The birth control pill is the standard prescription when a woman is diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, typically without outlining the risks posed specifically for us. For many, it manages to mask PCOS symptoms. For others, the side effects are immediately intolerable. For all, symptoms resume when we must stop taking it. Worse, many struggle with Post Birth Control Pill Syndrome. So, what can we do? Dr. Jolene Brighten and I discuss this and much more in this podcast. Listen in or read the transcript.
- What is Post Pill Syndrome and what we can do about it?
- Testing to have done while on the pill
- Often undisclosed risks of the pill including: thyroid issues, adrenals, inflammation, autoimmune diseases, leaky gut, food sensitivities, anxiety, blood clots, yeast infections, and heightened risk of suicide
- Contraceptive alternatives for women with PCOS
- Why an orgasm a week is good for your health
Amy Medling: Since so many women that reach out to me have been given a prescription for the birth control pill, perhaps Metformin, told to lose weight, go on a low carb diet and get themselves to the gym. As we all know, it’s really not a prescription for getting to the root cause of PCOS. Today, I have brought on a really fantastic expert for you all to hear from and her name’s Dr. Jolene Brighten. She’s a functional medicine naturopathic doctor and the founder of Rubus health, a root cause women’s medicine clinic where she specializes in the treatment of hormone disorders, including adrenal and thyroid conditions and autoimmune disease. She is the leading expert in post birth control pill syndrome and the side effects and long-term consequences associated with the use of the birth control pill.
So, I’m really excited to be talking about these risk factors of birth control pill and have her tell us more about post birth control syndrome and what we can do about it when we’re ready to come off the pill. So happy to have you, Dr. Jolene. Welcome to the PCOS Diva podcast.
Dr. Jolene B.: Thank you for having me. You know, I’m a big fan. I shout out your stuff all the time. So, I’m excited to be here talking to your tribe.
Amy Medling: Well, I really appreciate that I hate to take a real hard line on birth control, because I know so many women are on it, and I know it has somewhat helping symptoms. But I just, like you said, I saw this quote on your website that there is no best birth control pill for PCOS, and I have to agree with you.
Dr. Jolene B.: Yeah. I think that’s a great way to start the conversation of we’re not judging you. I’m not hating on you if you’ve got to do the pill. I did it for 10 years. I’m a first-generation college student who’s a doctor. The pill was absolutely instrumental in all of that. So, I’m with you. I’m not going to take a hard line and tell you what to do. I think that’s what got us in trouble. All of us women, and in medicine is doctors telling us what to do and us just blindly following it. But it is something that I think women need a true informed consent, so they can make the best decisions for themselves.
Should they choose to use hormonal contraceptives, then they need to know you know what to be looking out for what to be testing for, and ways to protect their body while they’re on it. Because you’re absolutely right. Birth control pill is not going to fix your hormones, it does not fix your hormone imbalance, but it does a really good job at masking it. That’s is why women with PCOS, so for instance, they will be prescribed a birth control pill for acne. Because it can be really, really powerful for making cystic acne go away and nobody likes that business. So, I totally get it. But at the same time, it’s masking. That acne is actually a symptom of an underlying cause and it’s really your body being vocal saying, “Hey girl, you need some love you need some attention and I really want to show you there’s some healing that needs to be done.”
Amy Medling: Yeah, I really like to think of PCOS as a message that your body’s sending you that it’s out of balance, and you need to pay some attention to it. I like the idea, and I wish that I had done this when I was suffering with PCOS, is getting to that root cause, rather than taking the pill. Like you, I was on the pill for 10 years. It wasn’t really until I tried to get back on the pill after the birth of my second son that my body was just like, “Whoa, I can’t do this anymore.” So, I was really forced to find another way to “manage” my PCOS.
I was never ever, ever told about risk factors for PCOS. For those women who are not aware of any risk factors, I would love it if you could kind of go down some of the laundry, really a laundry list of factors for us.
Dr. Jolene B.: Yes. When we’re talking about PCOS specifically, the first thing we have to understand, and you do such a good job of educating your listeners, most doctors don’t understand that PCOS is not a hormone disorder. It’s a metabolic disorder that has these hormonal side effects going on. That’s why doctors are so quick to grab that prescription pad and write women and say, “Okay, here’s a pill.” They truly do believe that the pill is fixing your hormones. When you reframe it in that way and you look at, okay these medications this pill was designed for a healthy woman. That’s who it was designed for, and it isn’t really studied in populations who have pre-existing conditions.
If you stand back and you frame it, okay, you have PCOS, you have a metabolic disorder. Well, what does this birth control pill put everybody at risk for? Well, we know risk of stroke, risk of heart attack, risk of diabetes. These are things that PCOS women are already at risk for. So, this to me is a huge disservice to women. When you write them that prescription without saying, “Hey, and this pill could actually make your symptoms worse.” And you’re not going to know it because it’s masking your hormonal symptoms and you’re going along your way saying, “My skin looks good, I’m not gaining weight, I’m having a regular bleed.”
That’s just the withdrawal bleed. That’s not actually regulating your cycle, which if you’re listening to this and you’re feeling like, wait. I had no idea. Your doctor probably didn’t know that either, because their limitations come with what they were taught in medical school. So, we can all honor that they’re trying to do the best for you that they can, and their toolkit is just really small. And so the other things that we look at that aren’t often talked about are the nutrient depletion that take place with the birth control pill.
These minerals, but also antioxidants. Just imagine that you’ve already got a condition that puts you at oxidative stress, and now you’re losing your antioxidants like crazy. So, antioxidants, I like to imagine they’re like ninjas in there, kicking free radicals around and protecting yourselves and your DNA. They’re absolutely essential in protecting your ovaries as well. And so, if you’re talking fertility and I know not everybody’s looking to have a baby, but you do want to be fertile because that’s how you get that progesterone up and you feel all blissed out and wonderful, and your periods are not terrible as they can be in states of estrogen dominance.
But the antioxidants alone, that’s something where we see problems with our brain health. We start seeing problems with heart health. And so, it really runs deep. I could actually go off forever about the side effects of birth control pills, because it’s affecting your thyroid. It’s affecting your adrenals. It’s inflammatory. There’s been studies to show that it’s involved in triggering autoimmune diseases. That’s a really big deal. It induces leaky gut. I think back to when I had leaky gut. I had all of these food sensitivities and I was on the pill, and nobody stopped to say, “Hey, maybe you want to get off that pill.” Instead, they were like, “Don’t eat that, don’t eat that.” Before I knew it, 96 foods couldn’t be in my diet anymore. That is also not root cause in any way, but there’s other things that we know about the birth control pill as well. So, it affects your mood.
There are all these studies out there. Despite all of these really good studies saying yes, there’s a correlation, you still hear doctors, I still have women coming into my medical clinic who are like, “My doctor told me I’m just crazy. I need a medication for my mood. My pill can’t have anything to do with it.” It’s as simple as going through their timeline and being like, “Well, let’s actually look when did your symptoms come on?” There was just a study published showing that the depletion of nutrients coupled with the inflammatory state that the pill induces, can actually disrupt the tryptophan fan pathway in the brain and lead to neurotoxins being produced.
To me, that’s a really big deal. Anxiety is also something that’s really common with birth control. That’s something I’ll hear from women who have gone through childbirth that tried it. So, like you were saying, you couldn’t get back on the pill. Well, what do we do before we get pregnant? We get as healthy as possible and then we really … There’s no better time that women love up on themselves than when they’re growing a human in their body. It’s much like if you live in a scent-free environment or you cut out sugar, and then you bring it back in and it is a stark contrast. Mood symptoms or something that I see where women will … They start a hormone and they’re like, “Oh yeah. No, I was crying all the time. I was having panic attacks. I was scared to leave my house.
This is something that can definitely hit new moms as well pretty hard, and they’re already at risk for things like postpartum depression. This mood stuff is real. So, I just want to say as a doctor, I would stand back and say, “Hey, look, if you tell me it’s not normal, then it’s not normal for you. That’s all that really matters is your barometer of normal. Not your sister, not your mom, not your friend. Now whatever some cherry pick randomized control trial study says, it’s all about your normal.” The thing that’s super scary to me is not … We see so girls with PCOS say, they’re 14, they’re 15, their period comes on and their doctor’s like, “You’re having irregular periods. So, let’s just give you some of these hormonal contraceptives.” But we know their risk of suicide in teenage girls skyrockets in the first couple of months.
What’s really scary to me. Okay, so when I was a teenage girl I was awesome. I can get birth control pill and my parents. Now that I’m a mom, I’m like, “Hold up, my kid.” Now I have a son. But let’s say I had a daughter. She could get on this pill and I wouldn’t know about it and then I can’t monitor. I don’t know to look out that she might be at suicide risk. Now I’m not advocating that we take away reproductive rights for anyone, but it’s important information to at least hand over that teenage girl and say, “Hey, you might want to let someone know to keep an eye on your mood when you start this. That person can be your doctor or your medical provider.”
Amy Medling: The thing that really concerns me too, is the fact that now you go to your doctor on the pill and you have mood issues and chances are, they’re going to write you another prescription for another pill. Just last week, there was an article in The New York Times about how difficult once you’ve been on an antidepressant long-term, it’s nearly impossible to come off of it without some serious side effects.
It kind of, I don’t know, makes me angry in some ways. That you’re just taking these prescriptions at face value that your doctor is giving you without any sense of what it’s actually physiologically doing to your body. That’s why I’m so grateful that you’re here and talking about this with us.
Dr. Jolene B.: We should be upset, because what do we get in women’s medicine? We get hormonal suppression, we get IVF if we want to have a baby, we get offered hysterectomies, and then mood-altering drugs. Because it all just lives in our head and we must be crazy. It’s a big disservice not to stand back and say, “Well, why? What happened? What changed?” Sometimes when we’re feeling anxious and we’re feeling depressed, because our body is like, “Hey, I need you to pay attention.” Or maybe there was a major life change that happened and for whatever reason, society thinks us ladies are supposed to put on a smile every day. If we’re not, that’s a problem we should take a medication for it. You’re right to get upset, I’m upset.
Amy Medling: What were risk factor that I always like to bring up because I think that it’s not discussed that much but, yet I see women every time I post about it talking about these horrific incidences where they almost lost their life, and that’s blood clots. Women with PCOS are at more than two times the risk of blood clot. Albeit it’s still low risk, but it’s a life-threatening risk.
Dr. Jolene B.: Absolutely. The other thing about blood clots is that a lot of doctors are prescribing birth control pill for women who are in perimenopause. Now that is something where you need a lot more than some synthetic estrogen or progesterone to love you up in that phase. But after age 35, those risk factors start climbing quickly. So, now you take a woman who’s … I got to say, we’re in really unique time in history, where we’re actually seeing women who have been on birth control pill for decades.
Not just 10 years, because we used to get told to stop after 10 years. I have patients that come in 20 years, 30 years. It’s something that they’re in their 40s now and their doctor hasn’t even mentioned that, “Hey, you could be at risk.” And so, we start running … I run genetic testing on women. I run inflammatory markers. I start looking at everything. Hands down, I see more often than not, women are inflamed, and they have elevations in their fibrinogen. Which is pretty much a risk for a clot. But there’s also, I can’t even tell you, it’s so, so simple to run, a factor two factor five Leiden on women. Which is a genetic test that tells us if you’re predisposed towards throwing a clot.
Dr. Jolene B.: So, whether that’s a pulmonary embolism or DVT in your calf or a stroke. I can’t even tell you how many times women come into my clinic on birth control, I test them and if you are just heterozygous, that means just one copy that gene doesn’t work right, you are at a 35-fold increase risk of a stroke.
Amy Medling: Oh, my gosh.
Dr. Jolene B.: Nobody’s talking about that. It was crazy to me is when the insurance companies deny it and tell the patient, “There was absolutely no reason for your doctor to check this whatsoever. You don’t have risk factors.” I’m like, “You’re on the pill. That’s a risk factor for a stroke or a clot. You’re over 35 and you’re on the pill. Or you have PCOS and you’re on the pill.” So, I really appreciate you calling attention to that because this costs us our lives.
While statistically speaking, and this is the thing that kind of kills me, is statistically speaking, the risks are always that minimized. They’ll say, even with the breast cancer risk, they’re like, “Oh, it’s only a handful of more cases a year.” But if you’re that number, it’s a really big deal. If you’re the number that comes out for a stroke, that’s no joke. That is life-threatening. To me, when we look at statistically speaking, it’s a small percentage. We also have to look at the weight of that. What does that mean in terms of a risk factor? It’s not something like statistically speaking, it’s a small percentage of women who lose their hair on this. Okay, we don’t need hair to survive. It’s just something like I’m doing these little hand scales right now. You can’t say that they’re equal and even in balance like these risk factors, they’re not equal. And, you have to consider the individual in front of you.
What is that woman’s family history? What has been her history? You know what’s crazy to me? Is I have women come in to me because their doctor’s like, “Oh, you …” I’ve had patients who have had strokes, pulmonary embolism, they’ve had clots. They’ve been on the birth control pill and their doctor says, “Well, let me put you on a patch instead.” Or, “Let’s give a NuvaRing instead.” I’m always shaking my head. Like, “Are you for real there?” because it’s those have the same risk factor here. It’s because their doctors are like, “You can’t be trusted to do fertility awareness method or put a condom on because us women, we’re just too stupid for that, right?”
Amy Medling: Yeah. There’s so many great tools out there and maybe. So, I think I want to shift now and kind of get into … I know that if you’ve been listening to the PCOS Diva podcast for a while, then you know that the pill is not optimal way of treating your PCOS. So, it may be time for you to come off of the pill. I want you to tell us about the kind of symptoms of post birth control syndrome, but I also want you to give us some ideas for contraceptive for women with PCOS, if you’re on the pill. Because that’s one of the reasons that you’re on the pill, is to prevent pregnancy. Maybe you could go there first.
Dr. Jolene B.: Okay. Something that gets told to PCOS women a lot is that because your cycle is irregular, you can’t use fertility awareness method. Now, initially, unless you’re working to regulate that cycle, it’s not going to be a foolproof method for you. Your odds of getting pregnant are much higher, which that might be good for you. That might be where you’re at in life. Also consider that if there’s any risk of you getting pregnant, that birth control pill has depleted your full late and by the time you have a positive pregnancy test, you already need folate for baby.
That’s just something I want to say. That make sure you’re on a prenatal or a good multivitamin if you’re still on these hormones. That can actually be beneficial in helping you start to regulate your cycle. So, you know something as simple as magnesium, which so many of us are depleted in, can help your pituitary gland. So, that’s the little hormone master in your brain, start talking to the rest of your glands appropriately, which includes your ovaries, and your thyroid, and your adrenal. So, taking a good multivitamin and then taking an approach to start to regulate your cycle is part of your basically pregnancy prevention.
Because I have women who do use fertility awareness method who have PCOS in my clinic. What I recommend is the femme tech. Things like Daisy natural cycles, because this takes math and it totally calculates your cycle against hundreds of thousands of other women’s cycles to help things get dialed in a lot quicker.
Amy Medling: Yeah. I just wanted to make a note. I really like the OvuSense fertility monitor. I don’t know if you’ve heard of that one.
Dr. Jolene B.: No, that’s a new one.
Amy Medling: Yeah. Well, what I like about it is it actually takes calculations throughout the evening. It’s a probe that’s kind of like a tampon. It takes your internal temperature, I think, every five minutes throughout the evening. The algorithms are able to predict ovulation, even in women with PCOS. Whether you’ve ovulated or not with 99% accuracy. So, it’s really a great tool. I think a great way to kind of measure your fertility naturally. So, I’m just gonna put in a plug in for that.
Dr. Jolene B.: Yeah. This is why I always love doing these interviews. Because I feel like this lady hood sister tribe. Like this is where you glean so much more information. So, no, thank you for sharing that. That’s awesome.
There’s other ones out there as well that you can wear on your wrist, throughout the night. I do want to say, so as you said, 99%, typical use of birth control pill only has about 91% efficacy. That means that there’s pretty good failure rate with how we typically use it. Whereas fertility awareness method, when using some of these tech devices, those are up at 99%. Clinically speaking, what I see is that women who are on the pill take a backseat to their fertility and they’re like, “Whatever, I’m popping a pill every day. I’m all good.” Whereas women who are practicing fertility method, they’re in it to win it. Because they’re like, “I’m gonna get to know my body and I can’t mess around.” There’s kind of like this false trust that happens in the pill. I remember being taught in medical school in our pharmacology about like, “Oh, the pills 99% effective.” And then when I dug into the research, I’m like, “Hold up. Typical use, not so much.”
And then I was gonna say to you, so there’s the fertility awareness methods I love that whether or not you need contraceptives is a great way to get to know your body. That is data. I’m gonna put it out there, that is data your doctor can never glean from a lab test or anywhere else. In my practice, I have every woman tracking all of these things because I’m like, “If you give me this data, I can know how to help you better on the individualized level. Now there’s also barrier methods. Things like condoms. There’s also cervical caps, diaphragms are a little harder to come by these days. The cervical cap and the diaphragm, they both require spermicides, they both had higher failure rate. Those are ones that I’m like, “Yeah, unless you’re okay getting pregnant.”
Since like birth control pills causes a disruption in our microbiome and our vaginal microbiota gets skewed as well, is why women have more infections like yeast infections while they’re on the pill. Spermicides can also be problematic with that. If that’s what was true for you, switching over to that method may not be the best bet for you.
And then of course, there’s IUDs. Now hormonal IUDs do have the same side effects. I remember my early days of clinical practice women coming in with panic attacks after having these hormonal IUDs placed. But there’s also copper IUDs. Again, this is all about individualized. This is about what’s best for you. The copper IUDs, some women absolutely hate it. They’re like it messes with your hormones, you get copper toxicity. Yes, there are these side effects that happen, but I see that it’s not always true for every woman. And so, it’s all about evaluating what’s best for yourself. If you’ve got crazy heavy painful periods, that copper IUD is not for you.
So, I had a copper IUD. My girlfriend had hers placed the week before. She took the bus to planned parenthood, took the bus home, walked home like a mile. Was like, I felt awesome. I got a copper IUD placed, I was in bed for like three … I think it was a week actually.
Amy Medling: Oh, my gosh.
Dr. Jolene B.: Hugging a water bottle. Yeah. It was something where I had a history of had painful periods, but I also was like, I don’t want to do hormones and I don’t want to get pregnant. Yeah, and it was a learning experience for me for sure. So, does that make sense in terms of the different options?
Amy Medling: Yes, that is true.
Dr. Jolene B.: Be on the lookout. There’s some really cool technology coming out. They’re touting it to be a zero-side effect of birth control. Where you actually, you’re going to insert this liquid into yourself, and it’s going to actually tighten up your cervical mucus.
When your fertile, your cervical mucus makes a superhighway for sperm, and they are just dead set to getting to that egg. But the rest of the month, our cervical mucus is fluctuating and changing. And so, there’s a new product. It’s hopefully going to be released in 2018 or 2019. It’s supposed to be changing the cervical mucus. They’re touting zero-side effects. We’re definitely going to have to wait watch and see what happens with that. But I am really excited because for the whole history of the pill, they’ve done very little to iterate on it. And now we’ve got all this other technology coming out because it’s well recognized as ladies are done. We’re done taking a pill and having it wrecking our mood.
For PCOS women, something we didn’t talk about is that because that pill is shutting down how your brain is talking to your ovaries, and you already have trouble with that to begin with. I see women who come off the pill and this is part of the post birth control syndrome. If you had regular cycle, it can take up to three months to get your period back. If you had an irregular cycle, it can take up to six months to get your period back. But there’s mechanisms at play that are wrecking your fertility in so many ways. When my doctor put me on the pill, he was like, “Soon as you can come off, you’ll be able to get pregnant.
I was taught that too in medical school. And then I’m such a nerd. I just spend my weekends on PubMed reading, and I’m like, “Wait a minute, it’s wrecking your endometrium. It’s like depleting antioxidants, which protect your eggs. It’s depleting B vitamins, which protect your eggs. There’s all of these things that it’s doing that it’s like, “Look, if this thing is strong enough to shut down your fertility, it is strong enough to have long-term consequences and side effects.” A really big one that gets in the way of fertility is wrecking your libido. That’s universal. I’ve yet to meet a woman who’s like, “No, while I was on the pill, my libido was awesome.” Because the pill, it crashes your libido, that contributes to vaginal dryness, vaginal infections. You can start having pelvic pain. It’s like it works really well for preventing pregnancy because you just don’t even want to have sex. That’s just no fun.
Amy Medling: Yeah. I think that people don’t talk about that enough. I know I’ve had Dr. Keisha Ewers. I think whether it’s on PCOD Diva podcast where we talk about libido and PCOS. I think she mentioned that some women have a really hard time recovering that and may not. Which if any mothers are listening to this whose daughters have PCOS, really think twice before you put your daughter on the pill at such a young age.
Dr. Jolene B.: I just want to say you can recover that. In the research, we know the pill is changing your liver at the genetic level, which, hello blood sugar dysregulation. But it’s changing your liver’s function. That’s causing long-term consequences for your libido. This is part of how it can be really helpful for PCOS because it’s going to grab on to excess testosterone. It’s also why women with PCOS are scared to get off of it because it’s part of post birth control syndrome. Your acne can … You’re going to have what’s called an androgen rebound. Now your body’s like, “woo-hoo! We can make testosterone again.” And then it’s just wrecking your skin and your hair. Nobody likes that.
With all of that, I will say clinically, I have seen women be able to regain their libido. Skin and libido are kind of the last things to heal with a lot of patients. This is something in my birth control hormone reset program I talk a lot about this. Because we would like to set reasonable expectations. When you’re on medication or pharmaceutical, it strong arms your body into submission. It’s just basically like, you’re going to do what I tell you. But when you start to work with your body naturally and employ natural therapies, that can take some time. I like to say if you think about your body is the Titanic, and the Titanic is heading south. It’s going to take some energy, some time, some effort to turn that ship around. And if you go too quick, you might hit an iceberg and we all know how that ends. So, that’s not a good idea.
But being patient with yourself and really being gentle with yourself. Us ladies, we love to hate on ourselves. It’s part of like society’s little narrative to us. One of my thoughts I have when we started this conversation is how often it’s the woman’s fault. It’s your fault for something. It’s not your fault that you’re living in a time in history where your environment has never been more polluted and you’re dealing with all of these xenoestrogens that are wrecking your hormones. It’s not your fault that you have been disjointed from your family. That your mothering alone and it’s hard and you have three kids. I have one. I have one and no family, nobody near me. I’m like, this is hard.
There are a lot of things that we take on as a burden to ourselves and it’s really not your fault. But back to my original point, you can get your libido back. It is possible. But you also, there’s a part of use it lose it. You also have to be sexually active and sexually engaged. I actually prescribe orgasms on a weekly basis in my medical practice. Reason for that. Now, it’s fun. Yes, it’s fun and it’s a great way to start regulating your hormones. There is research to show that if you are having an orgasm or at least engaging in sexual activity every week, your hormones start to balance and modulate. Your immune system starts to modulate- less inflammation going on.
When you’re talking about a woman with PCOS, is like, “Hey girl, have an orgasm once a week. It can go a long way in your health. And it’s not the worst prescription you’ve ever gotten, right?”
Amy Medling: No. Well, that’s a first for the PCOS Diva podcast. But not a bad recommendation. So, tell us. We talked about these access in androgens coming after the pill and the acne and the hair growth and hair loss as a result, waking. What are some of the other symptoms that you’re seeing post birth control?
Dr. Jolene B.: Yeah. There’s a amenorrhea, or the loss of your period all together, hair loss definitely comes up, mood symptoms, changes in your bowels. So, we definitely are seeing some women they are more having more gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea. We definitely see headaches coming into play in a lot of women.
The thing about post birth control syndrome is it’s a constellation of symptoms. That’s what a syndrome means. You can have all of these things or a handful of these things going on. They tend to come on in the first three to six months from quitting birth control. The acne is definitely worse in that period. Sometimes I see at six months, it might stay static or it kind of tapers down a bit, but it just keeps going. I was a woman when I came off the pill, I developed cystic acne and I had never had that in my life. This is something that just because, and this is something that gets us on more prescriptions as well. Reflexively, your doctor might give you an antibiotic for it. Well, you were already on a pill that was wrecking your microbiome. PS, it’s usually rooted in your gut and your microbiome why you’ve got these acne issues going on. And then you’re going to take an antibiotic.
Antibiotics have a time and a place for managing your skin. There are much better options out there. And so, as part of post birth control syndrome, if you stand back and you think about what are the symptoms. So, these pills affecting every system within your body. But if you stand back and start to look at that, you can understand how is it that you can easily mitigate the symptoms. If you’re a woman with PCOS, I recommend that before … Never just stop your pill pack without having a backup method. We make a joke in my office. All my clinicians are like, “Is there going to be a generation of Brighten babies?” I’m like, “No.” Because first things first, you have to make sure you’re not going to get pregnant even if you want to get pregnant. Because you need each your body.
Definitely, use the backup method. If you had horrific symptoms before you got on that birth control, you need to spend a good two to three months preparing your body for that transition. This is something that we do in my program, and then we take women through liver detoxification, rebuilding those antioxidants. It’s definitely food, lifestyle and supplementation is like three prong approach that will really move the needle for you. So, it’s liver. We’ve got to restore and repair the gut. We’ve got to look at adrenal and thyroid health. If they’re not correct, none of your other hormones are going to be correct. Especially in PCOS, we know those adrenal glands can get us in trouble with our testosterone and with infertility. So, you have to be looking at that piece as well.
One of the first things I tell women to do is I actually put them through a detox. The reason for that is because detox … So, one thing about Dr. Grey detox supplements is that they’re really loaded in antioxidants, and the minerals and vitamins that the pill has been depleting. And then it’s also going to jumpstart that liver to start doing what it needs to do to get that estrogen out, to start balancing your hormones. That’s one of the key first places. If you’re listening to this and you’re like, “What do I do?” Do that first.
You gotta poop every day, otherwise your skin will get worse. If you’re not every day, you got a root cause that you gotta look at why. You might need a little magnesium citrate or ginger or doing castor oil pack massages to your abdomen. Things like that to just facilitate the detoxification in the body. I know I just blasted a ton of information, so I should pause and see if you have any questions with that.
Amy Medling: No. This is great. I don’t think enough practitioners talk about the liver and women with PCOS. There was just a study that came out last week about how the numbers of women who have non-alcoholic fatty liver disorder. And even those women within PCOS who have elevated androgens also are at very high risk. I think that the liver really needs to come to the forefront of the PCOS conversation.
Dr. Jolene B.: Totally. Of every woman’s hormonal conversation. Here’s a little nugget for people. Back when I was in medical school, I found this study on nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and people who repress anger. People who are angry … So, the liver is kind of like an angry cranky organ. I was laughing this spring and telling my clinic staff, “Get ready, people, we’re gonna get a little bit cranky because spring demands a detox and that liver energy is-”
Amy Medling: Isn’t anger and liver is Chinese medicine, too?
Dr. Jolene B.: Oh, yes. When I was in naturopathic medical school, where also we take Chinese medicine classes and then we have Chinese medicine instructors who … It’s just super cool. We’ll weaving together like, here’s the science, here’s you know conventional medicine and here’s naturopathic medicine. And then there’s the Chinese medicine instructors who come in and weave in the energetics of things.
But that was a big a-ha for me. Because as women, again, we’re told the smile. Be nice. I’m not going to cuss, but you know that B word they like to call us. That gets a lot of us repressing our anger. We’ve all had to deal with childhood drama. I’m definitely one of those people and I’ve had to do a lot of work around that as well. Really, as PCOS women are at a higher risk of that nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, pay attention to how your emotions are affecting your body and how you’re talking to yourself. My goodness, be nice to yourself. It drops inflammation. It’s so effective.
Amy Medling: That’s a that’s a big part of my book, Healing PCOS, is that mindset piece is just not really being addressed by conventional medicine. So, I’m so glad you brought that up too.
But it sounds like your program is really what somebody needs to kind of hook into, of they’re thinking about coming off the pill. Maybe you could tell us a little bit more about your reset program.
Dr. Jolene B.: Yeah. The situation arose where I, as most doctors that are talking about things that no one else is talking about, I got slammed in my practice, and I couldn’t take any more patients in. For me, I have a really hard time being like, I’m talking about this problem, telling everyone there’s a problem, and I can’t give them a solution. This reset program, so it’s the Birth Control Hormone Reset Program. It’s the first doctor developed and designed program to address post birth control syndrome.
Like I said, I’ve been digging into the research for years. I bring things into this program where I want you to make friends with your period. So, I don’t want your period in the hard, and I want to show women that there’s a way. So, about 60% of us get put on the pill for non-birth control related reasons. Hey, if you want to do it because you don’t want to have a baby, this program is designed to support you as well. But if you’re like, “I want to make friends with my body. I know there’s another way.” We guide you through and take you through how to do that. Now we’ve got meal plans in there, we’ve got recipe guides. I don’t demand anybody do any specialty kind of diet. But what we talk about is adding in nutrient dense foods.
I don’t like going in and taking away a bunch of foods for people. I prefer to come in and say, “Okay, let’s just fill your diet was so much good food. There is just no more room for that stuff that wasn’t working for you.” There is no bad food unless it comes into a package, then they might have modified it. Then I think maybe I should back up on that one. So, we’re looking at the diet piece. We’re also working on the lifestyle piece. What I teach women in that program is that we actually go through a hormonal health evaluation. I teach women how to evaluate their own hormones, how to pay attention to what their body saying, and then how to individualize it for themselves and course correct with the diet, lifestyle and supplementation.
If you are coming off the pill or you have a hormone imbalance, you are going to need supplements. You can out diet the birth control pill and what it’s done to your body. But you’ve got to be doing the diet, hands down, you’ve got to be doing that. Then the other thing is, because I know that one of the biggest things we’re missing in medicine and in helping women heal his community. It’s really a big, big piece and what I see accelerates healing and so many women. So, we’ve got an online community where myself, my coaches, my nutritionists are in there supporting women and the women are supporting each other. My, I love that community because there’s all these really creative cooks in there. They’re always posting delicious recipes and I’m like, I can just get on in the morning and be like, “What are they eating today? I want some of that.”
It’s a very holistic approach and it’s very comprehensive. This is the first of its type comprehensive program to really address hormonal contraceptives, protecting you if you’re on them, and then helping you get off of them. The nice thing is that we’ve had women go through this program they’re on hormones, they still get access to it so that they can then transition off when they’re ready. Again, I’m not about telling anybody when it’s time for them to stop using this. That’s really I wanna empower women to be able to make that individualized choice for themselves.
Amy Medling: Where can they find that information about your program?
Dr. Jolene B.: You can find it on my website. If you go to drbrighten.com, D-R-B-I-R-I-G-H-T-E-N. So, it’s brighten like the sun. Everybody misspells it, so don’t worry if you. Doesn’t even faze me. It’s drbrighten.com and you can just search my programs. I’ve got other programs on there as well, but you want to find the Birth Control Hormone Reset Program. That’s what we’re talking about.
Amy Medling: I’m just really excited that there’s a program that I can now send people to who are sort of in this place in their life. I’m just really thankful to you that you took the time to take all of your wealth of knowledge and put it into a really actionable program from women.
Dr. Jolene B.: Yeah. Well, I appreciate you saying that. It’s definitely something where I’m like, when I went through making the resource, I emailed them every single day through the five weeks because that’s what we really need. We need somebody saying, “It’s just a little step every day.” Everything that’s in that program is what I’ve actually used in my medical practice and that I’ve tested with women for years now, and I know works and I dialed it in.
We’re super excited about it because the results have been pretty … There are women that I tell them all like, you’re gonna have to take a few menstrual … Take at least a menstrual cycle and reevaluate. But we’ve had women posting who are on birth control that are like, “Whoa, I’ve been doing this program and this is the best my period has ever been.” Or women that are like, “Wow, after three days, I had more energy.” And even that one I was like, “Whoa, I didn’t even think that could happen. That’s awesome.” I’m thinking, “That’s fantastic.”
Yeah, it’s been really exciting and really rewarding to be able to serve women on this larger level. I know that as I come out and I’m talking about all this and I’m raising the issues, that we got a solution for them as well.
Amy Medling: Yeah, it’s so important. I think when we started out this podcast, you think about all of those the downsides about the pill, and well, what can I do? But then you kind of come out on this other side where you’ve healed yourself and you feel better than you ever did. That’s where our bodies want to be. That’s where we deserve to be, right?
Dr. Jolene B.: Totally. I love that. It’s absolutely where we deserve to be there. I was a girl who had like seven to eight-day period, super heavy, super painful, couldn’t go to school. If I did, I had to have two pairs of clothes to change into. When I got on the pill, it felt like a God-send. Then when I got off of it, it was just a nightmare. Especially when I lost my period all together.
It’s something that I tell my patients. Now my period sneaks up on me. I go look at the moon if my app doesn’t tell me I got to look at the moon and be like, “Where am I at?” To be like, wow, if somebody had told me two decades ago that that was possible, I don’t know that I wouldn’t have believed them. But it’s entirely possible to feel even keeled throughout your cycle, to have easy periods, to have regular periods.
I think something that drives me nuts in just conventional medicine and I don’t want to diss them, but how often women are given the diagnosis of PCOS and told, you’re never going to have a baby. Hi, you’re never going to have a baby.
Amy Medling: That was me. I know.
Dr. Jolene B.: It’s just not true. And yet you have three, okay?
A mutual friend of ours is Dr. Fiona. I’m like, “She has three kids and PCOS like you.” I actually have sent patients to your website. I’m like, “No, go look like. Here is proof. This gal has PCOS and she has babies, okay? It happens. You can do this.”
Amy Medling: I know. I was 37 with my last too.
Dr. Jolene B.: Oh, my gosh.
Amy Medling: Yeah. With no intervention after doctors told me they would never be able to get me pregnant without fertility treatments. So yeah, you’re right. There’s so much hope.
Amy Medling: I love ending the podcast on that message of hope that those that are struggling with fertility, it can happen for you and it probably will.
Dr. Jolene B.: Yeah. I love it.
Amy Medling: Thank you, Dr. Brighten. It’s just been such a pleasure to have you on the podcast, and I appreciate the work that you do and thank you for sharing with us.
Dr. Jolene B.: Absolutely. I appreciate you so much. We need more women like you serving women in our planet. It would be such a better place. So, I honor you and I just appreciate all the work you do.
Amy Medling: Thank you and thank you everyone that took the time out of your day to listen to this podcast. I look forward to being with you again soon.