Post-Birth Control Syndrome & Transitioning Off Birth Control

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Transitioning off hormonal birth control can be relatively smooth sailing or a total nightmare, depending on existing food, exercise, & lifestyle habits. We’ve seen women experience minimal side effects as if nothing ever happened… And reversely also seen things ‘blow up’ and women experience a rollercoaster of issues.

First and foremost, remember that hormonal birth control is a prescription drug. Please connect with your doctor prior to making changes to your supplement or prescription routine.

Ultimately, hormonal birth control is doctor-prescribed hormonal imbalance. Ever heard the saying “it takes 10 seconds to trash a room, but hours to clean up?” – A LOT of damage can be down to our body in a short time frame by hormonal birth control that may take a while to correct because it shuts down and overrides our natural hormonal function.

Things may very well get worse before they get better. Hormones were suppressed and will need time to up-regulate before things can settle out and this is a SLOW process. Follicles are actually always 3-4 months behind, so it may take quite a few months to see the results of changes we’re making present-day. Good news is that consistency and hard work always pays!

Symptoms may occur for well up to 6-12+ months after transitioning off hormonal birth control. We typically see that for every year we spent on hormonal birth control, we may need one month to recover.

For example, if we took the pill for 10 years, we’re likely looking at 10 months to feel “more like ourselves” again.

The most common complaint often seems to be amenorrhea or lack of menstrual cycle. Worth noting that the more pro-active we are to manage food, lifestyle, and exercise, the more we can minimize kickback of symptoms. The longer we spent on hormonal birth control, the longer it may take to bounce back.

Also worth mentioning that any symptoms that were an issue prior to hormonal birth control may come back with a vengeance, as the root issue of symptoms was never actually addressed. Consistency and hard work always pays – work closely with your doctor and don’t be afraid to hire an experienced coach or dietitian as well in order to get to the root of issues!

A great starting place before making any decisions is to seek further education to better understand your body and what’s going on. Check out Lara Briden’s Period Repair Manual, as well as Jolene Brighten’s Beyond the Pill.

Hormonal birth control depletes us of nutrients and may alter gut health, so we highly suggest supplementing for a few months prior to transitioning off hormonal birth control.

If things are still rough after a few months, collaborate with your doctor and explore pulling a full hormone panel to get a better look at what’s going on ‘under the hood.’

Worth mentioning that the medical community has not officially accepted the term “Post-Birth Control Syndrome” or “Post-Oral-Contraceptive Syndrome.” But numerous women’s health physicians have documents a common theme of symptoms that women may struggle with when they part ways with their hormonal birth control. “Post-OC Syndrome” was discussed in Avivva Romm’s book Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health in 2008. This past year, Dr. Jolene Brighten has raised awareness around “Post-Birth Control Syndrome with her book Beyond the Pill.

Potential Symptoms After Transitioning off HBC:
– Lack of period (amenorrhea)
– Acne
– Heavy and painful periods
– Anxiety, depression, or mood disorders
– Mood swings
– Depressed thyroid function
– Changes in gut health
– Headaches, migraines
– Hair loss
– Insulin resistance or issues with blood sugar

Supplements to Consider:
– Zinc
– B Vitamin Complex
– Vitamin C
– Vitamin D
– Magnesium
– Thyroid Support – (make sure it contains Selenium!)

Supplements Worth Researching:

*Please consult with doctor before changing your supplement routine.
– DIM: Helps promote healthy estrogen metabolism and may relieve estrogen dominance symptoms.
– Calcium D Glucarate: Improves clearance and elimination of excess estrogens. May be helpful for estrogen dominance, PMS, & fibroids.
– Vitex: May boost progesterone. May help provide relief of PMS, hirsutism, breast pain, and amenorrhea.
– NAC: May boost glutathione production and help with detoxification in the body.

Condom Suggestions:
Check out brands such as Hex, MyOne, Sustain, or Lola. We are most likely to get pregnant during ovulation (when our ovaries release an egg each month during the middle of our cycle). Sperm can survive in the body up to 4-5 days, so abstaining or ensuring extra protection during this time is vital to avoiding pregnancy.

Educational Resources: Books Regarding Hormones & Health
The Period Repair Manual by Lara Briden
The Hormone Cure by Sara Gottfried
Hashimoto’s Protocol by Izabella Wentz
30 Day Thyroid Reset Plan by Becky Campbell

Healthy Gut Healthy You by Michael Ruscio

Educational Accounts to Follow on Social Media:
@LaurieChristineKing
@DrJoleneBrighten
@LaraBriden
@SaraGottfriedMD
@DrBeckyCampbell
@DrCarrieJones
@DrRuscio
@NicoleMJardim
@LauraSchoenfeldRD

Lab Work Considerations:
– Lab work cannot be done while on hormonal birth control as hormones are suppressed.
– We need at least 3 months free of hormonal birth control before we can test lab work, as levels will still be altered and hormones may be shifting.
– Consider a full hormone panel. Dutch Test is the most comprehensive as it runs hormones and their metabolites via dried urinalysis.
– If Dutch is unavailable, keep in mind that hormones vary over the course of the month, so we can’t just draw labs ‘spur of the moment’. We need labwork pulled during both follicular AND luteal phase.
-Try to get a full picture: test DHEA, LH, FSH, SHBG, TSH, Free T3, and Free T4,  Estradiol, Progesterone, Testosterone, Iron, CRP, B12, ALT, and AST at minimum. 

Naturally Improving Hormones Via Nutrition:
– Work with an experienced coach to pull out of a caloric deficit and resume maintenance calories
– Load up on healthy fats and ample carbs for lifestyle & activity (anecdotally, 60-70f & 150-250c minimum for happy hormones)
– Keep blood sugar balanced by consuming a protein, carb, fat, fiber, & veggies at every meal and eating at regular intervals during the day
– Consider minimizing dairy and gluten consumption
– Minimize sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and processed food consumption
– Minimize pesticide exposure – buy organic produce and quality meat as much as possible
– Consume cruciferous veggies and sprouts (great for gut health/liver detox)
– Consume red meat daily
– Consume 30-40g fiber and plenty of water daily
– Address gut health via quality probiotics, fermented foods, bone broth, and collagen
– Consider researching and implementing seed cycling
 
Naturally Improving Hormones Via Lifestyle Changes:
-Minimize paraben exposure (use natural body care products, skin care products, deodorants, and household cleaners)
– Minimize plastic exposure (Tupperware, water bottles, meal prep containers)
– Reduce training volume and intensity (consider temporarily switching exercise modalities to something like bodybuilding or lifting as high-intensity modalities like CrossFit, Orange Theory, etc may be stressful to the body. Check out Paragon Training Methods)
– Take more rest days from the gym
– Non-negotiable 8-10 hours in bed
– Minimize and address stress 
Love these types of guides? My ebook (The Badass Nutrition Guide) is the ULTIMATE guide to your BEST you & has 125 pages of nutritional education, macro cheat sheets, information on how much to eat, tips on fat loss, deets on hormones, guides on cooking, macros, and SO much more!

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