The Natural Evolution Podcast

Season 2

Episode 16

S2E16 – The Truth About Perimenopause with Dr. Jolene Brighten (+ bonus topics)

When it comes to all things women’s hormones, health, and periods, Dr. Jolene Brighten is an expert to turn to! Appearing in the New York Post, Forbes, Cosmopolitan, Huffington Post, Bustle, The Guardian, and more, she is a prominent leader in the women’s health world. Dr. Brighten is a fierce patient advocate focusing on the whole person and combining the best of what medicine has to offer with the body’s own natural ability to heal. 

As a society, we tend to shy away from the word “perimenopause” – when instead we could be empowering women of all ages to better understand the natural process of menopause and the actions to take before, during, and after. That’s why in this episode we take the blinders off and confront the truths of perimenopause– Dr. Brighten discusses identification and symptoms of perimenopause, how lifestyle changes and mindful practices can mitigate them, and the age ranges we can expect to see perimenopause in our lives. 

Plus, in true ADHD fashion, we go on just a few tangents. 

If you’re feeling disempowered, confused, or otherwise just seeking education and advice on your own body visit https://drbrighten.com/ or join her community on Instagram.

Head over to https://rebelhealthtribe.com/kit to get a free download of our loaded quick start guide to help you along your healing journey.  If you like us, subscribe, review, and share us with your friends, and come join our Rebel Health Tribe group on Facebook.

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Dr. Brighten discusses identification and symptoms of perimenopause, how lifestyle changes and mindful practices can mitigate them, and the age ranges we can expect to see perimenopause in our lives.
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Dr. Jolene Brighten

Dr. Jolene Brighten

About our Guest

Dr. Jolene Brighten, NMD, FABNE, Board Certified Naturopathic Endocrinology is a women’s hormone expert and prominent leader in women’s medicine. She is an international speaker, clinical educator, medical advisor within the tech community, and considered a leading authority on women’s health.

She is the best selling author of Beyond the Pill and Healing Your Body Naturally After Childbirth. As a naturopathic physician board certified in naturopathic endocrinology, Dr. Brighten takes an integrative approach in her clinical care. Dr. Brighten is a member of the MindBodyGreen Collective and a faculty member for the American Academy of Anti Aging Medicine. Her work has been featured in the New York Post, Forbes, Cosmopolitan, Huffington Post, Bustle, The Guardian, Sports Illustrated, Elle, and ABC News.

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The Truth About Perimenopause with Dr. Jolene Brighten

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Podcast Transcript

Michael Roesslein: And we are live. I am joined today by my friend, Dr. Jolene Brighten. Thank you for being here.

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

Yeah, thanks for having me. Everybody missed our-

Michael Roesslein:

We’ve not been on Zoom for a while.

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

I know. I’m like, everybody missed our 40 minutes of conversation before that, where you could have gotten some really great sound bites, I think.

Michael Roesslein:

Yeah. Well, too bad it wasn’t recording. We’ll do a candid conversation sometime, but yeah it’s been fun. It’s great to catch up. We’ve known each other for quite a long time now, and it’s always fun whenever we connect to do any of these interviews. And I should probably introduce you, since not everyone listening knows you as well as I do.

Dr. Jolene Brighten is a women’s hormone expert and prominent leader in women’s medicine. She’s an international speaker, clinical educator, medical advisor within the tech community, and considered a leading authority on women’s health. She’s the bestselling author of Beyond The Pill, and Healing Your Body Naturally After Childbirth. As a naturopathic physician board certified in naturopathic endocrinology, Dr. Brighten takes an integrative approach in her clinical care. She’s a member of the mind, body, green collective and a faculty member of the American Academy of Anti Aging Medicine. And her work has been featured in the New York Post, Forbes, Cosmo, Huffington Post, Bustle, The Guardian, Sports Illustrate, which I did not know; we’ll have to talk about that, Al and ABC News; and she’s a rockstar of the Instagram. So that all said, you’re a busy woman, and recently had a baby.

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

Yes.

Michael Roesslein:

He’s seven months now. Magically transformed into a seven month old.

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

I know, but he’s wearing the clothes; he’s in 12 month clothes. So I have these really long babies. I’m even 5’5″. I like to say I’m 5’5″, it’s lie. I’m under 5’5″, and yet I grow these really long humans. So seven months, but wearing 12 months clothes, and everybody is just like, “Is your baby walking yet?” I’m like, “No, he’s just a very long human.”

Michael Roesslein:

You grow long humans. So, that can be added to your bio.

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

Yeah.

Michael Roesslein:

And, this is my first episode I’ve recorded since I moved overseas, and you are in Puerto Rico. So this is my first nobody-in-the-United-States podcast that I’ve recorded or interview or anything. So I’m in Italy, you’re in Puerto Rico. We’re both dealing with interesting international internet situations. So we will see how this goes. And we’ve had you on a couple times to talk about more birth control related stuff. Today, we’re going to talk about something a little bit different, which is perimenopause and symptoms, how somebody can identify what’s going on with them, average ages, if there is such a thing, and stuff that can be done to help mitigate some less than enjoyable symptoms. So I guess we would start with what the symptoms are. Like what is perimenopause [crosstalk 00:03:15].

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

I know you’re a man, and you’re like, “I guess this is where we would start.”

Michael Roesslein:

Yeah.

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

If you were a woman, this would-

Michael Roesslein:

This is my first interview on perimenopause. So I will learn.

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

Oh, here we go.

Michael Roesslein:

Here we go.

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

And here’s the thing, I think that so often I will be talking about perimenopause, and I’ll get a woman that’s in her late 20s, maybe her 30s. She’s like, “Oh, that doesn’t apply to me.” And I’m like, “How long are you planning on living? Because you will arrive here. And everything that you are doing in your life now, can make all the difference in perimenopause and your transition into menopause.” So we want to talk about the symptoms. And I think, as a point of clarification for people to understand, when it comes to shaming and stigmatizing women, especially when it comes to hormones, people will be, “Oh, she’s menopausal. She’s crazy.” Perimenopause, that’s when our hormones are playing with us big time; our ovaries.

I say it’s a lot like, does anyone drive a stick shift anymore? Because that is the first car I learned to drive. So if you’re in perimenopause, odds are you know what I’m talking about. But, when you’re popping the clutch and you’re just not sure, and you’re grinding gears and it’s like, [inaudible 00:04:25] and it just not an enjoyable ride, that’s what perimenopausal can be, because your ovaries are like, “Let’s make some hormones. Let’s ovulate. Let’s not ovulate. Oh, she had a regular period. Let’s mess with her the next month.”

So, just to understand, this is when we get our hormonal fluctuations. And when you’re in menopause, menopause is really a one day event. It’s like, “It’s been a year since you’ve had a period. Congratulations. You’re in menopause. Tomorrow, you’re postmenopausal.” And at that point, the ovaries are no longer messing with you. They’re not like stop and go. They’re just done. They’re like, “Nope. Adrenals, you’re up next,” which we’re going to have to talk about all of that, so you all can transition easily through perimenopause and menopause. But does that make sense? Does that help? I’m not sure if you had any preconceived notions about this.

Michael Roesslein:

Yeah. The analogy worked perfect, because I actually just learned to drive stick shift.

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

Wait, you’re like 41 and you’re just learning this?

Michael Roesslein:

I don’t even think I had ever actually been inside of a manual transmission car.

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

What? Who is this!

Michael Roesslein:

I don’t know how it happened, but when I was 16 to early 20s, there were some, but not very common. But I never had one. And most of the cars here are manual, and I’m going to be leasing one. So I was like, “Oh, I should probably learn how to do that, before I try to drive a car off a lot, in front of a leasing agent.” So I totally get the stop and the go and the grinding and the, it’s working, but it’s not, but I’m doing it, but I’m not.

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

Once you get it though, then it’s so much more fun to drive. You can’t drive these…

Michael Roesslein:

It seems super fun.

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

… these kinds of cars in cities, but with where you’re living, it’ll be great. And I was saying to my husband like, “We need to teach this to my son.” And he’s like, “Well, by the time he can drive, there’re going to be all these self-driving cars and everything.” And I’m like, “I just don’t even want to hear this.” I just feel like there are skills that you should have. And that’s one of them, and Calligraphy… Not calligraphy, but cursive. You’re not going to use it, but it’s just a good skill. I just feel like it’s really great for the brain. And as you’re going through it right now, you probably are under standing like, right-left have to be in sync. And I feel like when it applies to perimenopause, it’s like there’s also that the hormones have to be in sync. And if we’re thinking about like right-left, we can be thinking about estrogen and progesterone.

And sorry, if you are listening to this and you’re like, “I’m not a car person.” It’s okay, you just stay with me. I promise. But a lot of times, people think like, “Oh, all of these symptoms or issues are because you don’t have enough estrogen,” which is true. Postmenopausal, estrogen is a major issue, but actually it’s a progesterone issue here. Without ovulation, we don’t make ample progesterone. And so, we’re going to keep making estrogen. And not just your ovaries, but you’re going to also see that like your fat cells are making estrogen, you’re taking your testosterone, making estrogen from that. So with that, when you look at the symptoms of perimenopause, it makes a lot of sense that this is usually estrogen unchallenged by progesterone, and a progesterone deficit.

So, one of the big things is, with progesterone, when you metabolize progesterone, you get these wonderful molecules that help stimulate the GABA receptors in your brain; so you feel like really calm. And if you’re not feeling calm, so you’re feeling like you’re on edge all the time, you can’t sleep at night, so especially before your period, you’re feeling maybe more anxious, you’re having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep… I go through this with my patients. I talked about this in Beyond The Pill, so if anyone’s read that, you might be like, “I know this story.” But I ask my patient like, “Before your period, do you, A want to run away into the woods and never be seen, B maybe kill somebody, or C do all of the above? And if you answer that…” Usually they say C, and it’s a progesterone issue. Any one of those is a progesterone issue. We don’t have enough of it. And when that progesterone is low, you’re going to have those symptoms.

But with perimenopause, the other issues that can come on is that you are having hormonal headaches. That can be because you can have the fluctuations of estrogen going high. And then when they drop low, here come the hot flashes. So that’s one that a lot of people will identify with as perimenopause. So if you’ve been experiencing hot flashes, the thing you also want to ask yourself is, these hot flashes come out of nowhere, or is it when I skip meals or when I’m in a really stressful situation, like traffic, or is it maybe be I wake up at night and I’m feeling like anxious and hot and sweaty. Those can actually be adrenal issues. And so, that’s important to know, because you might be 22, or you might be listening to this and you might be like, “Whoa, my 16 year old daughter is explaining hot flashes to me. How could that be possible?” Because it actually can be your adrenal glands throwing catecholamine, being like alert or panic; that’s like dating myself, danger Will Robinson. For people watching, I’m doing the robot arms. Not the new robot arms, the old school robot arms.

And the thing about perimenopause is, because you’re getting all these fluctuations in your other hormones, things can feel a lot more stressful. You may be losing your cool more often. You’re going to start leaning on those adrenal glands. And as your ovaries say, “We’re done, we’re out,” then you’re going to definitely be leaning on your adrenal glands to make your hormones. And if you have not been taking care of them, then it’s going to be bad news as you get into menopause. It’s going to be a lot harder.

Michael Roesslein:

Yeah, I thank you. That was really thorough. And I was wondering, you kind of answered a question I was going to ask, is that I’ve worked with and had friends and relatives who experience a lot of these things at ages which would not be considered perimenopause. So I’m glad that you addressed that, and other causes, because I had a couple clients in their 20s before, that had a lot of very similar hormone issues to what you were describing. And I guess there’re multiple paths to endocrine chaos. So you said menopause is like a switch is flipped. You get to that one year point, and then it’s dink, and then it’s, you’re in post-menopause. But perimenopause is kind of this process. How uniform is it, as far as when does this start? How fast do these things start happening, or is this a no-one-size-fits-all kind of situation?

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

Yeah, that’s a great question. Because some people, a lot of people actually, are often surprised to learn that it can start as young as 35. So when we’re born, we’re really born with all the eggs that we’re going to have in our life. There have been studies trying to be like, “Well, we might do stem cells, and this and that.” At this point, we’re still resting with like, you got what you got when you’re born. And with that, when you started your period, it can play a role. So if you were someone who started your period at nine years old, then perimenopause may start at 35 for you; whereas if you’re someone who started your period at 14 years old, you may not start having symptoms until you’re 40s. The other things that influence this is, did you smoke cigarettes at any point in your life? Because that sabotages your ovaries and your endocrine system. I hate to break it to you, but those chemicals and cigarettes are really bad for your hormones.

Other things are like, what has your exposure been to endocrine disrupting chemicals? So, what’s in your personal products, your cleaning products, plastics, all of those things. Genetically, where was your mom at, at your age? Where was your mom at in terms of developing these perimenopausal symptoms? And then nutrition plays a huge role as well. The more nourished you are in terms of nutrient density, the healthier your ovaries are going to be. If you’re rich in antioxidants… I always think about, you look at things like berries, which are so rich in antioxidants. And what do they look like? They look like ovaries; these round balls. They are nourishing foods to the ovaries. So, those things can all weigh in and determine that. And you may start having perimenopausal symptoms at 36, 37. And they might be really mild, but you may also not start having them until your late 40s.

So perimenopause can be this 10 year adventure, or it might only be a couple years that you actually are noticing symptoms, because so much of what you’re doing with diet and lifestyle, has really been managing things, and you are a healthy person. And just because you start perimenopause in your mid 30s, doesn’t mean that you’re unhealthy, because again, that can just be genetic programming. That’s the way that your body’s set up. And there’s pros and cons to each. Like the delay of going into menopause is great for your bones, and your brain and your heart. However, as you swim in all that estrogen, that’s not so great for like breast tissue or ovarian tissue, that is predisposed to developing cancer. So I say all of that, so that anyone listening, understands that you’re perfect just the way you are, and you don’t need to fall into this society narrative of like, “Oh well, because I’m like this, something’s wrong with me. Or because she was like that, that means I’m broken.” Your experience is your experience.

Michael Roesslein:

Thank you. I guess, so in summary there, there’s about a thousand different variables, ranging from genetics…

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

Welcome to women’s health.

Michael Roesslein:

… lifestyle, to diet, yeah. And so pinpointing, this caused this or this… And I knew that about born with the full number of eggs that you’re going to have, and I wasn’t sure if menopause kicks in when the eggs are gone or if there’re other factors involved that are just kind of shut down the whole process and just kind of leave some eggs in the garage.

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

Well, that’s actually like, “Leave the non-viable eggs. It doesn’t even run anyways, so we’re just going to park it in the garage.” I just like how we just got on this major car analogy.

Michael Roesslein:

Yeah, weird. And I’m not a car guy, so that’s a new one for me.

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

I’m not [crosstalk 00:15:17] cars. But the experience of me just remembering… You’re learning at 41, I learned it at 17. I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was 17. So, that’s when I was learning. So I just feel like the teenage trauma of just, everybody’s opinion matters then, and I was just so embarrassed by everything, and the [inaudible 00:15:38]. So anyhow, so with all of these variables, one thing, I do want to speak to the fact that understanding the point of your period, the point of the menstrual cycle, really I should say, is not your period. So we’re often always taught the menstrual cycle from a perspective of your period, because it’s the easiest, most noticeable thing. And PMS brings us the most headaches, periods can as well. And yet, the entire focus of the menstrual cycle is ovulation. And so that’s the goal. That’s what your body’s trying to do every month.

And as the viable egg reserves diminish, and we’re in perimenopause, we’re not going to ovulate every month, which is how we get into the symptoms of irregular cycles. So this is when women will be like, “I never know when my period’s coming, or I have a 28 day cycle, and then I have a 60 day cycle, and then it’s back to 30 days.” It can be really all over the place. And it’s not worth going and testing your FSH and trying to pinpoint a lot of the hormones when the cycle is that regular at that point, because it’s really unpredictable. Things are all over the place, and that’s where your symptoms and tracking your symptoms are so important.

But as we were talking and you were saying a lot of people, they travel to Italy for wine, this is where something that like, I did this to TikTok to go to the sound of like, Am I The Drama. When I tell patients that alcohol does their hormones no favors, and when it comes to, people are like, “Okay, but I’m going to drink,” and I’m, “Yeah, of course.” Some people are still going to drink; this is called informed consent. Like you know, and then you can make the decision. People are like, “What’s the worst alcohol? What should I avoid?” …

… Oh my God, if people do not come for me, every time I say, “It’s wine.” Wine is one of the worst things that you can be drinking because of the pesticides and the chemicals that go into it. Wine is actually associated with poor ovarian function and infertility. And people are always like, “Are you really coming for my rosé all day?” And I’m, “Look, I like a good sparkling rosé, just like I do as well.”

But if you really need to have that glass of wine, and listen, we all should be limiting our alcohol intake because, again I’m just such a freaking downer, but there’s no way around it that it’s a neurotoxin, and there’s no amount of alcohol that’s good for you, no matter what the studies say. We’re at a point where we understand that we’ve been BS-ing ourselves. So, let’s just be honest about it. And if we’re going to drink, let’s just do it as consenting adults knowing what we’re getting into. So, we shouldn’t be drinking that much. So I always say, splurge for the organic wine. Splurge for the wine that you can get, that is actually the cleanest. And in the United States, it’s hard. You get 15% alcohol bottles of wine and really low quality, and sprayed with pesticides, whereas where you’re at in the world… I lived in France for a while. They don’t mess around when it comes to wine. They’re like, clean it up, make it as good as possible. And it actually doesn’t have as much alcohol in it.

But I just think, you’re not going to drink that much anyways, and it’s a treat. And if that’s somewhere that you’re really like, “I don’t want to give up my wine, splurging on getting as clean of wine as possible for yourself, because I just want people to understand, even if you’re like, “I’m not planning on having a baby, or like, “My ovaries are done,” those chemicals are still hating on any hormones you have, but also tissues that have receptors for those hormones, which turns out to be every single tissue in your body.

Michael Roesslein:

And that goes for men too…

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

Yeah.

Michael Roesslein:

… The wine. The people here, they’re pretty offended by American wine here. So I don’t bring that up mostly because of that; mostly because of what’s sprayed on it and the chemicals and the nitrates and all the things that are added to it and whatever. They just kind of scoff at the comparison of like, “Oh, this American wine is similar to this Italian wine.” If you actually bring that up in one of the wine places here, they will not agree with you…

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

France is the same about cheese too.

Michael Roesslein:

… Like I say, “I’ve lived in California.” They’re like…

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

Listen, I went to Gallipoli and Paso Robles. I remember when Paso Robles was like, “Oh yeah, it’s kind of cool to go wine tasting there.” And that was like a thing. It’s definitely a thing. But they’re the same way about like cheeses, meats, everything. And so really, the problem in the United States is the mass production and really that profit over product. It’s all about, how do we mass produce, preserve it, ship it around, make as much money as possible, get the best margins, and we are not going to pay as much attention to quality. And that’s something like… This is a side-tune to the people listening, you are the dollar voter in your household. And so you absolutely can shift and change things.

When I was in my early 20s, dating myself again, getting organic was hard, but I dollar-voted. And my now husband, when we were dating, he’s like, “Why do you pay so much for that? And why do you buy this?” And I’m like, “It’s a dollar vote. It will change.” And at that time, he was like, “I don’t know that you can really change.” He was getting his MBA. He’s like, “I study business. I don’t know if you can change.” Now you can get organic everywhere. Now we see that even the big companies like General Mills and…

Michael Roesslein:

Yeah, they’ll have an organic line or a hormone free this, or whatever. The only reason they did it, they didn’t do that because they care, it’s because people wanted to buy it.

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

Yeah. It’s because the people listening here care. And so you absolutely can influence those things. And every time you go in the store, you can ask for like a certain wine that you like or a certain thing that you like and wear them down. Be the drip of water on the stone.

Michael Roesslein:

Yeah, they’ll order it for you. And I read a study last year that somebody did on California Wines, and it was on organic California wines, and they still had pretty decently high levels of glyphosate and some other stuff, because you can’t spray that everywhere and then not expect it to get on like, “Oh, but that one little field is organic.” The glyphosate don’t care. The glyphosate goes everywhere, and so does a lot of the other chemicals. And people were like stunned.

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

Glyphosate don’t care.

Michael Roesslein:

It don’t. And so people were like, “But it’s organic.” And I’m like, “Yeah, but it’s not that the farmer that grew it sprayed the stuff on it. It’s that it comes from everywhere else, and there’s so much of it in the area, that it just gets on it,” where the idea of spraying glyphosate on wine grapes here, that’d be like pitchfork mobs and whatever.

And it’s the same thing with food too. Like you said, it’s just, the United States’ food system, and probably a lot of Western Europe is starting to go in that direction too, and places who import foods from the US. Like I’ve been in Mexico and seen like every Frito-Lay thing imaginable, it’s just in like Pico de Gallo flavor and green chile and whatever. But it’s like the McDonaldization of everything. It’s like you said, it’s how fast can we make this, how many of them can we make, how much of it can we sell, how can we get the highest margin, how can we get the ingredients for the cheapest. And that does not lend itself to being healthy. And unfortunately, not. And a lot of that food’s subsidized too, so it makes it extra cheap.

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

Yeah. And just to speak to people, because there’s people who live in food deserts, there’s people that like this is all they really have access to, things that I talk to my patients about, who are like, “Well, what do you do? What do you do when all you have is like a corner store?” And I’m like, “It’s amazing what you can do as a community to actually pull together to make community gardens. You can grow a lot of food.” So people who don’t know me, if you’ve known me, if you’ve known me as long as Michael and I have been friends, then you know that in Portland where I lived, I grew all of our own produce a lot. This is not a farm, it was a little urban farm. But I had chickens, I had planted food trees, I grew herbs, I grew all kinds of stuff. You can grow a lot of food in a little bit of a land.

And the really cool thing is EBT food stamps is what a lot of people identify that as. They actually will pay for seeds and starts. So you can actually stretch that even further. And often, people will say, “Well what if I don’t have land?” Container gardening is possible, and you don’t even have to go buy fancy pots and things that. So on Craigslist, people are you usually giving stuff away. But in addition to that, you can use containers that you have. Is the milk jug container, if you’re growing it in plastic, is it absolutely the best quality thing that you can get? No, it’s not. But do you need the other thing? Not necessarily.

And something that works really well for women’s home hormones at any phase of life, especially in perimenopause and in menopause is broccoli sprouts. And for that, all you need, you could use a cardboard egg carton, or you could use paper towels. I have students who are in college and I’m like, “Hey, I know you’re in a dorm. All you got to do is get two paper towels, make them moist, spread some seeds in them, and put them on your window sill on a plate, and you can have sprouts in a few days.” And those are going to be rich in sulforaphane, and that’s going to help with your estrogen metabolism, so that you get favorable metabolites. We get the best… That, with dim, which is in your cruciferous vegetables, which is just eating broccoli and cruciferous… I’m going to say the same thing again, cabbage is what I meant to say, kale, Brussels sprouts, all of that.

Those are some of the most powerful things you can put at the end of your fork to really support your immune system. And here’s the thing, is that these days, getting organic frozen broccoli, that actually is usually cheaper than buying the fresh organic broccoli. And it works just as well.

Michael Roesslein:

Yeah. We grew sprouts when we were in Berkeley, where we just had our place. We had this little thing that was on the window sill that we just grew the sprouts in there, and then you always had sprouts to add to whatever you’re eating. And sprouts are loaded with all kinds of goodies. So community gardens and home gardens, growing food. Also, I’ve seen communities put together little cooperatives too, where there’s a bunch of people that want to get real food brought into the neighborhood and it can arrange it where they stage a pickup once a week, where you get a box of produce and vegetables. So, definitely, I don’t want to pretend like it’s easy for everyone and that there are access issues, and it’s much more difficult. And unfortunately, our physiology doesn’t care, and we need real food and we need actual non-toxic things that we’re eating.

So, you mentioned the food plays a huge role. I heard you mention stress when you were going through the 27,000 reasons things that affect perimenopause. So, I guess before we go, I’d to just get into a few things that can be done to mitigate it. I think a lot of, I don’t want to speak for any women ever, but I’ve heard out of the mouths of some of my friends is like, “Oh, this was terrible for my mom, so it’s going to be horrible for me.” Or, “This friend just went through this and it’s going to be terrible for me.” If this process starts out rather terrible for someone, is it possible to kind of redirect that path a little bit?

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

Absolutely. And I would say don’t fall into that narrative. So if society told your mom that it was going to be horrible, and your mom didn’t have access to… What a time to be alive, to podcast or the internet, and it’s like you couldn’t access [crosstalk 00:28:34].

Michael Roesslein:

Yeah. Remember when you couldn’t know everything that any humans have ever known in five minutes?

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

Oh my God. Let just say that being on social media, I learned more about like history on social media than I ever knew. And some of it are just the coolest stuff that I never thought I cared about, but I do. And it’s really cool. So, that’s the thing. I remember, even in my early 20s, like the things I struggled with, going to the health food store, and I’m trying to talk to people there, and buying books. You’ve got so many resources now. And if it starts off bad, you can always turn that train around.

Listen, if you’re in menopause, I can’t bring your ovaries back to functioning. People do ask me this all the time, and I’m like, “I am not God. I cannot do such things. If I could, I would do it for everybody. I’d be like, ‘Yes, let’s make you all like this. Let’s live lon and prosperous.’” But the thing that, I think, we fall into is just thinking that because it was one way for someone in my family, it’s going to be that way for me as well. And it doesn’t have to, because while genetics can be powerful, epigenetics always win. So if you put, like you got two wrestlers in the ring, and it’s genetics and you’ve got the epigenetics, the influence’s like, “Genetics, it’s going down.” I can just see The Rock like… I’m raising my eyebrows. You guys better come watch this video.

Michael Roesslein:

In the epigenetic, you mean like gene expression based on environment.

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

Exactly. So what I mean is, the stress is what we were talking about. So what you eat, the stress… This is always when people eye roll at me, because we’re in a freaking pandemic. Okay, so let me just say this right now.

Michael Roesslein:

Which has been going on for like 100 years.

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

Yeah. Well, listen, if you are not okay right now, welcome to the party and let’s just own it, because no one gave us a freaking playbook to the pandemic. We are living in unprecedented times. We are social creatures. We are not supposed to be locked inside and isolated, and we’ve never had to live through a fear like this. And actually, if you are someone who like doesn’t believe in COVID or anything, come take a moment on my Instagram or on my TikTok or my social, and you can see me, who was young and healthy and really thought like, “I’d be okay if I get this,” because I’ve had the flu, I’ve had all these other things. And then I went down and I got long haulers, and it was really bad. It was not a good time. But just all to say that at some level, you are experiencing stress. You absolutely are, and I think that when we started this pandemic, people were like, “I’m going to go inside and I’m going to learn another language, and I’m going to do this.” Like everybody had pandemic goals.

Michael Roesslein:

Yeah. I remember those posts. People were like, “Take advantage of this time and get a master’s degree online, and learn two new languages and learn this.” And everybody was all gung ho for a minute.

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

Yeah. And I was sitting back and being like, “Chill you all.” This is actually like, to me and to patients and to everyone, I was like, “How about you take a moment. You’ve been given an opportunity to slow down and not be a human doing. Actually slow down, chill, rest, focus on your food, learn cooking if you’re going to learn anything, because that is like a lost art, and just relax.” And I did see there was a lot of patients who burned out. And for some people, they had occupied themselves. But I just want to give permission for people to maybe take a day to fall apart and not be okay in the pandemic, because I think we’re all just trying to hold it together, and it’s a very good-vibes-only toxicity going on. And hormones are absolutely being impacted by this.

And so, I just say this to everyone because I just want you to know that if you’re not okay, that’s okay. It’s okay. There’s so much out of your control, so now is a good time to focus on what you can control; which you have a whole online, amazing set of tools that people can access for this. So you should definitely tell them about that because this is the stuff that keeps the adrenals healthy and happy, so they’re not popping off all crazy like your drunk uncle at the holidays, and making your life miserable. They will keep everybody stable.

Because when we think about hormones, the way I to tell people, is that picture a pyramid. And the foundation of your pyramid is your adrenal glands, and your insulin. And above that is your thyroid, and at the tippy top is the sex hormones that make you feel like so freaking mad and crazy and irritable, and you just want to fix those, but you’ve got to go down to that foundation. And so it’s not sexy to tell you like, “Oh, the secret sauce is getting your stress in check.” But I don’t want to lie to you as if there’s just some magic pill you can take. Tell them about your thing.

Michael Roesslein:

Are you talking about Inaura?

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Michael Roesslein:

Yeah, we actually just started in December live virtual classes and workshops. And we have about four per week right now that are all mostly nervous system based at this point. So, it’s different practices for calming the nervous system and grounding, from qigong to all kinds of Eastern practices and meditations and things. And it’s an awesome compliment to people who want these, especially on the functional medicine side of things, that they’re like, “Give me the protocol. Tell me what supplements to take, and tell me this thing.” I’m like, “You can protocol yourselves really hard. And also, if your stress levels are through the roof and your nervous system’s disregulated, and you’re in a fight or flight response constantly, you’re spending a lot of money for pills that aren’t going to help you very much.” So, yeah the feedback so far has been really good and people are loving the classes.

I actually was on a qigong; moderating a qigong for nervous system regulation class last night. And the impact these things can have is very real. Like I had an extraordinarily frustrating day yesterday with internet things and tech things and getting my office set up, and it blew my whole day. And by the time I was supposed to moderate this class, which was at 11:00 AM or 10:00 AM Pacific, which is late night for me, it’s 8:00 or 9:00 at night, the day had been long and frustrating. I was agitated and anxious and frustrated. And I was like, “I’m not going to be able to sleep tonight. I want to murder everyone.” And then I had to moderate this class. And since I’m there, I do the class. By the end of it, I was like, “What was I off about?” And we need things that.

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

Yeah. Well I think people are always shocked because like I own a supplement company. And I can tell you that our balance supplement is amazing for perimenopause, and it will totally help. But if you do not tend to the diet and lifestyle things I’m talking about, it’s only going to get you so far. And I think people get really frustrated, because they’re like, “But you own this company. Why wouldn’t you just… I want to hear.” And I’m like, “I’m not going to lie to you. I’m not going to sit here and make some promise that doesn’t actually exist.” And what you’re talking about, I think is important for people to understand, is that you’re talking about rewiring the nervous system. And this is something not to take for granted, because we all have history of trauma, and it just depends on what it was and how you are set up, and how it affects you, and how it’s laid, or basically, is it lying dormant in your tissues or not?

And with that, we can store this trauma, and then we can have these trauma responses. And I actually explained this to my son, because he is somebody that can become dysregulated. I am also somebody because of my past history of childhood traumas that can become very easily dysregulated, and much more so than his dad at times. And so I just explained like, I actually got cups with sand, and we went to the beach, and I just explained to him like, “Mama starts her cup about halfway full every day. And to get some of that out with a spoon, I’ve got meditate. I’ve got to exercise. And when I don’t do that, the cup’s have full, and then you come in and you are yelling and everything’s going on; baby’s crying, you’re yelling. And even though it’s just like-“

Michael Roesslein:

Hey, I’ve never yelled at you.

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

It’s my son.

Michael Roesslein:

Okay.

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

But he’s just nice. So he is yelling, and this house that I’m in, I would definitely be in a different kind of house if I could, but it has these really echoy high ceilings. So, that noise is affecting my nervous system in the background. And I am conscious of that, that it is filling up my cup and filling up my cup. And just taking him through. And then like, “Mommy goes to a meeting and the meeting gets pushed off,” and just showing him all the ways. And I’m like, “So here I am, and my cup is full. And then some big thing happens, and then that’s when I want to explode. Because see the sand? The sand is all pouring over.” And then based on those traumas, you’re going to have your response.

Well, all of that is affecting my HPA access; how my brain and adrenal glands are talking. And as my adrenal glands are like, “We might die, or this is scary,” and they mount to respond, the brain says, “And you know what, we actually don’t need progesterone. Like baby making, bad idea. Let’s just go ahead and shut down these other things,” that actually would be helpful long term, but like short term like, “I’m just planning on this being a short term response,” except it’s not a short term response, because we’re doing it every day. And so, to understand with that cup, these things you’re doing, when you rewire the nervous system, instead of your cup being half full, you can actually take a tablespoon out and that’s your new baseline. And over time, you can empty out that cut more and more, so that as you wake up each day, there’s more space. There’s more space for the stress to come in. That’s not to say like, “Bring on more stress,” or anything like that, but there’s a really big difference in how you feel in your body.

And I really think one of the biggest failures of how medicine approaches the body is compartmentalizing everything, and acting that like, “If you have mental-emotional issues, we’re going to dismiss your physical symptoms because those two things cannot coexist at the same time. And if you are having mental-emotional issues, we should just medicate that away.” Medication has a time and a place. However, there’s so much work that can be done, that you can be doing. So things like qigong, meditation. I just tell everybody listening like, your libido can decline in perimenopause, your orgasms can become more difficult as you enter menopause. Mindfulness practice is one of this key things that nobody talks about, to have amazing orgasms and to actually rekindle that libido. And I could tell you, herbs and I could tell you all of these other things. But mindfulness, and actually being in your body and aware of your body, can make such a huge difference. So, I guess what I’m saying is if you’re not going to do it for your hormones or your family, do it for your orgasms.

Michael Roesslein:

There’s the sound bite for the preview clip. Perfect. Yeah, I love the analogy of the… No for serious, we’re going to use that on social media, just so you know.

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

That’s okay. No one will be surprised that knows me.

Michael Roesslein:

I love the analogy of the cup and the nervous system work, and the trauma work and the meditation, and things that. It really does change your starting point of where your cup is in the day. Like I’ve experienced that myself in doing tons of work the last few years around that area, where I used to wake up like an anxious stress ball. And then if anything happened that was not ideal, it threw me into like a frenzied stress, panic mess. And now, like seven things need to happen to throw me into a panic stressed frenzy mess. And that’s because the cup is not as full at the beginning, because we learned ways to deal with that too.

I’d lived my whole life waking up in the morning with a full cup. And that’s where a lot of these habits that we… I had so many clients who’d be like, “Yeah, I know what I’m supposed to be doing. I just don’t do it because I need my wine or I need to eat a pint of ice cream every night; or I didn’t do my workouts because I binge watch Netflix for four hours, or I did this thing or this thing.” And they have all these things that they call vices that, “I can’t stop doing them.” And what I’ve really learned doing a lot of the psychological work and the trauma work for the last few years is that, those things are all serving you in some way. You’re doing them because it calms your nervous system, or it distracts you or it takes your mind off of things, or you’re like you don’t feel what it is that you’re trying to not feel.

And our society, and the system in which we live, is super good at figuring out what those things are, and then selling those things to you. So like there’s really smart people that understand that way better than I do. They get paid a ton of money. They work for lots of companies that figure out exactly like, “How do we make this as bingee?” I remember, I mentioned Netflix. At one point, when an episode on Netflix ended, it went back to the menu. Now, the next episode starts 10 seconds into the credits. It doesn’t even show the credits or anything else. It’s just bing.

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

What was it? Sex Education, like the…

Michael Roesslein:

The British show?

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

Yeah. I love it.

Michael Roesslein:

Its good. Yeah, it’s good. I thought I’d hate, and it’s good.

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

As someone who talks a lot about sexual health and does a lot of sex education, I’m just like, “If this does not speak truth all the time.” Right now, my husband and I, the baby’s crib’s in our room, so we have to watch it, we have headphones and we’re watching it quietly. But how often I’m like, doing my hand, pumping and stuff. He’s like, “I get it. Calm down, I get it.” But last night, I noticed that it was like, because we try to hurry up and we get one episode to watch, if we’re going to watch it, and then we got to go to bed, because if you ever needed someone to make you have a better bed time routine, an infant will do that. But it was like three seconds, and I was like, “That’s not even enough time for me to get the remote and to turn it off,” and then it starts. And I’m just like, “Oh, but what happened to Otis?” And I’m like, “No, I know what they’re doing.”

But even just being aware of those things… Because as we were talking, before we started recording, about having ADHD, and the morality that’s attached to these things, you feel guilty and you are bad, because the marketer was smarter than you, because the tech was smarter than you; the algorithm figured you out, and was able to pull you in. And it’s not like that at all. By the way, if you are, I’m noticing this trend of more and more women getting diagnosed with ADHD, which may be the result of the fact that there’s a large cohort going into perimenopause. It may also just be the result of we’re a lot more aware of it. But as I was talking to you, I just thought I had like all these superpowers. This is honestly how it started. I write books. I’m on my third book right now, and I have no problem, like I can go just like 10 hours, and just write and read research and just love it.

Michael Roesslein:

People don’t realize hyper focus is also a thing with ADHD.

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

Yeah. So I thought like, “Oh I have this superpower.” And my son has… So people who don’t know, he’s neurodivergent, he had PANDAS as a result of that. There’s just a lot of stuff that we’ve had to work with, with his brain, which makes him very unique, which is really good. I really like seeing the world through his perspective. It’s really cool. And it also really woke me up. He did this out of school class, where I was like, “Let’s do your ADHD superpowers out of school class.” I highly recommend it if you have a child with ADHD. He walked away feeling so good about himself.

But as I was listening to it, I was like, “That’s me. I thought I was so unique with superpowers.” And as it turned out, I’m ADHD. Okay, like that’s what’s going on. And if you are someone with ADHD, for women especially because you’re cyclical, something that I see is, before your period in the PMS phase, those symptoms can get a lot more heightened. Medications, if you’re on them, don’t work as well. And that’s because of the shifts that are happening. Your hormones affect a lot of your brain chemistry: your serotonin’s changing. There are all these changes taking place. And as we’re talking about this rewiring the nervous system, it’s also something to observe as if it’s just interesting, and make notes of what you can do to make your life easier, but do not attach any kind of morality to it.

As I was sharing with Michael, one of the big game changers in my life is just getting buckets and baskets everywhere, and being like, “The best we can do is drop stuff in there.” If I start organizing a shelf, if I hyper-focus there, like dinner doesn’t get made or something. There’s all of these other things. And so, I just want to encourage people to, whatever it is, whether or not you have ADHD or not, whether you are having hormone imbalances, whether you are having anxiety, is to not always be in a position of judging yourself or comparing yourself, but really taking note, and being like, “This is interesting. This set me off. This was my reaction. This is how I managed it,” which a lot of the time is, exactly what you said: TV, alcohol, now cannabis is legal in a lot of places, so that’s another one that people use.

And look, I’m going to say like, “Are any of these things bad?” “No.” Some people are going to be like, “Cannabis is bad.” And I’d be like, “Well, the research is going to argue with you.” But again, if that’s your first reaction, I invite you to step out of judgment, and just try to step away from judgment and try to be in a place of just observing. It’s interesting. And what can I do to disrupt that pattern. And I know that in Inaura, you have great courses that help with that as well.

Michael Roesslein:

Yeah. And we discovered our ADD around, I don’t know, I think I was 39 and it was an accident. And I was in Dr. Gabor Maté’s training for therapists, and he wrote a book on ADD called Scattered Minds, and it was part of our curriculum to read it. And I was reading it and I was like, “Me,” down the whole list…

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

But you had to be self-aware enough, right?

Michael Roesslein:

And I was like, “Wait a minute.” But it helped me have so much more compassion for ways that I struggled before, and ways that I was told I was shitty, and the bad student, and this and that. And it wasn’t that I didn’t understand the things, I just didn’t want to do this for that long. And we stick kids in a room in a desk and have them stare at a board with an adult talking words at them for like eight hours, and tell them, “Don’t run around, and don’t play, and don’t do anything.” Nothing was wrong with me, something’s wrong with that. And the ways that it presents as an adult, like we think ADD we think kids. We think some kid bouncing off the walls and whatever.

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

We always think boys who won’t sit still and it’s not.

Michael Roesslein:

Yeah, the fidgety or the talking or whatever. But in his book, he listed a bunch of ways that it presents as an adult. And I was like, “Dude, this guy has legit been following me around for my entire adult life, and then wrote a book about it.” And it is fun to find out though, and it’s like, “Oh, what’s the diagnosis?” And I haven’t even have one. I didn’t go see a psychiatrist. I’m not going to get pills, I’m not doing that.

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

“I don’t have to. I can go through the…”

Michael Roesslein:

For people who do, that’s totally fine. I don’t. That’s fine. But I don’t have an intention in doing that. So, it’s just a word, the diagnosis, but it helped me understand myself. And then not, like you said, judge and label like, “Oh, I suck at this.” No, I do it different than that, and then that’s fine. And the hyper focus thing is for real though. You said if you try to organize your shelf, dinner doesn’t get done. I just had to like move into a furnish-ish kind of; it’s a semi-furnished, and acquire all these things. And I legit couldn’t sit down to start working, until everything was as it needed to be, because I started doing that. If I had just left the stuff all over the place and just organized and started doing the work, I’d be doing the work, and then that would never get done. It can’t be either. So we just gave you guys a twofer. We did an episode on perimenopause and on ADD and on Netflix shows.

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

Yeah, Netflix.

Michael Roesslein:

Speaking of which, that’s two people with ADD doing a podcast.

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

Netflix, would you sponsor this podcast?

Michael Roesslein:

Yeah. But we just gave you guys a real life demonstration of ADD.; we really did, and there were like six other topics we jumped on too. So, we’re going to change the name of this one to perimenopause and ADD and how they’re not related. Yellow. And then…

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

Yellow.

Michael Roesslein:

Yeah, we’ll have fun with that squirrel. But let’s do another chat soon, and we’ll talk about ADD and our adventure with that, because I think that deserves its own. Maybe we’ll do that one over on Inaura, because that’s a little bit more focused over there on that type of thing.

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

I have like redone my entire living room, and I’m working space by space for neurodivergent living. And seriously, like I’m 40 and I wish I had this when I was 10, just really being like, I’m going to commit to saying that like, “My house doesn’t have to look like the freaking Pinterest house.” It actually just needs to be functional for my family in a way that just works for us. And yeah we can talk about it, even just like simple ways of how you move furniture can make such a big difference for your brain and your perception of stress.

Michael Roesslein:

Well, let’s do that, and then we’ll talk about ADD and probably like six other topics by the end of the episode. So, I don’t know why we even go with an agenda. It’s…

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

[Crosstalk 00:52:20].

Michael Roesslein:

Yeah, but I know we’re out of time.

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

I was thinking of that from the get go. But yeah.

Michael Roesslein:

Yeah, why do we need this list. But you mentioned your books, find Dr. Brighten on Instagram. Your content there is incredible. And I’ve had so many friends of mine who are not in this field, who will reach out to me and be like, “Don’t you do something with like health stuff?” Because when they’re sick or when something’s wrong, they want help, and that’s fine. And if it’s women’s health and hormone related issues and fertility things, your social media is one of the places I send them. And they all already know who you are, and they all are already watch it. And you’re their source of like functional women’s health knowledge. And they’re like, “You know her?” And I was like, “Yeah, we hung out. We go places. We do things.”

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

Aways such a bizarre thing.

Michael Roesslein:

And it’s really weird.

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

Yeah we’re [crosstalk 00:53:20]. I’m like, “I’m not that big of a deal.” And people are like, “No, but your website changed my life.” And for anybody, if you do want more perimenopausal information, we have tons there. Also, I’m a food foundation doc, and so you go to drbrighten.com/hormonekit and that’s to get started on your hormone balancing pathway to bliss. That’s where I want everyone to arrive at. But it is always a trip when we get those… I just actually got a message from someone who was like, “I did your program. I bought your book, and I want you to know that I was diagnosed infertile, and I had my first baby, and we are now pregnant with number two. And it’s from everything that I learned from you.” And I have never even seen this person in my life. And I’m like, “Oh my God, that’s so amazing.” So I am just beyond grateful for the work I get to do in this world. It is just, I am…

Michael Roesslein:

It’s super fun to hear things that. And yeah, it really kind of pauses life for a second, and helps realize what you’re doing. And I’m sure that that woman’s not alone, that your book and your work have helped many women have kids that were told they were infertile or get rid of some of these train wreck symptoms that you described earlier. And yeah, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to either being… I got stopped on the streets in Berkeley when I was living there, before we moved over here.

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

That’s awesome.

Michael Roesslein:

And this lady was like, “Are you Michael from Rebel Health Tribe?” And I was, “Yeah.” And this was masked on the street and everything. And I was like, “Yeah.”

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

It’s our hair.

Michael Roesslein:

She goes, “You do the webinars with [Kiron 00:55:01]?” And I said, “Yeah, I’ve done those.” And she’s like, “Tell him I said hi.” And I was like, “Okay, what’s your name? Because you know me, I don’t know you.” And it’s like, this is so bizarre. But it’s because people have gotten value out of what we’re doing, and that’s the reason to do it. So, it’s really fun to get that feedback, and to know that people’s lives are more filled with things that are fun, and less filled with things that are not fun, because of work that we’re doing. So, I’m excited to hear about the new book. Maybe we’ll have you on when it’s time to talk about that. I know what an endeavor that is. I’ve had people nudging me to do that. And I’m like [inaudible 00:55:46].

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

Two to three years of your life, everyone. So you really got to be passionate about it.

Michael Roesslein:

So, I’m excited to hear about that. And we’ll put all the links down below. If they want to start, that’s the place, right? The drbrighten.com/. What is the backslash?

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

Hormone kit.

Michael Roesslein:

Hormone kit, simple. So we’ll have that down below. We’ll have Instagram and some other things down below in the show notes. So, head over there, grab your kit, get started on untrainwrecking your perimenopause or gear grinding. Is that the right word? I’m so not a car guy.

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

[Crosstalk 00:56:22].

Michael Roesslein:

Don’t trash your clutch. Yeah. Look at us being gearheads. All right.

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

We’re trying to be the car talk guys.

Michael Roesslein:

We are. Is it obvious we don’t know what we’re doing? All right, so cool. Well thank you so much. It’s always super fun. Always, I get excited when I see you on my schedule for the day.

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

Likewise.

Michael Roesslein:

So, I’m glad we were able to connect. And we’ll do the ADD slash, who knows what’ll come out of the conversation soon.

Dr. Jolene Brighten:

All right, sounds good. All right, take care.