Transitioning from the Pill: Tips from a Women's Health Coach (part I)

By
Nicole Jardim
/
Women's Health
/
March 20, 2017

As a woman’s health coach and nutritionist, how and why to transition off hormonal birth control is the most frequently asked question I receive. For some women, the decision to come off birth control is daunting and nerve racking, but with the right steps and research, the process can be an empowering experience.  

When I was 19, I started taking the pill, believing I’d found the solution to so many of my problems. What I didn’t realize at the time was the pill only masked the symptoms of my health issues, rather than addressing their root causes.

This realization came the hard way, after experiencing a host of the pill’s negative side effects, including regular UTIs, hair loss, zero sex drive, and one-day bleeds.

Was I thriving in my body? No way!

These were signs that something was not quite right. I knew I needed to make a change, and that’s when I decided to take back control of my body, wholeheartedly. At first, I was apprehensive, but that didn’t last for long because I was so ready to be done with all the symptoms.

You may be interested in coming off hormonal birth control for other reasons aside from negative side effects. Maybe you want to get pregnant*, to explore other non-hormonal contraceptive options, or to better understand your menstrual cycle and body through charting.

Whatever your reason for discontinuing the pill, the following diet and supplement recommendations have supported me and my clients during this transition away from hormonal birth control, and they may help you too.  Of course we each have individual health goals, but I’m sure yours includes feeling amazing in your body.

Many women find that they are unable to function at their best while on hormonal birth control. Negative side effects are common. One study that looked into why women discontinue the pill found that the number 1 reason for ditching the pill was side effects.

Most importantly, hormonal birth control precludes a woman from having a natural, consistent period, because it prevents ovulation and menstruation. A healthy, natural period is evidence of good production of estrogen, progesterone, and thyroid hormones. These hormones also have significant roles in mood stability, healthy bones and hair, and insulin and body weight stabilization.

A regular, natural period usually means a healthy body, too! So let’s learn about how to make the smoothest transition off hormonal birth control and toward a natural period.

When can I stop hormonal birth control? It depends on what type you are using. You can stop taking the pill at any time, beginning, midway through, or at the end of the pack. Same goes for Nuvaring—it can be removed at anytime. With an IUD or implant, you’ll need to schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider to have the device removed. For the Depo-provera shot, let your healthcare provider know you do not want to receive the next shot.

How can I prepare my body for the transition prior to coming off hormonal birth control?

You can think of the following as your ultimate Period Tool Kit for coming off hormonal birth control smoothly, so you can get on track to having normal, regular periods again.

  • Take a B Complex vitamin. Vitamins B2, B6, B9, and B12, are depleted by oral contraceptives in particular, and they are critical to our general and reproductive health. My recommendation is Thorne Research Basic B Complex, unless you have an MTHFR gene mutation, in which case you’ll need to do more research to find which type of B vitamins are best for you.
  • Be sure zinc, magnesium, and selenium, three trace minerals that are diminished by the pill especially, are part of your diet. If these trace minerals are deficient when you stop hormonal BC, then you may be more likely to experience post-pill amenorrhea, an irregular cycle, no ovulation, or ovulation twice in one cycle. Enjoy pumpkin seeds, red meat, and shellfish for zinc; dark, leafy greens, avocados, nuts, and seeds for magnesium; and Brazil nuts, organ meats, and oysters for selenium. Supplements are also an option. My favorites are Designs for Health Zinc and either 300 mg of magnesium glycinate or Natural Calm magnesium before bed for improved sleep.
  • Did someone say kim-chi? Yes, please! Consuming fermented, probiotic-rich foods is one way to start healing your gut, because there’s evidence oral contraceptives can alter gut function, which impacts hormone regulation. It’s all connected. Other fermented foods include sauerkraut and water kefir. If you’re not as excited about kim-chi as I am, you can try taking a daily probiotic capsule instead.
  • Healthy fats and proteins are the building blocks of hormones. With each meal, attempt to include a portion of protein the size of a deck of cards, a few ounces of healthy fats like avocado, nuts and seeds, fatty fish, and coconut oil or butter, and plenty of cooked and raw vegetables.

While I realize that ditching hormonal birth control can feel like a scary prospect, I truly believe that women are motivated to understand their bodies, and can intuitively make the right choices for their health. If you’re considering coming off of hormonal birth control or have recently done so, the food and supplement recommendations above are a great start to getting your hormonal health back on track.  

Stay tuned for part two of this blog series, where I’ll be breaking down some lifestyle practices that will help you transition off of hormonal birth control with more ease and flow.

*If you’re planning a pregnancy, I recommend postponing conception at least six months after coming off hormonal birth control, so you can prepare your body for the healthiest pregnancy. Preterm delivery and low birth weight are associated with oral contraceptive use prior to pregnancy, some studies show.

Nicole Jardim is a Certified Women's Health Coach and creator of Fix Your Period, a series of programs that empower young women to reclaim their hormonal health in a fun and sassy way. She runs a successful group coaching business and has helped thousands of women around the world effectively address their period problems, PMS, PCOS, infertility, amenorrhea, and much more.

Take Nicole’s Period Quiz to find out what your period and is telling you about your body!

Come hang out with Nicole on Instagram and Facebook!

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Kindara Inc., its affiliates, or its employees. 

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