Diane Sanfilippo & Liz Wolfe | Balanced Bites Podcast | Female Hormones with Dr. Jolene Brighten

Podcast Episode #299: Female Hormones with Dr. Jolene Brighten

Diane Sanfilippo Featured, Paleo and Primal, Podcast Episodes 11 Comments

Diane Sanfilippo & Liz Wolfe | Balanced Bites Podcast | Female Hormones with Dr. Jolene BrightenTopics

  1. News and updates from Diane [1:24]
  2. What our guest is digging lately: yoga app [1:55]
  3. Female hormones: When they're out of whack and why [4:24]
  4. Contributing factors to hormone fluctuations [12:34]
  5. Environmental toxins and liver detox [20:26]
  6. Supporting your liver through the natural detoxification [31:09]
  7. Postpartum hormone balancing [39:51]

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Diane Sanfilippo & Liz Wolfe | Balanced Bites Podcast | Female Hormones with Dr. Jolene Brighten Diane Sanfilippo & Liz Wolfe | Balanced Bites Podcast | Female Hormones with Dr. Jolene Brighten Diane Sanfilippo & Liz Wolfe | Balanced Bites Podcast | Female Hormones with Dr. Jolene Brighten

You’re listening to the Balanced Bites podcast episode 299.

Diane Sanfilippo: Welcome to the Balanced Bites podcast. I’m Diane; a certified nutrition consultant, and the New York Times bestselling author of Practical Paleo and The 21-Day Sugar Detox. I live in San Francisco with my husband and fur kids. I’m the co-creator of the Balanced Bites Master Class, along with my partner in crime, Liz Wolfe. And together, we’ve been bringing you this award winning podcast for 5 years and counting.

We’re here to share our take on modern paleo living, answer your questions, and chat with leading health and wellness experts. Enjoy this week’s episode, and submit your questions at http://balancedbites.com or on our Instagram page. Remember our disclaimer: The materials and content within this podcast are intended as general information only, and are not to be considered a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Before we get started, let’s hear from one of our sponsors.

Liz Wolfe: Today’s podcast is sponsored by Vital Choice seafood and organics. Purveyor of premium sustainably sourced seafood and a certified B corporation. Vital choice offers a wide range of fish, shellfish, humanely raised meat, protein rich bone broths, and paleo friendly snacks like organic dark chocolate, super antioxidant trail mix, and bison jerky. As the days get longer and the grilling season heats up, www.vitalchoice.com is your source for real food.

1. News and updates from Diane [1:24]

Diane Sanfilippo: Hey everyone! It’s me, Diane, here with a special guest today who I will introduce in just a few moments. Quick update for everyone before we get into today’s show. If you are listening to this in the first couple of days that we air it, Cassy Joy and I will be in Vancouver on Saturday, June 10th. So if you're in the area, we would absolutely love to see you there. And don’t forget to RSVP so we can get in touch with you if there’s any follow-up we want to give you or make sure we’ve got enough chairs for everyone, so we hope to see you there.

2. What our guest is digging lately: yoga app [1:55]

Diane Sanfilippo: If you're not already familiar with my guest for today’s episode, let me give you a quick background. Dr. Jolene Brighten is a licensed, functional medicine naturopathic doctor. Best-selling author, speaker, and mother. Dr. Brighten specializes in women’s health, from fertility to postpartum care, adrenal and thyroid support, autoimmune conditions, and digestive disorders. In her patient-centered practice, Dr. Brighten thrives on navigating the space between conventional and alternative medicine, all while working with patients to help them achieve optimum balance, health, and happiness.

Alright, Dr. Jolene, welcome to the show. We want to share something with our listeners. Before we get into our interview today, we like to break the ice and do something a little bit fun. So we want to know one thing that you’re super into right now. It can be nutrition or lifestyle related, like a book, or an app, or a food. Whatever it is. Or none of the above. Whatever you want to talk about.

Jolene Brighten: Yeah. I’m actually really into; there’s this app that I discovered called Down Dog app. Have you heard of this? I’m super into it. It’s like yoga on your phone; yoga on the go. And you can set it so it’s either 10 minute sessions, or 60 minutes sessions. You can pick any flow, any format that you want. And I love it, because I can literally be like; first thing in the morning, I’ve got 5 minutes, and I can put it on and there’s video instruction. The music is really good. That’s the other thing; I hate when it’s very yoga music. I’m like, I don’t always want it to be that way. But I’ve been referring a lot of my patients I’ve been recommending this app to them. Because I’m like, you can literally get 5 minutes of yoga in any time. It’s really nice because you can be at a park and be like, I’m just going to do 10 minutes of yoga. You can just take it anywhere with you. So that’s something that I’ve been absolutely loving lately, and I’ve been recommending and talking to everyone about.

Diane Sanfilippo: I love it. Our listeners probably know, depending on who follows me on social media, that I’ve had a cold. So I was muting there so I didn’t cough during your thing you're digging, but that’s awesome. I love that. Especially because people sometimes just don’t have that much time. So that’s a great one. Good tip.

Jolene Brighten: {laughs} Yeah. I mean, you know how it is. Sometimes you're like, “I know I need to move my body, but I don’t have a lot of time to do this.”

3. Female hormones: When they’re out of whack and why [4:24]

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah. Love it. Alright, so today we’re going to talk about female hormones. This topic has come into our inbox of questions for the show, to unrelated posts also that we’ve made on our Instagram account, when we make a call for questions. Even when the call for questions is totally unrelated, the amount of questions we get about female hormones is always through the roof. Obviously, most of our listeners are kind of in the 25-45-year-old range. You know, some younger some older. This is just a huge topic, and I think it’s for good reason. We have a lot of issues going on with our food, with our environment, with our stress. So many things going on. We have a ton of questions here, and we are probably going to end up splitting this into 2 different episodes so we’ll be able to cover more topics. So for those of you listening to this one, stay tuned for a future episode that will be a part 2. And like we’ve been doing on the last few podcasts where I’ve been doing interviews, we’re going to be grouping the questions together. So I know there are a lot of similar questions that have come in through the Instagram post that we had, and this way we can cover more during the podcast instead of just really micro-specific questions. I think you guys will get a lot more from this.

So, here we go. Let’s start with the basics. What are the signs that your hormones are off? Is there a way to start healing without supplements or medications? What do we do about testing?

Jolene Brighten: Yeah. So every woman needs to understand this basic premise. If you’ve been living in your body, and you feel like something is off, and not right, then you need to find a doctor that listens. Because you ultimately are the best gauge of what’s normal in your body, and what’s not normal.

So, things that I would say are common, that get passed down to us as women as being, “This is normal. This is just how it goes.” Things like really heavy periods, really painful period cramps, losing your mind a week before your period. So feeling like you want to scream. I actually; this is how we gauge progesterone. I ask my three-part question. A week before your period, do you A) want to kill somebody; B) run away to the woods and never be seen; or C) all of the above. And it’s real, because if your progesterone is low and your estrogen is high, then everybody is going to drive you insane. So it’s really important to understand, ladies, that your hormones absolutely rule your moods.

So if you're having cyclical anxiety. Cyclical mood swings of any kind. Experiencing depression. And these things don’t even have to be cyclical. But if you're a woman cycling, they tend to have a time of the month where they’re a little bit worse.

Other things that are signs of hormone imbalances; changes in your skin. Oily skin, dry skin, acne, rosacea. Hair loss. Your nails are splitting, or they’re really, really brittle. Those kinds of things that will get passed off as like, “Oh yeah, that’s just normal, part of being a woman, you need to change your diet.” Yeah, you probably do need to change your diet and do things around that. But you probably do need to look a little bit deeper about what’s going on. And that’s where the lab testing comes in.

Now, I want to say first thing, I love this question about other than supplements and medications, what can we do. That’s a great question. Because it’s a slippery slope, and I see this a lot. In allopathic medicine, they give you a pill for every symptom that you have. Which works really well in emergency medicine. So, works really well there. Not so well when you're dealing with the female body and imbalances and more chronic conditions going on. With that being said, we need to be careful in functional medicine to not come in and start placing a supplement for every symptom. We’ve got to look at really the foundational pieces. So absolutely, if you're not doing the diet and lifestyle piece, it doesn’t matter how many supplements or medications you take. That’s just trying to strong arm the body to do something that’s, in an essence, unnatural.

And why do I say it’s unnatural? Because any times we have hormonal imbalances, it’s actually adaptive physiology. It’s your body keeping you safe so that you survive. So when you come in and you say, “Hey symptoms, you need to go away.” And you treat it with a supplement or you treat it with a medication, you really haven’t addressed the body’s cry for help. And that’s a problem because your skin, for example, is a really benign place to put an expression of disease. So what gets classified as disease we can think of as dis-ease in the body. So when you start to suppress those symptoms, now we run the issue of driving it deeper. And we never want to have expression in the liver, or the heart, or even the gut. The gut gets hit a lot in our modern environment.

So absolutely, the things you need to do to have amazing hormones are hang out with your tribe and your people. We need community. As women, we can boost our progesterone just by hanging out with our lady friends a few weeks before our period comes. Other things are getting ample sleep. If you're not getting at least 7 hours of sleep; forget it! I don’t care how many supplements you take. Your body is going to be like, “This is a very scary place to be living.” So always think about it from that perspective. If you're sending the signal of danger to your body, then your body isn’t going to rebel; no, no, no. It’s going to adapt so that you survive. And that always means compromised fertility.

Now, to answer the question about testing. Here’s the thing about lab testing when it comes to women’s hormones. Lab testing alone is not enough and you cannot hang your hat on any lab test that’s out there. I love Dutch testing from Precision Analytics. It is like the absolute best hormone testing that we have. I just love it. But here’s the thing. I’ve got to stand back, and I’ve got to look at the labs in the context of your story. Because no lab that’s out there right now; so, Dutch is best. And then there’s saliva testing, and that’s pretty good too but it depends on hormones that your taking and what else is going on. And then there’s blood testing. And they call kind of serve their own purpose. In my clinic we do more blood testing and more of the Dutch testing. That’s how we look at things. But none of that matters if I don’t know your symptoms. Because what we’re looking at is one snapshot in time. And even when you do a collection. We’ll do the Dutch collection on day 21 of your cycle, roughly. That’s one cycle. We don’t all ovulate every single month. So that’s one snapshot in time. I’ve got to correlate it to your symptoms and ask, is what I’m seeing in the labs true and does it make sense?

Because the other thing, the other caveat that gets thrown in with all of this is all of your hormones can look normal. So this happens a lot with ladies with thyroid. All the hormones look normal. But we can actually have cellular resistance to the hormone. We don’t have a really great way of testing for that except to ask the patient their story. So it’s really important ladies that you're tracking your period, that you're tracking this data. Because your doctor cannot evaluate your hormones without your data. And that’s really important to understand. If you’ve got a doctor that’s dismissing your story, they’re not going to be able to help you. Because they just don’t get it yet. Because your story, your experience, your body is everything. Does that make sense?

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah, it does. Super quick follow-up, just practical stuff. Is there an app that you like specifically for tracking your period? I mean I have one that I’ve had for years and I try and put notes about different things. Like if my skin is being weird or whatever’s happening, but I’m curious if there’s just one that you’ve used with patients that you like.

Jolene Brighten: Yeah. So we use the Daisy fertility monitor. That’s what we recommend to patients. And the reason for the Daisy fertility monitor is you can use it for fertility awareness method. It will actually track your cycle, and it will show me peaks in your temperature. So I like that, and you can track your menses in there.

The other apps that my patients really like is Dot, is one of them, and then Alisa Vitti’s my flow. I’ve been playing with that one for the last 3 months, and I really like that. Because it actually gives little lifestyle tips of what’s going on in your cycle. And then it asks you to schedule. To actually schedule to make time for yourself. And the sad reality is, we all need that. You and I know as entrepreneurs, if you don’t schedule in self-care, forget it. You can totally just find more work to put on yourself.

4. Contributing factors to hormone fluctuations [12:34]

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. So, why is it that so many women today are struggling with these issues? What are the factors that are contributing to it, and what do you think are kind of the, just kind of the big needle movers on this? What is it that we’re not paying attention to? Because obviously, our listeners, for the most part, are eating real food, pretty paleo-friendly, probably not a lot of sugar. But I’m guessing a lot of them are a little bit type A. I know a lot are health coaches and nutritionists, and either established or budding entrepreneurs. So let’s talk about some of those factors that affect it. Whether it’s physical stress, or environmental, or food, or all the different things that you see going on in your practice. Like you said, when the women talk about their symptoms and what’s happening in their life, besides what’s happening in the blood work.

Jolene Brighten: Yeah. I mean, one of the biggest things is our environment is more toxic than we’ve ever seen before. It’s just the reality. There was; it was Robb Wolf who just posted. He always posts stuff on Facebook that ruins everybody’s day. But I kind of love it. And he posted the sea salt, and how there are microplastics in the sea salt. And I’m like, you can’t even eat salt these days without getting exposed to plastic. It’s ridiculous. And so as women, we are set up with receptors to respond to estrogen. And the corporations in America have done us no favors, just to be really straight up. They have no vested interest in the individual. They’re out to make money, we know their purpose. But there are a lot of problems where; I mean, oh my gosh. How many chemicals us ladies douse ourselves in. I always make this joke that in my 20s somewhere along the line I got it in my head that I was supposed to smell like vanilla or strawberries and champagne. Just crap fragrances. But I seriously bathed myself in Victoria’s Secret for like a decade. And this is while I was taking the pill. There are all these things I was doing that I’m like, that is the worst thing I could do for my hormones.

But the reality is, even though we’re eating cleaner in our homes, and certainly you’ve got to clean up your home environment. No shoes in the house. You’ve got to use green products. You cannot be putting stuff on your skin that’s endocrine disruptors. Because your cells are set up to respond to that. Even more so than a man. We’ve got all these estrogen receptors, and all of these things are xenoestreogens. Not to mention that we have to have a liver that’s upregulated and running and knows how to handle all of this stuff. And when you get hit with a bunch of environmental toxins, now your liver has got to take care of that. Because those will kill you. So good job liver. But it’s going to neglect detoxing your estrogen. So now we’re going to be in really big trouble. Now we can’t actually balance our hormones. That’s a huge piece, is definitely the environment.

But there’s also the environment perspective in terms of the way we live is actually a complete evolutionary mismatch. We are supposed to be having these dark/light cycles. We are supposed to be living within a community and having support. As women, we have always been the care takers. I’ve got a real issue with the how we actually diagnose mental health disorders in women. Without ever standing back and questioning, “How did these things actually ever serve us?” The things that we say are disorders in women, mental health disorders. I mean, being an A-type personality, being classified as OCD. Yeah, there are ways that we swing a little too far on the pendulum, but I’m convinced the human race wouldn’t be here if women didn’t respond in this way. So now the issue is that we don’t have a way to channel that. And we don’t have a way to respond appropriately. And we need a lot of support. As humans, when we just look at how we’ve gone about things, we need support and we need community. And they’ve done studies to show that women who don’t feel that love, that support, that community. They actually have higher stress levels and they have lower progesterone. So it has a direct impact. Feeling love, feeling support, feeling like you’ve got people who have got your back is tremendous.

So when we look around, what are really of these things? You put it all together, they’re stressors. I mean, getting exposed to street lamps at night; that’s a stress for the body. Not having community. Having to go alone with actual stress. We have work stress, not all of us have somebody to turn to talk to about that. We look at the environmental toxins. This is all stress on the body. So I view it through the evolutionary lens of, if the body is receiving the signal of stress, what should it do? It should shut down fertility. Because babies are really, really noisy. They’re basically tiger bait. They’re like the worst thing you could do. And if you’ve got to run from a tiger, being pregnant is just; forget it. Anyone who has been pregnant knows, you're not running in your first or third trimester. It doesn’t matter how scared you are; it is not happening.

So, we have to respect that this is the wisdom of your body. At the end of the day. I just want to say this because there’s been this story passed down, and it’s just so wrong. We’re told that our body is betraying us, our body is rebelling against us. You need a pharmaceutical because your body doesn’t know how to do things right. No, no, no, no. Your body just wants you to survive. Your body; why would it rebel on you? It doesn’t want to die. It wants to be here. And so what it is does is it shuts down energy expenditure that’s unnecessary. So making babies; unnecessary and dangerous. This is also why women with hypothyroidism; if you don’t have enough thyroid, guess what we shut down? You're not going to grow hair because hair is nice to have, but you know what, humans, we have sweaters now. So your body knows it doesn’t have to have hair. So it’s really important that we view our body from that perspective. You’re totally giggling right now {laughing}.

Diane Sanfilippo: I love that, “We have sweaters now.”

Jolene Brighten: {laughs} But I mean it’s something that as women we’ve got to see our body as our ally and recognize that we’ve just got to come in and give them this signal that it’s safe. One thing I want to say is, whether or not you want to have a baby. And we know now statistically speaking, less than half of women identify as being a mother or want to be a mother. So back in the 80s, it was like 80% of women who were like, “I want to be a mom.” We’re seeing less of that. There are a whole bunch of reasons why we’re seeing less of that. But who really cares?

So all I want to say about it is that’s your choice. But whether or not you want to have a baby, you want to be as fertile for as long as possible. Because then you're bathing in these awesome hormones that make you feel awesome. If you don’t ovulate, which is how you get pregnant. If you don’t ovulate, then no corpus luteum. You have no great progesterone kicked on. That means GABA in your brain doesn’t work right. This is why we want to kill people or run away forever; because GABA is not on. Saying, “Hey guys, it’s ok. Put the hush on the stress.”

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah, calming neurotransmitter. Yep.

Jolene Brighten: Yep. Yeah. So does that make sense?

Diane Sanfilippo: It does. I love how lit up you are about this topic. That’s how we know we have the right guest expert on it on the show.

Liz Wolfe: The Balanced Bites podcast is sponsored in part by the Nutritional Therapy Association. The NTA trains and certifies nutritional therapy practitioners and consultants (including me; I’m an NTP), emphasizing bio-individuality and the range of dietary strategies that support wellness. The NTA emphasizes local, whole, properly prepared nutrient dense foods as the key to restoring balance and enhancing the body’s ability to heal. Nutritional therapy practitioners and consultants learn a wide range of tools and techniques to assess and correct nutritional imbalances. To learn lots more about the nutritional therapy program, go to http://www.NutritionalTherapy.com. There are workshop venues in the US, Canada, and Australia, so chances are you’ll be able to find a venue that works for you.

5. Environmental toxins and liver detox [20:26]

Diane Sanfilippo: A couple of things that you noted here, I think the fact that health is the preferred default of the body. Our body is trying to be healthy, and this imbalance is actually a protective, corrective approach that our body is taking. We may not enjoy the benefits of that in terms of our hormonal balance, but in terms of survival, that is the benefit that we are not flattened on the ground. Although, give it long enough and we could be. I think that was a really interesting point. And yes to that one.

What you were saying about environmental toxins and the products we put on our body. This is one of the big reasons why I’ve involved myself with Beautycounter, as much as I resisted getting involved. I was like, I can’t not talk about this to the people who we speak to every week and every day on my social media, because that is part of what the company looks at. Those endocrine disruptors and what’s happening. So really interesting. And I’m not going to get into details of that. But that is, for me, it’s a deeper meaning as to why I would bother getting involved with this product line. So that was kind of a big point you mentioned.

And I was laughing about, not only the sweater, but the scents that we thought needed to be all over us. You know, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a nice scent. But there are some amazing natural forms of those. Citrus, and things that people love lavender. Different scents that are natural. We have flowery things, and all of this provided by nature. So I think that is interesting.

Jolene Brighten: Well, think about what the corporations have done. They’ve been really, really smart, and it’s really well played. They told us we need to smell a certain way. Like, “Women you're stinky, you need to smell.” This is always their tactic. Let’s shame you, and then you sell you something. But they told us things like, “Oh, what are you going to use, essential oils? What are you, a hippie or something like that?” And that’s something. I can remember this from my 20s, thinking, “I don’t want to be that.” Ugh, totally manipulated. But now that I use essential oils all the time, I’m like, this stuff is amazing!

Diane Sanfilippo: We’re all, you know, yeah I want to be a hippie! {laughs} It’s a total turnaround. I love that.

So one of the things you touched on here was the topic of detox. Some of the new information I put in the updated edition of Practical Paleo. I put in a healthy hormones meal plan, and I also put a liver detox support meal plan. I think it’s really interesting because I threw that liver detox support one in there because I know in the next few years people will become more and more aware about the fact that the reason why we’re having problems. The liver detox stuff is almost more and more a root causes issue. I think it’s something; I’ve been working with a naturopath now, and that’s definitely something I can see at the root of my own hormone imbalances. It’s not just the hormones. And it’s not even just the stress. It's, what’s my liver doing with all of that. But I’m curious your take on; what percentage of women who come to your clinics are dealing with stressors from things like work, or running the kids around, or overcommitting or saying yes to everything. Physical lifestyle decision making stressors. Versus physiological problem that’s going on with the chemical impact over the last 20, 30, 40, 50 years, however old they are, of everything in their environment. Where do you see that divide?

Jolene Brighten: That’s a hard thing to quantify, because I think both things are going on simultaneously. But what I will say is that the environmental toxins and the liver cleanup. All of that kind of stuff is actually way easier than the stressors of the emotional and environmental stressors. That is always hardest, I think, piece to resolve. And that goes back to women being the caretakers of the tribe. We deny ourselves self-care because we think we’re being selfish. We feel like we; oh my gosh. I have a practice in Portland, Oregon, and I have a practice in Oakland, California. And what I’ll say; I think about the women that I work with in these two different populations. One thing about the Bay area population is the moms there are running their kids to multiple events in a day. Their stress is insane just by amount of events their children are going to. Going to school, and then the homework and all this stuff. And I’m like, they’re 9! Why do they have to be doing all of this?

So it’s things like that, where they’re societal expectations where women have a hard time rebelling, basically, and being like, “I can’t do that.” I went through this myself. I can’t volunteer at my kids’ school. I’ve finally just come to, it’s going to happen. A couple of times a year I can, but I run several businesses. I’m a CEO; I can’t do this. And I struggled with a lot of guilt. There were definitely moms who shamed me. And then I just owned it. I was like, this is the kind of mom I am. This is how I mother. I love my kid. I show up for him in my way. But I can’t meet all these expectations. I’ll burn myself out.

Diane Sanfilippo: That’s a big one.

Jolene Brighten: Yeah, right? And saying no. Certainly I got backlash. There were some people that didn’t get it. And then there were moms that were like, “Oh my god, thank you for creating permission around that, because I need to say the same thing.” But, you know, back to your point about the liver being a big piece. What I want to comment on is that female sex hormones are almost never the issue. They’re a response to other things in the body. So even though; this is something that women are always like, “What do I do with my estrogen and progesterone?” Sure I can talk to you about that. But it’s your liver, gut, and adrenals most of the time. If we’re really looking at it, liver, gut, and adrenals are really at the root.

And your sex hormones are just kind of dumb for the most part. They just follow whatever everyone else is doing. They’re like, “Great, we don’t have thyroid hormones? Screw it I’m not going to make anymore.” Like estrogen and progesterone. If it’s the adrenals are going crazy, they’re like, “ah, just shut down the progesterone. Let us take all the cortisol.” And that’s not to call any hormones stupid. That’s to say they just follow what everyone else is doing. So I love that you make that point. Because it’s actually, that’s the huge piece of it. That’s why I have a quick-start detox guide. Because that’s one of the biggest things that I see and tell women. Get this detox guide, give it a try for 21 days. Then if it hasn’t resolved things, come and see me and record what you’ve done in that time. Because I can actually get a lot of data from that and really understand what was going on and how did you respond. But you're absolutely right. We’re going to see.

Five years ago, I was like, “We need to tend to the liver every day. We can do a detox like once or twice a year.” And now with everything that I’ve seen, and all of those stories that come through my clinic, I’m more of the opinion now where we should really tend to this once a quarter. Do a real focused detox. And whether that’s using supplements or whether that’s just really focusing with the intention of caring for your liver and your gut. And doing all that for 21 days. I think we need a once a quarter reset. Just what we’re dealing with with our environment. All of us have the ability to control what’s in our home environment, and we can certainly create social change. But the state of where we’re at in the world, it’s going to take a lot of momentum right now. Because you can’t control what other countries are doing. Although I wish we would follow Europe a little bit more, and clean up our products. I mean, the stuff that they’ve banned in Europe that we allow in America to go on children’s skin just blows my mind. It blows my mind.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah. I’m telling you, again, that’s one of the reasons why I’ve been so passionate about the Beautycounter stuff. And it’s not the only brand that’s making safer products. But in terms of what I chose to align with. But definitely a huge thing.

Jolene Brighten: The thing I’ll say though, what I like, is that about having one company that you can go to is you can track and you can follow. I love sending people to the www.EnvironmentalWorkingGroup.org, but with the caveat of; companies are being bought and sold every day, and they don’t have to disclose that to us. Who’s buying, who’s selling, or who’s changing the formula. So every time you go into Whole Foods and you want to buy that conditioner again, you have to check the label again. Because you just don’t know. Everything could have changed. So that’s what I’ll say about if you find one company. It’s less maddening, because you can just go to one place and follow it.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah. And for as much as I’m all about the responsibility that we each need to take with our decisions. There is a limit to how much we can all know about all of these potentially toxic chemicals. There’s just a limit. I’m not a research scientist. I can’t know what every chemical compound is on that label. And I know that that’s why people come to folks like us, whether it’s about nutrition or hormones, whatever it is. As a resource and a guide to be able to support and help them out.

Diane Sanfilippo: I recently sat down with Balanced Bites podcast sponsor, Bethany, of Primally Pure Skincare to ask her more about her company and the products that they make.

What sets you apart from other companies?

Bethany: Our products are made with truly natural, pronounceable ingredients. You won’t need to do a lot of extra research, or consult an app, to figure out whether or not our products are safe to use. We take ingredient sourcing very seriously, and use almost entirely organic ingredients, and Fair Trade whenever possible.

Diane Sanfilippo: So I would love for you to tell us about the concept; “Nature is smarter than science.”

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Diane Sanfilippo: Don’t forget Diane’s favorite Primally Pure product is the dry shampoo, and Liz’s favorite is the Everything Spray with magnesium. As a special bonus for you, Primally Pure is offering a free lip balm with your first purchase of one item or more. Simply add a lip balm to your cart along with any one item, and use the code “balancedbites”, one word no caps, during checkout to receive one of their lip balms for free with your order. Head to www.primallypure.com and check out their range of safe and effective all natural skincare products.

6. Supporting your liver through the natural detoxification [31:09]

Diane Sanfilippo: A couple of things I wanted to touch on that you mentioned here about detox being so important. You know, I think detox gets a bad rap because all of the anti-natural health people want to say, “Well our liver detoxes all the time naturally. And yes, that’s true. But that doesn’t mean that it does so efficiently or that it’s happening appropriately because of the burdens we have today versus even 100 years ago, or 200 years ago. So it’s like our physiology is not matched to our environment. We know that. We’ve known that with food. We’ve come to the agreement that our food system is not where it should be. But there are so many other factors. And I love that switching our food opens us up to this idea that so many other things might not exactly be what we thought, like personal care or what’s in our cleaning products, and all of that.

So I just like the idea that we’re at least putting it out there that detox is something that we need to support. Even if the language that we use sometimes makes people feel weird. Like, “Oh, do a detox.” Yes, we are detoxifying all of the time. However, extra support for our body in that process is what we’re talking about. Even as basic as the 21-Day Sugar Detox, that supports your body naturally by stripping out a lot of the stuff. By getting the alcohol out and allowing your liver to focus on other things. And providing nutrients, like choline and B vitamins. Things that we need for proper detoxification. So I just wanted to amplify that point. Because I do think it’s important that we hear it. And it’s not just a woo-woo thing. It is a real thing.

Jolene Brighten: Yeah. And I think to your point; the thing we’ve got to look at. So sure, there are people that are like, “Whatever, detox. You're detoxing all the time.” But let me ask you; are you drinking dandelion root tea all the time? Are you gnawing on burdock root? How many times do you get beets into your diet? There are ways that absolutely we can support the liver, but we don’t eat ancestrally all the time. Not all of us do. And sometimes it’s tough to do that. So I’m not judging anyone for that.

But you know, we’re not eating bitter. We’re not eating more roughage. We would have been eating more fibrous things. Our whole food supply, our fruits and vegetables have changed very much and are not providing as much fiber as they once would, or even nutrients. So if you stand back and you think about it; sure your liver is detoxing all the time. But our diets aren’t necessarily matching what they were once that supported the liver in that way.

And then in addition to that, if your gut is stressed in any way. I treat so much small intestine bacterial overgrowth in my clinic. When we think about; if you’ve got SIBO, so small intestine bacterial overgrowth, you don’t absorb well through your small intestine. Your gallbladder doesn’t work right. Those bacteria breaking down your pancreatic enzymes and gallbladder, your bile, you're not going to absorb your nutrients as much and your system is stressed. So now, your adrenal glands are working overtime. You need more B vitamins. Well, guess who also needs B vitamins? Your liver. So there’s a lot of ways that we can actually deplete these nutrients.

And what I also say about the people who are always like, “oh, whatever you don’t need to detox. Your liver does it all the time.” Those are the same people who think pooping once a week is normal. So I wouldn’t listen to them so much. Because really, so many times. I actually looked on your Instagram page and some of the questions. Oh my gosh, your fans ask really great questions. Super educated ladies in there; I love that. But there was somebody asking, some of these questions all I could think was, “My first question to you is how many times are you pooping?” Are you going to bathroom every day? Because if you're not going to the bathroom every day, let me explain what’s going to happen.

Your liver, even if your liver is detoxing every day and doing what it’s supposed to, and you're showing it some love. Your liver is going to package up that estrogen. It’s going to say, “Time to get that estrogen out!” But if it hangs out in your bowels, your bacteria in your bowels get to play with that, and they’re like, “Hey estrogen! Let’s reactivate you. Let’s get you back into circulation.” Now, your liver is like, “Whoa, wait a minute, I just detoxed that!” Your ovaries have responded to making more estrogen, now you’ve got more estrogen than you can handle. Now you're inflamed. Maybe you're not sleep as well. We know there’s a great study that came out in May 2017. If your circadian rhythm is off, your liver is not working right.

I love this, because for the last 5 years I’ve noticed. I’ve put every patient on this circadian cycling program, where I’m like, you have to cycle your dark/light cycles. You have to get that going. Super simple to do. But I’ve noticed if they don’t do that, it’s so hard to get their hormones in balance. Then this research study comes out and says, ‘Hey, your liver doesn’t work right if you're not getting exposed to dark at the right times, and light at the right times.” Well, ok. So now forget all the food and everything else. Now if that lifestyle piece isn’t in place, now your liver isn’t detoxing things. Now your estrogen is not getting out. Now you’ve got insulin dysregulation, and now you’ve got sugar issues. I mean, that’s the at the crux of PCOS there.

So it’s really important to understand. Even though people will say, “Oh your liver is detoxing all the time.” There’s a detox system we’re looking at. It’s not all just about your liver. The whole system has to be in place. Which I’m sure you’re very familiar with everything I just said.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah. And I think it’s such a great point about sleep and the light exposure and it goes back to what you said about overcommitting to activities or whatever it is. I think to your point about more women choosing not to have kids. I think I’m such a no person. I say no to so many things, and I literally only schedule one thing a day like an activity of something. Obviously, if I have calls, I schedule more calls. But committing to doing something. I remember for years having commitments scheduled back to back that were just draining and so exhausting. And there was a point in time where I literally just shifted all of that, and said, “I actually can only do one thing a day.” Besides whatever the normal work or whatever it’s going to be. I remember it would be, I could either run errands after work or I could go to the gym or I could do whatever. I can only say yes to one thing.

I really think that each woman that makes the decision to shift away from keeping up with the Jones’ and overcommitting yourself and your family, whatever, your financial commitments and burdens. I think if you can learn how to say no to more things and realize that there’s so much more joy and less stress in your life by doing that, and you’ll get to enjoy more quality time with your family, your kids, yourself, when you do that. It takes a lot of strength, and not everyone feels ready and confident to make that decision. But I think that would lead to a lot of health changing benefits that we can’t ever know or see until we do it.

Jolene Brighten: Yeah.

Diane Sanfilippo: That’s the women we both see. Whether it’s in my coaching groups, or it’s anywhere. I’m like, “I don’t know why you're doing all of those things.”

Jolene Brighten: Because you're told you have to, as a woman. There’s this expectation. But to your point, everything you're saying is like the non-negotiables. And that’s part of my treatment plans from day one with my patients. I’m like; we’ve got to start identifying the non-negotiables. A lot of people that know me know my story. I developed autoimmune disease as a result of giving birth to my child. And for me, for two years a non-negotiable was I did not get out of bed before 7 a.m. and I realized that if I stayed in bed. Even if I woke up, but if I just lied there until 7 a.m., I had energy to go all day. But if I got out of bed before that time for whatever reason, I would be crashing at 2, 3 p.m. and have to have a 2-hour nap. And there were people who said to me, so many times. “Oh, that must be nice. It must be night that you can sleep in until then.” I even had, that I would talk about this with friends. And they’d be like, “That’s a nice luxury.” I’m like, “No, it’s a non-negotiable.” This is what I need to do to heal my body, and I figured this out. This is what my body asked for. I will respect that. If all I have to do is stay in bed until 7 to have energy all day, that’s just silly for me not to do that.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah. It’s the “must be nicer’s” out there that are ruining things for everyone. So if you find yourself being a “must be nicer”, somebody saying “That must be nice,” then check yourself, honestly.

7. Postpartum hormone balancing [39:51]

Diane Sanfilippo: Alright, so what I want to get into next are some of the more specific condition related questions that we had because we had a lot of them. We’ve had a bunch of questions surrounding balancing hormones postpartum. Breastfeeding. Sometimes postpartum after the pregnancy that happened from infertility treatment, or fertility treatment. Depression and anxiety. All of that stuff. What can you say about that?

Jolene Brighten: Yeah, postpartum hormones. Everybody says they go crazy, and yes that’s very common but it’s not normal. So why do our hormones go crazy postpartum? Why would people say that? So you deliver a human, then follows the placenta. And once the placenta is delivered, you are essentially at the hormone level of a postmenopausal woman. Which means that you don’t have these yummy hormones stimulating your brain, making you feel calm. You're crying a lot for the first 2 to 3 weeks. That’s ok, because that’s baby blues. And that isn’t necessarily that you're crying because your super, super sad. There’s a lot of reasons going on in that. It’s when that lasts too long. When we go past 3 weeks, we start to get really concerned.

So we deliver our placenta. It’s important for women to know 1 in 12 of us will have a baby and develop postpartum thyroiditis. That’s a huge number. Even though we have decades of research on this, they’re still saying, “we don’t know if we should test every woman. That might be too expensive in medicine.” I’m like, do you know the cost to that woman to not get to enjoy the first year of life with her child, or to be debilitated, fatigued? To me it’s like, honestly, a thyroid panel should cost like $12, but because of insurance it costs more than that. But it’s really negligible cost to just screen the woman and know. So that’s one thing; we can get autoimmune disease turned on.

And if you get autoimmune, it’s postpartum thyroiditis. It’s basically Hashimoto’s, but it happened to you after you had a baby. They’ll classify it as transient. Some women go into remission at 12 months. But guess what? It usually comes back. To me, that’s remission. That is not cure. That’s just, it went into remission for a minute, and then it comes back the second you trigger it again. So that’s one piece that we have to look at. That’s definitely any time there’s a mood issue going on, I always look at that. Because how classically postpartum thyroiditis presents, anxiety, and then somewhere 4 to 6 months your thyroid hormone just totally drops, and then your depressed. Same time you get diagnosed with postpartum depression. To me, those things; if we know. This is what’s really funny about the research.

The research says if any adult has low thyroid hormone, they’ll have depression. We know this is the most common cause of depression in our elderly people. And if people are not responsive to these pharmaceuticals, then you should just try thyroid hormone if you can’t kick the depression. But in the postpartum population, they look at it, and they say, “Well there’s never been a study that definitively show that hypothyroidism causes postpartum depression, therefore it can’t be related.” And I’m like, that’s just silly. Because if you say it happens in a human, and we’re talking about a human, then why? Just because she had a baby that makes her so different? No, not so much.

So what happens to women and why? So maybe you don’t get the autoimmune thyroid piece. But you probably will struggle with your thyroid sometime in the first year postpartum. Why does all of this happen? Because modern motherhood is an evolutionary mismatch. That is my basic statement of motherhood. You were never meant to go it alone. The human race would not survive. Would not survive. If women were raising children on their own the way they are today. It just would not happen. And in America, it’s not sustainable and it’s why a lot of women are dropping out of the mom group. And I do not blame them, because it’s hard. It is super hard, and anyone who denies that is either not being honest in some way. Being a mom in modern society is really difficult.

So why is that? Because you roll out of being pregnant to having a small human. It doesn’t matter. I had a woman in my clinic that she’s on her 8th child. I’ve had 1 and I can’t fathom how women get to 2, because I’m like, I’m still tired. He’s 4.5; I’m still tired. {laughs} But I don’t care how many you have, I hear this all the time in my clinic. It does not matter how many you have; it’s stressful. And then every little human is new and different in their capacity.

So you roll out of most arguably the most athletic event your body is ever going to undergo, having a human pass through a very small canal. And what your uterus does is just short of a miracle. But it’s exhausting. Then you don’t sleep. You don’t sleep for; I don’t know, who knows how long? Maybe it’s 3 months. Maybe it’s 6 months. But it’s all up to that baby. And in the beginning, you can’t sleep. You’re the food supply. Baby’s liver is not mature. And baby won’t make it if you don’t feed that baby every night.

Now, evolution is really, really smart, and it’s got your brain wired to that baby. So your brain actually shrunk in the third trimester, and it stays shrunk until about 6 months postpartum. This is why I load my ladies up with DHA fish oil in the postpartum period, because I’m like, we’ve got to get your brain back. We’ve got to get that back. Because let me just say as an aside; that lack of sleep, and if you were to become deficient in DHA, you actually destroy the part of your brain that consolidates memory. Your hippocampus. So that’s part of why we’re doing that and protecting that piece.

But you know, your brain being wired to baby means every time baby screams, your stress response goes off. So that’s good; that’s good. But it doesn’t work in our modern society. And then not to mention we isolate mother. So everybody is going to hold the door open for you when you’re pregnant, and they’re going to help you with your groceries. But the second you have a baby, society is like, you’re a burden. I’m going to get in the door before mom and her kid because they take so long. And moms feel this. This is something that a lot of women talk to me about. They feel almost hated in some situations in society, or resented because they have this child that’s a burden. Somewhere along the lines, so many of us forgot that we were once this small human, and we have to go through this process as well.

But with all of that, what am I talking about? I’m talking about beating your adrenals into the ground. And baby will do this on their own, to you, because they don’t allow you to sleep. They’re disrupting your routine. All of that is in place that it’s going to be taxing to your adrenals. But then frame it through the perspective that more of us are entering into pregnancy totally nutrient and adrenal depleted. Our HPA dysregulation, the brain and the adrenal glands, they’ve been having trouble. And I should say this is why some women, to the IVF question, they end up going that route. No one has said, “Wait, wait, wait. What’s going on with your adrenal glands? What’s going on with these other things?”

So it’s very trying to go into postpartum. And if your adrenal glands are taking a hit, then you're going to feel it. You're going to feel it on your thyroid. So if you're not sleeping, you're going to make more reverse T3, you're going to shut down conversion because your body is demanding that you sleep. Again, this is not a problem in a world where you can sleep, and you can go rest and do that. But on top of that, you're going to have a harder time getting those progesterone levels up. That’s why see in the research, progesterone is actually a therapy and a treatment for postpartum anxiety/postpartum depression.

But you know, all of that being said, there’s a lot of ways that just the way you're interacting with people in your day to day life and the demands of motherhood are taking a toll on your body and your hormones. So what’s the biggest thing you can do? You can start working on that lifestyle piece. But you’ve got to start supporting your adrenal glands for sure. In postpartum, we get women going with definitely B vitamins. You’ve got to stay on your prenatal. We’re usually using targeted B vitamins; maybe more B5. Vitamin C. Getting the magnesium in. We’re feeding the adrenals. And then, I laugh, your audience is going to totally get this. But I’m loading women up with organ meats. As much as possible in those first 3 months, what I call the fourth trimester. I’m like, I want organ meats once a week. This is what we’ve done traditionally as humans, so why stop the flow now.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah. And in Practical Paleo, in the new edition, I have a superfood meatloaf that everyone who has made it and used chicken livers, as I recommend. I don’t recommend you start with beef liver, because it is so strong. Their families eat it, husbands are eating it, and everyone’s loving it. So guys, make the superfood meatloaf. If you have to make it into meatballs, it will still be just as good and cook faster. But make that stuff, because you won’t taste it and you’ll get all the benefit from those organ meats.

So we’re going to wrap it up right there with Dr. Jolene Brighten. I will bring her back for a part 2 of this show, because we had so many questions come in, and Dr. Brighten and I really needed to get through a lot of the basics and foundations, and I think this episode was so chock-full that we’ll bring her back for a part 2 in just a few weeks. So stay tuned for that.

That’s it for this week. You can find me, Diane, at http://dianesanfilippo.com. And Dr. Jolene at www.DrBrighten.com. That’s D-R-B-R-I-G-H-T-E-N. Don’t forget to join our email lists for free goodies and updates you don’t find anywhere else on our websites or even on the podcast. While you’re on the internet, please leave us a review in iTunes. We’ll see you next week.

Comments 11

  1. Hi. Loved listening to the podcast. I can relate to all of the info. I fight sugar cravings, I am 53 and want to break free from the cravings. I have put on about 15 pounds in the last year and a half. I try to eat clean, but I have a slump about 3 pm and then after 8 I want to eat sugar.
    I am looking for a plan to work on with feeling better and having some energy.

    Thanks so much

  2. This episode hit home. I felt a rush of emotions like finally someone gets it. I am not going to go into my long story here but I am going to continue to work to find someone like Dr. Brighten. Much of her information created repeated ah ha moments for me. I am so tried of doctors telling me my numbers are perfect for my thyroid. And it is really hard to find anyone to explain why my estrogen is low and my progesterone higher. But I really heard her comment that the sex hormones follow other issues in your body. I have worked really hard to pull back and say no. This is a huge deal and I can feel positive effects. I find though within at least the community that I live in people either hang out/are friends with relatives and old friends like from high school or people they volunteer with. Being an entrepreneur/self employed/work from home makes that hard when I scale back on volunteering. But as of now I need to do that but then I hear about how we have so little support in a community. It feels like there are no best choices and they all come at a cost. For a long time though I did it all and it wore me down. And it is sad since I do not know one man that feels this way.

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  3. Hi Diane and Jolene! Where would someone start that has symptoms that fall into SO MANY categories. I have had every blood test multiple times, all of my symptoms fall into categories such as: adrenal fatigue, thyroid issues, hormone imbalances, etc. They are getting better but my fatigue used to be so bad that I wanted to die because I could barely look after my children, memory issues, it’s almost impossible for me to lose weight, difficulty falling/ staying asleep, weakness in my extremities, etc. Should I simply start with the liver? My doctor finally told me there was nothing more she could do for me.

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  5. Wonderful information, so many woman feel that it’s normal to just go go go. Until they run themselves down to the ground. Hormonal imbalances are so often over looked,even to the trained eye. Thank you for this podcast.

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  6. Ahhhh! So much YES to the “must be nicer’s” part of this!!! Not exactly the same, but I hear this so much about the cooking/food prep that I do for myself. “Oh, it must be nice to have the time to cook all day on Sunday for the week.” Umm…I don’t just magically “have the time.” I make the time and give up certain other things, because having nutritious, whole, balanced food is important for my body to function properly every damn day.

    PS – Love the fire and passion in this podcast <3

  7. Due to uterine cancer, I had a total hysterectomy at age 41. What do women in my position do to maintain proper hormone levels/health? Because of the cancer, my physician does not want me to take estrogen.

    Thank you,
    Jeannie

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      Hi Jeannie- I would recommend working with a naturopathic doctor 1:1 for help with this concern. You can see if Dr. Brighten is taking patients, or, if not, se if she has a referral for you!

      Best,
      Diane

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