Quitting Birth Control: 4 Steps to Balancing Hormones NaturallyOct 26, 2022
Let me start by saying that everyone is different and this is my own experience. I value the huge impact of oral contraceptives that gave women a highly effective control over their fertility. I <3 reproductive freedom. I respect everyone’s freedom to choose when it comes to their body and believe that everyone should have access to any and all birth control they want. This information is only meant for educational purposes and is not meant to replace guidance from your doctor.
In August 2021 I stopped taking hormonal birth control (HBC). You can read more here about why I decided to stop birth control, how I prepared for the switch, and how the first few months went.
Long story short: I quit HBC because I learned that it was not “balancing my hormones” as I was always promised by doctors and dermatologists. It was only masking the symptoms rather than addressing the root cause of my hormonal acne. Beyond that, I learned more about the possible detrimental impacts it can have on my health.
Ovulation and having a menstrual cycle is an incredibly important function of our body. When we take HBC, we are shutting down that whole process. You are not having a period when you are on HBC - this is one of many critical measures of our health as women.
It was around year nine on HBC that I learned that you do not have a real period while taking the pill (or any other form of HBC). Duh - it makes complete sense, but I was never educated on that or paid much attention to it. Once I learned that, I expressed concern to my doctors that I had gone from age 14 to 25 without a real period of menstrual cycle. Every single doctor responded with “It’s fine! Once you stop taking birth control your body will self regulate and return to normal within a couple months”.
I was prepared for a few months of turbulence as my body stopped receiving the synthetic hormones that I was taking for so many years and returned to its natural cycle, but I wasn’t prepared for how long it would take….
The Past 12 Months
The first few months off of HBC went very smoothly. My skin remained fairly clear, I had the same energy levels and stable moods.
In December 2021, about 4 months after quitting birth control, I noticed more hormonal acne and felt serious fatigue for the first time in my life - like not being able to lift my head off of my pillow in the morning (I have always been a morning person, so this was such a strange experience). The fatigue only lasted a few weeks, thankfully, but the hormonal acne persisted. My skin continued to get worse, peaking at its worst around March, about 7 months after I quit HBC.
Most concerning, I experienced amenorrhea (missing period) for almost a whole year. Yes - my cycle was a solid 293 days long.
Finally, after about 11 months, I recovered my period. Read below to see some of the things that I think made the biggest difference!
What I am Doing to Support my Body
So now that you have heard a bit about my experience, let’s talk about the tips and tricks I have been implementing since before I quit birth control in an effort to support my body, ease the transition, and ultimately balance my hormones naturally.
I have separated these into foundational priorities that I focus on (fyi, most of these are foundations that will benefit anyone, not just those transitioning off of birth control).
1. Nutrient-Dense Diet
This is always my first foundation when I am addressing any problem with myself or a client. That’s because our diet is something that we ingest everyday, that can be quite simple to tweak, but has incredibly powerful results.
- Balancing blood sugar is one of the best things you can do for hormone health. Frequent spikes in blood sugar can have a serious impact on your blood sugar. Insulin, the hormone that controls blood sugar, is connected to sex hormones like estrogen and testosterone. To balance my blood sugar, I:
- Prioritize quality protein. I aim for at least 30g in each meal, and try to hit 1 gram of protein per pound of my ideal body weight.
- Add healthy fats to my meals. Fat is an extremely useful macronutrient when it comes to reducing insulin resistance. Also, fats are building blocks of our hormones, so I include fat in every meal: grass fed meats, eggs, wild fish, butter and ghee, tallow, avocado, extra virgin olive oil.
- Limit refined sugars and carbohydrates. This was something that I already focused on quite a bit in my diet, but I continued to limit refined carbs like bread, cereals, baked goods and refined sugars. I still enjoy delicious things like naturally sweetened ice cream.
- Replacing depleted nutrients, because oral contraceptives actually deplete certain nutrients, especially B Vitamins and key minerals like magnesium, selenium, and zinc. Therefore, it’s important to focus on the most nutrient-dense foods - meat, organ meat, wild fish, and raw dairy to get the most bioavailable nutrients from real food. Some people may want to consider supplementing as well.
- Eating enough food, because it has become more and more apparent to me over the past few years that many women DO NOT eat enough - whether it's because of conscious dieting, reduced appetites, or busy schedules. When we are under eating we are sending our body into a stressed state. Think about it, if your body is not nourished and focused on finding more food, it doesn’t have much energy to allocate to creating hormones. So, I swapped intermittent fasting for breakfast within 1 hour of waking and carving out time to eat 3 quality meals. You may even find it helpful to track your intake of calories for a couple days to ensure you are eating enough.
2. Supporting Gut Health
Compromised gut health can have serious consequences on hormonal health. There is some evidence suggesting that HBC actually impacts gut flora and contributes to gut permeability (leaky gut). A healthy gut is key to healthy hormones, so here are some things I focus on to heal my gut:
- A nutrient-dense diet, as I mentioned above, is key for a healthy gut. By limiting consumption of ultra processed foods and prioritizing nutrient rich foods, our guts our already on the right path
- Repairing leaky gut. I love my daily bone broth, which has a great amino acid profile to rebuild and repair tissues. I have also been supplementing with a few things like L-Glutamine and Liposomal Glutathione, but I recommend working with a practitioner for supplementation.
- Fermented foods to introduce healthy bacteria into your gut - make your own or buy a quality, unpasteurized option!
- Support digestion: Ideally, we should be going to the bathroom at least once a day to eliminate toxins, including hormones. So focus on things that optimize digestion, like hydrating with filtered and remineralized water.
3. Reducing Stress
Stress is unavoidable in most of our lives. So it’s no surprise that elevated cortisol levels are very often a root cause of hormone imbalance. When we have too much stress hormone, the function of our other hormones is downregulated, including sex hormones and thyroid.
So reducing stress is imperative. And I’m not just talking about not getting worked up after a stressful meeting at work. While that is important, there are so many factors that are often overlooked. Maybe you think you’re doing it all right - you’re intermittent fasting and working out every day. Turns out, that is actually adding more stress to your body. Here’s what I focus on to reduce stress and cortisol levels:
- Quality sleep: I keep a consistent bedtime and reduce screen time 2-3 hours before bed.
- Morning sunlight: I expose myself to natural sunlight every morning
- Quality breakfast: As I mentioned above, I stopped fasting and instead at a nourishing breakfast with 30g of protein (and always eat before caffeine)
- Stop overtraining: I swapped intense exercise for daily walks and a few days of strength training.
- Limit alcohol and caffeine: reduce stress on your liver
- Reducing toxic relationships
- Meditating, acupressure mats, daily movement
4. Reducing Environmental Toxins
Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals are present in the environment, food sources, personal care products, and household products. These chemicals can disrupt hormonal health through a variety of mechanisms, including mimicking hormones, blocking natural hormones, or increasing or decreasing levels of hormones.
Seems a little counterintuitive to balance my hormones naturally while using a face wash that could be affecting my hormones :/
Some of my favorite ways to reduce toxins:
- Switch to natural personal care products:
- My favorite tallow body soap
- Non-toxic skin care
- I use baking soda & apple cider vinegar to wash my hair
- Use non toxic kitchen tools:
- Cast iron and stainless steel rather than non stick cookware
- Glass food storage instead of plastic
- Swap our toxic household products:
- Branch Basics is my favorite non-toxic cleaner and the only thing I use when cleaning my house
I hope that this story is useful and inspiring in your own journey. I didn’t sugar coat. I gave you all of the details of my struggles and successes!
This should not scare you or make you anxious. While some of the symptoms were painful, challenging, and frustrating, my excitement to be truly supporting my body and removing HBC from my life always kept me going.
It hasn't been easy, and it is very much still a work in progress. While I did recover my period about 1 year later, I am still working to normalize my cycles. I am proud of myself for overcoming these challenges and staying positive (aside from just a few breakdowns) through the process.
Take any tips above that resonate with you or fit into your life, and leave the rest behind. While these dietary changes and lifestyle adjustments will greatly help with naturally balancing your hormones, we want to avoid adding any stress to your life - so take it easy and celebrate your wins!
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