Everything You Wanted to Know About Birth Control

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Written By

Lauryn

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Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.

Long Term Birth Control Use 1 | Everything You Wanted To Know About Birth Control

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The health world is full of tons of decisions we must make to choose what is best for us.

Fluoride toothpaste or regular?

Bottled water or filtered?

Grass-fed or regular?

Organic or non-organic (and cheaper)?

The “pill” is one of those decisions—The birth control pill (BCP).

And while the pill is most often associated with contraception reasons (as in real birth control), more than ever, millions of women also take the pill for other reasons.

Missing period? There’s a pill for that.

Irregular period? There’s a pill for that.

Heavy period? There’s a pill for that.

Acne breakouts? There’s a pill for that.

Horrible cramps? There’s a pill for that.

Endometriosis or PCOS? There’s a pill for that.

In fact, more than half (58%) of all pill takers rely on birth control, at least in part, for reasons other than pregnancy prevention.

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And many do so without ever questioning other options for addressing the underlying issues (the reasons why your period went missing, or is super heavy, or you have skin breakouts).

While taking the pill may seem like the NORMAL or NATURAL thing to do for any one of your health concerns listed…it’s not—or at least it doesn’t have to be.

Just like eating a Big Mac and French Fries is considered “normal” in our American society…it is not.

And just like sitting at a desk for 8-10 hours per day in front of a computer screen is now considered “normal” in our culture…it is not (or at least it’s not what our bodies were wired to do).

Whether you’re currently on birth control, considering going on birth control OR trying to get off control, here are the facts to know about “the pill”—and the side effects that most birth control pamphlets won’t educate you on:

Bc

POSITIVES

Safe Sex. It’s true, 99% effectiveness with contraception if used correctly.

Lowers androgens. Hence why BCPs reduce acne.

Alleviation of PMS. Short term relief makes it seem like it’s too good to be true. (Unfortunately, it’s not addressing or healing the reason why you got that PMS in the first place, but instead, bandaging the symptoms).

Birth-Control-101

DISADVANTAGES

Hormone Imbalances. Regular use of the pill promotes continuously high levels of estrogen in a woman’s body.This is not natural. Your natural hormone cycle is comprised of both rising and falling levels of estrogen and progesterone. Birth control pills work by keeping estrogen at a sufficiently high level that they fool the body into thinking it is pregnant, therefore another pregnancy cannot occur (or it ‘over-boosts’ your ovulation if you have not been ovulating to trick your body into having a ‘regular’ period). Since birth control essentially acts as a ‘hormone therapy’ it completely throws your body’s gauge of ‘what is normal’ out of sorts—often leading to things like:

  • Estrogen Dominance. (linked to the host of side effects mentioned above, as well as increased breast cancer risk, migraines, regular nausea, and increased blood pressure]
  • Elevated cortisol levels (stress levels) as your adrenals try to adjust to the unnatural balance
  • Loss of cues to ovulate.

The Body Stops Making Hormones. After months or years on the pill—being injected with hormones—the body can stop producing its own (or as much of its own) simply because it doesn’t have to. This can make it tricky to come off the pill or re-balance hormones when and if pill use stops. Some women might go several months or up to a year before they begin ovulating and menstruating again.

Crazy Sugar & Caffeine Cravings. Sweet tooth or coffee dependent? If so, you’re not alone. Sugar and caffeine cravings are highly intertwined with hormone imbalances, and as we take the pill to address estrogen and progesterone balance, one hormone we are not addressing is our cortisol levels (stress hormones). As cortisol slides under the radar, it remains alive and well—for some super elevated, and others depleted. Cortisol feeds off stimulation though—like sugar and caffeine—and signals to your body it’s need for food (sugar or caffeine) as it seeks to find balance and ‘nourishment.’

Unwanted Weight Gain. As hormones shift with the use of contraceptive use, so does your metabolism and internal stress levels—and often times with that, weight reserve as the body becomes more physically stressed as well.

Robs Nutrients. Birth control pills rob many nutrients from your body and impair the assimilation of the nutrients you consume:

Deplete folate– Lack of folate disrupts DNA metabolism

Deplete B Vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B6 and B12)-The lack of these “energy vitamins” can cause irritability, depression, insomnia and fatigue.

Strip zinc– Lowering the immune system and encouraging insulin resistance

Deplete magnesium– Leading to mineral imbalances in the body

Impairs healthy bacteria in the digestive tract [This leads to reduced digestion, nutrient assimilation, lowered immunity, and the overgrowth of pathogens like Candida (yeast infection)]

IN SHORT…

The pill is “complicated.” And in my clinical experience with clients on it, or wanting to come off it it, just not worth it.

Although it may bandaid symptoms (like acne or PMS) short term or seem like the only option for pregnancy prevention, it is a short-term solution with long term side-effects.

SO NOW WHAT?: COMING OFF THE PILL

So you’re considering going off “the pill?”

As with most any medication, or therapeutic supplement for that matter, it is advised you work with your general care practitioner to stop your contraceptive use, and bolster your health with alternate alternatives.

Here are a few though to get you started.

  1. Protection 101

    From a “protection” point-of-view, welcome your man to his version of contraception-land, and remind him it’s a two-way street.

  1. Heal Your Gut.

    From a health point-of-view, as a practitioner, one of the primary areas I help all my clients address is their gut health.

Knowing how interrelated the gut itself is to hormone imbalances is generally a no-nonsense rule-of-thumb that must be addressed.

If you had a leaky gut, or bacterial overgrowth, infection or parasite in your gut before, and have yet to address it, chances are, it will still be there.

That said, a general gut-healing protocol to start involves:

  • Eating a Real Food Diet. Void of gluten, grains, conventional dairy and meats, sugar and alcohol within an 80/20 perspective (no, perfection is NEVER expected)
  • Proper Digestive Hygiene. Chew your food. Drink water throughout the day (except a lot at meals). Breathe before your meals. Sit and slow down during meal time.
  • Daily Probiotic Use. Soil based formulas are easily absorbed and a good potent source of good bacteria.
  • Stomach Acid Support. Stomach acid is necessary to break down food. Hydrochloric acid supplementation (HCL) or 1 tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar in a shot glass of water can be beneficial.
  • Custom Supplementation. Based on your personal gut flora and any testing or lab findings, custom supplementation, such as anti-microbials for SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), or even antibiotics to kill off parasites may be warranted. Other supplements may help support liver/gallbladder dysfunction, pancreatic dysfunction, or necessary enzymes for helping assist in digestion.
  1. Hormone Support

    After first addressing your gut health and needs, there are many supplements and therapies that can support your hormones on the road back to wellness. However, these are highly individualized dependent on where your hormone levels are at and the symptoms you’ve been experiencing.

Some common ones I see that have helped some women improve (in conjunction with a gut-healing protocol) include:

  • Topical Magnesium (especially if PMS was a symptom previously)
  • B-Vitamins (as birth control pills deplete them)
  • Zinc (another common deficiency, like magnesium and B-Vitamins, responsible for hundreds of metabolic functions in your body)
  • Chasteberry (500-1000 mg raises progestrone levels to help balance estrogen levels)
  • Women’s Multi. A targeted women’s hormone support supplement, packed with vitamins and minerals typically low in hormone imbalances. I like Estro-Factors by Metagenics, primarily because it is a methylated version of a women’s multi-vitamin (particularly helpful for delivering the extra nutrients if any gut or methylation dysfunction that is underlying).
  1. Eat Healthy Fats

    If you’re a woman, chances are you’ve been conditioned to fear—and hate—that word: Fat. Fat is NOT a four-letter word though, and in fact, your hormones are MADE from fat (including saturated fats-like grass-fed butter, ghee, pasture raised egg yolks, organic animal meats, coconut oil and coconut butter). Eat a fat or two with every meal. Some other options include: avocados, raw nuts/seeds, olives, extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, and fatty fish. Steer clear of hydrogenated oils and fats like canola oil, margarine and vegetable oil.

  1. Stress Less

The root of ‘em all. Guarantee if you have any signs of hormonal imbalances whatsoever (skin breakouts, lost period, heavy periods, mood swings/anxiety, etc.), stress plays a role. Actively seek to stress less and figure out what’s getting you down. Stress does not to any BODY good. Whether that means sleeping a little bit more, exercising a little less—or starting to move if you’ve been sedentary, breathing and meditation…find what works for you. In addition, it is recommended you cut the caffeine and sugar to nearly none (if not just one cup of quality Joe per day). Why? Caffeine and sugar are natural stressors to your body—and your hormones—particularly cortisol levels (more prone to throw off your hormone balance if it’s already been off).

BUT I STILL AM ON THE PILL (AND PLAN TO STAY ON IT)

To each her own.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to our own health, and, ultimately, you are your own best advocate and compass for knowing what you need.

If you choose to take Birth Control Pills, it is recommended to add a Vitamin B complex at the very lease (primarily because BCPs deplete needed B-vitamins, especially Vitamins B1, B2 and B6 that keep your neuro-endocrine system working).

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