How to Come off the Birth Control Pill in 3 Steps
This is something that many women come to see me for as they are wanting to do it but are scared of how it is going to go. For some women, it goes really smoothly and they don’t miss a beat and for others it can be a bit more of a process.
Factors that I have seen contribute to having a more difficult time coming off the pill include:
-How long you have been taking it
-How young you were when you first started taking the pill
-Your reactions/side effects to different pills
-If you were on the pill only for birth control vs to help “treat” other problems
I have treat in quotations because the birth control pill does not treat the conditions that women are put on it to help with. It merely helps to mask the symptoms. This means that if you were put on the pill to help with acne, heavy periods, painful periods, absent period, or polycystic ovarian syndrome it is quite likely that these issues will still be there when you stop taking the pill. Do not let fear of symptoms returning or being worst that before stop you from coming off of the pill. There is plenty that can be done from a naturopathic medicine perspective to help to regulate your hormones and actually heal the underlying conditions that are causing your symptoms.
Also, don’t feel guilty about being on the pill in the first place. Yes, it is true if you were never on it then you wouldn’t have to go through the process of coming off of it. But if your experience was anything like mine, and you went to university in the 2000’s, there was quite the push for the birth control pill. I remember in university I could go into Health Services for a suspected strept throat and have the doctor offering me the birth control pill before I left?! I am hoping that things have changed more now and there are more options available for birth control that are non-hormonal. I am not going to touch on them here, as this blog will be long enough, but I may save that for a future blog post.
Most Common Symptoms Post Birth Control Pill
3 Steps for Coming off of the Birth Control Pill
When you are on the pill it essentially takes over your body’s hormonal signaling. When you are on the pill you do not ovulate. The period you have every month is not a real period. It is what we call a withdrawl bleed. When you stop taking the pill your hormones, namely lutenizing hormone and follicle stimulating hormone have to figure out how to kick back into action to trigger ovulation. After ovulation, progesterone is released from the corpus luteum (the coating that forms on an unfertilized egg). Progesterone remains high for approximately 12-13 days at which point the corpus luteum disintegrates which causes progesterone levels to drop. This triggers the shedding of the endometrial lining which is your period. That is a coles notes version. Here is a link to a You Tube video that gives a great easy to follow explanation.
Once you are off of the pill your body has to “wake up” and start to do all this hormonal signaling. Being on the pill increases the levels of estrogen in the body. One of the first steps is to get your liver functioning well so that it can help to eliminate the excess estrogen
Liver- Your liver is responsible for breaking down hormones into their forms that can be easily eliminated. To help your liver do this the following food should be included in your diet
- Fruits and Veggies-beets, onion, garlic, leafy greens, berries, apples, broccoli, kale, cauliflower and cabbage. Aim to have at least 3-6 servings of vegetables a day.
- Amino Acids- these are the building blocks of proteins and are found in high amounts in meat, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds. The amino acids help the liver to break down excess estrogen for elimination. Have 20 g of protein at each meal.
- Healthy Fats- healthy fats are the building blocks that your body uses to produce it’s own estrogen and progesterone. Include healthy fats at each meal like coconut, avocado, olive oil, fatty fish, nuts and seeds.
Address Nutrient Deficiencies- The birth control pill interferes with the absorption of a lot of nutrients. Here is a list of the nutrients you could be deficient in after coming off of the pill
- Folate- these levels have been shown to be back to normal within 3 months of discontinuing the pill, but if you want to get pregnant immediately, folate is something you should be supplementing before even coming off of the pill. Food sources: leafy greens, beans, lentils and broccoli.
- Vitamin B2 Riboflavin- deficiency can be linked with types of anemia. Important for many processes in the body. Food sources: spinach, yogurt, mushrooms, eggs, asparagus, almonds, turkey.
- Vitamin B6- Needed to help make progesterone. Food sources: tuna, turkey, beef, chicken, salmon, sweet potato, potato, sunflower seeds, spinach, banana.
- Vitamin B12- required for proper red blood cell formation. Deficiency is linked with reduced energy. Food sources: salmon, tuna, lamb, shrimp, beef, yogurt, milk.
- Vitamin C- Helps support the immune system and collagen production in the body. Food sources: bell peppers, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, strawberries, pineapple, oranges, cauliflower.
- Vitamin E- Help prevent damage from free radicals. Food sources: almonds, sunflower seeds, spinach, avocado, asparagus.
- Zinc- Helpful for immune function and skin health. Zinc deficiency can play a role in acne. Food sources: beef, lamb, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, lentils, quinoa.
- Selenium- Needed for proper thyroid function. Food sources: tuna, salmon, turkey, chicken, beef
- Magnesium- Important role in hormonal regulation and can help to increase progesterone levels. It is also helpful for reducing anxiety. Food sources: pumpkin seeds, spinach, sesame seeds, black beans, quinoa, cashews, sunflower seeds.
- Heal Your Gut- The birth control pill can cause gut dysbiosis which is an overgrowth of unwanted bacteria and a lack of healthy bacteria. It is also often responsible for causing leaky gut syndrome. Eliminating foods that you are sensitive to, reducing your stress levels and the supplements I will mention below are a great start to healing your gut.
Supplements for Coming off of the Pill
- Prenatal Vitamin- It can be overwhelming to see all the nutrients that I listed above that you could be deficient in. The easiest way to replete yourself of all of these nutrients with only one pill is to take a prenatal vitamin. Here is a link to my blog on the best prenatal vitamins.
- Glutamine- Glutamine is an amino acid that is the main food source for the enterocytes. The enterocytes are the cells that line your intestine. What happens in leaky gut syndrome is the enterocytes have gaps between them which allows proteins out of the digestive system and into the bloodstream. Glutamine acts to help “fatten up” the cells so that there are no longer any gaps.
- Probiotic- A general broad spectrum probiotic is helpful to replenish the good bacteria so that they can help to over take the bad bacteria.
There you have it! It can seem overwhelming and scary but remember I have helped hundreds of women come off of the birth control pill and they do not look back! If you live in Ontario, this is something that I can help you with.
Dr Alexis practices online via telemedicine and is currently accepting new patients. Click here to book your appointment