I really wish this book – 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 – was available when I was in my 30s and on the pill.
Dr. Jolene mentions a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association which reports the following:
women who began the pill were more likely to be prescribed an antidepressant – which means it contributes to a bit more than moodiness.
This was not a small study and included over one million women.
Symptoms caused by the pill and the damage it does to your body
This book, Beyond the Pill, provides a comprehensive list of symptoms caused by the pill:
- hormonal confusion: missing or irregular periods, light or heavy periods, short cycles, infertility, headaches
- digestive problems: leaky gut, gut dysbiosis, inflammatory bowel disease
- energy reduction: fatigue, adrenal and thyroid dysfunction
- skin issues: hair loss, dry skin
- mood disruption: depression, anxiety
- lady part disturbance: low libido (Oh, hell no!), vaginal dryness, chronic infection, pain with sex
- vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant depletion (such as folate, B12, and magnesium) (I’ll add vitamin B6 to this list too – it is mentioned elsewhere in the book)
The pill does further damage to your body and also:
- intensifies the risk of blood clots, which lead to strokes
- increases the risk of breast, cervical, and liver cancers
- increases the risk of diabetes
- raises the risk of heart attacks
- triggers autoimmune disease
Truth-bombs about how the pill works
She shares plenty of truth-bombs about how the pill works – like these gems:
As long as you’re on the pill, your brain and ovaries aren’t talking, which can seriously affect all your hormones.
When you take that week of placebo pills, you’re not actually getting a period because you never ovulated. Instead, this is what is called a withdrawal bleed (I did not know this!)
Post–birth control syndrome (PBCS)
I first became aware of Dr. Jolene’s brilliance in this area when she started writing about Post–birth control syndrome (PBCS) a few years ago. PBCS is “is a constellation of symptoms women experience when they discontinue hormonal birth control.” She has found the symptoms of PBCS – hormonal irregularities like no period or heavy bleeding, acne, mood swings and anxiety, headaches, infertility, pill-induced PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), hypothyroidism, gut issues and even autoimmune symptoms – typically occur in the first 4-6 months after stopping the pill. To make it easy for you the PBCS symptoms are all laid out in a handy quiz in the book.
She has found these symptoms won’t go away without taking the necessary steps that include detox, gut repair, healing the thyroid and adrenals, addressing metabolic health or blood sugar control, boosting mood, improving libido and addressing nutritional deficiencies that the pill has caused. This is all covered in the book as a 30-day program to balance your hormones, reclaim your body, and reverse the dangerous side effects of the birth control pill.
I really appreciate that Dr. Jolene shares this:
I want you to know I’m not anti-pill. Nope. I’m pro–informed consent, which means doctors giving you all the information you need to consent to taking birth control.
This book will help you understand what those hormonal symptoms mean, how the pill is affecting your body, and what to do if you either need to stay on it or are ready to get off it.
Addressing low vitamin B6, low serotonin and low GABA
Here are a few of the nutritional supporting approaches she covers (all supported by research) that are very applicable for support for anxiety specifically and relevant to what you’ve been learning from me: addressing low vitamin B6, low serotonin and low GABA.
Because the pill depletes vitamin B6, she recommends up to 100mg per day for PMS and mood-related symptoms, and symptoms of PBCS. (I know vitamin B6 is controversial and she does acknowledge this).
Dr Jolene identifies the concerning and far-reaching effects of the pill on serotonin: “studies have shown that women on the pill don’t metabolize tryptophan normally” affecting both serotonin and melatonin production, reducing kynurenic acid and raising high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP), a marker of inflammation and immune system activation, and shifting the “tryptophan pathway… toward quinolinic acid production, which is inflammatory and harmful to the brain.”
I would have loved to see more about tryptophan and 5-HTP and even vitamin B6 (given that it is crucial for the conversion of tryptophan away from quinolinic acid) in this section of the book. Using tryptophan as a supplement is only briefly mentioned and 50-100mg 5-HTP is only recommended for serotonin-related cravings. As you may know from my work using targeted trials of the amino acid tryptophan and/or 5-HTP offers very quick anxiety relief and support for PMS within 3 cycles. Fortunately, you can fill in the gaps and use what I teach about these amino acids in conjunction with everything else in the book.
I do love that she adds to our knowledge base with other tips, sharing that the botanicals “passionflower and skullcap support healthy serotonin production by reducing quinolinic acid production.” This was new to me and I’m intrigued.
I love what she writes about progesterone inducing “a sense of calm and a deep sense of love and connection by stimulating gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors.” Theanine and taurine (a precursor of GABA) are recommended and taurine is also part of her detox and adrenal protocols which I love.
However, I use GABA itself extensively in my work and find it to be more effective than theanine or taurine for the anxiety symptoms – it’s a firm favorite for the majority of my anxious clients. Again, you can fill in the gaps and check out what I share about GABA for very quick anxiety relief and PMS support.
My other favorite sections: libido and orgasms, and liver detox
Some of my other favorite sections include the libido section and her wonderful information about orgasms – she shares the myriad of health benefits of orgasms and recommends once-weekly orgasms but need I say more than this comment from Dr. Jolene:
Women can have four different types of orgasm throughout the month because of the hormonal changes we experience. Dude, this is a serious reason to consider ending that pill pack.
I couldn’t resist including this advice for anxiety and insomnia:
Trouble with anxiety? Have sex. Trouble with insomnia? Have sex. When you have an orgasm and release oxytocin, it relaxes you, calms your mind, and enables you to get a good night’s sleep. Besides oxytocin, your body releases vasopressin during orgasm, a hormone that often accompanies the release of melatonin.
If you do have low libido Dr. Jolene has this covered.
I also love the liver detox chapter and so will you. You’ll learn that the pill can cause benign liver tumors and can contribute to gallstones and gallbladder disease. She also shares this about the synthetic estrogen in birth control pills and the liver/libido connection:
There is some concern that long-term exposure to the synthetic estrogen in birth control pills actually alters your liver genes to make higher levels of SHBG (sex hormone binding globulin) for the rest of your life. Unfortunately, SHBG also binds up your testosterone. The result is a libido that’s nonexistent.
She also has you covered on how to detox as part of this wonderfully comprehensive hormone balancing program.
The official book blurb
Out of the 100 million women – almost 11 million in the United States alone – who are on the pill, roughly 60 percent take it for non-contraceptive reasons like painful periods, endometriosis, PCOS, and acne. While the birth control pill is widely prescribed as a quick-fix solution to a variety of women’s health conditions, taking it can also result in other more serious and dangerous health consequences.
Did you know that women on the pill are more likely to be prescribed an antidepressant? That they are at significantly increased risk for autoimmune disease, heart attack, thyroid and adrenal disorders, and even breast and cervical cancer? That the pill can even cause vaginal dryness, unexplained hair loss, flagging libido, extreme fatigue, and chronic infection.
As if women didn’t have enough to worry about, that little pill we’re taking to manage our symptoms is only making things worse.
This book is perfect for you if
- You’re a woman in your child-bearing years and are currently on the pill, considering the pill, have been on the pill in the past and had issues, and even did well on the pill in the past
- You’re a woman like me and past the birth control age and yet are intrigued to get a better understanding of how you may have been affected by the pill in the past and also want a better understanding of your body and hormonal health going forward
- You have a daughter or grand-daughter or niece or friend you can gift a copy to
- You are a practitioner who works with women
- You are a curious male with women in your life and would like to understand them better so you can continue to have the healthiest relationship possible.
I’m already recommending this book and will continue to recommend it going forward!
This much-needed solution-based and heavily referenced book released January 29. It’s ground-breaking information and I’m thrilled to be sharing it with you!
I now recognize that post–birth control syndrome (PBCS) was part the perfect storm that contributed to my anxiety and panic attacks in my late 30s (and a whole host of other symptoms). Personally, I found the entire book fascinating reading, and wish I’d had access to this material while I was in the midst of trying to figure things out.
Fortunately, GABA and tryptophan helped immensely with my anxiety and PMS (together with everything else I did) and I eventually discovered FAM (Fertility Awareness Method). But wish I’d know about this safer option when I was younger. Dr. Jolene is a big fan of FAM and covers it extensively in the book, sharing what I found to be true: it works even if it seems scary at first AND you get to learn so much about your body.
Please feel free to share your experiences with the birth control pill (both good and bad), why it was prescribed and what you learn from this book that can help others in your situation. Feel free to post questions here too.