Thursday, January 21, 2016

Coming off the Birth Control Pill - What you should know

The birth control pill is one of the most commonly prescribed hormones and methods of contraception used by women today.  It is readily prescribed as a first line treatment for many menstrual issues such as irregular, heavy and painful periods.  It's also readily prescribed to treat acne and premenstrual symptoms such as headaches, irritability and breast tenderness.  Females, as young as 13 years old are commonly put on birth control for an undetermined period of time without any reassessment.  

The hormones in birth control pills vary.  Some birth control pills contain estrogen and progesterone, others contain one and not the other and each brand differs in the actual amount of each hormone. The purpose of estrogen and progesterone is to alter the physiology of the body and inhibit ovulation from occurring.  As such, pregnancy is avoided and the hormone fluctuations that occur during and after ovulation are also reduced.

The decision to come off the pill usually coincides with a time when a woman is ready for pregnancy, or when she wants to forgo the often strict regiment of taking the pill.  Once off the pill, the body now has to adjust to its underlying hormonal rhythm which had been previously altered.  If this underlying hormonal state was out of balance prior being medicated, it is common for many symptoms experienced before to return, often much worse than before.

A naturopathic doctor can help not only regulate your hormones after coming off the pill, but can also help reduce many of the symptoms that caused you to go on the pill in the first place.  The longer you have been on the pill, the more essential it is to support the body before you come off the pill.

Here are some common symptoms that may exacerbate if the body is not properly supported prior to coming off the pill:
  • Irritability and Mood Instability
 It can take up to 6 months for hormones to stabilize after coming off the pill.  This period of transition can contribute to fluctuations of hormones leading to irritability, depression and anxiety.  Hormonal support such as B vitamins and herbal preparations can prevent mood imbalances.
If you experienced acne prior to being on the pill, changes are your acne will return.  Since the birth control pill decreases testosterone these levels may increase causing acne once off the pill.  Food sensitivities are another major contributor to acne.  If inflammatory foods are not identified and addressed prior, skin aggravations are more likely to occur.
  • Irregular Periods
As your body is attempting to regulate on its own, cycles can be irregular causing recurrent periods or even an absence for many months.  Periods can also be significantly heavier and more painful.  Identifying inflammatory foods, nutrient deficiencies and doing acupuncture can significantly prevent these imbalances from occurring.

How can a naturopathic doctor help?

Hormone balance is a complex process that involves many organs and reactions in the body. Coming off the birth control pill can often cause hormone function to be left impaired and, without the proper support, this can impact overall quality of life and fertility.  Bridging the period of time between coming off the birth control pill and supporting the body afterwards prevents many aggravations from occurring. Here are a few areas a naturopathic doctor would start to address before and after you come off the pill:

  • Hormone Regulation 
There are many herbs and homeopathic remedies that can effectively regulate menses.  The advantage of working with a naturopath is to identify which remedy would be appropriate,  and allow the body to not only regain normal menstrual cycle length and flow, but also reduce symptoms of migraines, breast tenderness, water retention and irritability that may also occur due to abnormal hormone fluctuation.
  • Replenishing Deficient Nutrients
The birth control pill depletes the body of nutrients.  These vitamins and minerals are essential for proper neurotransmitter and hormonal function.  Some vitamins that are readily depleted by birth control include B vitamins, folic acid and magnesium.  When these nutrients are identified and supported, menstrual and premenstrual symptoms can be significantly improved.
  • Liver and Gallbladder Support
Since the liver is the organ responsible for metabolizing hormones and the bile is one of the main routes of elimination of metabolites, its function is often stressed by the birth control pill.  A naturopathic doctor can identify which herbal remedy, homeopathic or nutrient would be most effective to help these organs detoxify and function optimally.
  • Gut Health and Diet
Hormones can be recycled through the gut if they are not eliminated properly.  Gut bacteria and regular bowel movements play a significant role in regulating hormones.  Diet can also influence the function of the liver and gallbladder.  Foods such as bitter greens, brassica vegetables, flaxseeds and high fiber legumes can help support the gut and liver.

Many of the Naturopathic Doctor at Naturopathic Foundations  focus on hormonal balance and women's health. If coming off the pill is something you have been considering, please call Naturopathic Foundations at 905-940-2727 to book an appointment with one of our naturopathic doctors to discuss ways you can safely and effectively regain healthy hormonal balance during and after coming off the pill.