This blog post is to not only educate you about birth control, but to also inspire you to take charge of your own health and body. I will be talking about ways to heal your body with diet, lifestyle, and supplements, after stopping birth control.
Disclaimer: Nothing in this post should be construed as medical advice. Consult with a medical professional prior to making any decisions regarding your health.
THE PROBLEM WITH THE PILL
Most women currently on the pill decided to go on it for reasons other than preventing pregnancy. You went to your gynecologist because you were having menstrual cramps, acne, hormone imbalances, PCOS, endometriosis, depression, anxiety, mood swings, or irregular periods.
The gynecologist then prescribed you the pill and assured you that it should help eliminate the symptoms, but never informed you of the health consequences it would have on your physical and mental health. Unfortunately, the pill is only a bandaid for these problems and can put your health at risk in the long run.
Your doctor may really have your best interest in mind, however many doctors view the birth control pill as a “magic pill” that will help their patients reduce or eliminate symptoms, and ignore the short and long term health consequences on women’s bodies.
The pill puts you at an increased risk for heart attacks, autoimmune disease, thyroid, diabetes, cancer (breast, liver, cervical), stroke, blood clots, and adrenal disorders. Long term use also seriously impairs gut health, further leading to an increased risk of Crohn’s and other autoimmune diseases.
HOW BIRTH CONTROL WORKS
The pill is a type of contraceptive that suppresses ovulation. The pill can definitely be a temporary solution in that it can clear up your skin, and erase pesky hormone symptoms. However, stopping the pill can get a little bit complicated.
The birth control pill forces you to have a bleed every month, but this is not a real period. It’s a pill bleed. Essentially, the pill shuts down your ovaries every month and turns off your hormones.
MYTHS ABOUT THE BIRTH CONTROL PILL
These are common myths about the birth control pill. You may notice relief from the pill like a clearer face, a lighter flow, or less headaches, however the pill is not solving the issues from the root cause.
- The pill will “regulate or balance” your hormones.
- The birth control pill will help you regulate your period.
- The pill will help your depression and anxiety.
Why are you having these symptoms to begin with?
Using a bandaid to cover up the symptoms can lead to some serious health consequences when you get off the pill, after staying on it long-term.
ARE YOU ALREADY TAKING THE PILL?
You were told by your doctor that the side effects are minimal, but after you’ve been on it for awhile you notice symptoms like:
- low libido, vaginal dryness, chronic bacterial or yeast infections, painful sex
- breast tenderness
- bleeding between periods
- nausea and bloating
- hormonal changes
- moodiness: depression and anxiety
- skin issues
- hair growth or reduction
- appetite changes
- vitamin and mineral deficiency’s
MY BIRTH CONTROL STORY
In my teenage years I struggled with acne, extremely painful periods, moodiness, heavy flow, depression, anxiety, and migraines the week of my period. Oh, and I can’t forget a whole week of PMS, before the week of my period. UGH.
My period was so bad that there were days I would miss school, curl up in a ball and cry because the pain was so severe. There were also a few times that I vomited because the pain was so intense.
I made it through these years by taking ibuprofen and Tylenol back to back. If I missed taking the pain reliever by 1 hour I would already notice pain. I was never told about the birth control pill in high school or talked about it with my parents. I just thought that the pain I was experiencing was “normal” and that all my friends were dealing with the same issues.
My freshman year of college I started to get severe acne (probably because of all the pizza, sugar, and alcohol). I went to the dermatologist who prescribed me antibiotics and spironolactone for the acne, but they didn’t end up working. I had struggled with acne throughout my teenage years and had already taken every kind of antibiotic there was to take.
I heard from my college floor mates that birth control totally cleared up their acne, so I went to a gynecologist and got prescribed birth control.
Going on the pill
I was never concerned about the side effects or long term health effects while on the pill, because I honestly didn’t know there was any. I was a college student that was worried about other things. Parties, friends, boys, and more parties. Not researching side effects, and actually caring about my body.
My acne cleared up from the birth control in just a few months, my cycle was shorter, flow was lighter, and my painful periods were pretty much non existent. Hallelujah! The pill was a miracle in relieving my symptoms.
However, there were a few symptoms I noticed that were a bit exacerbated. My mood: I would get overwhelmed by the smallest things such as a small homework assignment.
Birth Control Pill Side Effects
I was also struggling with chronic yeast and bacterial infections, vaginal dryness and low libido. I thought it was kind of strange because I never had these issues before, while off the pill.
I didn’t think anything of these symptoms and that the pill may be what’s causing these symptoms. After all, the pill helped eliminate my other symptoms, and there was no way in hell I was getting my acne back.
My depression and anxiety got so bad that I decided to go see a counselor my Junior year of college. I also saw a doctor that prescribed me anti-depressants. I felt really shameful about having to take the antidepressants and wondered what the heck was wrong with me. I had a lot of friends, a loving boyfriend, and was having a blast in college.
I remained on both the birth control pills and antidepressants until my first year after graduating college. I was a hot mess on these medications and decided to take matters in my own hands and research the birth control pill, and antidepressants.
I was blown away by what I learned and wondered why I wasn’t informed of the side effects of those medications. I will save you the story of my experience getting off the antidepressants and will write a blog post about it in the future.
Going off birth control
I decided to get off birth control after getting off antidepressants because I no longer wanted to be on a medication that was suppressing my symptoms, and controlling my body. I was now fully aware of the long term health implications the pill.
Post birth control side effects
After stopping the pill, I didn’t prepare myself for the roller coaster that was about to happen. I experienced the following side effects:
- missing period, no ovulation (for 11 months)
- major gut dysfunction
- mood swings, depression, and anxiety
- a face full of acne
- hormone imbalances: low testosterone, low estrogen, low progesterone
- and still no libido
I was a hot mess, but I was committed to healing my body and finding the root cause of these issues. I went to several doctors that were unable to help me, and claimed that it was normal I hadn’t had my period in 6 months after stopping birth control.
HOW TO GET OFF BIRTH CONTROL
Stopping birth control is ultimately a decision you have to make on your own. If you are currently on birth control and wanting to get off it can be as simple as stopping the pill, having your doctor remove your IUD, or pulling off the patch. If you had symptoms before getting on birth control, then be prepared that those may return after getting off birth control.
After stopping birth control, or 2-3 months before, immediately start to support your body with the diet, lifestyle, and supplement recommendations I give below.
You also need to have a backup in place to prevent pregnancy. I recommend to start using the fertility awareness method or FAM to track your cycle. I use Daysy, and love it! However, it can take a few months to learn your cycle, so in the meantime you should use a contraceptive like condoms.
If you are wanting to get pregnant, give your body at least 6 months to heal after birth control. After which you can take an ovarian reserve test to make sure your body’s natural hormones are “turned-on” and back to the right level again. Tracking your AMH (Anti-Mullerian), FSH (Follicle-Stimulating), and Estradiol hormone levels over time can provide vital information about your reproductive journey.
SIDE EFFECTS AFTER STOPPING BIRTH CONTROL
Here are some common side effects after stopping the birth control pill. Notice I listed mine above, however everyone is different. You may have a lot of side effects or very few. Keep in mind that if you have symptoms before birth control, there is a good chance those symptoms will be coming back after stopping birth control.
- recent hair loss
- frequent headaches
- heavy or painful periods
- missing period for more than 3 months after stopping the pill
- bloated or gassy
- changes in bowel movements
- anxiety and depression
- high blood sugar
In addition, hormonal birth control is shown to deplete B vitamins and folate while containing estrogen that increases your vitamin D levels by as much as 20%. Hence, when you come off of birth control, the opposite is expected to happen. Find out if you’re getting enough vitamin D, B12 and B9 (folate) with this vitamin blood test and use my recommendations in supplements section to get everything back on track.
HOW TO SUPPORT YOUR BODY AFTER BIRTH CONTROL
Here some basic things that I did to help my body heal after birth control, as well as things recommended by leading experts in women’s medicine. I recommend if you are having any of the symptoms above, to work with a functional medicine doctor or naturopathic doctor in combination of educating yourself and doing your own research.
Don’t underestimate the power of food when healing your body. #foodismedicine
- Eat healthy fats: consume plenty of healthy fats like avocado, olive oil, macadamia nuts, or salmon and eliminate inflammatory oils like canola, soybean, or corn oil.
- Eliminate dairy completely: This will help reduce acne, and heal your gut. Eliminate it for 6 weeks and see if there is any improvement. Remember, the skin takes a long time to heal so be patient.
- Eat complex carbs: Especially if you are missing your period, or have been for more than 3 months. Eat some carbs girl! Sweet potatoes, carrots, plantains, parsnips, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, russet potatoes. Tracking your carbs for a week can help you see if you are eating too low carb. Not eating enough carbohydrates can be the reason you aren’t getting your menstrual cycle back. As soon as I started eating more “real food” carbs I got my period back.
- Eat liver loving foods: Birth control pills put a lot of burden on your liver. Eat some of these liver loving foods everyday to help your liver detox. Beets, artichokes, carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, onions, kale, broccoli, brussels sprouts, garlic, grapefruit, turmeric, leafy green vegetables, protein (organic grass-fed beef, pasture-raised chicken, wild-caught fish), green tea and dandelion root tea.
- Eat high quality protein: Eating high quality protein is important for maintaining proper muscle mass as well as continuing to help your body detox. Organic grass-fed beef, pasture raised chicken and pork, and wild caught salmon are great options.
- Cut the alcohol: Eliminate alcohol for at least 30 days to help heal your gut, and give your liver a break from processing toxins.
- Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water everyday to help your body detox. Drink “at least” half your body weight in fluid ounces daily. This is not counting tea, coffee, etc.
- Cut sugar and artificial sweeteners: sugar leads to inflammation in the body, blood sugar swings, and is not friendly with your hormones. Try to reduce or cut sugar out completely. This includes agave, high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, Splenda, white sugar, and brown sugar. Honey, and maple syrup are okay in small amounts.
- Eat plenty of fiber: Spinach, broccoli, kale, chard, avocado, chia seeds, brussels sprouts, sweet potato, carrots, parsnips, berries, and nuts. Aim for at least 25 grams per day.
- Eat probiotic – rich foods: Fermented foods like kimchi, coconut yogurt, sauerkraut, and kombucha are filled with beneficial bacterial that can help heal your gut.
- Eliminate gluten and grains: Gluten is found in most grains and can contribute to leaky gut and increased inflammation. Cut gluten and grains out for 30 days and see how you feel. Make sure to double check the ingredients on packages as it can be sneaky. Overall, stay away from packaged food products and try to eat mostly real food.
- Reduce or cut caffeine: Reduce or cut caffeine for just 30 days. If you have been drinking coffee, make sure to wean yourself off gradually. This is a must especially for women who are having gut issues because coffee can be an irritant to the gut.
- Eat organic fruits and vegetables: Follow EWG’s Dirty Dozen to find out what you should be buying organic. Tip – anything with a peel or shell you don’t have to buy organic, such as avocado, pineapple, banana, or squash.
- Move your body: Whether it’s strength training (the best), walking, yoga, swimming, etc, moving your body will get your blood flowing and help you sweat out some toxins. Aim to sweat 2-3 days a week.
- Sleep: Aim to get 7-9 hours of interrupted sleep per night. Get to bed before 10pm every night to keep your circadian rhythm in check.
- Remove toxic cosmetic products: Most skincare, body care, and makeup products contain harmful ingredients that are absorbed by your skin and disrupt your hormones. This is exactly what you don’t want when trying to balance your hormones. Don’t stress! Replace one product at a time until you find the right products for you. Primally Pure, Beauty Counter, W3LL People, and RMS are all clean beauty brands. Check out EWG’s Skin Deep Database to see how your products are ranking. You can search by ingredient, product, or brand.
- Poop everyday: having a bowel movement everyday is extremely important in removing excess estrogen from the body. If you notice a sudden change in bowel movements make sure you are keeping your fiber in check and drinking plenty of water throughout the day.
- Replace toxic cleaning products: What’s in your cleaning products? Most of us probably don’t have a clue. Replace your toxic cleaning products with natural, non-toxic products that are better for you and your environment. Branch Basics is a non-toxic cleaning supplies that I use ($10 off using my code). See how your cleaning products currently rank on EWG’s Healthy Cleaning Database. They also have a healthy living home guide on their website. Use these resources to educate yourself about the chemicals and contaminants that you may be exposing yourself and your family to in your home. I know it can be overwhelming to make all these changes, but focus on making one at a time.
- Sauna: The sauna can reduce stress levels and help you sweat out a lot of toxins. See if your local gym has one available or invest in getting yourself one at home. I own the Sunlighten Sauna.
- Castor Oil Pack: These are helpful in supporting your liver in detoxification. See this video for how to make a castor oil pack.
- Get an air purifier: An air purifier will help remove toxic fumes, dust, pet dander, pollen, VOC’s, allergens, bacteria and viruses from your home. I use an Air Doctor.
- Relax: Stress can wreak havoc on your immune system and hormones. As hard as it can be to relax sometimes implement these things into your everyday routine. Sauna, yoga, baths, walks, massage, acupuncture, cuddling with your dog, deep breathing or mediation.
- Cut plastic: Replace plastic water bottles, or plastic food containers with glass. Plastic contains BPA and other chemicals that can really mess up your hormones!
These supplement recommendations are just the basics. You may need to take additional supplements, depending on your hormone or gut imbalances.
- Magnesium: Magnesium helps with detoxification, PMS, migraines, period pain, sleep, stress, insulin resistance, and more. You can also increase your intake by eating plenty of leafy greens, fish, and nuts. However, if you are having period problems I highly recommend supplementing in addition to getting magnesium from food sources.
- High quality fish oil: Omega 3’s help to reduce inflammation, support healthy brain function, and improve gut health. Eat 6 ounces of salmon 3-4 times a week to get the right amounts needed for your body, or supplement with cod liver oil or a high quality fish oil. I take Nordic Naturals Fish Oil. Look for brands that have been third-party tested, use sustainable fishing practices, and screens for heavy metals.
- Daily probiotic: The pill wrecks your gut. Grab a spore-based probiotic that survives the digestive tract. Probiotics provide your gut with beneficial bacteria in which can strengthen your immune system, and help heal your gut.
- Vitamin D: Adequate vitamin D levels are important for every function in the body. If you don’t spend enough time out in the sun, make sure you are eating plenty of salmon, mushrooms, sardines, mackerel, or supplementing with 1,000-2,000 IU daily. Test with your doctor first to see where your Vitamin D levels are at.
- Vitamin B: Make sure to choose a supplement with activated B vitamins like Methylfolate, B12 methylcobalamin, and riboflavin. Avoid B vitamins that have folic acid.
- Collagen: Choose pasture-raised, grass-fed, or organic collagen. Great Lakes Collagen, Bullet Proof Collagen, Further Food Collagen, or Primal Kitchen Collagen are all good brands.
- Turmeric: Helps reduce pain and inflammation. Take turmeric to reduce painful cramps or headaches.
- Vitamin C: Is depleted by the birth control pill. Supplement or eat foods daily that contain vitamin C like: bell peppers, kiwi, papaya, kale, broccoli, brussels sprouts, lemons, strawberries, and oranges.
- Zinc: Plays a huge roll in helping your body heal post birth control. Aim for 15 to 30 milligrams a day. Zinc can also be found in foods like pumpkin seeds, red meat, ground beef, chicken, oysters, or other types of shell fish.
RESOURCES TO HELP YOU IN YOUR JOURNEY WITH BIRTH CONTROL AND HORMONE IMBALANCE
- Beyond the Pill by Dr. Jolene Brighten: This book is a must if you want to heal your skin, normalize your period, boost fertility, or lose weight after getting off the pill. Dr. Brighten also gives practical advice on how to support your body on the pill if you choose to do so.
- Period Repair Manual by Lara Briden: This book discusses natural treatments for better hormones and better periods. Every woman should own this book and educate themselves on ‘everything we didn’t learn’ in the ONE period class we had in middle school. Dr. Briden talks about how to break up with birth control, better birth control options, helps you understand what your period should really be like, and other helpful period talk.
- Dr. Jolene Brighten’s Programs: I highly recommend any one of Dr. Brighten’s courses. She offers Birth Control Hormone Reset, Hormone Revolution Detox, Period Problems Solution, and Post-Birth Control Rx. I took the Post-Birth Control Rx and was immediately given the tools to start healing my body after birth control.
- Daysy – a personal fertility tracker that helps you get to know your own cycle