Missing periods? Acne flare-ups? Feeling bloated all the time? Going off hormonal birth control can be a bit of a hormonal nightmare, especially if your body isn’t prepared for it. But here’s the thing: it’s totally normal to have imbalanced hormones after coming off hormonal birth control. Women who go off birth control frequently struggle with hormonal imbalances, menstrual irregularities, mood swings and more. We call this temporary issue – and I promise, it is temporary – post-birth control syndrome (PBCS). PBCS typically only lasts between 4 and 6 months, and while you’re going through it, there is lots you can do to support your hormones to alleviate unwanted symptoms and bring balance back to our bodies.
Common symptoms of PBCS include:
- Menstrual irregularities such as loss of menstruation, heavy menstruation, painful periods and irregular cycles
- Changes in body composition like breast size, weight gain & difficulty losing weight
- Hormonal changes such as infertility, hypothyroidism, hair loss, acne, breast tenderness and adrenal dysfunction
- Anxiety, depression and other mood-related disorders
- Gut health issues including bowel changes, gas, bloating & stomach upset
- Migraines and headaches
- Nutritional deficiencies including insufficient B vitamins, Vitamin D and Magnesium
- Chronic inflammation and other immune imbalances
It’s possible that you might experience some of the hormonal imbalances and symptoms you had before you went on birth control that your birth control helped mask. If you went on the pill because you had heavy periods for example, your heavy periods might return once going off. This is because birth control is just a bandaid. It never addressed the root cause of the heavy bleeding. It simply controlled your monthly bleed by limiting the growth of your uterine lining and by blocking ovulation. As if it wasn’t complicated enough, it’s also entirely possible that you experience new symptoms too.
Want even more hacks for balancing your hormones naturally? Grab my Hormone Hacking Guide here:
The good news is that our bodies are amazing at letting us know when things aren’t quite working right – we just need to tune in & listen.
If you’ve decided that it’s time to come off hormonal birth control, whether it’s because you’re ready to get pregnant, you’re concerned about the potential health risks of hormonal birth control, or you’re ready to try a different form of contraception, have no fear! We can show our bodies some love and restore hormonal balance through diet, supplements and lifestyle changes. As always, I recommend that you work one-on-one with a health practitioner to address all your health needs, but especially during a transition like this one. If you are currently suffering from PBCS, a holistic nutritionist or naturopath will help to guide you through the changes you’re facing and will help to make sure nothing more serious is going on.
3 fool-proof hacks for balancing your hormones post-birth control
1. Balance your blood sugar.
Research has shown a strong correlation between oral contraceptive use with imbalanced blood sugar and insulin resistance. Keep your blood sugar steady by eating whole, unprocessed foods. Make sure that every meal contains some form of high-quality protein, healthy fat and fibre. I like using the acronym PFF while I’m cooking or meal-prepping to remember to include foods from each category. Some healthy and delicious options from each category include:
- Protein: organic chicken, eggs, grass-fed beef, protein powder, lentils
- Fat: avocado, nuts, seeds, extra virgin olive oil, olives, nut butters, coconut oil
- Fibre: vegetables – all of them! Fruit, nuts, seeds, whole grains
The fibre category is an important one, so don’t forget it! Vegetables are our main source of fibre and they also contain the nutrients needed to support our hormones and overall health. Fruit is also fibre and nutrient rich. Because it contains sugar, aim for no more than 2-3 servings per day and balance it out with protein and healthy fats (think: banana + almond butter). As much as you can, try to avoid excess caffeine, white flour, sugar, processed foods and alcohol during the post-birth control transition. These foods spike blood sugar and contribute to hormonal imbalances.
2. Show your liver some L-O-V-E.
Did you know the liver has over 500 known functions in the human body? Detoxing excess hormones – like the synthetic ones in hormonal birth control – is just one of its many, many roles. Every day our bodies come into contact with chemicals, foods and toxins that need to be processed and broken down by the liver before they’re eliminated. To help support your liver’s natural ability to detoxify, show your liver some L-O-V-E on a daily basis:
- Load up on cruciferous vegetables like cooked kale, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. Eat bitter foods – dandelion greens, arugula, endives and broccoli rabe are all great options. Other liver-loving foods include beets, garlic, onions, turmeric and organic berries.
- Opt for toxin-free when possible – remember, our livers have to process everything we take in each day! Avoid toxins by saying no to plastic food containers, BPA-lined cans, synthetic fragrances & harsh chemicals, toxic household cleaners, dryer sheets and fragranced laundry soap, and non-organic food. The goal here is reduction, not perfection. Take it one step at a time by opting for a non-toxic mascara or face wash the next time you run out. Check out this blog post for ingredients to avoid when it comes to avoiding hormone disruptors.
- Veggies, veggies, veggies = fibre, fibre, fibre. Once your liver has processed any excess hormones and toxins, it’s time for elimination. That means having a complete bowel movement at least once a day. Focus on getting plenty of fiber in your diet. Aim for two cups of vegetables with at least two meals each day. Consider adding in two tablespoons of freshly ground flaxseed or chia seeds to your diet for an added boost.
- Eliminate excess estrogen. This step is especially important if you were on a pill that contained estrogen, but is also beneficial for re-establishing healthy hormone balance generally. Common foods and products that may contribute to excess estrogen include soy, conventionally raised meat & dairy, pesticides, unfiltered water, plastic and toxic household cleaners. Learn how to make your own non-toxic cleaners here.
3. Be kind to yourself.
We live in a society that is exciting and stimulating! Our lives are go-go-go and often, this means we prioritize our busy schedules at the expense of self-care and downtime. Chronic stress has many negative effects on our overall health, one of which is that it directly affects your body’s ability to make sex hormones like progesterone and estrogen, which are needed to maintain a regular symptom-free cycle. Stress has also been shown to deplete nutrients, cause digestive issues and exacerbate symptoms like headaches and acne. Developing gentle, kind ways to take care of yourself is an often overlooked but necessary component to healing from PBCS. To dial down the stress and up the kindness, consider implementing some lifestyle changes like the ones below:
- Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Aim to go to bed at the same time every night, and wake up at the same time every morning. Develop a night-time routine that makes you excited to snooze (essential oils & a good book anyone?) and a morning routine that will start the day off on a positive note (good morning coffee & journalling).
- Get outside. Take a walk during lunch, do your morning yoga on the deck or backyard, hit the park with friends or consider biking to work.
- Develop a mindfulness practice – journalling, deep breathing, meditation and yin yoga are all great options to clear the mind and support your hormones.
- Start sweating. Sweating is one way that excess hormones leave the body, it’s also great for stress management. Try joining a rec league, starting some group fitness classes, or going for a run with some friends.
If you haven’t already, grab my Top 5 Hormone Hacks for balancing your hormones naturally here:
When it comes to rebalancing hormones and supporting our cycles, there is no shortage of things we can do! Balancing blood sugar, supporting liver health and dialing down our daily stressors is a great start. To learn more about PBCS and and how I can help you get your health back under control so you can feel unstoppable again, book your free hormone freedom call here.