Natural strategies to reduce hormonal birth control side effects

I was asked the other day what has the potential to imbalance hormone levels. I was naming things like irregular sleep and stress, when I realized that one of the most common hormone imbalancer is one that we don’t often think about: birth control.

It sounds obvious once you say it out loud, but hormonal birth control imbalances our hormones! YES – it can play an important function and has a role for many of us. AND – we have to admit that taking a hormone in a pill, patch, ring, or shot will indeed create an effect throughout the body.

If you’re choosing to take hormonal birth control, there are some important things to keep in mind to help reduce side effects and keep your body and mind working optimally.

First, let’s shed some common myths about hormonal birth control.

Birth Control Myth Number 1: You still get a monthly period

Yes, you may bleed each month, but you’re not actually getting a period. This bleeding is your body shedding the uterine lining due to a decline in estrogen. However, birth control pills prevent your body from ovulating in the first place, so this bleeding isn’t a true period. This is important to note because the qualities of this “period” (perhaps it’s pain free, or shorter, or less heavy than your period was previously) can’t truly be compared to your natural period. We think that the period we had on and off the pill are like comparing two varieties of apples – the Gala is sweeter, or the Jonagold is a different color. But in actuality, the bleeding you experience when taking birth control is like an orange. You can compare the differences between the apple and the orange, but they’re not the same fruit.

Birth Control Myth Number 2: They’re a long-term solution for your original period issues.

Many people are prescribed birth control pills to help alleviate acne, reduce cramping, or provide some other relief for symptoms they are having. They might be on birth control pills for years (or even decades). When they stop taking the pills, many of these symptoms come back into play. That’s because the birth control pills don’t fix the root issue, they just mask the symptoms. So if you’re diagnosed with PCOS, acne, or painful periods, know that there are other actions you can take (like those found in Ayurveda) to actually create balance within the body. 

Birth Control Myth Number 3: Hormonal contraceptives don’t affect other areas of the body.

I’ve heard this argument from doctors particularly for the hormonal IUD or other implantable birth control devices. While it may be the case that the bulk of the hormones stay in certain areas of your body, there’s nothing to stop those hormones from entering the bloodstream and traveling. Whether you have a localized birth control or take a pill, it’s important to know that these medications do indeed affect your body’s systems, including your mind, emotions, sleep, and metabolism. Again, this doesn’t mean that they’re bad, but it’s important to realize that you can indeed see differences in your mood, energy, and digestive system when you take these medications. 

So if you are taking hormonal birth control, what should you do to help promote balance in your body? 

If you’re taking hormonal birth control, you want to support the health of the liver, ensure that your vitamin levels are balanced, and focus in on brain health and emotional self-care.

Birth Control Side Effects Support Number 1: Get the right supplements

 Go to your doctor and get them to run a panel of your vitamins and minerals (particularly B12, D, folate, iron, and zinc). Birth control pills tend to deplete your vitamin/mineral levels, and these deficiencies can manifest as health symptoms. The longer you’ve been on birth control pills, the more important it is to take this step!

Birth Control Side Effects Support Number 2: Support your liver

Your liver has to process the hormones that you are taking, and it can make it so that the body has a harder time processing other foods and medications that you are consuming. Support your liver by:

  1. eating a whole-foods diet that emphasizes plant based foods
  2. don’t smoke
  3. reducing your alcohol intake
  4. Drink teas with nettle, peppermint, and raspberry leaf (I love Mountain Rose Herbs for my teas!)
  5. Take N-Acetyl Cysteine (after you talk to your doctor please!): this supplement improves liver function and can help you start to process your estrogen more efficiently.
  6. Favor parsley, cilantro, dandelion, and other leafy greens.

Birth Control Side Effects Support Number 3: Take care of your mind/emotions.

Like I mentioned above, hormonal birth control can have an impact on your mood and emotions. Be proactive and bring practices into your day that support your mental well-being. Schedule time for yoga in your daily routine and consider a meditation practice if you don’t already have one (even 3 minutes counts!). Consider what activities make you feel like your best, most supported, and easeful self. Then get out your calendar and make sure that you can include these activities into your daily routine. 

If you’re struggling in your relationship with hormonal birth control and want to make sure that you’re balancing your body and mind, consider an Ayurvedic consultation with me. We’ll look into your menstrual history as well as other symptoms to understand the root cause of your health symptoms and explore ways to thrive in your body. Learn more here.

  Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day,   Sam

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