This dilemma has been on my mind for the past three years and after many sleepless nights, doctor visits, tears, and hiding under layers of makeup - I decided to quit the little pill for the third time. Only this time would be different, I would be prepared.
After researching for countless hours on the internet, reading multiple blogs, watching youtube videos, and even attending a hormonal support group, I'm happy to say I am officially pill-free. I am continuing on my journey to balancing my body's natural hormones and digestion.
The struggle is real
Let's take a step back to how I got into this mess in the first place. Back when I was a teenager and having what I thought at the moment as the worst thing in the world: normal teenage breakouts, I immediately went to see my doctor for a quick fix. She took one look at my face and my age (~15YO) and recommended the birth control pill as the solution for all my worries. She said not only will I have perfect skin but it also aids in cervical health and unwanted pregnancy. To an uninformed teen, this sounded like the magic pill that would do it all. Thanks to Planned Parenthood, I was able to access this without parental guidance and no money out of pocket.
Fast forward to the Fall of 2016, I was yet again missing my period, for the 6th time that year. This is not normal. I didn't feel right. Unlike many women out there who dreams of a light period, mild cramps, and even skipping a few - I prayed for a normal period every month. Skipping periods have become so 'normal' in my (nonexistent) cycle that I went to see my gynecology for answers. I almost laughed when she said that this was not only expected but that I should be grateful for the thinning of my uterus walls and the little to no periods that I was getting. I left immediately and vowed to get off the pill once and for all.
My first two attempts were extreme failures and left me hormonally out of whack and physically scared from the cystic acne that took over. I quite twice cold turkey and without proper nutrition, a regulated diet, and support group, I eventually go back on the pill. I was miserable and desperate to find others like me. There has to be another way. I seeked out a dermatologist but the resolution they offered were again not natural and it would be additional medication such as antibiotics, Accutane, tropical cream, and a pill used for heart problems called Spironolactone. All had severe side effects, none of which I was willing to take.
My A-ha moment
After feeling defeated from my second time, I really didn't know where to find answers. Out of nowhere, facebook recommended me a period workshop that was being offered in my neighborhood. (How does FB mysteriously know these things...that is still to be determined.) To my surprise, the period guru hosting the talk is one of my beloved Ashtangi yoga friend, Jenna Longoria, founder of Healthier Notions. I never even knew people like her existed, and thank the universe that they do. Her workshop was absolutely mind blowing and I have a few quick takeaways for you:
1) You do not ovulate when you are on the pill. Wait..WHAT?
Birth control pills are a synthetic form of the hormones consisting of progesterone and estrogen. The pill prevents ovulation by maintaining a more consistent hormone level in the body. Without a peak in estrogen, the ovary doesn't get the signal to release an egg which is why you are not ovulating.
2) Your "period" from the placebo pills are not real periods since the egg never got released from your ovaries.
3) There is a lot to getting off the pill than just not taking them. A well regulated diet and detox to the body is the first step to naturally get off the pill. For those that have been on it since a teen (like me for the last 15+ years), your body has gotten used to the synthetic hormones. It takes time, patience, and tons of planning.
4) There are millions of women (and men) that are just as confused as you are during this process so speak up and ask questions. Talk to those around you about their journey and experience. SHARE.
Road to recovery ( to be updated and continued)
Let me start by saying, this is my own personal journey to getting off the pill. I am currently going into my 3rd month. The outlined routine and supplements have worked for my body. Please do not take this as medical advice and speak to a licensed professional if you have questions.
Diet Tips and Recommendations
To start, by simply limiting my intake of sugar (especially processed), carbs, and dairy has not only been good for my general health but has done wonders for my skin. I also try to cook more often and stick to healthy fats such as avocados, coconut oil, glee, and lean meats. I also found avoiding peppers, hot sauce, and fruits with high sugar content to be helpful.
Detoxing the liver and getting to a healthy gut
I started juicing. I know, many of you are probably like...she's one of those. However, there are only three main ingredients that I use to help me with detoxing my body from all the old junk and dramatically improving my liver and digestive health.
1) Beets. This earthly, brightly colored vegetable doesn't get as much attention as the others but I've grown to love it. It is extremely great for the liver due to the betaine found in the root. It also aids in your body's bile ducts that lead to an easier digestion.
2) Celery! There has been a craze over celery juicing and I was open to trying it out. The fibers in the celery will make you go...and clear out that system like no other. It also has amazing anti-inflammatory properties to help with your complexion. With an 8-16oz. glass a day, I feel more energetic, extremely hydrated, mentally cleared, better skin, and really great digestion :P
3) Ginger. I love this spicy sucker. Whenever I get a cold or feeling under the weather, I immediately take a ginger shot and instantly feel the difference. The flavor kick also helps! There is a wealth of reason on why ginger is good for you such as immune booster, anti-inflammatory, 6-gingerol that aids in colon health..etc.
Supplements are a must!
This point I cannot stress enough. You need to give your body a little extra love in the form of supplements in preparation of weaning off the pill. One of my biggest physical concern is post birth control acne. Rearing it's painful, swollen, unpoppable form all over my chin, upper lip, jaw area, and even under the nose. The thought of having to face this again was enough to get me watching countless videos and staying up reading blog posts on how to combat this.
Aside from changing my diet and saying no thanks to sweets, the following supplements are what I take daily to prevent breakouts, hair loss, and general wellness during the first year of this journey. Here is the list and the benefits for each:
1) DIM Complex - 250 mg
DIM Complex contains ingredients found in cruciferous vegetables such as kale, broccoli, brussel sprouts. These ingredients help provide nutritional support for regulation of estrogen. For those that are estrogen dominant and experience symptoms such as heavy periods and PMS, this is a good starting point to balance out your testosterone and estrogen levels.
2) Raw Zinc
Zinc has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that will help relieve the irritation, redness, and old scarring from acne. This mineral has also been linked to relieving other skin symptoms such as diaper rash and eczema.
3) Evening Primrose Oil / Omega 3
Healthy fats are essential to your body when you want to promote healthy hair, skin, and nails. One of the symptoms of post birth control syndrome (PBCS) is hair loss on top of breakouts. EEK! I take primrose oil and have increased the number of nuts, avocadoes, fish, and flax seed in my meals.
I do believe that what goes on inside your body is a reflection of your outer body. With a healthy gut, this will lead to better absorption of the nutrients that you are taking as well as better digestion and expelling the bad toxins from your body. I take this 2-3 times a week.
5 & 6) Women's Multivitamin & Vitamin B Complex
This is a general precaution as I eat a high plant based diet and may be deficient in certain categories of vitamins and minerals. Vitamin B12 is crucial for your body to carried out necessary functions and is needed to produce red blood cells. Plants do not produce B12 and since I was avoiding dairy and certain meats, I wanted to make sure I still had the daily recommended multivitamins.
Lastly, I've starting to add in liquid Chlorophyll into my water 1-2 times a day and really like the minty taste of it. It is high in antioxidants which decreases cell damage and helps heal old scars. It also purifies the skin and let it breathe. Not sure if it helps, but trying it out for now.
I will leave you with this. There are millions of women out there that are going through the same thing. I was shocked at how many resources and advice other women are willing to dish out in hopes of helping someone who is going through it as well. We are on this journey together and I hope this piece can offer you any small bit of hope that it will be ok. I will end this with a before photo of myself at one of my worst breakouts (2017) and a recent photo of me taken just a few days ago. I think one of the biggest lessons I learned from this was no matter how you look on the outside, know that you need to heal yourself internally first and the rest will follow. Be patient and good luck!