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Ep. 36: What’s “normal” for Gut and Hormone Symptoms with Dr. Jolene Brighten

After struggling with gut symptoms for a decade, Dr. Jolene Brighten, a board-certified naturopathic endocrinologist, discovers the power of gut and hormones, and is fighting to normalize the conversation about women’s health so their superpowers can be leveraged.


Dr. Jolene Brighten is a hormone expert, nutrition scientist, and thought leader in women’s medicine. She is board certified in naturopathic endocrinology and trained in clinical sexology. Dr. Brighten is the author of “Is This Normal”, a non-judgemental guide to creating hormone balance, eliminating unwanted symptoms, and building the sexual desire you crave. A fierce patient advocate and completely dedicated to uncovering the root cause of hormonal imbalances, Dr. Brighten empowers women worldwide to take control of their health and their hormones through her website and social medical channels. Dr. Brighten is an international speaker, clinical educator, and medical advisor within the tech community.


 In this episode of the Love Your Gut podcast, Dr. Heather Finley is joined by Dr. Jolene Brighten to talk about gut health and its connection to hormone issues. 


Dr. Brighten shares her own experience with gut and hormone symptoms and discusses her latest book “Is This Normal?”. We dive deep into the importance of proper digestion, including adequate thyroid hormone and hydrochloric acid. The goal of our discussion today is to normalize the conversation about women’s health, and empower women with information and tools necessary for gut health transformation so their superpowers can be leveraged.


Topics Covered in This Episode:

  • [00:00:00] Gut health and thyroid hormone.
  • [00:04:11] Normalizing digestive issues.
  • [00:10:57] Period cramps and magnesium.
  • [00:14:33] Women and bodily functions.
  • [00:19:51] Birth Control and Gut Health.
  • [00:27:00] Supporting your gut health while on birth control.
  • [00:30:48] The Estrobolome.
  • [00:33:18] Dysbiosis in the gut.
  • [00:36:28] Seed cycling for PCOS.
  • [00:39:44] Seed cycling and fertility.
  • [00:43:25] Women’s biology and stress.
  • [00:49:24] Prioritizing Health Over Work.


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Connect with Dr. Jolene Brighten:



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  • “People act like your hormones are so complicated, like why even bother? Like, they’re just, they’re made to be the super villains of your life. And really, they give you superpowers, and we can leverage that.” [1:50]
  • “what’s so important to understand your gut health influences your hormonal health and your Hormonal Health influences your gut health, and they both can be having a say at the exact same time” [6:28]
  • “Without adequate thyroid hormone, the gut doesn’t move. And your gut is a major conversion site to activate thyroid hormone” [24:00]
  • “food is like the easiest entry point to tune into your senses, to get into that rest and digest and to build that mind body connection” [28:16]
  • “You have the ability to shift your diet and change your gut health, change your hormone health, change your blood pressure, change your cholesterol, like how are we not talking about the power and the benefits of food, it is very mighty what you will at the end of your fork.” [30:47]


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Dr. Heather Finley, Dr. Jolene Brighten

00:00:00 – Dr. Heather Finley

Welcome back to the next episode of the Love Your Gut podcast. Today. I’m so excited to have Dr. Jolene Brighton here with me today. So welcome to the podcast.


00:00:11 – Dr. Jolene Brighten

Thanks so much for having me. I’m really excited because we’re going to be talking about gut health, and I’m all about it.


00:00:18 – Dr. Heather Finley

Yes, well, I mean, I’ve been a huge fan of yours for years and it’s been so fun to just watch you of evolve and grow over the last couple of years. And your latest book. Is this normal? Is like an encyclopedia of really practical information for anybody struggling with really both gut issues and hormone issues. I was, like, digging into it last night as I was going to bed and I was talking to my husband about it. I’m like, this book is awesome. So I’m really excited to talk to you about it, but I love if you would just tell us kind of like, why you do what you do? Why do you specialize in this?


00:00:54 – Dr. Jolene Brighten

So I was that kid who struggled with gut symptoms for a decade of my life. So starting at age seven, throwing up after meals, having gerd, waking up with stomach pain, took research, coming up with a h pylori causes ulcers and medicine a very long time to bring that into practice. And so that took me ten years of struggling. And I was propelled into nutrition because I found that the connection of food and how my body felt was more powerful than the medications that were untested in children my age that my doctors were giving me. So I really took ownership of my health in that way, and I thought, oh, I’m going to just focus on gut health. That’s really what I thought I would do as a doctor. And once I got into medicine and realizing my own experiences as a woman, I had this realization that women’s medicine is always done to them. It’s not done with them. People act like your hormones are so complicated, why even bother? They’re made to be the supervillains of your life. And really they give you superpowers and we can leverage that. And so I think my struggles as a child and being so interested in gut health and then coming into being so I’m a board certified naturopathic endocrinologist. If people don’t know, that means I’m a hormone doctor. I have a background in nutrition and really the marriage of both of those where gut and hormone meets, I love talking about that and I think it’s an overlooked area and underappreciated area. And so that’s why I’m so excited. If you could tell, I’m like, stumbling over my words because I am really jazzed about this conversation.


00:02:33 – Dr. Heather Finley

Well, both you and I have really similar stories of kind of how we got into this field, which I think is pretty common for anybody that works with this clientele. And we were talking about this off air before we started recording about just how common digestive issues are and how most people that have digestive issues also have hormone issues. And you might see a client that comes to you for hormone issues and they might not even realize that they have digestive issues. So let’s kind of start there. What are some common issues both on kind of the hormone side and the gut side, that are thought to be normal but aren’t?


00:03:10 – Dr. Jolene Brighten

Oh, yes. So I think the idea of Bloating is really normalized. And we see a lot of people on the Internet sharing their, like, here’s my pre period Bloat photo, or I just ate a meal, and here’s my Bloated belly. And they’re trying to normalize that. These things happen to normal bodies, it happens, and that we shouldn’t be like just glorifying sucking in your gut kind of photos, right? And I’m behind that. Yet I so often find myself really pumping the brakes of not commenting. Like, hi, that’s not normal. And wanting to really just jump in and say, like, hey, can we have a deeper discussion so people know I have DM these people and said, hey, it would be great, as if we had a deeper discussion about why does Bloating occur? So Bloating is one super normalized, not normal, and we can definitely talk more about Bloating. The extreme diarrhea that some people get with their period also been normalized. I saw somebody using so there’s this peanut butter jelly song on TikTok being like, that’s what my period is like when it comes on. And I’m like, peanut butter jelly? And I was like, oh. And the comments were all saying like, yeah, have the period diarrhea too, and just really expecting that that’s the way it should be and it’s not the extreme cramping of your gut or your uterus not normal when you’re on your period. And then, of course, there’s the idea that a lot of doctors perpetuate, which is that it’s okay if you skip one to three days and don’t have a bowel movement. I’ve had clinicians not gastroenterologists, mind you, usually they’re another kind of breed of clinicians, actually make entire posts dedicated to telling people that when I say we want to poop every day for our health, and that is a sign that your gut is healthy and therefore your hormones are going to be healthier. Dedicating entire post to telling people she’s wrong and it is normal not to have a bowel movement every day. Then you see gastroenterologists coming in and being like, what? You’re telling your patients that like, no, what? So it can get really confusing, right? Because here I am telling you these things, and here comes another specialty saying, no, that’s not normal. And who do you trust? You trust your body and you trust how you feel. And I think we should definitely explore that more.


00:05:43 – Dr. Heather Finley

Well, one of the things that I love most about what you do is exactly what you just said you are the expert of your body and you know, if something is wrong and to trust kind of that gut instinct that we have that something is wrong. So let’s talk a little bit about just you mentioned, like, the period poop. So that was one of the questions that I had for you. So we’ll just kind of dive right into that. What is normal when it comes to digestion and hormones around a menstrual cycle? Is it normal to be really constipated leading up to your cycle and then have period poops right when your menstrual cycle happens? And if it’s not normal, then what are some things that could be going wrong for somebody experiencing that?


00:06:28 – Dr. Jolene Brighten

Absolutely. Okay. This is what’s so important to understand. Your gut health influences your hormonal health, and your hormonal health influences your gut health. And they both can be having a say at the exact same time, which is where partnering with the clinician can be super helpful to be like, what is actually happening to slow a bit before your period. So in that late luteal phase, progesterone rises. Progesterone will relax those muscles in your intestines. So for people who are not familiar, there’s a nervous system and a musculoskeletal or excuse me, just a muscular system in your gut that helps everything move. So I meant to say it’s separate from the musculoskeletal system. So people often think, like, bones and muscles go together, but we have muscles in the digestive tract as well, and the progesterone can act on those so that they slow down. They don’t move everything through in the same way. So now it might be that you’re a little slower to go to the bathroom. You’re more like a man going to the bathroom. If you’ve seen those memes where people are like, I swear my husband just spends 30 minutes in the bathroom so he can scroll his phone. So everyone, I’m just joking. I am raising two men, and I live with a man, and I’m not hating on men, just so we’re clear. But being in the bathroom a little bit longer, this is where, like, getting a squatty potty could be really helpful because we don’t want to be just hanging out there forever. Drinking more water can be helpful during this time because if there is any dehydration, that can definitely be problematic. But if you’re like, it takes me a little bit longer, and I notice that if I don’t exercise, it’s even more difficult to go to the bathroom. That can be a normal experience. So if you find, though, that you skip a day, that’s not freak out time. But if you are someone who skips a day and then notices within one to three days you have acne, that’s a sign that your gut needed to get stuff out. And yes, it’s hormone related, but it is very much gut related. What’s happening to your skin now when your period comes if you have period diarrhea, you most likely have painful periods as well. And that is because prostaglandins, new hormone like chemicals, steps onto the stage really, really good at contracting muscles. And anyone who’s had a baby, I just want you to know, everybody poops when they have a baby. And anyone who doesn’t says they didn’t, they’re lying. They probably aren’t lying. Nurses, midwives, doctors are really just kind, and they’re like, no, you didn’t poop.


00:09:00 – Dr. Heather Finley

Yeah, you’re fine.


00:09:02 – Dr. Jolene Brighten

You should poop when you’re having a baby because those prostaglandins are so high and causing such significant contractions to your uterus to usher a baby into this world that they’ll cause your butt bowels to contract as well. It is not normal to feel like you might be having a baby and pooping like that when your period comes. It is normal to notice that, like, wow, a couple of days ago, things were hard to pass, and now things are much easier to pass. That’s normal. But if you are someone who’s experiencing painful cramps and you have period diarrhea, things like magnesium glycinate, friends, not citrate. The number of times I see people on the Internet say magnesium citrate, like, everybody should just drink Calm if they have period cramps. And I’m like, you’re going to poop your pants too much so people understand. I think natural calm can be a great it’s like the travel one, right? If you’re traveling, a lot of people get constipated. Bring natural calm with you. Magnesium citrate will help get things moving. It might even be your ally, like, five days before your period. Don’t make the mistake of the day before your period loading up on 300 milligrams of that, because you probably will poop yourself the next day. And sharks happen. We got to respect sharks happen. So with that, we want to do magnesium glycinate. That’s the form of magnesium that has the best research when it comes to women’s hormones, when it comes to PMS, when it comes to sleeping before your period. So it has a lot of benefits, including those prostaglandins and then making dietary shifts. So we have more omega three S opposed to omega six S. And I talk about all of this in the book, but prostaglandins are made from omegas. If they come from primarily omega six, like we see in the standard American diet, we’re going to see much more intense cramps. So keep this in mind. It’s been normalized that cramps are just how it goes. Like, these severe cramps are normal. However, the standard American diet has also been normalized. It’s incredibly high in omega six fatty acids. That’s where we make prostaglandins from. And so, of course, we’re going to see more period pain being apparent. That doesn’t make it normal.


00:11:11 – Dr. Heather Finley

Yeah, I love that. And that’s such a good explanation about having a baby and pooping. I’m like, I’ve never heard the period cramps described like that before, but it makes perfect sense. And most people listening to this podcast are of childbearing years. So it’s something that’s super relatable. I think we’ve all had that experience of being in labor and pooping ourselves.


00:11:34 – Dr. Jolene Brighten

Thank you for normalizing that. Well, I’ll go one step further. So my first son, I thought, was going to have a water brewer. It doesn’t work out. Like, you make all your plans and then babies, they just do whatever they want. My second son, he was born in the bathtub. And I remember climbing out of the bathtub and looking back and being like, I think that’s a little bit of poop in my mind. And I say it to my husband later. My husband’s like, no, it was the baby. That was the baby, it wasn’t you. And I was like, you are like 1000 million times the keeper. You’re so great, but you’re lying. You can’t lie to me. I know babies don’t come out and do that. I saw his first poop, so like, sorry, friend, but I saw this post where people were saying the question, like, do you think Beyonce pooped when she had a baby? And people were like, oh, no. And then all these people were like someone was like, of course she pooped. Like, everybody pooped. And then the number of women that were like, something’s wrong with you if you pooped. I didn’t poop all of that. I’m like, I can smell the shame through the Internet. I can smell the shame. And that is a big part of why I wrote the book, is because we are told to feel ashamed of everything our body does and to downplay or to not talk about, or to just pretend it doesn’t even exist. Like these normal things that normal bodies do, this is just what the body does.


00:12:56 – Dr. Heather Finley

Yeah, there’s a reason that I had my son in the water as well. And there’s a reason that there’s a fishnet included in the home birth kit.


00:13:04 – Dr. Jolene Brighten

Yes, there is, 100. All right. People can leave us comments if they’re like, whoa, you guys are crazy. That was TMI. There’s no TMI in my world. I’m like, we just bring it, we just talk about it. Let’s normalize it.


00:13:19 – Dr. Heather Finley

Speaking of that, though, why do you think that women’s health and digestive health have become so shameful for people? I think that’s part of my story is for years I struggled with digestive issues and I was embarrassed by them. And I know that’s the case for so many of our clients. So where do you think that comes from? And what can someone do if they’re struggling with that?


00:13:43 – Dr. Jolene Brighten

So there’s layers to this, I should say. Okay, so one, bodies do growth, weird things, right? And they’re awkward, and that’s just the way it is. I don’t ever see anybody shaming their dog for using the bathroom. I’ve never seen that. I’ve never seen any of that. But as a human, oh, God, we don’t talk about that it shouldn’t be like that. Let’s pretend this doesn’t exist. Now, at the next layer that you’re a woman, and women are like, I mean, we’re not supposed to fart. We’re supposed to poop privately. And nobody knows that we have these bodily functions, and we’re supposed to hide all of this so that we can be seen as an angelic being, a sexual being, whatever it is that society is saying we need to be. And so you see things like this where I remember having a friend growing up and her sister saying, I’ve never farted. And I was like, what? I was like, the kids struggling with digestive issues, and I was like, oh, my God, I fart all the time. Something is so wrong with me. And feeling that deep shame and then becoming a doctor and being like, everybody farts because they have bacteria, and if you don’t pass gas, that’s not normal. Something’s going on because it’s not you. It is these organisms that are living inside of you that are digesting your foods, that are producing gas. Now, we shouldn’t have, like, foul smelling gas or copious amounts of gas or so much bloating that you can’t button up your pants or you feel uncomfortable to move kind of situation if you do something’s going on. But passing gas is normal. Periods, the majority of my adult life have been weaponized against us, used to shame us, used to insult us, used to make fun of us. I mean, this starts in middle school, by the way. Can we all just recognize kids are really awful mean in middle school and as parents, have that conversation of kindness with them? Because that’s really where it stems from. It stems from home. So with that, I think a lot of us there’s everything that society is messaging and parroting to us. There’s our experiences that come from childhood that maybe we still haven’t dealt with. There are people in our life who are saying things like, I never fart, or, oh, my period is so easy. And I made this mistake when I was actually on the birth control pill, and my sister okay, so everybody understands I was, like, 18. This is not adult me. Even though I’m technically adult, my brain is not formed. And my sister’s friend that she had, my sister’s eight years younger than me, and her friend had already started her period, and she was, like, having really bad cramps, and she was in so much pain, and I was just like, wow, I don’t know. I don’t have to have that because I’m on the pill and blah, blah, blah. Okay, this is a little girl that I’m saying this to. And I remember her saying, that must be so nice for you, but I’m in pain. And I was like and that actually stopped me in that moment of like, oh, my God, wait a minute. I was just that girl, like, a year ago until my doctor put me on the pill. And then here I was thinking, like, I had risen above the period pain, and I was above this and being all braggy about it and realizing, here I am telling this story 20 years later, it stuck with me of like, wow, you made that person feel shame. You made that person feel bad. They were in pain and they just wanted empathy. And you bragged about being on birth control. Like, wow. So it’s experiences like that that I don’t know if she’s still thinking about it, but I’m still thinking about, like, I wish I would have done better in that moment. But those kinds of little things that touch down in our minds and experiences throughout our entire life, they really influence us, and it’s a lot to unpack. I think men have their own layer of stuff, but as we talk about relationship with our body, in terms of our reproductive health, in terms of our periods, in terms of our period poops, we just have so much we’re inundated with that we really have to recognize isn’t even our stuff.


00:17:57 – Dr. Heather Finley

Yeah, that’s so good. And I do feel like in some sense, it’s shifting a little bit because of people like you and people who are talking about this and almost just giving people permission. Like, this is normal. That’s the title of your book. Is this normal? And Normalizing some of these Things that naturally our bodies do. So thank you so much for that.

00:18:20 – Dr. Jolene Brighten

Well, thank you. And thank everybody who’s listening, because this is only changing because you’ve got a podcast, you’re on social media. These people who are listening right now, they’re listening, they’re commenting, they’re sharing these things. This is exactly why all of this is changing. 2015 was declared the year of the period. Like, 2015 was finally the year of the period. And the reason is because women stepped out of the shadows and into the light and started sharing information and normalizing these conversations. So I think we just have to say thank you to all your listeners and everybody who’s out there being a part of this change.


00:18:56 – Dr. Heather Finley

Yeah, absolutely. So kind of on that note a little bit, you mentioned birth control, so can we go there for a second? I’d love to hear you just talk about a little bit about birth control and how it affects the gut, how does it affect the microbiome? We see this a ton because our practice is digestive health focused, but we see so many women that have been on birth control for 20 plus years and have significant digestive issues. And is that the entire reason? Absolutely not. But let’s talk about how birth control affects the gut and kind of what to do about it.

00:19:33 – Dr. Jolene Brighten

Oh, gosh, yeah. We’re going to go there in a political climate where people are absolutely trying to take birth control away from us. And I 100 do not get behind that. Because I believe in everybody having access to whatever they need to control their reproductive health and sometimes get themselves out of pain and be able to function. Like if you have severe PMDD or endometriosis, this can be a tool that makes it so that you can actually move through your day to day life. And as somebody who had severely painful periods and heavy periods that lasted more than seven days, I wish that I had the knowledge I did then. But without the birth control pill, I was missing significant amount of time, sometimes up to a week out of every month. So I think it’s important, while we talk about the issues that can come up, we also recognize that that doesn’t mean that we just take this away from everybody.


00:20:27 – Dr. Heather Finley

Yeah, absolutely.


00:20:27 – Dr. Jolene Brighten

There are definitely people out there trying to do that right now. So with a birth control pill, it’s important to understand. It’s called the oral contraceptive pill. It’s an oral medication. You take that, you do not digest all of it. You do not absorb all of it in the small intestine as it’s intended. Some of it gets by. Where does it end up with your microbiome in your large intestine. And there has been some research comparing it to antibiotics in terms of its effect on the microbiome. What is lacking in research, what isn’t lacking in research, sometimes I feel like saying, but what is lacking is understanding how these organisms metabolize this drug. All we look at is, how do humans metabolize drugs? How is that affecting the liver? How is it affecting everything else? And yet we’re not looking at how is it affecting the microbiome? So it is possible to see microbial disruption. We do know based on I mean, there is research that goes back to the 70s showing a correlation with Crohn’s disease. Not that the pill caused Crohn’s disease, but that if you already had it and you’re taking the pill, you may need additional surgeries. If you have a family history to developing this inflammatory bowel disease, then the pill could push you even further towards that. So it can be a contributing factor in all of this. It could be because of the microbial disturbance. It may also be because it can induce intestinal hyperpermeability, what most people know as leaky gut. And as we understand from some of the lead researchers in how autoimmune disease develops, that’s one of the ingredients that goes into it. You need to, one, have a family history, two, have intestinal hyperpermeability, and three, have a triggering event. And any hormonal change can be a triggering event. Having a baby, having a miscarriage, going through menopause, going through menarchy. So getting your period for the first time, any hormonal change can induce that. And that’s important to understand. And so the birth control pill, because of all of these factors, may actually play a significant role in not only developing autoimmune disease, but also developing other issues like food sensitivities or experiencing the gas bloating, diarrhea, constipation, undigested food in the stool. We know it also has an impact on the gallbladder. Without your gallbladder friends, it is not a good way to go in life because that can result in really significant digestive issues. So it can impact the gallbladder. And there is evidence to show. In fact, if you read certain drug handbooks, they tell you that you expect thyroid changes when someone is on the pill. Without adequate thyroid hormone and the right stimulation of that, you are not going to have adequate hydrochloric acid. If you do not chew your food and you do not have adequate hydrochloric acid, nothing else downstream is going to function correctly. So it is literally like if you think about the ocean is the end of the glacier, right, that melted and everything has to make it through to have the ecology that you have of the ocean and the health of the ocean, it’s a similar thing. It is a top down and it is all connected and whatever happens above is going to impact what the end product is. And so we’ve got the impact on thyroid health and then we have to also say, like thyroid health is important for gallbladder contraction. Without adequate thyroid hormone, the gut doesn’t move and your gut is a major conversion site to activate thyroid hormone. So as I said, at the very top of this, your gut influences your hormones and your hormones influence your gut. And it sometimes is happening at the exact same time. This is one of those situations where that can be going on. So that was a whole lot of information. I actually wrote all about this in my previous book, beyond the Pill. I have an entire chapter just on gut health, an entire chapter just on liver health and walking through all the ways that birth control can impact somebody’s body potentially. And I want people to understand that because what is true for one person isn’t true for everyone. Just like some people get really sad on birth control, some people are like, I have the best mood I’ve ever had in my life on birth control. So once again, is what is true for you and honoring that experience.


00:24:57 – Dr. Heather Finley

Yeah, and I love it if you would just share too. If someone’s on birth control and maybe they want to get off, but now is not the time, are there things that they can do to support their body while they’re on birth control? You mentioned chewing. That’s something that we start with, with our clients. You have to chew your food and you need to eat away from your desk. Go and chew your food at a table and take a couple of deep breaths and then stomach acid, very much important in the entire process. So of course, those two things, but kind of beyond that, are there things that someone can do to support their gut and their hormones on birth control.


00:25:40 – Dr. Jolene Brighten

Yes. So number one is you don’t get as much of a free pass with your diet. And what I mean by that is you need to be making sure you’re hitting the 25 grams of fiber every day. There is some evidence that potentially if you have conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, maybe the 25 grams isn’t best for you. But majority of people are going to do well with getting 25 grams. And why is that? Because that means they’re going to eat more plants, and we want to have that diversity. So I know that some people are like, I love my kale, I love my cabbage, I personally love my broccoli. But we don’t want to eat it every day. We want to mix it up. We want to expose ourselves to different things. We don’t want to have a fear of root vegetables because of their carbohydrates. I see a lot of vilification of them like, oh, eat sweet potatoes, but don’t eat any other kind of potato. Or you can eat carrots, but don’t eat any other kind of root vegetables. And I’m like, get your turnips in, get your Hikama. Get all of these different kind of fibrous vegetables in the way that you signal to your body that safe. There’s a lot of ways you can do this, but one of them is a variety of food coming in that tells your gut, hey, all is well. We have a plethora. There is a cornucopia, if you will, a variety of foods, and that will tell your hormones that, okay, there’s bounty here, therefore we’re not in scarcity, we’re not in famine. And that will allow your hormones to shift into a way that serves you more less of that fight or flight kind of feeling. There’s that one piece of making sure that you’re getting your nutrient dense foods in, and you’re going to, on top of that, want to take a multivitamin or prenatal because there are nutrient depletions that happen with birth control. And I would never expect you to eat perfect every single day, nor could you. Like, life happens. And so that’s what I just call like, insurance. You have your insurance of nutrients coming in. So there’s that piece of tending to your gut health, making sure that you have those nutrients. And as you were saying, chewing is important, stepping away from your desk, because that’s going to get you out of that fight or flight into that rest and digest state. The more you can do that, the better with birth control. So there has been research showing that it messes with your cortisol response. And then sometimes you can have a blunted cortisol response similar to someone with PTSD. So you’re really feeling at the mercy of stress. So use meal time. And I talk about this and is this normal? When I talk about mindfulness mindfulness and that mind body connection as a way. For better sex and better orgasms. I talk about food as, like, the easiest entry point to tune into your senses, to get into that rest and digest and to build that mind body connection. I think this is such a mandated pause that we have in our life to eat that it would be a missed opportunity not to tune into that and to tend to the stress hormones. So that’s just a few of the things. There’s certainly more I could say, but I think if you’re looking for a place to start, that’s where I would say, go ahead and make your best foot forward effort with and then tackle the rest.


00:28:59 – Dr. Heather Finley

And I love how simple it is to start. I think oftentimes we feel like our health has to be so complicated, and then it just doesn’t feel safe. Like you mentioned, it kind of sends us into this fight or flight of thinking about all the things that we have to do, and that just activates a stress response as well. So trying to keep it simple, sticking with the basics to start, and then you can expand from there, which I love. So kind of shifting gears a little bit. I’d love to talk a little bit about the astroblome, and could you just define that for people and tell us a little bit about it? How does that affect someone’s? Hormones, gut health, everything?


00:29:39 – Dr. Jolene Brighten

Yeah. Okay. Simply put, it is the connection between your estrogen and your gut health. And if you’ve ever followed my work on social media, you’ve probably heard me talk about betaglucaronidase. So your microbes, they produce an enzyme called beta glucaronidase that can reactivate estrogen. So the way it works is that you no longer need estrogen. So your liver says, check, let’s get it out of the body, goes through phase one and phase two. Liver detox. By the way, in. Is this normal? I have a whole diagram, an image of the nutrients you need to run those metabolic processes. And exactly in the very back of the book, you will find exactly the foods to eat to get those nutrients in.


00:30:21 – Dr. Heather Finley

I was just about to say that. I’m like, there’s an amazing visual. Buy the book, and you’ll have all.


00:30:26 – Dr. Jolene Brighten

The tools for that. Yeah, I’ve got the visual. And then I was like, let’s put a chart in that says, this is the nutrient, these are the foods that it’s found in, and these are the hormones that it supports so that you can really master that food is medicine technique. I know some people hate when I say that, but I mean, everything you eat becomes you. You have the ability to shift your diet and change your gut health, change your hormone health, change your blood pressure, change your cholesterol. Like, how are we not talking about the power and the benefits of food? It is very mighty what you willed at the end of your fork. So with that the estrobulum. Now, we talked about, okay, phase one. Phase two detox. Now we’ve got to get estrogen out. And when we get estrogen out, it moves through the kidneys and it moves through the bowels. But in the bowels, that estrogen can be reactivated if you have elevations in beta glucose. Now, this is not because you have pathogenic bacteria. It’s very rare to have pathogenic bacteria. If you do, you will know it. My family just went through food poisoning this last week. I dodged it because I was too busy to sit and eat and make the well, I was too busy to prepare food, and my husband and my sons had sandwiches with deli meat. And I was like, I don’t have time for that. I’m in interviews. I’m just making a quick smoothie, and I’m going to drink a smoothie. And then they all got food poisoning, and it was violent. Oh, my gosh. A lot to deal with. That is something that you’re not supposed to have there, right? So when we’re talking about this dysbiosis in the gut, you might have some symptoms, things that you can live with, right? Like, you can get by with. It’s not ideal, but it won’t be like that. And I think it’s important for people to understand because I see people that are like, you must have the worst bacteria in your gut. No, there’s everything that should live there, but just misbehaving. So with that, that reactivation of estrogen can put estrogen back into circulation. And now your body’s dealing with more estrogen than it had counted on. And so the thing to understand is that we don’t have great research showing us that. Oh, yes, if that happens, then we’re going to have way more estrogen in our blood. We’re going to be able to measure that. But there are studies linking it to estrogen related issues and health and diseases. So it is definitely something worth pausing on. Now, that’s the bit about the estroblon, by the way, if anybody’s like, I think I’m dealing with this. So I formulated a supplement called Balanced Women’s Hormone Support, and it has, like, a trifecta for estrogen metabolism in there, and it has dim sulfurophane and calcium deglute. And calcium deglucarate can help mitigate that beta glucaronidase while you work on the rest of your gut. Now, the estrobalum is not this bad thing, okay? I just kind of, like I said, the problems with it. But the estrobalum is also involved in making sure you do have enough estrogen. So it is making sure that you have healthy estrogen. These same critters that live in your gut, they get shared with the vagina. And that estrogen is what keeps your vagina healthy and happy. So the estrobalum is connected to keeping your vaginal cells producing glycogen. So estrogen stimulates those cells. They produce glycogen. Glycogen feeds the lactobacillus acidophilus, acid producing organisms that keeps your PH at an optimal about 3.5 to 4.5 range. That optimal acidic PH is what keeps yeast that should be there from overgrowing and keeps other organisms like Gardinella in check, which causes bacterial vaginosis. And so that astrobolome is super important when it comes to your vaginal health as well.


00:34:20 – Dr. Heather Finley

So if people weren’t already convinced, this is another reason why you can’t neglect gut health when you have hormone issues and vice versa. Really. It’s the whole picture. They all go together. Well, to kind of wrap up here, I’d love to hear just from your experience, probably at this point, working with thousands of individuals. Someone asked this on Instagram yesterday when I put up the question box, and I loved this question. What’s the most surprising transformation you have seen when a client improved their hormones? Oh, gosh, I should have probably warned you about this.


00:34:55 – Dr. Jolene Brighten

Yeah, no, I mean, it’s kind of fun, right? If you can see my face, I’m.


00:34:59 – Dr. Heather Finley

Like, oh my gosh, there’s so many.


00:35:01 – Dr. Jolene Brighten

Probably there really are. There are so many. Something that comes to mind straight away is that I had this patient with PCOS. She came in and I was like, we need to get lab testing. And mind you, I don’t know if she has PCOS yet. She’s having irregular periods. She’s having hair growth on your chin. It was mostly on her chin. It wasn’t actually other places. And really oily skin, a little bit of acne, back knee like crazy was happening for sure. And I suspected PCOS, so I was like, okay, we need to work you up. We got to do all these tests because we got to make sure it is PCOS. And I want to understand everything that’s going on. And I always do this with patients while I’m going to run tests that’s going to take like four to six weeks before you get in. You get that done, like, all of that. And I don’t like to stress anybody out of trying to get into the lab immediately. So as I do that, I’m always like, let’s start with some nutrition. Let’s start with some lifestyle, let’s start with some and usually there’s some supplementation coming in, depending on what I think, what I hypothesize is happening. It’s always like, it’s never a bad idea to support the adrenal glands in this modern age. So I’ll bring in some things like that that I also know won’t affect our lab work. Or I’ll say, like, get your blood drawn and then we’ll start these things. So with that one of the things that with this individual, she was already her exercise was really great. She was tending to her sleep. There’s a lot of stuff that she was doing right. And I was like, we’re going to add in some seed cycling. I think that is one great way that we can start getting some more fiber in your diet, get you very intentional about how you’re eating and tuning in with where your body’s at now, mind you. She’s not cycling at the time. So I’m like, we’re just going to go off the moon phases because that’s really easy to look up in the sky, be like, Where are you at? Okay, we’re going to go and we started seed cycling. If people are not familiar with this, I talk about this. I talk about it. Is this normal? I talk about it and beyond the pill. And I do have resources at Dr. Brayton.com as well, talking about all about seed cycling. And it’s something that gosh, I’ve been doing I don’t even know, it’s like it feels like it’s almost been 20 years now. It’s been a very long time that I’ve been seed cycling. So anyhow, wait, let me tell you, okay, let me just tell everybody. So seed cycling from your period or from the new moon, if you don’t have a cycle, because you can do this. If you’re not cycling for whatever reason, you’re going to eat fresh ground flaxseed and pumpkin seeds, raw pumpkin seeds, one to two tablespoons of each. There are people out there that are like, it has to be two tablespoons. Can you just live? Okay, let people live. So one to two tablespoons of each. Then at ovulation, or roughly 14 days later, we’re going to make a switch. We’re going to go into sesame seeds and sunflower seeds. You have to grind both the flax seeds and the sesame seeds because you’re not a cow and you can’t chew stuff and then have four chambers for it to move through. I hate to break it to you. I say this because if people see me, we make our own gluten free bread at home, and I throw whole flax seeds into it. And people are like, does that count for seed cycling? I mean, no, I just like it. I just like having it in there. I’m like, it feels like a nice bread. Like, not just like gluten free white bread. Anyhow, I digress. So that’s how you seed cycle. She came back and after she went and got her lab work and she comes back, it’s about two months after seeing me, and I’m like, oh, where have you been? And she’s like, I got my cycle back. And I’m like, that’s amazing. And she’s like and I’m pregnant. And I’m like, what? What? Okay, this was someone who was not ovulating. So she first got her period, and then she got pregnant the next month. This was her goal for everybody listening, I was blown away, and I had been seed cycling and being like, this is just a practice that I do, and it’s a great way to bring in these nutrients, the fiber and all this stuff. And I remember just in that moment where I was just like, dang, there’s something more to this than I’ve been giving it credit for. And I’m not saying that just the nutrients of seed cycling alone was enough to get her cycling. I also think being intentional, really paying attention to your body, like slowing down with your food, there is something to all of that. As I said, she was already doing a lot of things really well. And as her labs came back, I mean, it was a PCOS picture. I was like, well, you got your labs and this is PCOS. Just so everybody knows, I did warn her like I warn all my patients. Ovulation comes before menstruation. So as you’re working with me, when you’re trying to get your period back, the first thing that’s going to happen is ovulation comes back. So if you’re not wanting to get pregnant, then be mindful about that. I think there’s so many stories I could tell, but I remember that one just really blowing me away of like, I didn’t have to do much. I didn’t have to do much. She had so much power to heal her body, to get herself ovulating again, to get pregnant. She had a healthy, normal pregnancy. But, yeah, I was like, Where did you go? And she’s like, Well, I got pregnant and I had to go to the Obedine. And I was like, Whoa, okay. Fair. Yeah. So that’s one story for the book, for sure.


00:40:21 – Dr. Heather Finley

I love that story, and I love what you said, too. She was already doing so much and just kind of want to comment on that. I think, like I said earlier, we often try to overcomplicate it. But as you say in your book, and you’ve said multiple times on this episode, it’s about safety. And I think so much of our hormone digestive, health, everything is related to our bodies feeling safe. So I don’t know if you have any comments on that, but we see this so much. The clients that have tried all the testing, $4,000 of supplements, and their body won’t respond because their nervous system is a wreck. They’re not sleeping, they’re not hydrating, their blood sugar balance is all over the place. Or it’s just regulated. It’s not balanced, and it’s not the sexy thing to do. Right. It’s having to go back to really the basics, but to create a sense of safety in the body. So I’m hoping that people are hearing that this doesn’t have to be so complicated.


00:41:23 – Dr. Jolene Brighten

Yes. So I actually say in beyond the Pill, you’re not what you eat, you are what you absorb. And I think that is so important to understand because you can take all the supplements and you can eat the best of foods, but if you are stressed out, your nervous system and your body cannot allow you to even break down and absorb that food, if you don’t absorb it, then it’s just really expensive poop. So there’s the poop doc again. Anyhow, this concept of safety is super, super important. I talk about this in, is this normal? Because it is so often overlooked and because medicine always centers men. Men as the standard when it comes to drug testing men as the standard when it comes to how do you diagnose with spoiler? We’re not the same. Heart attack research has shown us that. But it is always very much this nail centered approach that glazes over the fact that we have to be more in tune with the environment by way of being born with ovaries in a uterus. You have to be in tune with your environment because your biology says there is a potential for a baby. And if there is a potential for the baby, that is very expensive. So as someone who’s been pregnant, I wear an or ring. My heart rate variability goes down when I’m pregnant because it is a stress on the body to be pregnant. People act like it’s just some kind of neutral state and it’s natural and all this it is a stress on the body. You have to be in a position to where the environment that you’re living in isn’t also sending excess stress. People who don’t know heart rate variability is just a measure of the fluctuations in your heart. The lower it is, the more stress there is, the less you’re adapting to stress and the higher it is, the better, okay? So that’s how that ties in. But when we take into consideration that our environment inundates us with light, okay, we know that disrupts our circadian rhythm and the Ovaries in particular are very sensitive to that disruption in circadian rhythm that can disrupt our Ovulatory cycle. I do talk about this and is this normal? People are like, say more, read more. It’s there or you can get it on audible. You can listen to me talk about it. So there’s that. There’s the fact that people take for granted that we drive cars, okay, and we do it. This is just one example of the many things that we do day in and day out and we don’t think about it. But your system, you are driving like 70 miles an hour. Like this hunk of metal is flying and you are serving, okay? When you’re learning to drive and you’re like 1516, you are like you’re like white knuckling the will and you’re looking around all the time and you can feel like your blood pressure goes up, your heart rates up, you’re really nervous. Well, you’ve done this enough times that your brain’s adaptation is as lazy as we can be. That’s the adaptation. What can we run in the background? If you think about like just watch a toddler learning to walk, you just walk now and you don’t have to think about it again. Lazy nervous system. What can we just run in the background and put on autopilot? Even though you’re putting that on autopilot, your body is still looking around, scanning the environment, knowing that it’s trusting that every single person had a good night’s sleep and wasn’t drinking and driving and all of these things that can impact you. We take for granted that our modern environment has a lot of stressors and that we have not evolved to be able to handle all of these stressors. Then does that mean freak out? No, everybody, we’re not going to freak out. We just have to recognize that because that means we’ve got to do a little more due diligence in how we, again, not sexy things, tend to our sleep, feed our body, making sure that it’s getting regular meals, that it’s getting diversity of meals as often as possible. And as much as it fits into your budget, making sure that you’re exercising a way that’s not stressing you out more. So I shared. My family had food poisoning. Okay, so here we are. Let me give it to you. I have a book come out on a Tuesday. On Wednesday, my family gets food poisoning. I get 3 hours of sleep because before the sun came up, I had washed five loads of laundry. How much fluid was coming out of everybody every which way. I was up mopping floors. Like tending to a baby who’s crying, tending to a ten year old who’s crying. It was just like so much. And I did not work out that day because that would have been more stress on my body then. Here’s the thing. Food poisoning might get better, but you still got tummy troubles coming out of it. There’s still stuff going on that I just ended up not getting quality sleep. I averaged 5 hours of sleep. I napped everybody. But I thought much I was averaging at night. Not because I was overworking, because motherhood had that demand on me and there was nothing I could do about it come Wednesday. So I go through that on like Wednesday. On Thursday, I canceled my entire day. This is not a good idea when you’re launching a book. I am sure my publishers are not going to be happy with me. I am sure there’s people out there that are going to be like you missed a real opportunity. You could have sold more books, you could have done more stuff. I can never get back my sleep. I can never get back my health. And as somebody who has autoimmune disease, I can’t compromise that. I know how it’s going to mess with my hormones, how it’s going to mess with my inflammation, all of that. So that entire week I didn’t work out. So I did walking. Like just walking and people downplay. It so good for you, so good for your nervous system, so good for your gut, so good for so many things. I did not lift heavy weights and I share this on social media. Lifting weights usually helps you with stress. If you are that tired and you are that stressed, you’re setting yourself up for an injury, you are going to get hurt and you’re going to send more signals that the environment is stressful and that’s going to cause my ovulation to shift. And when it does come around, my progesterone is never going to be where I want it to be. Now I’m going to be in rage mode because now I’ve got cortisol up and I’ve got progesterone down and I’ve got estrogen just doing whatever it wants to do in my brain. And now I’m short with my family and I’m feeling guilty about that. And now I might be like, oh, I just want to eat, like, a whole chocolate bar because I feel so down and like, this is the spiral in this cycle that we can get in. I have done this in my 20s. My 40 something year old self is like, no, there is nothing in this life that is worth sacrificing your health or sacrificing not being there for my kids because I’ll be damned if they’re 20. Being like, I remember when my mom put her book first or put this first, and I’ll be damned if I’m like 80 being like, oh, God, why did I ever put this thing first instead of my health? And so I share all of this with all of you. Not to be like, oh, wow, she’s a pinnacle of health. But to say you have to be in tune with your individual needs. You have to give yourself permission to pause and recognize that the fact that I have this wisdom is just because I’m a little bit further down the road from you. And I would like to be that beacon of light saying, watch out for this pothole. I stepped in it, broke my leg, fell down. Like it was not good. Don’t do the same, friend. So just giving yourself permission to feel safe in your environment and recognizing that the choices that you make, even when the entire world might be like, like I said, I’m getting come up in this week. I know that there’s going to be people in my inbox being like, you canceled all these interviews. You did all this stuff. The whole world outside of my world will be like, you made the bad decision. But I know because I know me and I know my family and I know my body, I did make the right decision. And we need, I think, as practitioners to be reinforcing that more with our patients. Trust yourself and when you choose you and you choose your family and you choose what’s best for your health, don’t let anybody shame you or drag you down for it.

00:49:16 – Dr. Heather Finley

Amen. I mean, seriously. And we need more people modeling that for us and changing the narrative because that’s so anti our culture and it’s not going to change unless people like you and I show our patients and show the world that there’s an alternative that’s so, so much better. So thank you for sharing that. It’s such a practical example, too, because it just happened last week.


00:49:44 – Dr. Jolene Brighten

It’s very top of mind. I’m like, I don’t even want to get in my inbox right now, but I have to do it well.


00:49:51 – Dr. Heather Finley

This was fantastic. Thank you so much for taking time out of your day and schedule to do this interview. I know it’s going to help so many people. Just to wrap up, I always ask everybody on the podcast this because it’s called the Love Your Gut podcast. What is your favorite way to love your gut?


00:50:08 – Dr. Jolene Brighten

Oh, I have to say, oh, man, there’s like a lot. But man, they put me on the spot, right? I think one of my favorite ways to love my gut I think one of the best ways to love my gut is actually to process my emotions. I’m definitely somebody who will take my emotions and chew them down and put them in my gut and then have that emotional response, be a physical response. And so as you said that, I’m like, god, am I going to share more private stuff about myself? I am so that is I think I can talk about food. I can talk about all these things. But it really is that emotional piece that I know that if I am not handling if I’m not handling my shit, I’m going to end up with shit like that.


00:51:01 – Dr. Heather Finley

Yeah, no, it’s so true. And as we’ve said multiple times, everything is so connected. So you can’t ignore the nervous system. You can’t ignore the emotional piece. You can’t ignore any of it. It all affects each other. So thank you so much for joining me. This was fantastic.


00:51:18 – Dr. Jolene Brighten

Yeah, thank you.


As always, please note that this episode or anything discussed on this podcast is not a substitution for medical advice and you should always consult your health practitioner before trying anything new.


Dr. Heather Finley 

Thanks so much for tuning in to today’s episode of the love your gut podcast. I have a new quiz that I’m so excited for you to take it is called which popular song describes your gut health issues. So if you’re ready to find out if you’re a slow down by Lenin seller or Don’t Stop Believing by journey in the world of gut health, it’s time to head over to Dr.Heatherfinley.co/quiz to take this new quiz and find out if your gut is rockin and rollin or more of a slow jam. And until next time, remember to love your gut so it will love you back

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Hi, I’m Dr. Heather

Registered dietitian and helps people struggling with bloating, constipation, and IBS find relief from their symptoms and feel excited about food again.

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