What Happens To Your Body When You Stop Taking The Birth Control Pill & How To Heal, A Hormone Expert Explains
So, you read last month's news about the Pill and depression, and now you're...well, depressed. I totally understand. Since the story broke that researchers confirmed a link between birth control and increased rates of depression, it seems women everywhere have decided to officially call it quits with the Pill. Maybe you've experienced the troubling side effects and this latest finding is the last straw. Whatever has led you to this point, you're done with synthetic hormones and you're ready to heal your endocrine system the natural way.
But before you quit, there's something you should know: The transition may not be easy or symptom-free. Unfortunately, while the Pill is often prescribed as a "treatment" for issues ranging from out-of-control acne to unbearable PMS, it's nothing more than a Band-Aid. And while your original symptoms may have seemed to decline when you started the Pill, they haven't really gone anywhere. Once you quit, they'll be right where you left them, waiting to make you miserable. In fact, if you've been on the Pill for years, they may even be worse. That's because birth control can totally deplete your system of crucial vitamins and nutrients, wreaking havoc on your gut and creating complete dysbiosis.
And even if you didn't have any problematic symptoms before starting the Pill, you'll want to listen up: By destroying your micronutrient stores and compromising your microbiome1, the Pill has actually set you up to start experiencing problems post-breakup.
So now you may feel stuck between a rock and a hard place—staying on the Pill is a problem, but going off of it could cause more problems. Here's where I (finally) deliver some good news: You can sidestep these hormonal repercussions and set yourself up for success by taking the right steps right now.
How the birth control pill works, and how it doesn't
While I don't advocate for the Pill, I understand and acknowledge the important role it had in women's liberation and sexual freedom. But I also don't feel women are given the full story when it comes to the risks and side effects of birth control, and they shouldn't have to compromise their health and happiness—especially when there are so many other contraception options. Here's why birth control isn't right for everyone:
1. It depletes your B vitamins.
Over time, B6 deficiency can cause everything from depression to decreased cognitive function2.
2. It leads to an imbalance of bacteria.
Birth control messes with the microbiota3 in your vagina, making you vulnerable to more UTIs and yeast infections.
3. It screws up your sex life.
Research has shown that birth control disrupts your pheromones, the external hormones that attract us to the right mates. Not to mention, it suppresses your testosterone, a key component in sexual desire, and can even lower your ability to orgasm and make orgasms less intense.
How to get off birth control naturally
It's important that you don't quit the Pill cold turkey. I recommend implementing the right food and lifestyle techniques for at least several weeks before you attempt to go off the Pill. By laying the groundwork now, you stand a better shot of having a healthy, happy, symptom-free life later.
1. Change your diet now.
Rather than waiting until you get off the Pill, start implementing changes right now and continue it through your transition to make the move less tumultuous. Good-quality fats and amino acids are essential—this is what hormones are made from, and eating the right amount is what's going to allow your body to start producing its own adequate amounts, without the aid of synthetics. If you eat animal protein, fish and organic poultry are great sources, as well as pasture-raised eggs, olive oil, and avocados. You may experience symptoms of estrogen dominance when you quit the Pill—leafy greens like kale, spinach, chard, and broccoli are your best tools for combatting them4.
If you're not sure what else to add or which foods to ditch, start here.
2. Replenish your gut bacteria.
The Pill has likely thrown the microbial ecosystem of your body completely off course. Eating the right fermented and nutrient-dense foods will be what ultimately gets you back into balance, but a good supplement can help the healing process along. I like Jarrow probiotics and a combination of NAC and L-Glutamine to repair the intestines and allow for proper absorption of nutrients.
3. Boost your B-vitamin intake.
Start a B-complex supplement right away; this will offer the biggest support in keeping your mood stable as you transition off the Pill. Buckwheat, quinoa, and oats are also great food-based sources.
While these tips can help arm you against post-pill symptoms, it’s important to consult your doctor before making any changes to your health care routine.
Alisa Vitti is a women's hormone and functional nutrition expert and pioneer in female biohacking. A graduate of Johns Hopkins University and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, Vitti has been featured on The Dr. Oz Show, Lifetime, and has been a regular contributor for Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar, and Women’s Health. She is the founder of The FLO Living Hormone Center, the world's first menstrual healthcare platform that has helped hundreds of thousands of women around the world put their period issues like PCOS, Fibroids, Endometriosis, and PMS into remission naturally using her highly effective FLO Protocol and the FLO Balance Period Supplements, and the creator the MyFLO period app—the first and only functional medicine period tracker. She is also the author of the best-selling book WomenCode. She has presented at SXSW, TEDx, Talks@Google, Summit Series Outside, and SHE Summit and regularly trains women in the workplace on how to use her Cycle Syncing Method for greater creativity, productivity, and wellbeing at work.