It probably won't come as surprise to learn that I'm pretty passionate about ways to achieve natural hormone balance. But what do do about contraceptive and the long term side effects of birth control pills?
First made available in the 1960's, “the pill” has played an important (though often controversial) role in the women's liberation movement over the decades. These days, most women I know have taken birth control pills for one reason or another – as pregnancy prevention, for painful or irregular periods, acne treatment, mood regulation, etc.
Without much thought, women are popping the oral contraception at the suggestion of their doctors. Some women will experience immediate side effects of birth control such as weight gain, headaches, dizziness, breast tenderness, nausea, decreased libido, mood swings, and more. The bigger problem however, is that there are long term side effects of birth control pills that are not usually discussed.
If you find these side effects shocking, don't panic. Though it's not ideal, there are ways to protect your body and repair from the damage that may be done by long term use of the pill.
Here are the three long term side effects of birth control pills your doctor probably won't mention:
#1 – The pill depletes your body of essential nutrients
Birth control pills deplete the body of essential vitamins and minerals. Some of these nutrients, including folic acid, B vitamins, zinc and magnesium, are responsible for managing PMS symptoms, protecting your fertility and preventing birth defects. As a result, your body can be more susceptible to weight gain, water retention, hair loss, lowered immunity, depression, and low libido, to name a few conditions.
How to recover:
Consume mineral-rich foods on a daily basis to rebuild deficiencies including:
- Homemade bone broth – learn how to make chicken bone broth here and beef bone broth here. Short on time? Buy bone broth online here.
- High quality sea salt (this is my favorite). Still think salt is bad for you? Read this.
- Liver – Believe me, I know liver is a no-go for many folks, but it's really, really worth reconsidering. Read why liver is such an important super food in this post.
#2 – The pill disrupts healthy gut flora balance
Birth control pills destroy beneficial gut bacteria which are essential for proper digestion, nutrient assimilation, and a healthy immune system. When your gut flora is insufficient, makes you (and your future children) are more susceptible to short-term and chronic illnesses.
How to recover:
To replace beneficial flora your daily diet must include fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, kombucha and sauerkraut, which are rich in probiotic bacteria responsible for breaking down your food and protecting your immunity. Aim to eat or drink at least a small amount of cultured food with every meal.
In addition to probiotics from food, it's a good idea to also take a therapeutic probiotic supplement. My current favorite is this soil-based probiotic. It doesn't need to be refrigerated, but more importantly, the robust strains can proliferate deeper into your digestive tract. You can buy this probiotic online here.
#3 – The pill may mask future fertility problems
Although there is an overwhelming opinion among health care professionals that birth control pills do not directly affect your fertility, taking the pill every month certainly isn't doing you any favors.
Stopping your body’s ability to get pregnant doesn't mean that you have pressed pause on your fertility clock. If you've been on the pill for several years, your fertility has aged during that time as well.
The synthetic hormones in birth control pills artificially stop the hormones secreted by the hypothalamic pituitary axis in the brain that are responsible for your menstrual cycle. This can lead to a number of conditions such as low body weight, emotional stress and can even cause you to stop having ovulating and menstruating altogether – a condition called hypothalamic amenorrhea.
How to recover:
Though some women get back on track immediately, returning to a normal menstrual cycle can take several months after stopping birth control pills.
If you're on the pill simply for convenience or to manage hormonal imbalances, consider working with an experienced acupuncturist/Chinese herbalist to reduce painful periods, regulate your cycles, and balance your hormones.
If you are planning to start a family soon and are on the pill, it's a good idea to stop at least a year before trying to conceive to give your body enough time to recover.
Side effects aside, the pill is one of our most reliable and convenient options for birth control. Deciding whether or not to take oral contraceptives or any other form of birth control is a very personal decision. But with the right care, recovering your hormonal and overall health is certainly possible.
Looking for more guidance for managing your hormones without the birth control pill?
For years I thought I was just stuck with intense mood swings and horrible acne that was all made worse with my fluctuating hormones. Over time, I discovered that the right foods, select supplements, and healthy lifestyle corrected my hormonal imbalances – without drugs.
If you struggle with hormonal issues and/or are worried about getting off the pill, be sure to read Quit PMS by Lauren Geertsen of EmpoweredSustenance.com. This easy-to-follow ebook is packed with enlightening info and helpful tips to managing PMS and other hormone imbalances – naturally.