you’re having GI irritation, so that can happen. If you have diarrhea if you drink coffee, you’re tummy is like “Oh my goodness, stop it!” So, some people do get that irritation, it’s usually because of high tannins, which are actually antimicrobial and can keep some things in check in your gut as well.
And then the other thing I’ll say about coffee is that Dale Bredesen, who does a lot of work in reversing Alzheimer’s, he has a great book if anyone has – I mean, we should all know about this because 66% of the population that has dementia is women. That’s who’s getting these cognitive diseases as we age, and he and doctor [Broughmatter – 1:05.:25] found great efficacy in their protocols with using coffee and introducing coffee. What’s interesting is that, when I had my head injury, I actually would fast, I just couldn’t even eat in the morning, and I would crave coffee, and I would drink four cups of coffee, which I thought that was kind of crazy – you’re fasting and you’re drinking four cups of coffee and I was fine; I was like “This is…”, so my dogmatic self, it still lives in there sometimes, it’s like “This is not possible, this is bad, you’re doing a bad thing.” And then I heard Bredesen speak and he was like “We do a fast and then we had them drink at least two, if not four, sometimes more, cups of black coffee because it actually spikes specific key tones that heal the neurological tissue of their brain” and I was like “Wow!”
So, again, it depends and we have to be careful because what applies to – look, I wouldn’t want a young teenager – I wouldn’t want my kid, he’s seven, a straight up espresso or anything like that. Yet there’s countries where they do; it doesn’t stomp your growth as we used to believe (I totally believed that when I was a kid) and we also have to recognize that it does have medicinal benefit (it does have medicinal benefits). So who are we talking about in what context, and is it actually true for them? Because I think it’s like – you’ll hear things where people are like “Wine is bad for female hormones” well, arguably yeah, it raises estrogen. So having a glass of wine is bad in that it can raise estrogen, however, it can also drop your cortisol and your catecholamines pretty quickly, and you feel calm and less stressed because that one glass, it’s a disservice after that, but that one glass may be shifting other hormones and things feel better. People are like “There is Resveratrol, that’s good; oh well, your blood sugar, oh that’s bad” you know. You can’t get it right all the time, and sometimes just being happy and enjoying something is one of the best things you can do for your overall health. I’m not saying everybody go binge drink alcohol and coffee all day, you’ve got to drink your water still.

[1:07:24] Sahara:
Totally, yes, I think that’s super important. You know, certain phases of your life might draw you to certain types of medicine, and they really all are medicine, including plant medicines like marijuana etc. you could find something that’s good, you could find somebody said that’s it’s bad, everything. For me, I don’t drink alcohol, I don’t smoke weed, but I like coffee, so it’s like everyone will have their vices or whatever you want to call it, but it’s really medicine.

[1:07:49] Dr. Brighten:
Yeah. Well, that’s where it comes to ritual again, where it’s like – we call it a vice, and yet, is it a vice or is it a ritual? Yeah, and I don’t want to be that person, that this happened to me, and so we call it cannabis, because that’s the botanical name, whereas marijuana, I messed it up a bit with, because we grew up and that was the word, and for everybody listening, this was so embarrassing to me. I was at Maya Maya Green revitalize, out on a hike in the desert, and this cannabis doctor, I said marijuana, and she was like “That’s actually a very racist term and very stigmatizing and is why we have not been able to advance legislation.” She’s from Canada and she’s like “I can’t even believe you’re from the United States.”

[1:08:28] Sahara:
Why is marijuana a racist term?

[1:08:30] Dr. Brighten:
So, it’s actually used to make it to where it was – like, that’s what Mexicans use, that’s what Black people use, and then it’s like this drug, whereas cannabis is the botanical name, so that’s the scientific name, so that’s the scientifically accurate term.

[1:08:43] Sahara:
Also like Santa Maria, that’s what it’s called in Spanish right? Yeah.

[1:08:50] Dr. Brighten:
Right, but it’s what in the US they use I guess when legislation is being passed. And for everybody listening, this is an herb (just as we’re talking about Rodiola, just as we were talking about Viatex) it’s been amazing to see the research that’s coming out at Stanford on cannabis. And so, with that though, I guess when legislation, they’re just like “That’s the marijuana, the kinds are smoking dope” and that kind of thing. And that really holds science and medicine back, which is problematic. I actually had a plane flight, next to a 60-something year-old, she was so rad. She was on all these pain meds, and she was on all these pharmaceuticals, and she was telling me this story how her kidneys were failing her, and they were getting her ready for dialysis and telling her to get her affairs in order because after dialysis, it’s not a long road that you have. And she decided to see a cannabis doctor, try it, she’d gone off of all her pain meds, all her medications, went back to her doctor – and she lived in Eugene Oregon, and it’s kind of surprised by this – told her doctor “I stopped all my meds” because he was like “Oh my gosh, your kidneys look amazing, you don’t need dialysis, what happened?” She was like “I stopped all my meds, I started cannabis” and he was like “I’m not going to see you as a patient anymore if you’re using cannabis” and that was the end of that; and she was like “I fired him then and there and I found a doctor that wasn’t going to put me on dialysis.” I’m like “Your doctor was more comfortable with your kidneys failing and you dying than you using a stigmatized medicinal plant!” That’s insanity to me! That’s why I’m like “Let’s take a moment and talk about it.” But I seriously, I don’t know if you saw me – people would see me on the camera – go rewind this and look at it, I got a little red as I even told that story because I was like “I should know that! My family is from Mexico, I should know that!” This is everything that went on with the criminalization and just everything around it, it’s so interesting. I feel like in the 90s I knew nothing because now I’m learning so much in life.

[1:10:48] Sahara:
Totally, yes! It’s super important that now these different medicines are coming to life, and then it’s also remembering that something that might be medicinal for one person is not medicinal for everyone, but it’s giving people the opportunity to use what works for them and not say “Oh, this didn’t work for me and no one should have it.” I feel like, often times, we read a book or listen to a podcast or something and this person, personally, didn’t have a good experience with it so then it becomes bad for every single person, so it is like people can share their experiences with it, but if you’re actually getting benefit from something, don’t listen to the stigma, just keep doing it. And it’s really amazing to see all types of plant medicines now, like Psilocybin etc. so much more research is being done on these plants. And to use them as allies, again, not another crutch, but another way to bring you back to your own body’s healing wisdom.

[1:11:41] Dr. Brighten:
A-ha, absolutely! It’s so well said, and think that’s – again, it comes back to is it true for me? Because what that person is telling you – you know, September is PCOS awareness month, and there was a lot I was just listening to from the PCOS community about how many people were just like “You have to lose weight and everyone has to eat this way or that way; and if it’s not this way, then you’re doing life wrong.” You know, we forget about the psychological diet – I think a psychological diet is more necessary than physical diet, in terms of what you eat and what you consume and what you let in – sometimes you need – fast from that, take a little break from that. But it’s so interesting to just see, I’ve always very anti-dogmatic in terms of my approach as a physician because I’ve just seen, time and again, so many patients, they don’t fit the textbooks, you have to get creative – I mean, I get that people, they’ve seen so many doctors and struggled, and it’s like “Wait, we have to try something new in all of this.” But just to examine things and to recognize, that person sharing their story is absolutely true, it’s 100% true for them. That doesn’t always mean you can apply it to yourself. And I think we’ve really moved out of the age of the ‘surrender your power to the guru’ I think that was happening for a really long time, where it was like “This person has been there before me and they know more than me, and they’re more educated than me, so I’m just going to surrender my power and let them tell me” and that sometimes took the shape of a doctor, so the white coat was a really easy one for people to be like “I’ll just give you my power.” But it also happens with influencers on social media; it can happen with – it’s happened for a very long time with celebrities: it’s happened in a lot of ways.

[1:13:22] Sahara:

[1:13:25] Dr. Brighten:
Politicians? Yeah! That’s one I never think I’d never slippery slope myself into that one, to be reasoning my way into being like “Oh yeah” but that can definitely happened too – to where you just give up your power and it’s a lot more work to take the reins and drive the chariot; it’s a lot more work than to just let the horses run free. But I will tell you, when you get to the end, you’re going to be way less satisfied if you were not in charge and you were not driving that. That’s so much of what I really try to drive home to people. And also to recognize that you got this – you do not have to depend on external validation or even a doctor for every single thing – we’re here when you need us but you shouldn’t always need us because you should need us for a minute until we get you back on course and you’re like “I got this, I know what I’m supposed to do!”

[1:14:13] Sahara:
I love that so much, and I think sometimes, I know for myself, when I was dealing with Amenorrhea, not getting my period for years, I was like, I felt this unfairness of “Why do I have to now spend all of my time trying to figure this out and learn all of these things” that it was taking me away from what I wanted to actually study. Sometimes you forcibly have to become that expert in whatever it is that you’re experiencing, but now I’m so grateful for it because I get to have these interests and these types of conversations; and have learned so much about my body that’s always going to be useful. And sometimes your own personal health problems are your greatest gifts but you only see that on the other way.

[1:14:51] Dr. Brighten:
Yeah, when we went through that with my son having PANDAS (for people who don’t know that, that’s Pediatric Autoimmune Neuro-Psychiatric Disorder that’s associated with Strep, it is not the cute little teddy bear; it’s not cute at all, doesn’t eat bamboo) and with that, I knew because I’ve definitely had my rough patches in life, my A-score is really high, so in childhood – I’ve been served enough in childhood, I thought it was good I got through it all, I got my lessons – and at that time like I know that when I just – 1 – have to surrender; let myself feel whatever I have to feel; go deep into the darkness, if it’s there, follow it down, see what is there and know to come back up for air. I knew all this, and yet, still at times I hated it, and I was like “I regret this, I hate this; I regret, not even regret, that’s not even the right word, it’s just more of like I’m bitter that I have learn! And people were like “Write a book on PANDAS” and I was in the thick of it, and I was like “I don’t want to do that, that’s not what I love, that’s not what I want to study.” And yet, my son has been able to turn around, he’s thriving, I got him back way faster than others; and I realize that “Man, to understand its own immunity.” I worked with so many women with autoimmunity – what a blessing, what a gift to witness and to work with so many patients that once when it came to my son I was like “I got this; this autoimmune, I got this; I’m not even tripping, I got this!” And so, through that, I came to Portland – I often see this book that goes around; it’s impossible to have gratitude and basically feel a negative emotion (what we label a negative emotion); it’s impossible to feel gratitude – I don’t know what the quote is exactly, but like depression at the same time or something like that. No, that’s not true actually, because you can simultaneously have emotions, you’re very complex like that, where you’re like “I’m recognizing what I’m grateful for; I am really doing my gratitude but right now I hate all of this, and I’m feeling this and this is hard” and that’s not because you’re not grateful enough, and you’re not spiritual enough, or not anything, it’s because you are human, having a human experience, and you’re being begged; you are being begged to have that experience, and to process and to grow, and to move through it. And you can hate every minute of it, that’s okay too, but I think it’s really important what you said about your Amenorrhea –hating it and realizing what a gift to have gone through this and to have this. I will also note that’s a time not to be doing intermittent fasting – eat the calories people. But if you have hypothalamic Amenorrhea, someone should be telling you that. There’s also, if you have a history of eating disorders, go gluten free or try to cut out the dairy, or intermittent fast (any of that). Unless you are working with somebody who is specifically trained in eating disorders, because it can be a trigger for you – because that’s just another of those where a lot of patients feel the same way too, where they’re like “I hate this, why is this my burden to carry?” And yet, one thing I will say to everybody that’s listening to this is that, I think in some ways it’s a part of our story, but it’s also a part of our story to tell, and it’s so important because you never know who’s going to be healed when they hear your story. And I see this play out so many times on social media, or when I broke down on social media, because I was like “I was just about to launch a book” and “Beyond the Pill” is coming out and I’m like “You’ve got to be on in on social media, be professional, be all these things” and then I just lose it. I’m on Instagram Live and I just start crying and I’m like “My day sucks 90% of the day” I just lost it, and I was like “I can’t keep up the façade; I can’t keep this going” and I just explained what was happening with my son – and how many moms with special needs were like (special needs children) were like “I thought I was failing” – looking at everyone on social media and when I saw that, I was like “This is someone I respect” who’s having a really bad day and she’s crying in front of thousands of people. It’s okay if I cry by myself in my bathroom, and that really opened my eyes so much to like “You know, we used to tell our stories more” we’d sit around the camp fire, tell stories, we used to talk about things. So much of women’s medicine has been made taboo and we’ve been disempowered in silence. It is painful to carry the burden of your own story – part of telling our story helps us process it – and now we have to pay for counselors (we all do), so if you do that, no worries, especially in 2020. But the other thing is that when you tell the story, someone else can hook in and be like “That actually is helping me in this way” or “I thought that was normal and I’ve been living with that, and yet you healed from that, and I don’t have to live with that?” You telling your story about Amenorrhea, and there are people out there that are going to hear it and be like “I gave up, I thought I was never going to have a period, I just gave up” and then to hear that healing is possible. And that’s sometimes all we need, is just to have that hope, that’s like you’ve tried every med, you’ve tried every diet, you’ve tried everything, but you haven’t tried hope. And that’s been the thing that’s been missing in all of this.

[1:19:56] Sahara:
Yes1 Preach! So beautifully expressed! Thank you for that and thank you for all of your wisdom. This was like a masterclass just in itself today.
So where can listeners connect with you further or join your email list, get your new book, and just get your wisdom nuggets on a daily basis?

[1:20:15] Dr. Brighten:
Well, the main place you want to find me is drbrighten.com and if you go to drbrighten.com/hormonekit then we’ll find a meal plan and recipe guide to help you get started on eating a nutrient dense diet and really focusing on optimizing your hormones. It is gluten and dairy free so that it is inclusive in that way (I have enough on autoimmune community that are “No, this has to be gluten and dairy free). So, you can grab that there.
You can also find me on Instagram, it’s @drjolenebrighten and you can also find me on TikTok at the same handle. I’ve got videos on YouTube, so it just depends on where you want to hang out – you can hang out with me.

[1:20:50] Sahara:
Awesome! Thank you again for sharing your wisdom with us.

[1:20:53] Dr. Brighten:
Yeah, thank you so much for having me, this was a great conversation.

[1:20:55] End of Interview


[1:20:56] Sahara:
Goddess, yes! How incredible was that conversation! I hope you were taking notes and you can always go back and re-listen.
And I know how scary it can be when your hormones are out of balance or when you’re not getting your period, or you’re experiencing pain or cramps, or whatever it is, but just know that you can find healing and you can find your way around. And learning about your body is always a gift; it’s always going to bring you into further alignment. And for some of us, that this is just a major part of our journeys to really understand ourselves. I know this was for me. So wherever you are in your journey, I’m sending you so much love; so much healing: so much clarity; so much awareness. And let this knowledge guide your path so you can find the foods, the herbs, the practices, the lifestyle techniques, everything to benefit you at the highest level so your hormones can be balanced, your life can be juicy, your womb can be interconnected and you can really radiate at your highest self.
So thank you so much for listening and thank you Dr. Brighten for being on this Episode.

So don’t forget to join us in Rose Gold Goddesses. We are diving deep this month, healing the Mother Womb. The Mother Womb is something that so many of us hold onto, whether it is upfront obstacles that we have had with our own mothers in this lifetime or if it’s an intergenerational trauma that has been suppressed and we see it show up in our relationship with other women, our relationship with ourselves, our inability to communicate and express with our own mothers, maybe anger, or sadness, or guilt, or shame we feel when we are in communication with our mothers; and how important it is to really heal from that wound to bring about upmost wholeness, and we can really only manifest and be as magical as the depth that we go into, into ourselves. So if we really want these incredible rainbows, and unicorns, and Goddesses in our lives, well we’ve got to work with the more shadowy aspects of ourselves. So that’s what Goddess Ceridwen is all about. She’s all about diving deep into your shadows, into your inner witch, into your Mother Womb and bringing about healing, transformation and magic.
So, come join us this month in Rose Gold Goddesses to dive deep and receive the twelve other Goddess circles we have done; my Healing and Embodiment Through Dance Course; my Awaken Your Powers Masterclass; my Sex Money Magic Masterclass; and so much more, all included in your membership.
That is rosegoldgoddesses.com you can find that link in the show notes and I’m soul excited to meet you inside.

If you loved this Episode, I would love to send you a free gift which is the first half of my unreleased book “Eat Right for Your Mind Body Type“. This is a different book than “Eat Feel Fresh“. My first book ever which is not released anywhere, and I am gifting it exclusively to those who leave a review of my Podcast in the iTunes store. So all you’ve got to do is head over to iTunes where you’re maybe listening to this Podcast and leave a review, take a screenshot that you’ve left it and email it over to me at [email protected] and I will send you back the first half of my unreleased book “Eat Right for Your Mind Body Type“, which goes all into Ayurveda, Doshas, Plant-Based Nutrition, Body Types – all of the things in a really fun and engaging way. So this is my gift to you for free for supporting the Podcast. Every single review I personally read. It really helps the Podcast be listened to by more people so we can raise the vibration of the planet together, and I am soul grateful to have you on this journey.

Thank you so much for listening and I’ll see you on the next Episode. Namaste.

Episode 325: Holistic Hormonal Balance + Birth Control with Dr Jolene Brighten
By Sahara Rose


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