I’ve been struggling with chronic gut issues for years, including severe bloating, sharp needlelike pains, constipation (I’m talking four to five days at a time), hives, brain fog, and anxiety.
I decided to see a functional medicine doctor through Parsley Health, because all of the other doctors, gastroenterologists, and specialists were just prescribing me medicine instead of getting to the root of my issues.
After my first appointment with my new doctor, we established a game plan to begin the healing process. It required zero drugs.
- Start an elimination diet. I cut out the most common inflammatory foods, such as dairy, wheat, corn, soy, and eggs. For me, eggs specifically hurt my stomach.
- Quit hormonal birth control (HBC). My doctor concluded that the pill was affecting me more than I realized (disrupting my microbiome), and I should stop it immediately.
What does HBC have to do with gut health?
I was on HBC for 9 years. It was originally prescribed to me as a way to treat my acne. Looking back, I wish I knew more about the weight of my decision to put synthetic hormones into my body.
Oftentimes, when the pill is prescribed for things other than preventing pregnancy (like acne, cramps, and irregular periods), it’s just slapping a bandage on a larger hormonal issue that needs to be addressed. Now that I’m off the pill, I’m handling all of the hormonal and gut issues it was masking.
Quitting hormonal birth control
After exhausted attempts to heal my cystic acne with benzoyl peroxide, antibiotic pills (which most definitely altered my gut flora and probably contributed to my GI issues today), and lots of concealer, I was prescribed birth control.
Turns out, coconut oil was the answer to all of my skin issues. But nonetheless, I continued taking birth control.
I now know birth control was likely affecting me more than I realized. I had frequent headaches that lasted days at a time, felt cloudy, and experienced other symptoms I probably don’t even know because I’d been on it for so long.
Deciding to get off of the pill was an easy decision to make. I had considered quitting for months, but my excuse was always that I didn’t have time for acne or crazy mood swings. Here’s the thing: There will never be a “good” time to have those things, but the longer you wait, the harder it will be. So, it just took my doctor ordering it for me to finally take it seriously.
Rebalancing hormones, decreasing inflammation, and learning about my body
Here’s what I’m personally doing to combat my transition off the pill:
- Continue the elimination of foods that inflame my gut (gluten, dairy, corn, soy, egg, and refined sugar).
- Read “Woman Code” and use the MyFLO app to track my cycle and eat foods that support my flow.
- Listen to podcasts like “Fertility Friday” and read anything I can about balancing hormones, estrogen levels, and adaptogens.
- Consistently take my favorite Yeast Is a Beast probiotic from Lovebug, and also take magnesium and zinc supplements, since HBC is known to deplete these micronutrients.
- Continue my natural skin care routine with daily topical use of coconut oil and tea tree oil.
- Be kind to myself and work on accepting whatever challenges may arise during this tough transition.
What I’ve experienced since quitting HBC
1. Hormonal acne (but thankfully, not anymore!)
My skin started to break out a month after I quit the pill, and it continued down this road until about two months ago. I owe my current state of glowing skin to the following.
- Evening primrose oil supplements. Thesehelp balance my hormones.
- Avoiding my allergens. Although I do “indulge” once in a while, I’ve cut out wheat, eggs, and corn and eat very limited amounts of dairy, soy, and refined sugar.
- Using bioClarity. I’m so pleasantly surprised by this brand. They reached out to me three times before I finally agreed to try it. It actually worked super well, and my skin cleared up. So, I’m recommending it to people with similar skin issues.
I do get occasional breakouts around my period, but it’s nothing major, and that’s quite normal. My skin is finally the clearest it’s been since I quit the pill.
2. Hair loss
For me, this is the most alarming side effect, even though I knew it was common when quitting the pill. I’ve been assured by my doctor that “this too shall pass,” and it’s up to my body to balance itself out.
- Keeping my stress levels low. I’m doing my best not to worry too much, spend more time doing things that make me happy (yoga, meditation, being outdoors) and less time glued to my phone.
- Collagen peptides. Collagen helps promote hair growth and stronger nails. It’s packed with clean protein, so I add it to my matcha every morning.
- Not styling my hair as frequently. I wash it only twice a week and limit the number of times I use heat on my hair for styling. I wear more braids, more hats, and headscarves.
3. Mood swings
My PMS has been stronger, and I’ve noticed my mood does, ummm, swing from time to time. It’s usually before my period, and I don’t always realize it in the heat of the moment.
I cry hysterically, like my entire world is crashing. I feel depressed and make a big deal over little things. Yes, I admit it all. But, luckily, it’s really just around period time, and it IS getting better.
- Regular meditation practice. I can’t say it enough... meditation is one of the best things you can do to manage your stress, anxiety, and invite more love, compassion, and understanding into your life.
- Drinking more matcha and less coffee. While I don’t like to admit it, drinking coffee every day may not be best for me personally. I do still drink it a few times a month if I crave it, but I don’t feel like I HAVE to have it anymore (and no more caffeine headaches!) I love and crave my daily matcha in the mornings (see my recipe here). I’m less jittery, and I feel so much more focused yet peaceful in the mornings.
- Open communication with my partner. Mood swings can definitely put a strain on a relationship, because it puts every little thing under a microscope. I can’t pretend I’ve been an angel through this process, but I do know not every issue that comes up is directly related to my mood. My feelings are justified, so it’s important to remember that. BUT, how you voice your feelings is important, so I do my best to think before I speak. Of course, it doesn’t always happen that way, but I’m practicing patience, openness, and vulnerability daily.
4. Mental clarity
Since I quit the pill, I’ve gained so much mental clarity in my work and personal life. Of course, this can also be attributed to eating cleaner and avoiding my allergens, but I do feel quitting the pill has been a large contributor to my clarity.
I now have a small team of three people working with me. I launched the Healthy Hustle workbook, and I’m about to roll out a few more exciting things in the next month or two. I feel SUPER productive these days.
5. Less anxiety, more peace of mind
I was on the birth control pill for 9 YEARS. Every morning I’d wake up, pop a pill, and wonder how putting synthetic hormones could be affecting my long-term health.
I hated having to rely on a pill every day. I didn’t like the feeling of knowing I’d need to stop one day when I wanted kids but was too scared of the aftermath. I knew the longer I waited to get off of it, the more issues I could potentially have.
There’s no convenient time to get off the pill and deal with symptoms. It’s just something you have to face for yourself, because everyone reacts differently.
Alternatives to hormonal birth control
- Nonhormonal copper IUD (Paragard). I personally didn’t do this, because I hear it’s quite painful, and I don’t want a foreign object in my body. The IUD can last for up to 10 years. Since it’s a one and done option, talk to your doctor about the pros and cons for you.
- Nontoxic condoms. Whole Foods carries a nontoxic brand called Sustain. Lola (the organic tampon brand) also just launched subscription-based condoms that can be shipped to your house, which is quite convenient!
- Fertility awareness method (FAM). I heard wonderful things about the brand Daysy. While I haven’t personally tried it, I’m looking into it. I recommend following my friend Carly (@frolicandflow). She speaks a lot about this method.
- Permanent sterilization. If you’re sure you’re done childbearing or don’t want any children in the first place, this option can eliminate the need for contraception indefinitely.
All in all, I’m very happy with my decision. I feel so much more in tune with my body. I finally feel like I’m healing from the inside out instead of temporarily masking symptoms. It’s very empowering to take back control of my body.
Whether you decide you want to keep taking the pill or not, it’s your body. It’s your choice. I respect every woman’s right to do what feels good for them. I can only share my own experience, which will be completely different from yours. So, make the best decision for you.
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Jules Hunt (@omandthecity) is a wellness entrepreneur and creator of the multimedia wellness lifestyle brand Om & The City. Through her platform, she shares real, actionable insight on everyday wellness, empowering women to simplify their life, invest in their well-being, and tap into their highest self. Jules has been featured on Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global, The Daily Mail, Well+Good, mindbodygreen, PopSugar, and more. Beyond the blog, Jules is a certified yoga and mindfulness teacher, crazy plant lady, and proud dog mama.