Birth control pills are currently used by more than 100 million women worldwide and by almost 12 million women in the United States. I spent 5 years on the pill — during which I totally f’ed up my hormones and my digestive system. Your story may be similar to mine. I started taking the pill in high school. At the time I started taking it, I didn’t even give it a second thought or question my doctor (I do that a lot now). I actually thought it was kind of cool (all my friends were on it), but if I knew then what I know now, I would NEVER have started taking it.
Aside from the all the scary side effects and risks associated with taking the pill as reported by manufacturers (blood clots, nutritional deficiency, depression, mood swings, stroke, and heart disease), the pill royally messes up your hormones.
When you’re on the pill, your body simply cannot function at it’s best.
Let me preface this post by saying that I am by no means a hormone expert or specialist. I am a woman, just like you, that was totally screwed up by the pill; and as a result, I decided to research the shit out of it.
This post is based on my own experience with the pill and what I’ve learned by talking to and working with many other women in similar situations. This post is simply meant to educate and empower you so you can make a more informed decision about your health and whether or not the birth control pill is right for you — knowledge is power.
Okay, first things first: what is the birth control pill?
The birth control pill is an oral contraception method that works by releasing synthetic versions of the hormones estrogen and progesterone to prevent ovulation. No ovulation, no egg, no pregnancy. However, this daily dose of synthetic hormones totally messes with the body’s natural ability to produce them, and it can take years, yes — years, after stopping the pill for it to normalize.
You can stop the pill at any time. You don’t have to finish out your current pack before calling it quits. The pill is actually one of the few drugs that you can stop without having to wean yourself off.
If you’re thinking of getting off the pill, and want to do so without your entire system going absolutely crazy (like mine did!), here are 10 tips to help you out — and everything I wish I did when I first stopped taking it.
1. Clean up your diet.
This is extremely important. None of the following tips will work if you’re filling up with toxic foods. A healthy diet is the foundation for getting your hormones back on track. You need to provide your body the necessary nutrients it needs to produce hormones, and a diet full of processed foods, alcohol and animal products will get you nowhere. I highly suggest doing a food-based cleanse to kick things off. I cannot stress this enough — I actually believe in this so much that I created one (a really good one), just for you. Check it out here!
2. Avoid xenoestrogens.
Xenoestrogens interrupt normal hormone production by mimicking estrogen in the body. Xenoestrogens are found in conventional meat & dairy products, certain plastics & skincare products, and processed, GMO soy products. To avoid these, minimize the amount of plastic you use, choose organic whenever possible and avoid makeup and skincare products made with synthetic chemicals.
3. Try acupuncture & herbs.
I highly recommend working with an alternative practitioner (specifically a certified herbalist and acupuncturist), to get your hormones back in check. After years of being fed synthetic hormones your body needs some help. Acupuncture and herbal medicine worked wonders for both myself and my sister (I wish I tried them sooner!).
4. Start taking a daily probiotic and eating more fermented foods to increase beneficial microflora within the gut (which is depleted by oral contraceptives).
A healthy gut needs a balance of beneficial microflora to ensure a strong inner ecosystem and to aid in digestion and the absorption of nutrients. Oral contraceptives however, totally mess with your GI system by altering your gut flora. When your gut is not functioning properly (i.e. when your gut flora is whacked out), your body cannot properly regulate hormones.
Therefore to promote a healthy gut and increase beneficial microflora (healthy gut bacteria), begin to incorporate cultured or fermented veggies like sauerkraut or kimchi into your diet and take 2 tablespoons of raw apple cider vinegar along with a good quality probiotic daily.
Healing your gut varies greatly from person to person and also depends on how long you’ve been on the pill, whether you had gut and digestive problems before going on it (I did!), and your diet.
5. Up your intake of foods high in B vitamins.
B vitamins, especially B6, are severely depleted by oral contraceptives. To avoid this, I highly recommend upping your intake of foods high in vitamin B6 like sunflower seeds, spinach, pistachios, bananas, and avocados. Deficiency of vitamin B6 can lead to serious gallbladder issues.
6. Also up your intake of foods high in zinc, magnesium and selenium.
Like B vitamins, these important trace minerals (zinc, magnesium and selenium) are severely depleted by oral contraceptives. To up your intake, consume 1-2 tablespoons of pumpkin seeds per day (zinc), lots of dark leafy greens (magnesium), and just 1-2 brazil nuts per day (selenium). You can add all of these ingredients to a daily green smoothie to make it easy.
7. Increase your intake of plant-based saturated fat sources (i.e. coconut butter or coconut oil).
This is extremely important — your body needs fat to produce hormones. If you are not consuming enough fat, your hormones will never normalize and you will be miserable (and we don’t want that!). Consume 2-3 teaspoons of raw coconut butter or raw coconut oil per day and aim to include a good quality plant-based fat source with each meal.
For more info on why fat doesn’t make you fat and what actually does, sign up for our online cleanse course Nourished By Nature (it’s literally our plant-based nutrition sexy & spirited bible and includes everything you need to know to ditch dieting & look hot).
8. Become best friends with bee pollen.
Bee pollen is rich in bioflavonoids which act as building blocks for hormone production and nutrients that aid in liver detoxification (which is also super important when coming off the pill). Take 1 teaspoon of bee pollen daily (start with 1/2 teaspoon and work your way up — and please do not consume bee pollen if you are allergic to pollens!).
9. Show your liver some love.
Your liver plays a huge role in helping the body rid itself of toxins. However, when your liver is not functioning properly (another lovely side effect of the pill), your body cannot properly eliminate those toxins allowing them to float around, be reabsorbed, and wreak havoc. Therefore to avoid breaking out like crazy when you come off the pill, I highly recommend consuming foods that support liver detoxification like dark leafy greens, turmeric and dandelion.
10. Don’t stress out.
Your body is brilliant and beautiful and your system will normalize. It might be messy and might take some time to adjust, but I promise it will happen and you will feel like you again.
What else do you want to know about hormone health or wellness in general? Leave a comment below and I’ll write about it! If you’ve come off the pill, please let me know what worked or didn’t work for you by leaving a comment below. Did you experience any side effects like I did? Start the conversation and please share your story or any tips you have in the comment section below. We love hearing from you!
Pop bottles (of green juice), not pills. XO
Erika & Jess
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