Getting Off Birth Control Pills? Now What?
First off, I want to tell you that I have received and overwhelming response from all you readers in regards to my birth control pill post (if you haven’t read it go HERE). It is amazing how many of you out there are searching for explanations and answers. I commend you all for sharing your story with us, and for having the guts to come out and express what your experience has been like. I have received on average 10 emails weekly from women all over the world, inquiring about what to do once they have made the big decision, so I think it is time for me to share with all of you the advice I have been sharing with them.
Now, to make this very clear, this advice is based on MY personal experience, and my experience working with others. I am not a doctor specializing in the endocrine system, and I am not saying that this is a full proof plan. This is simply what I found has worked best. Secondly, getting off the birth control pill is a choice, and it was my personal choice. I am not here to tell you what is right for you and your body.
If you have read my previous post about the Birth Control Pill, then you may have been waiting for this follow up for quite a long time. And the reason it has taken be so long to write it is because frankly it has taken me awhile to figure what in the world to do, because this most certainly has been a journey. Coming off the pill puts your body into a swing where you can experience a host of symptoms, some of which seem as though you are going backwards, but a ton that solidify that you are in fact making process. But I can say that after 3 years of being off the pill, I have never felt better. Yay!!
If you are suffering from PCOS, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and have been utilizing Birth Control as as form of management, please read my post, How to Treat Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Naturally after reading this article. It will provide you with a guide on how to relieve symptoms.
In a nut shell, here is are the negative, yet TEMPORARY things I experienced:
- Rapid weight gain, and then weight loss
- Acne, especially on the upper back
- Dry skin
And here are the positive things I experienced:
- Full hair regrowth – I literally have 50% more hair then before
- A return of a sex drive
- Clearance of foggy brain
- Sound sleep – goodbye insomnia
- Regular periods – only after the absence of for a few months
- NO PMS – especially cramps *this was a tough one to figure out
- HAPPY mood
The reason I am giving you this list is because so many women will get off the pill, experience some negative side effects, get scared, and go back on. You have to realize, that after years of natural hormone production sedation, your body has to re-learn how to make and balance your hormones. This is not an easy task, and it does take time for your body to adjust. Therefore, MANAGE your expectations. EXPECT that things are not going to be perfect, and IT IS going to take TIME. I cannot tell you how long it is going to take, because every body is different, and the duration of your time on the pill is different. But I can tell you, that you CAN normalize your hormones, you can make them yourself, but you have to plan, be diligent and invest in the process. This does not happen over night, but the benefits are so great it is worth the challenge.
Now, I am going to give you a run-down of the strategy that I took to balance my hormones. Each person may have to adjust this program to her body type, weight, and hormone issues. Therefore, use this as a guide, but do realize that in some cases, this may not be the end-all be-all for you. You may have to get your hormones tested (I like the salivary hormone test), and you may have to work with an alternative practitioner. People who are dealing with more complicated cases such as PCOS, endometriosis, etc. may find that this program helps greatly, but may need extra assistance. Finally, if you have or are dealing with any diseases, conditions or cancers, make sure to check with your practitioner before taking any supplements.
Diet – diet is going to be really important in getting the hormones back on track because you need to provide the body with the necessary tools, or nutrients, to make hormones. Secondly, you cannot consume foods that are going to interfere with hormone production and balance. Diet is essential, and you cannot expect changes without a change in diet. Check out my Hormone Balancing Food & Herb Diet for more details.
Xenoestrogens – these guys are a big player in getting your hormones back into balance. Xenoestrogens are estrogen mimickers that act as or imitate estrogen in the body. They can either be synthetic or natural chemical compounds and they interrupt your normal hormone balance. It is necessary to eliminate these guys from your diet because they will BLOCK your natural production. Not good.
Main culprits of xenoestrogen exposure:
- Conventional meat: red meat, chicken, pork, turkey
- Conventional dairy: cheese, milk, butter, ice cream, yogurt, cottage cheese
- Conventional produce
- Beer and conventional wine
- Plastics: water bottles, Tupperware
- Conventional personal care products
- Aluminum canned goods: Look for BPA-free
Saturated Fats – saturated fat is what the body uses to actually make hormones by the liver. Consuming healthy saturated fats daily is going to be very important for getting your hormones back on track. I always suggest consuming coconut oil or butter, because it is also very stimulating to they thyroid, a key player in hormone balance. 1-2 tbs daily of coconut oil/butter is a great way to begin.
Bioflavonoids – these guys are going to act as little building blocks for hormone production. My favorite way to get these in the body is through the use of pollens. Bee pollen and flower pollen. My personal favorite product for flower pollens is Ultra Pollen by Premier Research Labs –Taking 6 daily is a great start.
Another option is to make a homemade honey, bee pollen tonic. Both honey and bee pollen are rich in bioflavonoids and nutrients that are essential to normalizing hormones. This tonic can also help restore normal periods, when there is a loss of a period, or if the period is absent once coming off of birth control (amenorrhea). Secondly, this honey and pollen tonic is also an excellent LIVER tonic. The liver performs hormone synthesis, and without proper liver function, your hormones cannot balance. Therefore, this honey and pollen mixture has a two-fold benefit. You can try using both the Ultra Pollen with the honey mixture for a stronger effect, or you can take one or the other. The honey mixture is a great one to start with to see if it is therapeutic enough. It is also the cheaper option too.
* To make the honey pollen mixture: get a large glass jar and mix 2/3 RAW, unheated honey and 1/3 raw bee pollen. Both must be truly raw otherwise the benefits are not going to be there. Take 2 tbs daily. **Start with 1/2 tsp and work you way up because this can cause detoxification of the liver. Secondly, if you are allergic to pollens, consult your doctor first. If you are not sure you have a good local option of the pollen and honey, go to the previous links to see my favorites.
If you had read my first post on birth control pills, then you probably remember me mentioning that birth control pills cause a vitamin B6 deficiency. B6 deficiency leads to poor gallbladder function. As a result you may experience symptoms such as poor sleep, inability to digest fatty foods, bumps on the back of your arms, dry skin and overall toxicity since the gallbladder’s job is to be an exit route, via the bile, for toxins coming from the liver. Therefore it is imperative that you supplement with LIVE-SOURCE B6 and the complex of B vitamins. I personally use 1 tsp of Gallbladder ND by Premier Research Labs daily. I also like to pair it with a general B vitamin product called Max B ND by Premier Research Labs, so that my B vitamins stay in balance. In some cases, depending on how long you have been on the pill, you may need to take B6 indefinitely.
* Note, not all B6 and B vitamins are created equally, and this specific product is what I have found to work the best. Do not be surprised if you do not get results from other products.
One of the key things that needs to be done is to detoxify xenoestrogens from the body. Xenoestrogens are a large reason why the hormones come out of balance once coming off of birth control pills. Therefore, a key component to getting hormones back on track (restoring normal periods and fertility, stimulating hair growth, preventing acne and mood swings, restoring libido) we will be detoxifying and converting xenoestrogens from both the birth control pill and from other exposures.
My favorite way to clear xenoestrogens is with a compound called DIM, or diindolymethane. DIM is a phytonutrient (plant nutrient) that is found in cruciferous vegetables. Research studies have found that it is incredibly effective in clearing the xenoestrogens from the body, helping to rebalance hormones. I personally like using the supplement DIM Detox by Pure Encapsulations. This product not only contains the compound DIM, which promotes healthy estrogen conversion in the body, but it also contains other ingredients that support liver detox and xenoestrogen conversion. It contains milk thistle and sulphorane (excellent liver detoxifying agents), alpha lipoic acid, n-acetyl-l-cysteine, taurine, glycine and methionine which are needed to fuel the detoxification pathways at the liver. Finally, it contains calcium-d-glucarate which research has also found effective in detox, and to regulate estrogen metabolism (supporting hormone balance). I personally used 2 capsules daily.
The birth control pill influences the body in such a way that you most likely have experienced some sort of side effect. Therefore, the following are a few supplements that I used to offset those side effects and to support the normalization of my hormones.
Hair Loss – Hair loss and hair thinning is an unfortunate side effect of taking the pill and coming off of the pill. For me personally, I was effected by this big time. While there are countless supplements out there claiming that they stimulate hair regrowth, like biotin, minerals and B vitamins, the ONLY thing that I found to work was Hair and Nails by Dragon Herbs. I swear by this supplement and take 4-6 daily without fail. It is superior to the other basic hair and nails supplements because it is not just a vitamin/mineral product. It works by tackling the root cause of the issue, which is hormone balance and jing depletion. It’s blend of Chinese tonic herbs work to restore the jing of the body (the life force) which is essential to hormone production, hair and nail growth, fertility, energy and libido. I think you will be surprised at just how effective this product is, especially for restoring hair growth, and making the nails strong (excellent if you have peeling nails as well).
Energy, Mood and PMS Elimination – these took me awhile to figure out, as I had terrible period cramps before going on the pill. I mean, the kind of cramps you will happily kill yourself if the option was available. The first thing that helps relieve pain with menstrual cramps is castor oil packs. Apply these directly over the uterus when symptoms arise. But the true blessing, the supplement combination that cleared (yes cleared and got rid of completely) my cramps was two Chinese herbal products – Eternal Jing and Adaptogen Energizer by Dragon Herbs. A LIFE SAFER. I take 2-4 Eternal Jing and 6 Adaptogen Energizer daily. Another final thing to add onto this treatment plan is to make sure you are eating enough protein, protein rich in B12 and zinc. I have seen so many women suffer from cramps and PMS in partly due to an underlying B12 and zinc deficiency stemming from anemia, and blood deficiency. So make sure to eat your protein, even if that means adding a small portion of grass-fed, organic buffalo or lamb into the diet a few times a week.
*Note: Tonic herbs like Eternal Jing, Adaptogen Energizer and Hair and Nails have a cumulative effect. This means that they can take up to 2- 3 months to show results since they work on the root issues of the body. Therefore, do not stop taking them if you do not see results right away. This does not mean that they are not working. This is the same with all tonic herbs. The good news is that they work on the body as a whole, mentally, spiritually and physically, so there is a good chance you will notice a benefit beyond just hormone balance.
Acne – The issue of acne is a huge one, especially for all of us that went on birth control pills in the first place to clear the skin. The thing about acne is that it is greatly influenced by hormones, especially high testosterone. A tell tale sign that your acne is caused by high testosterone is back acne, and acne around your mouth and chin, and chest (but it is not limited to this). The other factor is your digestion and digestive health. It is imperative that you are having at least one bowel movement a day, that you are digesting your food without bloating, gas, pain, or discomfort, and that you are eating a CLEAN diet. You cannot eat white flour (gluten), white sugar, processed foods and foods loaded with xenoestrogens (especially dairy) and expect to have great skin. Period. Check out my Hormone Balancing Food & Herb Diet for more details about what to eat and not eat.
Another thing to mention is antibiotics. If you are taking oral antibiotics to clear your acne, you are shooting yourself in the foot. Antibiotics kill not only bad bacteria, but good bacteria too. This good bacteria lives in your gut and is a key player in food digestion, immunity, and digestive health overall. If you are taking antibiotics, you are killing this good bacteria and harming your digestive health and immunity, which will be an underlying factor in your acne, especially cystic acne. So if you are taking antibiotics, I would advise coming off of them and taking a probiotic supplement to restore the good bacteria in your gut. Not all probiotics are strong enough to really restore the healthy bacteria, which is why I only use Dr. Ohhira’s probiotic. Well worth the price. You will also want to eat probiotic rich foods like kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, organic tempeh and kefir daily.
Now back to high testosterone and acne. This is common when you are dealing with PCOS, but can occur even if you are not diagnosed with PCOS. If you have issues with high testosterone (can be verified by getting your hormone levels tested), it is imperative to keep your intake of sugar and carbohydrates low. This will help to keep your insulin levels balanced. If you need extra help with balancing blood sugar, I would suggest taking GlucoFunction by Pure Encapsulations. To lower testosterone, try taking Saw Palmetto by Pure Encapsulations. Although this is commonly taken for the prostate, saw palmetto has been shown in research to lower testosterone and therefore can be taken by women.
Finally, the best supplement I have found for clearing up skin, especially that which is hormone related is the product called Femmenessence Macaharmony. Even if you have signs of high testosterone, this product can help clear it if your case is not severe. It is a concentrated form of the adaptogenic root Maca. Maca is a root that supports the balance and regulation of a woman’s own hormone production. It also helps to keep the body balanced by strengthening the immune system, the adrenal glands and fighting off stress. This particular product is far more potent that raw maca powder and has been found in human clinical trials to demonstrate statistically significant improvements in hormone balance. This product does not introduce any hormones into the body, only supports the body’s own balance of hormones. It is very effective for clearing up acne and the best part is it also improves sleep, energy, athletic performance and the overall sense of well-being. This is an excellent product to start with along with the DIM detox and B vitamins to get back on track.
Alas, we get to skin care. Switching to non-toxic, chemical-free skin care products is going to be a key part of clearing up the skin. So many skin care products on the market contain harmful chemicals that are known hormone disruptors. These chemicals, just like the chemicals found in plastics, or hormones found in conventionally raised meat and dairy, interrupt normal hormone balance. Therefore, every time you wash your face with them, and moisturizer your skin with them, you are exposing yourself to these chemicals. These chemicals are playing a role in your hormone imbalance, leading ultimately to acne, in addition to delayed or absent periods, bloating, low energy and libido. My suggestion to you is to switch to all natural, chemical-free skin care brands. In this case, why not start with the facial cleanser, toner, and moisturizer. One of my favorite brands is Eminence. They have three products that are excellent for clearing up acne: Eucalyptus Cleansing Concentrate (face wash/cleanser), Clear Skin Willow Bark Booster-Serum (toner/serum), and Clear Skin Probiotic Moisturizer.
Weight Gain – let me start by saying that weight gain does NOT happen to everyone, so do not freak out. With that being said, if you are planning on coming off of birth control before a big event, say a wedding, then I would advise waiting since weight gain is a possibility. The first thing to mention is not to freak yourself out. I see so many women get so stressed about the “possibility” of gaining weight after coming off of the pill that they actually manifest it due to their high levels of stress and mental anxiety. So the lesson is, do not do this. Secondly, if you do gain weight, rest assured this is NOT permanent. Once again, do not become so hopeless and stressed that you are perpetuating the weight gain (and probably acne and hair loss too).
Weight gain is only the body trying to find its balance again after coming off of the pill. First and foremost, follow my suggestions of taking the DIM Detox, and the Femmenessence Macaharmony. These will be your base line. The other most important aspect of keeping your weight at a good level is the diet. You CANNOT avoid this. Follow my Hormone Balancing Food and Herb Diet. The second part of the plan is exercise. No matter how much we want to avoid it, we have to exercise to keep the metabolism running and to prevent weight gain. High intensity, bursts of cardio are best for this.
Now if you want to take weight loss a step further, I would suggest a supplement packet called PureLean Pure Pack by Pure Encapsulations. This is a combination of nutrients that support healthy blood sugar balance (glucose metabolism), fat burning, lean muscle mass, helps suppress cravings and appetite, lowers anxiety and stress, aids in athletic performance, and lowers inflammation, thus promoting weight loss. The best news is that it is a great round of nutrients that can be taken long term as a daily multivitamin as well. In addition, adding a high-quality protein powder (whey is the most supportive for weight loss) will be a good addition too. Try my daily low-sugar cleansing green smoothie with PureLean Vanilla Protein (sweetened with stevia).
PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) – The most common way to address PCOS from a Western Medical perspective is by prescribing birth control pills. If you have a desire to come off of birth control pills but have been diagnosed with PCOS, then please read my article, PCOS: How to Treat Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Naturally for guidance. I too have been diagnosed with PCOS but no longer exhibit its symptoms even after coming off of birth control. It can be done.
Now not all of these supplements are just for normalizing hormones but are also amazing for the body in many other ways. The eternal jing, hair and nails, and adaptogen energizer are adaptogens. Adaptogens help the body to overcome stress and physical weakness, and they also build the strength of the body. This is essential for staying fertile, having normal periods, a good mood, no anxiety, and for maintaining a healthy weight. For me personally, I have decided to stay on them because I have never felt so great. As for the DIM detox, this is great as a preventative of infertility, hormone imbalance, menopause symptoms, and hormone related cancers such as breast cancer, since our xenoestrogen exposure is inevitable. As for the foundation of bioflavonoids and coconut oil, these are overall essential to good health.
Keeping your hormones balanced, and the liver open are two keys elements for true anti-aging, so just keep that in mind when you start down this path. As for finding out the dosages that are right for you, I suggest contacting the companies directly.
If you find that you are seeming to do everything right, and you are still having trouble with hormone balance, then you may have to look into liver/gallbladder cleansing. A congested liver/gallbladder is often an underlying cause of stubborn hormone imbalance, and it may take deep cleansing to get back online. Check my Liver Gallbladder Cleansing post for more details.
Feel free to share with us your experiences and any other therapies that you have tried to help with getting off birth control pills and good luck!!