Speaker 1: Welcome to the Dr. Gundry Podcast, the weekly podcast where Dr. G gives you the tools you need to boost your health and live your healthiest life.
Dr. Gundry: Welcome to the Dr. Gundry Podcast. Do you think calling someone hormonal is an insult? Well, think again. Every single person on the planet is filled with hormones, but some people’s body do a better job regulating them, and other people need help.
Unfortunately, many routine practices in women’s healthcare, particularly the ones related to hormones, are often misguided, short-sighted, and really archaic. I’ve come to learn that over the last 20 years in my personal practice.
My guest today is working to change that as well. In just a moment I’ll speak with Dr. Jolene Brighten. Dr. Brighten is a speaker, an author, a nutritional biochemist, and a naturopathic medical doctor, with a focus on women’s endocrine health. She’s here today with some amazing insights on helping women feel their best.
In fact, Dr. Brighten has helped thousands of women address the root causes of chronic pain, acne, anxiety, and other symptoms, helping them regain control of their health and their lives. She’s also an expert in fertility, post-birth control syndrome, and we’re really going to dive into that today, and the long-term effects associated with hormonal birth control. So, listen up on this.
Today, we’re going to talk about the long-term effects of using synthetic birth control, and how many doctors are inadvertently hurting their female patients. We’ll also discuss her holistic approach to women’s healthcare, and what you can do to balance your hormones at any age.
Husbands, boyfriends, significant others, dads, brothers, you’re going to want to listen to this too. The more you know about the women in your life, the better. Dr. Brighten, welcome to the program.
Dr. Brighten: Hey there. Thanks so much for having me. I’m excited to chat today.
Dr. Gundry: Let’s start with the basics. Can you tell our listeners a bit about what hormones are, and how they affect women’s bodies?
Dr. Brighten: Sure. You know, I think it’s funny, we all know hormones, in terms of the jokes that go around, but when it comes down to like what are they, what do they actually do, most people aren’t quite sure. Within your body, you have glands. There’s glands in your brain, in your neck area, and most commonly we think of hormones, we think of ovaries. Those are a set of glands that secrete hormones.
Hormones are a chemical messenger, so they basically, the hormones will secrete these hormones to relay messages throughout the body, which is why we have receptors throughout our entire body, for hormones like estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and also thyroid, insulin, and cortisol.
Dr. Gundry: Tell me, I know you got into this through your own health struggles, so tell me what happened, and how did that inspire your work today?
Dr. Brighten: You know, when I was a kid, I was fascinated with the human body, and thankfully so because I went on to develop H. pylori that turned into gastritis as a child. I actually struggled for a good decade. H. pylori, which is Helicobacter pylori, a bacterial infection that leads to ulcers, hadn’t been discovered yet, and wasn’t part, in terms of in medicine, being part of the clinical application.
With that, I thought I was going to become a gut doc. It started with studying nutrition. In fact, my first degree is in Chemistry. The next degree was Concurrent Clinical Nutrition, and Nutritional Biochemistry. That was all born out of my own meddling with my diet, and understanding that food is medicine, and you can use food to heal yourself.
It was in that time that I was on hormonal birth control, so I, for one, am very grateful for hormonal birth control. I used the pill for 10 years, which is a tool that helped me become a first-generation college student. I’m a doctor because I had access to this, however, I suffered from so many side effects, which I only now understand were related to that medication.
When I finally decided to come off of hormonal birth control, that’s where I found myself in complete hormonal chaos. For the first time in my life I lost my period. I developed cystic acne, and as I’ve come to understand it through my clinical practice, this is what most women experience in terms of having that hormonal fallout, so to speak, and what is now termed Post Birth Control Syndrome.
In all of this, if it wasn’t for my journey with hormonal birth control, my own issues with coming off of hormonal birth control, and the extensive list of period problems that came with just being a woman and navigating this world, I wouldn’t be where I am today in women’s health, and really stepping up to serve women in a greater way.
Dr. Gundry: That’s a great segue into the name of your book, Beyond the Pill, which came out this January, and we’ll talk a bit more about that as we go along. This post-pill syndrome, how many practicing physicians and healthcare workers even know that this exists?
Dr. Brighten: The term is not well understood or recognized in medicine, however whenever I’m speaking with clinicians, and I start to talk about Post Birth Control Syndrome, you see that light bulb go off, like I’ve seen this. What I’m talking about in Beyond the Pill, in terms of what women experience when they discontinue any form of birth control, whether that’s the pill, the patch, the ring, IUD, shots, implants, you name it, if it’s synthetic hormones, that can, and does, disrupt your entire system, so every system in the body, not just the reproductive system.
With that, we can see that women can have a collection of signs and symptoms that kind of travel together when they stop birth control, and so many doctors, I think, have seen this. They just didn’t know what to call it. They didn’t have language to describe it.
Dr. Gundry: What, in your opinion, are the biggest mistakes that physicians are making with their female patients in this regard?
Dr. Brighten: Number one is, this is what I call the pill for every female ill, in that if you go to your doctor with a period problem, you’re having maybe hot flashes, you’re experiencing mood swings, or having headaches, this is the medication you’re offered. The biggest mistake in this is that doctors aren’t asking why you have those symptoms.
When we have symptoms, it’s our body’s way of communicating to us, and it’s an opportunity to address that at the deeper level. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad person if you choose to use hormonal birth control to manage your symptoms, however it is a great disservice when doctors pass women these medications without any discussion of the root cause.
Could your irregular periods be due to hypothyroidism? Hormonal birth control isn’t going to correct or fix that. In fact, it could make things worse. Are those irregular periods due to Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, which is a condition that’s rooted in inflammation, gut dysbiosis, and insulin dysregulation.
If we’ve got all that going on, and we know hormonal birth control, in fact, is inflammatory, causes insulin resistance, and disrupts the microbiome, it’s a big mistake to only offer hormonal birth control as a solution to that condition without discussing some of the side effects that can come with it, and what the long-term outcomes could look like should you not address the root cause.
Dr. Gundry: That’s a great point. How in the world could a birth control pill disrupt the gut microbiome?
Dr. Brighten: This is the funny thing. With medicine there is this compartmentalization of systems, and I get it because it’s way easier to study systems, and to address the body in that way, but the body don’t care if you are compartmentalizing things. Everything is connected.
When you pop that daily pill, the idea is it should be absorbed in your small intestine, however, studies have shown that upwards of 50% of that medication actually ends up in your large intestine, which is where your microbiome is dwelling. The majority of those good bugs are hanging out in the large intestine.
Now, the problem is is that we never studied what happens when we introduce these synthetic hormones to these organisms that never evolved with these synthetic hormones. They only know how to deal with your actual hormones, and furthermore, we’re not answering the question of how are these metabolized by the microbiome? How are these bugs metabolizing this, and then what does this do in the system?
We’ve known for a very long time that women who use oral contraceptive pills have a higher risk of having thrush, so yeast overgrowth in the mouth, yeast overgrowth [inaudible] and yeast [inaudible], yeast infections, yeast overgrowth in the vagina, by way of how it shifts the microbiome.
Basically, the good guys can’t defend you against the opportunistic organisms which are yeast. That’s just one of the ways in which hormonal birth control impacts the digestive system. What’s interesting is that when you get into the research, some studies have compared hormonal birth control to antibiotics in terms of how it impacts the microbiome, decreasing microbial diversity.
This is startling because how many of us spend decades on antibiotics? That’s not common place. We know that anything that kills off good gut bugs also has the potential to damage the mitochondria.
Dr. Gundry: Yeah, that’s absolutely true. In my new book, The Longevity Paradox, I make the point over, and over again that our gut buddies are actually related to our mitochondria, which engulfed bacteria that we inherited from our mother. I call them the sisterhood. They actually talk to each other. They text each other, and we found one of those compounds recently. The whole system, you’re right, is connected.
Dr. Brighten: Totally, and that’s been a big misconception, but I do want to say, if you have a book coming out on longevity, then you’ll certainly appreciate that hormonal birth control depletes our antioxidants, including Co Q 10, which are crucial to mitochondrial health, and there’s a big question that we’ve yet to answer in the research, which is why are women making up over 60% of Alzheimer’s patients?
Why are we at the highest risk, and what role could have hormonal birth control played in that because we know it robs your mitochondria of crucial nutrients, and it has a negative impact on brain health. This is a topic that any women who’s ever used hormonal birth control of any form, she should definitely be informed about, and we’re talking about longevity. This is a big question we have to be asking.
Dr. Gundry: Is it possible in your work that supplementing with Coenzyme Q 10 while you’re on birth control is a good idea, or should you continue you after you come off birth control?
Dr. Brighten: You should definitely be supplementing with Co Q 10 and other nutrients that are being depleted by hormonal birth control. Things like Vitamin C, B6, for example, Folate, B12, Zinc, Magnesium. The list is pretty extensive in terms of the nutrients that birth control depletes.
We do have the ability to create our own Co Q 10 within our system, however, as we age, that declines, which is part of why we get older, but also part of why our fertility declines because the ovaries are rich in mitochondria, which protect our eggs, and help with that maturation cycle, and they hypothesis is the decline in Co Q 10 in our system, along with other variables that happen in our environment, are why we see fertility decline with age.
If you’re a woman on hormonal birth control, and we know it depletes Co Q 10, it’s a good idea to be supplementing that, especially as you age because your own ability to make that is going to decline. What I found clinically is women coming off of hormonal birth control in the perimenopausal period, or if they’ve been on it in the last five years or so before transitioning into menopause, struggle a lot more with weight issues.
Now, part of that is the impact on their testosterone. Yes ladies, you have testosterone, and it is more than just your libido. The other issue is that we see that these women have declined in their mitochondrial function as well, which is a natural process of aging, however, it’s compounded by the fact that you’re on a medication that depletes nutrients, and may be actually toxic to your mitochondrial health as well.
This is why when we pass perimenopausal women hormonal birth control, it’s a big disservice. They are much more complex, in terms of their hormonal needs. In fact, they often need progesterone, not progestin, which I want everybody to understand you make progesterone, mama nature makes progesterone, chemists make progestin, and it doesn’t have the same benefits as progesterone in your body.
This is very important because as we age, we have that brain-associated decline. Progesterone, your natural progesterone, is actually protective of the brain, along with estrogen as well. If you’re on synthetic birth control that contains progestin, it could actually be working against your brain health.
Dr. Gundry: Wow. This sounds pretty scary stuff. I mean we’ve known for years that birth control pills increase women’s chance of blood clots in the veins in their legs.
Dr. Brighten: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Dr. Gundry: I’ll bet you’re going to tell me that that’s because these things are inflammatory.
Dr. Brighten: 100%.
Dr. Gundry: Come on, what’s a woman to do?
Dr. Brighten: I know. It’s tricky, right, and that’s why I wrote a whole book around this. It’s called Beyond the Pill because I wanted to give women root cause solutions to their hormone imbalances, beyond hormonal birth control. I know you can always get birth control, but I want you to know what do those symptoms mean? What labs your doctor should be testing, and what you can do about it right now.
You’ll find when you get into the book, if I present you with a problem, we’ve got an immediate solution because if I’ve done my job right, you don’t feel afraid by this information. In fact, you feel empowered because now you can make better decisions, which goes along with if you do choose to use hormonal birth control, for whatever reason, how do you support yourself?
We’ve talked about replenishing nutrient stores, and we’ve got to make sure that we’ve loving up on that microbiome, supporting our liver health, decreasing the inflammation, and monitoring lab tests. It’s really a issue that we wait until people are sick with symptoms to order lab tests when really, we can catch things ahead of time.
The same is true with hormonal birth control, so as you were saying, it’s inflammatory. When you are on hormonal birth control, studies have shown that your C-Reactive protein, which is a marker of inflammation, they test you, they put you on birth control. It’s three times elevated what it was as your baseline because this birth control pill is indeed inflammatory.
If we know this, we can start including things like tumeric in our diet, cold-water fish. We can eat in a way that’s anti-inflammatory. That means pooling out foods that are known to drive inflammation. For some women, that’s going to be major offenders like gluten. Other women’s going to be nightshades, and we have to understand how are these foods interacting with your body?
Certainly, for women who are already questioning, they’re like, “Okay, but I don’t want to have a baby. What do I do?” Chapter 13 of the book go through our non-hormonal birth control options. I talk you through what hormonal birth control does to your body. How to stay safe while you’re on it, and how to have life beyond the pill. Step one, if you’re ever going to come off of hormonal birth control, is to have a backup method.
That backup method may be barrier methods, it might be a copper IUD, it might be fertility awareness method. I give you a whole list. There’s even a table in Chapter 13, so you can take a quick glance at like what are the pros and the cons of this method, and choose what’s best for you.
Dr. Gundry: You’re not anti the pill, as some people might suggest?
Dr. Brighten: I think people love to just kind of tune me out sometimes, and be like, “She’s anti birth control, so I don’t have to listen to this information that’s going to drive me to take action.” The reality is is that how could I be against a medication that helped me complete college, and go all the way to being a doctor? It’s 100% a tool that has moved women forward.
There’s studies to show that when we introduced hormonal birth control, we started graduating college at higher rates, we started getting paid more, so there’s something to be said about our ability to control our reproductive health, and live the life that we want to live, that I would never advocate taking this away from women. I’m not anti birth control, I’m pro informed consent, which means that for that woman to make the best decision for herself, she needs to be presented with all the information.
Dr. Gundry: Yeah, I think that’s a great point. You have a lot of steps in your book. You’ve got a lot of supplement regimens. I was the original anti supplement guy, and realized, much to my chagrin, how important these supplements are. I’ve been looking through your list, and we agree on a lot of these things. A lot of the supplements do contain polyphenols, and we’re beginning to learn more, and more, and more that our gut microbiome, actually number one, loves polyphenols.
Dr. Brighten: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Dr. Gundry: Also, polyphenols manipulate the gut microbiome, and in a lot of ways preventing the gut microbiome from making inflammatory compounds from the foods we eat. We’re just beginning to understand that effect of the microbiome, so I think the thing I take away from your book is, “Okay ladies, you probably are going to take the birth control pill, but you ought to know, this is how we mitigate against the adverse effects of that pill.”
I think that’s a really useful addition to the conversation that, as far as I have known, nobody is really talking about. I think people should understand, you’re not anti pill, but you’re anti the bad effects of the pill, and you’re going to mitigate against that.
Dr. Brighten: Yeah, and the funny thing is is that people have said, The pharmaceutical company’s going to hate this.” I’m like, “Why would they because I am literally helping women lower the side effects that come with birth control. I’m actually helping them have happier customers, who live much more rich and full lives.”
I appreciate that you say you’re the anti-supplement guy because when I got started, I was like, “All this supplement stuff, does everybody really need supplements?” As our food supply has become depleted, as our environment has become filled up with more toxins, I’ve come to find that supplements can be a really important tool for people to be able to heal their body a lot quicker, however, you cannot out supplement a poor diet and lifestyle, which is why in Beyond the Pill, it is food as a foundation.
So many women have read this book, and they’re like, “Wow, you can really tell you started in nutrition first by how much you’re like, ‘B6 can be helpful. Here’s all the foods we find B6, then we talk about supplements.'” The big reason for that is is that if you come with the same methodology as you do with like taking aspirin, so I have a headache. I’m just going to take an aspirin. The headache’s going to go away.
If you bring that to a supplement, it’s not going to work the same way because supplements are an addition, they’re a adjunct therapy to an already healthy diet and lifestyle. When you’re in a healing phase, you do often need supplements.
In the day, with my patients, I’m like, “If you have to choose, you’re going to choose to sleep, to drink water, to eat your vegetables. You’re going to choose that before you choose supplements because if you’re not, what I call obeying the laws of nature, just what you need as an animal, those supplements will only take you so far.”
Dr. Gundry: That’s right. In all my books I say, “The reason they’re called supplements is because they will supplement your good choices in food.” In all my books I say, “What I tell you not to eat is far more important than what I tell you to eat,” but you say that there are foods that can help balance hormones naturally, so give me the top three foods you recommend to women to balance hormones.
Dr. Brighten: Yeah, well, number one would be cruciferous vegetables. If you are somebody … I get a lot of women who write me who say, “I can’t tolerate cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale because I have Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, or SIBO right now. What can I do instead?”
Instead, take a look at broccoli sprouts and cruciferous sprouts because those are always winning in the research in terms of their ability to support healthy liver detoxification. If you’re on hormonal birth control, or you’re just a woman walking around in this world where we have endocrine disrupting chemicals everywhere, that means these are chemicals that mimic estrogen, but with like none of the benefits, eating broccoli sprouts can help you process your estrogen into the correct pathways.
We’ve got several metabolites of estrogen, some of which increase our risk of estrogen-dependent cancers, like breast cancer, ovarian cancer, we can actually eat broccoli sprouts to lower that cancer risk. This is very important because hormonal birth control does raise the risk of breast cancer. Although it’s mild, we still want to be doing what we can for cancer prevention, and broccoli sprouts are definitely one of those go-to.
The other thing I’m going to encourage women to include in their diet is avocados. Avocados are a great source of healthy fat, and they have fibers in them as well that can support the microbiome, and so nobody ever hates on me for saying, “Eat your avocado.” I think avocados are fantastic, and in addition, what I would say is adding in seed cycling as part of your dietary protocol.
This is a way of eating with your menstrual cycle. If you know while you have your menstrual cycle, you can follow the moon phases, so we would treat day one as the new moon, or new moon as day one, that’s the first day you have your period, and in that time, you would eat flax seeds and pumpkin seeds. They need to be raw, and fresh ground.
If you want to chew like 30 something times, you can do that with your pumpkin seeds. Then, we flip, and as you ovulate, and that might be day 14 for you, or full moon, or it might end up on day 10. Either way, what’s true for you, you’re going to flip your seeds to sesame seeds and sunflower seeds. Again, raw and fresh ground. Note, if you haver autoimmune disease, you have sensitivities to these seeds, you can do something different with oil cycling.
This is not an all or nothing kind of deal. One thing you can do to just combine all of this is you could take an avocado, cut it in half, drizzle it with some salt, maybe some olive oil on it, top it with your broccoli sprouts. Just put them right in the center of that avocado, and then sprinkle some seeds on top of that, so that you can have a complete little hormone snack that’s going to be encouraging your liver to work, your gut to work, and help you build those healthy hormones.
Dr. Gundry: Yeah, since about 70% of my practice is now autoimmune diseases, I would echo what you said kind of there at the end. If you’ve got an autoimmune issue, please stay away from sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds. They contain a nasty lectin. Sorry about that, but I see so many women particularly, when I take away their sunflower seeds and their pumpkin seeds, it makes a difference. Flax seeds, great. Sesame seeds, great. We’ll agree on that.
Dr. Brighten: Yeah, it’s all about testing what’s true for you because while we provide general medical information, it may not be true for every woman, so I appreciate you saying that because if you eat pumpkin seeds, and you feel worse, forget what Dr. Brighten said about them being helpful. It’s not true for you.
Dr. Gundry: Yeah, and I even see definitely people who react to avocado, and they go, “But you told me to eat it.” I say, “Well, for you, and you feel it, then that’s the best judge that you shouldn’t be eating that.”
Dr. Brighten: Totally.
Dr. Gundry: Okay, so let’s take a quick break.
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We’re talking about no foods, and you’re pretty down on soy, dairy, and grains. What have you found in your practice that makes them such no-go foods?
Dr. Brighten: Oh, so a big thing with dairy is that a lot of women start birth control for acne, and we’re seeing more acne. I don’t know about you, but I’m seeing more women, not even with a history of the pill, in their 40s and their 50s even, starting to have acne, which tells us a lot about our environment, but dairy seems to be one of those foods that if you’ve got acne issues, or you’ve got rosacea, you’ve got skin symptoms, dairy can be a trigger for that, and so it’s really important that we pull out these foods, and we test what is true for you.
Certainly, when you come off of birth control, we can have something called the Androgen Rebound. That is your testosterone and your male sex hormones, as they get called, it shoots up, [inaudible] oily skin, we have acne. We might even have hair growth on our chin, chest, abdomen, and be losing hair on our head. I’ve seen that acne can make all of the … excuse me, dairy can make all of that worse.
When it comes to grains, grains are just inflammatory, and the focus of the dietary protocol is nutrient-dense foods. If a woman’s got to choose having a cup of rice versus having a sweet potato, I’d rather her go for the sweet potato. It’s way more nutrient-dense. What that means is it’s going to have more minerals, more vitamins, more fibers to feed your microbiome than those grains are going to.
Plus, we spray our grains with a lot of garbage in the United States, and that’s another issue that I see. Anything that insults the gut, or insults the microbiome, is going to reek havoc on your entire system. When it comes to soy, soy’s an interesting one, and I definitely was the believer in the ’90s, where it was like soy everything. Soy’s our savior. I will confess, I ate way too much soy, which is why I ended up with a soy sensitivity.
The reality with soy is that there are some benefits, however, most of the soy in this country, you’re going to find, is GMO, so it’s modified, and we don’t actually have long-terms studies to understand how that impacts our body, but we do know it’s going to be sprayed with more chemicals and pesticides, which is increased burden on the liver. That’s a fast track to hormonal chaos.
In addition to that, soy is everywhere. You eat chocolate, you might have soy in there. For women, I ask that they pool that out as much as they can, understanding that there’s going to be times where you unknowingly ingest soy, so we do a lot more harm than good in some women, because it can help push estrogen. A lot of women are experiencing estrogen dominance.
Certainly, a lot of the women who end up on birth control, their symptoms are really rooted in estrogen dominance. Estrogen dominance is a huge concern in perimenopause and menopause because we’re no longer ovulating, or it’s hit or miss with ovulation, and now progesterone’s declining, and it’s not opposing that.
Dr. Gundry: Yeah, those are great points, and interestingly, all those foods you mentioned, I pretty much ban because of their lectin content. From my standpoint, lectins are mischievous. The other thing you brought up just at the end, it’s amazing to me, actually it’s amazing to my women patients, who are in menopause, who are overweight or obese, and we show them that they’re producing quite a large amount of estrogen.
They go, “Well, that’s impossible. I’m in menopause.” I go, “Well, you have fat cells that produce estrogen.” I see so many women who actually have had breast cancer, and who remain overweight and obese, and the first thing I do when I see them for their post breast cancer treatment, I said, “Look, you’re still making estrogen. You have an estrogen-receptive tumor. We’ve got to stop that. Yes, you are on Aromatase Inhibitor, but you’re still producing estrogen, despite that Aromatase Inhibitor.”
They go, “But that’s impossible.” I really stress, and there have been studies that show that women, post breast cancer, who lose weight, have a far less recurrence rate than women who maintain their overweight or obese status, and it’s because we’re getting those fat cells out. Do you see that in your practice at all?
Dr. Brighten: Oh absolutely. I like to say that estrogen and fat cells are besties because fat cells make estrogen, then estrogen comes in and rewards them, and says, “Let’s plump you up even more,” and so women, they’ll think the same thing. “I’m post menopause therefore I don’t make any estrogen.”
Now, we are actually coming to understand in the research that there are cells throughout the body that produce estrogen, not just our ovaries. There’s the fat cells, there’s our ovaries, but there may very well be bone cells producing estrogen. We’re getting these small amounts, but the other issue is that sometimes the increase adiposity, the fat cells, are also response to environmental toxins, and sequestering environmental toxins, which can also stimulate.
They can alter the microbiome to shift our metabolism, but they can also stimulate these fat cells as well. What’s really startling is there was a study that came out last year showing that if you spent six months or more, at any point in your lifetime, on hormonal birth control, you had a 35% increased risk of developing diabetes post menopause.
This is something that we all have to start looking at, and we need to screen our patients sooner, because when you start talking about insulin dysregulation, and inflammation, and excess estrogen, that’s setting the stage for the development of cancer.
Dr. Gundry: When you go on birth control, or you’re on birth control pills, what are some of the symptoms that should alert you, number one, and number two, if you’re having these symptoms, what should you do? Do you go to your primary care, or do you go to your gynecologist, or do you find someone like yourself?
Dr. Brighten: The piece of advice I give everyone before she starts hormonal birth control is to track her menstrual cycle for at least a month, really three months is ideal, that way you understand what is normal for you. If you start hormonal birth control, and then you start to experience any form of side effects, please read the package insert of you’re being prescribed a medication, always.
If you start to experience things like maybe you’re having anxiety, you’re having trouble sleeping, new onset of depression, these are common symptoms women experience, and you’re starting to have a low libido, or you’re losing desire in your partner, having an inability to orgasm, are experiencing yeast vaginitis, these are reasons to go see your gynecologist.
Now, certainly whoever prescribed you the medication is a good person to have a conversation with around this. If that was your gynecologist, your primary care doctor, going to them, and not delaying. There’s a big issue that some women will wait. They’ll wait until they can’t wait any more, and so years go by until they seek help, which leads their doctor to conclude it was never birth control.
Now, your doctor who’s prescribing the medication, can help change that medication, run lab testing for you, but if you really want to get at the root of what is going on in your system, you’re going to want to work with a functional medicine provider, or a naturopathic physician because they’re trained in that root cause work to really go deeper to work with your hormones, instead of against your hormones, and to help you transition off the birth control if that’s right for you.
In addition to tracking your own symptoms, I also think it’s important to get baseline lab testing, which I describe in Beyond the Pill. I give you lots of lists of labs. Get that baseline lab testing before you start birth control so you can understand what changed, and what’s different now that might be contributing to your symptoms.
Dr. Gundry: Because my Longevity Paradox came out, I’ve been asking all my guests the same question. What’s the one thing listeners can do today to live a longer, healthier life, from your perspective?
Dr. Brighten: Be kind to yourself. There’s been research to show that when we talk poorly to ourselves, and we judge ourselves, and we’re harsh, and this is very much like women, the human race probably wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for us analyzing everything we did wrong and trying to serve people better. However, when we start getting down on ourselves, we see inflammatory proteins rise.
There’s been studies to show that just by talking nice to yourself, and being kind to yourself, you can lower inflammation, and some studies have said it’s more effective than mediation. Given that you’re seeing 70% of your practice is autoimmune, the majority of my practice, women have autoimmune disease as well, what do we see with autoimmunity?
These are usually like A-type personalities that already verbally were beating themselves up, and their body started to follow suit, but if you can do nothing else in your day, talking kind to yourself, being gentle with yourself, and forgiving yourself. Often when we end up sick, we find a way to judge ourselves, to place blame. Stop that. Speak kind to yourself.
Dr. Gundry: You know, my father, who taught sales at Mutual of Omaha Insurance, every morning he would look in the mirror, and he would go, “You handsome devil, don’t you ever die.”
Dr. Brighten: Oh, I love that.
Dr. Gundry: Yeah. At our worst, in the morning, looked in the mirror and say, “You handsome devil, don’t you ever die.” Maybe we’ll all do better. I think that’s exactly what you’re saying.
Dr. Brighten: Oh totally. I love that. Your dad, he’s a smart guy.
Dr. Gundry: Very smart guy. Okay, it’s time for our audience question. This is a good one, and I’ve warned you beforehand, so Belinda B. on Facebook asks, “What do you think about wheat grass?” Okay, Dr. Brighten, what say you?
Dr. Brighten: Yeah, I think wheat grass got this similar hype as soy, where we found some benefits in it, and then the media ran with it, and so I think that it is marketed in a way as this super food, when in reality, when it has these great antioxidants in it, it’s questionable whether we can actually access those, and whether we can actually digest them.
When it comes to wheat grass, the research is still out, in terms of like you walk into a smoothie bar, and they’re going to tell you all of these amazing things that wheat grass does. We actually don’t have evidence to support the majority of claims being made about wheat grass. In fact, there is some evidence that it may actually be detrimental to gut health, and so we need to explore this further to understand what people are susceptible, what people are not susceptible.
There’s certainly people who are like, “I have a wheat grass shot, I feel amazing.” It could be placebo. It could be the wheat grass, but we also have to stand back and look at this is a grass, which humans aren’t super good at digesting, and utilizing nutrients from. Just to frame it, who eats grass? Animals with like four stomachs, like a cow.
You guys don’t even want to know the process you would have to go through. It’s kind of gross what cows have to go through in order to digest grass. You want to keep that in mind when it comes to wheat grass. If I was going to put any energy or effort into anything, I would go with cruciferous sprouts, or some kind of sprouts over going with something like wheat grass.
Dr. Gundry: Yeah, good point. This trend actually got started when Ann Wigmore founded Hippocrates Institute in Florida. She wanted her patients, many of whom had cancer, to vomit. She noticed that dogs, when they want to vomit, chew grass. She said, “What a great idea.” She actually introduced wheat grass as a way of making her patients vomit. I’ve always tried to remind people that that’s where the idea of using wheat grass came from.
Dr. Brighten: I had no idea.
Dr. Gundry: Yeah, it was a cathartic. Something I mentioned actually in The Longevity Paradox, we know that elephants do not get heart disease in the wild, but because of habitat destruction, now a lot of elephants, they eat leaves on trees, now because of habitat destruction, they often now have to eat grass or they’re actually trucked in hay. The elephants that eat grass and hay have a 50% incidence of coronary artery disease now.
Dr. Brighten: Oh wow.
Dr. Gundry: If you want to produce coronary artery disease folks, drink your wheat grass. Yeah, so we react to the lectins in grasses very violently. Ann Wigmore knew this, so yeah, stay away from wheat grass, please.
Dr. Brighten: I think there’s so much we can learn from animals, and I appreciate you saying that because the same goes with what happened to animals when we started feeding them grain instead of their natural. Just look at that, you guys, because you’re an animal at the end of the day.
Dr. Gundry: Yeah, and I see so many animals, you know, with the collars around them for their eczema, so they won’t chew, and we’re giving them soy and grain-based dog food, and they’re in the cone.
Dr. Brighten: Wait, can I share with you that I just got a new dog, and I took him to the vet. He’s on a raw food diet, so he’s eating meat. He’s eating what dogs were intended to eat, and the vet proceeded to lecture me, and tell me that that was the most unhealthy thing for my dog. He should be on the grain-based kibble because that’s really what he evolved to eat.
Then, she proceeded to give him Cheez Whiz. Well, she like performed an exam, and I had to ask her. I’m like, “Wait, you’re okay giving him chemicals out of a can, but you’re upset with me for giving him real food, real raw food?” She’s like, “There’s just no evidence that dogs do better with that.” I’m like, “Well, evolutionarily speaking, this is what they ate. They didn’t eat grain, or soy, or any of that.” It’s just funny that you’re bringing that up. I have to share that story.
Dr. Gundry: Yeah, we’re kind of off message, but there is a major Midwestern university veterinary school that publishes large amounts of advice for veterinarians about feeding a grain-based diet as the healthy diet. Through some Freedom of Information Acts I’ve found that almost all of their funding comes from a major … Well, it comes from Ralston Purina, imagine that.
Dr. Brighten: Shocker.
Dr. Gundry: They do not disclose their funding anywhere in their websites. Your vet got trained by those veterinary medical schools who are … Yeah, so there you go.
Dr. Brighten: Well, and we’re totally on topic because having pets can help you live longer, lower your cortisol, and bump your oxytocin, which is a longevity hormone. This is totally on topic. Take care of your pet, so you can take care of your health in the long run.
Dr. Gundry: Right. Yesterday I wrote my patient a prescription to get a dog, which I do all the time, and it’s one of the best prescriptions I write. Well, Dr. Brighten, it’s been great to have you on the podcast today. Tell the audience how we find your book.
Dr. Brighten: Yeah, you can find Beyond the Pill anywhere where books are sold, and if you grab it, please go to beyondthepillbook.com, get your gratitude bonuses for putting your hand up and saying you want to be a part of the change that we need in women’s medicine. I want to say thank you so much for having me on. I really wish we could have made this happen in person. I’m a really big fan, and I have a lot of respect for the work that you do in this world, so thank you. It’s been such an honor.
Dr. Gundry: That’s all for now from the Dr. Gundry Podcast. We’ll see you next week.
Let’s get to this week’s review of the week. Grace N. 51 writes, “Nutrition and wellness advice anyone can understand. Wonderful. I just started reading The Plant Paradox, and found this podcast. It’s great. I’ve maintained 110 pound weight loss for almost 11 years.” Good for you. “It’s still challenging. I help others as a personal trainer, and soon to be a health coach, and I don’t trust the government nutrition guidelines I’ve been told to give my clients.”
Good for you. That’s why there’s a Gundry Food Pyramid in the books. You can find it on our website. “I’ve been on the DeFlame Diet for three months trying to heal my skin, eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis. Depends on the dermatologist. Regardless of the diagnosis, no medication or diet has healed this worsening problem that I’ve had for years. I’m off sugar, which is major, but it would be wonderful if the Gundry diet would heal my skin, and help my clients.”
Well, I can tell you that for the most part, the vast majority of people who follow The Plant Paradox, and do not cheat, do clear up their skin, their psoriasis, their eczema, their dermatitis, whatever your dermatologist wants to call it, but I can tell you, over the years, cheating usually makes it flare, and almost immediately.
The other keys is to make sure your vitamin D level is nice and high. Have it checked. Get it 80 to 100, and don’t be afraid of that level. Those are the tricks, and let me know how it goes.
If you’d like me to read your review, make sure to subscribe, rate, and review my podcast on iTunes. If you’re listening on your mobile device, take a screen shot, share your favorite takeaway, and add a tag me in your Instastories. I’ll make sure to reshare them in mine.
Thanks for joining me on this episode of The Dr. Gundry Podcast. Before you go, I just wanted to remind you that you can find the show on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts, and if you want to watch each episode of the Dr. Gundry Podcast, you can always find me on YouTube at YouTube.com/Dr.Gundry because I’m Dr. Gundry, and I’m always looking out for you.