So perhaps you have just read our blog on the Birth Control Pill, or maybe have been doing some research of your own. Either way you have made it here because you have decided that the pill and other similar hormonal contraceptives are just not for you. Congratulations for making such a healthy, forward thinking yet sometimes, controversial choice!
Now comes the first plan of action. If you’re like most women who have been taking the pill for the better part of their lives, from early teens and onwards, it can be tricky to come off the pill smoothly. An important thing to remember is that everybody is different. For some, coming off the pill could be a breeze, but this is not always the case, and is certainly not considered ‘normal’.
There are a couple of likely outcomes, the first being that your hormones go crazy; this would be almost like an overdrive as your body tries to re-evaluate and figure out what it needs, it could include symptoms such as PMS, acne and bleeding before it starts to get back into a good balance and routine again. The other side of the scale is that absolutely nothing happens. And by nothing, we mean nothing as in post pill amenorrhea (no periods) or signs of polycystic ovaries (PCOS) may arise, indicating that the body needs some time to get back to creating its own hormones and normalcy in general.
Hormone withdrawal symptoms are normal.
Don’t worry! Acne, painful periods, heavy bleeds etc. is almost expected, seeing as the drastic changes your body must make when it is not supplemented by synthetic hormones can take quite a toll. Especially if the pill was used to curb certain symptoms like irregular periods, painful periods etc., these symptoms may return, and others, because let’s remember that the pill doesn’t actually fix the root cause of those issues but instead works as a band-aid smothering the symptoms.
Think of it this way, if you’ve been on the pill for 15 years, the body isn’t going to be able to elicit perfect ovulation all by itself the first month you stop taking the pills. 80% of women take about 3 months to get back to a regular cycle, but it may even take several months or even years, however, our bodies are very clever and will start to self-regulate again. Therefore it is important to do all that we can to help our bodies prepare for the hormonal uprooting.
A few months before you are planning to come off the pill, prepare your body for the hormone imbalance it is going to go through as soon as you stop taking the pill. This means sleep, exercise, get plenty of healthy fats, fibre, and whole foods, avoid sugars, and manage your stress. All of the stuff that I’m sure we know helps to make our body function optimally, despite perhaps not doing them with the excuse of not having enough time or a lapse in self-discipline.
Nevertheless, apart from taking care of ourselves, what are some other pointers you should consider?
- When you stop taking the pill, try to stop once you get to the placebo pills, then stop taking them.
- For 3 months, or 3 consecutive ovulation cycles, after you have stopped the pill, use barrier methods if you are trying not to get pregnant, just so your body has time to settle again and some other methods of natural contraceptives might be difficult to track
- To reinstate regular ovulation, stress reduction is vital!
- You can supplement your body (supplements are not a replacement for healthy eating, ample sleep, and stress reduction) with magnesium vitex, B vitamins and zinc. Go check out our blog on supplements.
- If you do not want to get pregnant, familiarize yourself with fertility methods such as the Sympto-thermal and ovulation method. There are more on these in our Birth Control Pill blog.
- Lastly, do a hormone reset.
The pill tends to do a bit of a number on our hormones, so make sure you read our blog on the pill and the cycle. A hormone reset is important for all women coming off the pill, especially if you are wanting to get pregnant. We need our body in the best possible condition to be able to create and carry a baby. Crazy and confused hormones are not going to be doing us any favours. So, how to reset them?
How To Do A Hormone Reset?
This process of prepping your body for restoring and equalising your body’s hormone cycle, can take time, so be patient and allow your body to heal.
There are a few different ways of implementing these changes: the first is that you can do all four steps at once. If this doesn’t work with you, you can do Step 1 for two weeks, add Step 2 and 3 and continue all 3 steps for the next four weeks, and if needed, around the six-week mark, add Step 4 as well.
Some women will need 6-12 months for a complete hormone reset, but these changes can be implemented as a way of life indefinitely. However, there are some of the supplements that are not recommended when pregnant, but they are fine when trying to conceive, so if you do manage to become pregnant, just stop taking the supplements.
Step 1: Some basics
Replace missing nutrients: The pill can seriously deplete the body of necessary nutrients such as vitamins B2, B6, B12, C, and E, as well as magnesium, selenium, zinc, and folate. To replace these, implement nutrient-dense foods such as dark leafy greens, low glycaemic fruits like berries, pasteurizing and organic animal protein, beans, nuts, and seeds, and a good high-quality multivitamin or mineral supplement. We would recommend going to see a nutritionist or naturopath to see what areas you need to work on, especially if you have had troublesome periods and cycles in the past.
Balance blood sugar: Oral contraceptives have been linked to blood sugar imbalance and insulin resistance, so this is not good news for our hormones and tends to lead to other quality-of-life diminishing conditions, including PCOS. To keep blood sugar levels balanced, keep sugar and white flour to a minimum, eat whole, real foods, and make sure that every meal has high-quality protein, good fats, and nutrient-dense veggies. Of course, to do this, it is important to not skip meals and throw the body back into strife.
Ditch Dairy: Dairy and many inorganic animal products tend to be chock full of hormones and environmental disruptors that act as endocrine disruptors and really don’t help our hormone situation. So many women find this to be so beneficial even for just 6-12 months, but if you are going to eat dairy, please buy organic and full fat (low-fat milk tends to have higher levels of male hormones) to avoid toxin exposure. However, there are so many alternatives nowadays, that it really isn’t nearly as difficult as you may think.
Avoid alcohol: Alcohol can cause hormone imbalances, especially with oestrogen.
Focus on regular, moderate exercise: Exercise can help with blood sugar levels as well, but be careful not to over-exercise as this can have the opposite effect.
Step 2: Oestrogen Clearance and Hormonal Equilibrium
Restore Friendly Gut Bacteria: Did you know that healthy gut flora contains bacteria with genes that break down and eliminate oestrogen? This is FABULOUS NEWS!!
These oestrogen-processing organisms form their own community called the estrobolome and play an important role in transforming plant compounds into phytoestrogens (plant hormones that protect the body against risks of excess estrogen). To keep your estrobolome happy and healthy, eat prebiotic and probiotic-rich foods with plenty of fibre, and take a high-quality probiotic that contains at least 10 billion CFUs from Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species, and avoid antibiotics as much as you can.
Love Your Liver: Our liver is an incredible organ; it does a lot for us, including packaging and processing hormones to be eliminated from the body. However, due to an overload of environmental toxins that many of us have these days and not consuming enough nutrients – the liver isn’t able to function at its tip-top capacity.
Therefore, it is important to send the liver some love and support oestrogen metabolism. To help the liver out, we need to avoid environmental hormone exposure (e.g. plastic containers, BPA-lined cans, non-organic foods, self-care products that contain harsh chemicals, toxic household cleaners, fragrances, and fragranced laundry products).
To support the liver with all of its hard work, eat brassica vegetables like kale, cabbage, collard greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, watercress, and rutabaga. Organic berries, like blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries, are another liver favourite. Herbs and supplements that the liver loves are curcumin, schisandra, DIM, I3C, calcium-d-glucarate, green tea extract, and NAC.
Now, that the liver is being better supported, more hormones and toxins are ready for elimination. We don’t want to retain them anymore within our body anymore, and they need to go. A complete bowel movement every day is not only healthy and the way the body should be working, but it is also essential for expelling everything our body doesn’t need anymore. To help with this, plenty of fibre and LOADS of veggies are important to help the process along especially foods like freshly ground flaxseed. Exercise and staying hydrated are also incredibly important. Some herbal help can come from dandelion root, yellow dock root, and if all else fails, head for a combo of senna and ginger or fennel tea.
Further down, we speak about the Magnesium Rotation Method briefly, but a fantastic use of magnesium (which is such a miracle supplement and does SO many things in our bodies), is for when we are constipated or traveling and out of routine. Magnesium Citrate is used for symptom relief, constipation and to help during regular, long periods of sitting and dehydration (i.e. when you’re traveling.)
This isn’t necessarily about getting enough sleep, although sleep is important. No, it’s about resyncing your sleep-wake cycle with the sun and the moon. Now obviously, working night shifts, etc. will not help this case, but if this is not your case, then try to sleep when it is dark, and be awake when the sun is in the sky. This of course doesn’t mean that as soon as it’s dark means bedtime, in some northern hemisphere’s winters this would mean 4 pm! But reducing exposure to blue light from computers and phones, TV, and bright lights just before bed would help a lot. If your work allows it, try to maintain a relatively early bedtime, and wake up time, but do not skimp out on sleep time!
So, once you are getting high-quality sleep at night, you might like to try using the moon (lunaception) to help balance your hormones and your cycle. We discussed how many tribal cultures encourage women to get in tune with the moon and their spiritual guidance during menstruation in our blog on Your Cycle. You might like to try this on.
So try sleeping in a darkened room until the full moon (cover all light sources including alarm clocks and phone screens prone to flashing messages). For three days of the full moon, open your curtains and sleep facing the moonlight. If this isn’t possible, search for a dim white nightlight for your room. After the three days, go back to sleeping in a darkened room until the next full moon.
If you don’t have a regular cycle, sleep in darkness from day 1 to 14, then sleep with the white light for three nights, then return to darkness. Repeat this in your next cycle.
Some experts also recommend a Magnesium Rotation Method. This includes taking certain forms of magnesium at different times of the day to serve each purpose and help your body to function optimally. In the morning, taking Magnesium Malate to boost energy with breakfast. At dinner, Magnesium Glycinate promotes digestion and relaxation. At bedtime Magnesium Chloride (different compound to chlorine found in tap water) soothes muscles and promotes sleep.
Step 4: Herbs And Supplements
We do have a blog all about supplements, how to know if you’re getting a good one, and when to take them. But at the end of the day, supplements can never be a replacement for good food, a healthy lifestyle, and ample sleep. If you would like to help your hormones balance using supplements in addition to making other healthy changes, we recommend the following herbs and supplements:
- Vitex (Chaste), Berry Extract (regulates ovulation, increases fertility, and improves progesterone.)
- Peony and Liquorice Combination (increase ovulation and improve fertility.)
- Vitamin C (improves ovulation and progesterone production.)
- Just Thrive Probiotic (all natural probiotic with antioxidants)
Additional therapies that can be incredibly beneficial include acupuncture, a personally tailored herbal plan, yoga (particularly asanas targeted to improve pelvic and ovarian flow), and regular wellness-orientated chiropractic care.
Yours in health,
Bach. Chiropractic, Bach. App Clinical Science
Registered internationally, no longer practicing as a chiropractor in Australia.
Research Assistant & Student
Barcelona College of Chiropractic
1. Stopping the Pill? 10 Ways Your Body May Change. https://www.webmd.com/sex/birth-control/stopping-pill-10-ways-body-changes
2. Romm A. The Post Birth Control Pill Hormone Reset [Internet]. Aviva Romm MD. 2019 [cited 14 August 2020]. Available from: https://avivaromm.com/post-pill-reset/
3. Wszelaki M. How to Use The Magnesium Rotation Method to Balance Your Hormones [Internet]. HormonesBalance.com. 2020 [cited 15 August 2020]. Available from: https://hormonesbalance.com/articles/magnesium-rotation-method-to-balance-hormones/