Whether you’ve just started birth control or you’ve been on it for years, getting off birth control is a very personal decision, and one where it helps that you’re especially informed. Some women may choose to get off birth control because they are ready to start a family, while others want to try a more natural alternative like the Fertility Awareness Method.
It’s important to remember that many women are initially prescribed birth control for non-contraceptive reasons such as irregular cycles or painful periods. While the pill can help relieve some of these symptoms, it does nothing to address the underlying issues causing those symptoms to begin with. When getting off the pill, these original symptoms will likely return and often new ones too, due to the nature of birth control and how it depletes nutrients, disrupts the gut microbiome, and disrupts thyroid function.
I have a whole post dedicated to the pros and cons of birth control where you can learn more. This post here will cover how to support key areas of your health so getting off birth control is a smoother ride for you.
What getting off the pill can look like
While many women come off the pill with few symptoms, some women can experience a rather bumpy ride. This can look like acne, hair loss, missing periods, heavy periods, and delayed return of fertility.
Since many women are prescribed birth control for non-contraptive reasons, like painful periods or irregular cycles, many of those symptoms will return post-pill.
For example, many women with PCOS are prescribed the pill to “regulate cycles” (it doesn’t actually regulate your cycle, it shuts down your cycle and overrides it with synthetic hormones). While the pill will help those women have a bleed once a month, it does nothing to address the underlying drivers of PCOS such as chronic inflammation, adrenal dysfunction, and insulin resistance and, in some cases, could make these issues worse.
For those reasons, it’s important to remember that the pill does nothing to correct these issues (it only masks them), so when women are getting off birth control, their symptoms and issues just return. And many experience NEW symptoms post-pill on top of that.
To help support your body in the process, it’s important to:
- Replenish lost nutrients (the pill depletes your body of many nutrients required for healthy hormones)
- Support the gut
- Support detox pathways
- Support the thyroid and metabolic health
- Balance blood sugar
This post will give you ideas of how to address these five areas below. For some women, it takes time to restore those functions after coming off the pill.
1) Replenish nutrients
Hormonal contraceptives deplete the body of key nutrients. In part, this is due to the immense demand put on your liver to detox.
The pill depletes the nutrients below, so focus on eating nutrient-dense foods rich in:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
2) Support your gut
Hormonal contraceptives disrupt the gut microbiome, making you more susceptible to yeast and bacterial overgrowths and damaging the lining of the intestinal wall. A balanced microbiome can help with clearing excess estrogen from the body, supporting hormone balance.
Birth control directly affects our microbiome, increases inflammation, increases the incidence of IBD and Crohn’s, and on and on. Don’t shoot the messenger.
It also impairs gallbladder function, which is a big deal when it comes to gut health. Your gallbladder is responsible for proper bile flow. Bile is stored in the gallbladder and is like “liquid gold” to the body, as healthy bile is essential for optimal health.
Bile has antibacterial properties that are important for preventing bacterial overgrowths, like SIBO. Without proper gallbladder function, you can also develop issues with motility.
Research shows that using hormonal birth control increases the frequency of oral, vaginal, and gut yeast infections among women on the pill.
HOW TO SUPPORT YOUR GUT WHEN COMING OFF THE PILL:
Some of the best ways to support your gut are already part of a nourishing, ancestral diet. Things like bone broth, collagen, and gelatin can help heal and seal the gut lining. Other herbs and some supplements can also be supportive.
Some things to consider:
- Bone broth
- Collagen and gelatin
- DGL (Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice)
- Marshmallow root
- Daily raw carrot salad
- Animal protein
- Find your fiber tolerance
- Spore-based probiotic
- Make sure you’re having a BM at least once a day!
I’ve also used the products Biogest and GI Encap from Thorne both in my own gut healing journey and with clients. Biogest is a combination of enzymes, HCl, and ox bile to help support your body’s digestive capacity, and break down and absorb nutrients. GI Thrive is a combination of gut-healing herbs and compounds including DGL, marshmallow, aloe vera, and slippery elm.
You can also find more info on gut healing in this post.
3) Support detox pathways
Clearing synthetic hormones from the body is taxing on the liver. One of the primary issues with the long-term use of hormonal contraceptives is the build-up of hormones over time and an overtaxed liver that can’t process all those hormones at once.
While the liver is great at breaking things down and preparing them for removal, it can become overwhelmed due to modern-day living and diets. Bile production may also suffer.
HOW TO SUPPORT DETOX PATHWAYS:
Some ways to give your liver and gallbladder extra support include:
- Well-cooked beets
- Dandelion root
- Castor oil packs (code CKN10 for 10% off)
- Dry brushing
- Animal protein
- Bitters (I like Organic Olivia and Urban Moonshine)
- Apple cider vinegar
- Glandular supplements (like supports like). Ancestral Supplements has a great Gallbladder supplement that includes liver and bile.
4) Support the thyroid
Hormonal contraceptives disrupt the OAT axis (ovarian-adrenal-thyroid axis) and increase thyroid-binding globulin which can bind to thyroid hormone and prevent you from using it. HCs also increase oxidative stress, further suppressing thyroid function.
HOW TO SUPPORT THYROID FUNCTION:
- Thyroid-supportive nutrients like selenium, retinol, copper, b-vitamins, zinc. Animal foods are a great source of all of these.
- Get natural light and plenty of sleep.
- Take steps to reduce stress.
5) Balance blood sugar
Studies show that birth control can cause issues with blood sugar regulation and lead to or worsen insulin resistance, both of which further disrupt hormonal balance.
HOW TO SUPPORT:
- Eat breakfast within 30-60 minutes of waking.
- Caffeine always after breakfast.
- Always pair carbs with protein and a little bit of fat.
- Eat every 3-4 hours.
- Apple cider vinegar can help with blood sugar balance.
It’s your choice. It should be well-informed.
This post is not meant to scare or shame anyone, but to bring awareness to the fact that while some women do benefit from symptom reduction while on the pill, that’s not solving any underlying issues. Key parts of this conversation are missing.
Deciding which contraceptive you want to use is a personal decision. Whatever you choose to do, make sure you are well-informed about the pros and cons of each type. For us to have true control over our health, it’s important to know what hormonal birth control can do to our health, bodies, and minds.
And no, I’m not anti-birth control. I am PRO empowering women to make informed decisions about their health
There are very effective natural forms of contraception, like the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM). Many women don’t know that you are only fertile about 6 days of your cycle! There are easy ways to track fertility so that you can avoid an unplanned pregnancy (or to help you conceive, if that’s your goal).
More on that to come. Some great additional resources on FAM are:
✨ Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler
✨ Beyond the Pill by Jolene Brighten
✨ The Fifth Vital Sign by Lisa Hendrickson-Jack
I am not a doctor, and I don’t claim to be one. I can’t prevent, treat, cure or diagnose illness or disease. The information presented on this website is not meant to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice, treatment or diagnosis. The purpose of this website is to share knowledge from my research and experience. I encourage you to make your own decisions regarding your health care based on your own research and relationship with your health care professional.
Some of the links on this page are affiliate links, which means I earn a small commission if you purchase through that link, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting my work!
Effect of Oral and Vaginal Hormonal Contraceptives on Inflammatory Blood Biomarkers
The impact of oral contraception on vulvovaginal candidiasis
Early effects of gliadin on enterocyte intracellular signaling involved in intestinal barrier function
Tight Junctions, Intestinal Permeability, and Autoimmunity Celiac Disease and Type 1 Diabetes Paradigms
Association Between Long-term Oral Contraceptive Use and Risk of Crohn’s Disease Complications in a Nationwide Study
The risk of oral contraceptives in the etiology of inflammatory bowel disease: a meta-analysis
New insights into the molecular mechanisms underlying effects of estrogen on cholesterol gallstone formation