We anticipate a reaction when someone stops taking pain meds or anti-depressants, but since we rarely think of the hormonal contraceptive pill as a medication, it doesn’t always occur to us that there will be consequences to coming off. As a result, many women are surprised to discover the process can be more challenging than expected.
The pill usually contains a combination of artificial estrogen (estrin) and progesterone (progestin) in higher than normal doses than what our body would normally produce. These hormones do a variety of things in our body, including changing our levels of sodium and nitrogen retention, decreasing access to certain amino acids, reducing B and C vitamin stores, altering insulin levels, and of course, disrupting the hormonal feedback loop known as the HPO (hypothalamus, pituitary, ovarian) axis .
Since our bodies get used to these alterations, coming off the pill can create a bit of a rebound effect as your body struggles to re-establish equilibrium. Some women experience acne, PMS, and irregular cycles post-pill use. And since the pill only masks underlying menstrual disorders, if you had issues with your cycle before going on the pill they will likely return.
So, what can you do to support your body? It can be helpful to frame the post-pill phase in terms of the following three health goals:
1. Replenish deficient nutrients
2. Support your body’s natural detoxification system in order to rid yourself of the excess hormones still swimming around in your system
3. Attend to any underlying hormonal or health issues that were being “treated” (i.e, masked) by the pill
Here are several resources to help you with this process.
Nutrient Replenishment. You can start by adding foods high in B vitamins (such as brewer’s yeast, liver and rice) and C vitamins (such as acerola berries, peppers and kale) into your daily diet . However, be mindful that if your body has been getting slowly depleted over several years, it makes sense that even if you are meeting your recommended daily values of nutrients through your food, it may take a while to replace those lost nutrients. As a result, you may wish to work with a holistic practitioner of some sort (Naturopathic Doctor, Holistic Nutritionist, Holistic Reproductive Health Practitioner) to help you start on a course of vitamin or mineral supplementation. You can also find out more about how to support your body nutritionally by reading Coming Off The Pill, The Patch, The Shot & Other Hormonal Contraceptives.
Support your body’s natural detoxification systems. There are two important steps involved in detoxification, so again, this is best undertaken under professional supervision. Before beginning any detox it is important to assess and optimize digestive health. Processed hormones dumped into the digestive tract by the liver can actually make you ill if you have a poorly functioning gut (in fact, in the case of constipation or a leaky gut, these hormones can end up getting re-circulated into the body) . Secondly, you want to support the liver to work optimally by providing it with the nutrients it needs to function. At the same time, you want to minimize the load on the liver so that it can attend to the excess hormones without getting backed up by a daily inundation of other toxins! Both of these steps are addressed in the live Coming Off The Pill Detox happening in January 2016 (the program will be available as an e-course beginning March 2016).
Attend to any underlying hormonal health issues that predate your use of hormonal contraception. Charting and using FAM can be frustrating when you have irregular cycles or absent cycles (or when you have chronic cervical mucus or no mucus at all). These aren’t just a simple annoyance – they’re signs of an underlying hormonal problem that needs attention. For example, estrogen dominance can be a factor in breast cancer  and heavy periods can be a sign of iron deficiency  or even autoimmune disorders. Low BBT can be an early warning sign of a thyroid disorder , and polycystic ovaries can indicate problems with insulin resistance . While none of these problems are fixed by the pill, they can be masked, giving the illusion that your health is worse off the pill than on it. Again, you’ll want to work with a health professional to support you on these issues (preferably a professional trained to read and interpret your Kindara charts – like a Holistic Reproductive Health Practitioner). Our Fertility Management Secrets nine month program provides menstrual health support in addition to education about using FAM to effectively achieve or avoid pregnancy. You may also want to check out The Period Repair Manual and/or The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Women’s Health for information on how to troubleshoot menstrual cycle problems.
Amy Sedgwick is Co-Founder of Red Tent Sisters, a business that has been providing holistic fertility, sexuality, and contraceptive solutions to women since 2007. Amy is trained as a Holistic Reproductive Health Practitioner in addition to her former training as an Occupational Therapist. She specializes in supporting women to ditch the side effects of hormonal birth control, helping them to adopt natural, effective alternatives. Together with her sister, Kim Sedgwick, she provides support to women through online courses, a YouTube channel, and their popular blog, www.redtentsisters.com. Kim & Amy are known worldwide for their professional yet candid “sisterly” advice.