Beyond the Pill: A 30-Day Program to Balance Your Hormones, Reclaim Your Body, and Reverse the Dangerous Side Effects of the Birth Control Pill
By Dr. Jolene Brighten
There is a 300 percent increased risk of Crohn’s disease in women who take birth control pills. If that doesn’t make your eyes widen, there is plenty more that might in the densely packed pages of Dr. Jolene Brighten’s Beyond the Pill. Happily, Brighten’s overall message is an empowering one. After exploring the wide-ranging and, dare I say, hair-raising detrimental side effects that the pill can wreak upon a woman’s biology, Brighten provides a thirty-day protocol that can help women transition off of the pill’s synthetic hormones and mitigate its effects. This is key because most women experience some form of Post-Birth Control Syndrome if they have taken the pill for six months or more (at least 60 percent of the female population).
Brighten provides an almost medical-school-level overview of hormones and convincingly explains and references how taking synthetic hormones can handicap multiple organ systems. After detailing the mechanisms of hormonal birth control and common problems women experience when they go off of it, she provides a “Birth Control Hormone Detox 101,” focused on cleansing and supporting the liver. While the information can be overwhelming (and disheartening), Brighten’s action steps can assist in alleviating potential damage, whether one continues using the pill or decides to stop.
Odds are, your GP or ob-gyn is not aware of many of these issues. Beyond the Pill includes chapters or sections on the microbiome, leaky gut and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO); thyroid/adrenal issues; metabolic issues, including strokes, cancers, insulin resistance and elevated blood pressure; mood and anxiety; and fertility and libido. Brighten has been there—she was on the pill for years and suffered from its ill effects. And while she is respectful of women who choose to stay on the pill, she is clear that doing so makes it hard to achieve full healing.
Brighten brims with cutting-edge science and esoteric wisdom. She recounts how she found a rare and possibly centuries-old medical textbook that detailed the differences between women whose ovulation corresponds with the full moon and those who ovulate with the new moon. It seems that women are in sync with the cosmic forces of the universe—or can be. Bombardment with synthetic hormones, toxins, EMFs and light pollution can throw a wrench or two into the beautifully tuned symphonies of womanhood.
Books like this one can help turn the tide (pardon the pun) to a more natural state of affairs. In addition to Brighten’s protocol to help women regain their native health, she has protocols geared toward repairing gut health, detoxing the liver and healing the thyroid. The book’s Hormone Quiz can assist in troubleshooting pesky issues such as low libido, anxiety or brain fog, directing the reader to the appropriate protocol. This root cause resolution approach can undoubtedly assist in other areas of health as well.
Along with recommendations for helpful foods, supplements and herbs (Brighten knows her botanical medicine), she talks about things like castor oil packs, seed cycling, visualizations (have you ever tried “pulling down the moon”?) and resetting the circadian rhythm. She clearly enjoys helping women tune into their bodies and handle stress in a healthy way. And she isn’t afraid to mention that frequent orgasms can boost hormonal and overall health and even help women live longer! She also dedicates a chapter to alternative birth control methods (such as the Fertility Awareness Method), recommending apps like Natural Cycles and Daysy.
Although the pill affects every woman differently, after reading this book it would be hard to argue that it will not, at some point, have unwanted or unintended effects on health. Fortunately, a new wave of medical professionals is helping women embrace their inner workings as powerful and invaluable. Brighten herself has become something of a powerhouse, with an Instagram following (@drbrighten) and a website (drbrighten.com) that offers a Post-Birth Control Hormone Reset Program and other classes. A functional medicine naturopathic doctor, she also sees patients at her Portland-based clinic, Rubus Health, and virtually.
Beyond the Pill includes a recipe section. One caveat for women eating a Wise Traditions diet is that Brighten does not recommend dairy, at least on her thirty-day protocol, instead listing coconut, cashew, almond and camel’s milk. Her concern is about the hormones in dairy; however, it is usually pasteurized store-bought milk that causes issues, especially if it comes from cows receiving hormones or antibiotics. Making the effort to get local, grass-fed raw milk, cultured butter and probiotic-rich full-fat yogurt can do wonders for one’s health, as thousands can attest.
Another caveat: Brighten acknowledges that fats are key to hormone health but does not mention traditional health-promoting fats such as lard or tallow, instead recommending avocado and olive, coconut and macadamia nut oils, and, post-protocol, grass-fed ghee and butter. She also recommends avoiding all gluten-containing grains and products. While commercial grains can indeed be an inflammatory irritant due to their processing, properly prepared grains—such as traditional sourdough—can be a wholesome and extremely satisfying addition to the diet.
The appendix helps readers decode “the fifth vital sign,” which is what the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recently dubbed menstruation, adding it to a list of biomarkers that includes temperature, pulse, respiratory rate and blood pressure. Your ob-gyn may not have learned enough to parse your period for messages about your biochemistry, but that doesn’t mean you have to stay in the dark. Educating yourself about this key component of your biology could help you find the path back to health. Overall, Brighten has done a spectacular job, and it is obvious that she is passionate about helping women heal themselves and find greater happiness and power in the process. This book will do wonders for women who have taken the pill for any length of time. Just follow it up with the dietary recommendations in Nourishing Traditions and a visit to WestonAPrice.org. Two thumbs up.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Spring 2021🖨️ Print post