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How To Detox After Hormonal Birth Control

Updated: Apr 23


Contents

Issues With The Contraceptive Pill

Common Issues Coming Off The Pill

A Normal Menstrual Cycle vs A Pill Cycle

The Importance of Progesterone

The Heart-Womb Connection

Using Herbs To Rebalance

- Supporting The Liver

- Supporting The Nervous System

- Supporting Gut Health And Mineral Balance

- Supporting And Strengthening The Reproductive System

Additional Suggestions

There are many reasons why women start taking the birth control pill, such as to prevent pregnancy or to manage issues surrounding their menstrual cycle.


No matter why you started using hormonal contraceptives, once you’re ready to stop, it’s common to run into some issues with your hormones.


Hormonal birth control (such as the pill, hormonal IUDs, or the implant) work by shutting down your natural hormone cycles. The natural rhythmic increase and decrease of oestrogen and progesterone are instead replaced with a steady dose of synthetic hormones that inhibits ovulation.

The suppression of hormones and the prevention of ovulation is what makes the pill effective as birth control and suppressing symptoms of hormonal imbalance. But it’s also behind the need for hormonal balancing after stopping birth control.


(Also side note, being effective at suppressing symptoms does not equate to being the best choice for your health!)


In this post, you'll learn why supporting your hormone health after birth control is so important and some suggestions to help get you started.



Issues With The Contraceptive Pill


There's still a lot we don't know about the consequences of long-term suppression of the reproductive system. It is a very western, allopathic notion that we could disrupt physiological processes as important as ovulation and menstruation without any side effects.


Many women are now beginning to turn away from hormonal contraception due to the long list of potentially serious side effects experienced while taking it.


Side effects can include and are not limited to:

  • mood disturbances

  • bloating

  • increased anxiety

  • depression

  • spotting between periods

  • nausea

  • breast tenderness

  • headaches/migraines

  • weight gain/fluctuations

  • increased risk of blood clots in the legs, lungs, heart and/or brain

  • reduced sex drive

  • increased risk of certain cancers


It is also not a root cause solution to any hormonal imbalance. Without dealing with the root cause of the original menstrual issues, plus oftentimes years of hormonal birth control use, once a woman wants to come off the pill the symptoms experienced previously can likely come straight back, sometimes worse than before.


In any case, the pill works by shutting down your reproductive system, so it can take time for your natural hormone cycles to properly kick into gear again after stopping birth control.


For these reasons it is important to prepare your body properly when coming off the pill to minimise the issues.



Common Issues Coming Off The Pill


Your body's natural processes have been shut down for some time, so it can be quite common to experience random and new symptoms popping up as your body starts to metabolise and eliminate the excess synthetic hormones and produce hormones naturally again.


Common issues when coming off the pill can include:

  • irregular/missing periods

  • post-pill acne

  • PMS symptoms

  • mood issues/anxiety increase

  • post-pill PCOS and blood sugar dysregulation

  • breast tenderness

  • pain and increased cramping

  • heavier flow

  • hair loss

  • digestive issues like gas and bloating

  • previously experienced symptoms

These symptoms are usually a result of the withdrawal from the synthetic form of oestrogen in the pill, as well as a sudden surge of androgens (male sex hormones) alongside experiencing a delay in establishing regular ovulation once again.


Herbal medicine can be really beneficial in aiding the body's natural processes to eliminate the synthetic and excess hormones as well as re-establishing the hormonal cycles, ovulation, and the connection between the pituitary gland in the brain and the ovaries. We will discuss some helpful herbs later in this post.



A Normal Menstrual Cycle vs A Pill Cycle


In a normal 28-day menstrual cycle the pituitary gland, thyroid, and ovaries are communicating with each other to keep your cycle flowing through the month.





Menstruation (Day 1-5)

The start of the Follicular Phase, day 1 of your period is the start of a new cycle. Oestrogen and progesterone levels drop, signalling it's time for the uterus to shed its lining.


Follicular Phase (Day 1-14)

The pituitary gland releases FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) which stimulates follicles in the ovaries to mature. It takes one follicle 3 months to fully mature into an egg and once it is ready it is released at ovulation.

Oestrogen is produced by the ovaries and levels gradually rise during this phase, building up the uterine lining in preparation for pregnancy and promoting serotonin production helping you to feel more outgoing and social as you approach ovulation.


Ovulation (Day 14-18)

Ovulation occurs when LH (Lutenizing Hormone), produced by the pituitary gland, causes the follicle to rupture and release its egg. Ovulation day can differ for each person, but is generally between day 14-18 of your cycle.


Luteal Phase (Day 14-28)

The remainder of the follicle that the egg was released from now becomes the corpus luteum, which produces progesterone. Progesterone becomes the primary hormone of influence as oestrogen levels fall during this phase


If the egg is not fertilised and pregnancy does not occur, levels of both progesterone and oestrogen will decline, signalling the uterus to shed its lining and begin the cycle again.


During a pill cycle, none of this happens.


When taking hormonal birth control, gonadatropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), responsible for the release of FSH and the initiation of the entire cycle, is suppressed. It essentially shuts down this entire hormonal rhythm.


The bleeding you experience is not even a real period, as a "real" period involves ovulation. What you are experiencing instead is withdrawal bleeding from the placebo week of pills. You are totally removed from your natural flow.





The Importance of Progesterone


You may have been told by your doctor, along with many women, that "ovulation only matters if you're trying to get pregnant". Unfortunately, they are massively overlooking an essential aspect of women's health.


Among many issues with suppressing your reproductive system with birth control is that the hormone progesterone is only produced from the corpus luteum once ovulation has occurred, and this is vital for your physical and mental wellbeing.


Effects of progesterone include:

  • balancing action on oestrogen (important for symptoms of oestrogen-dominance such as those detailed below)

  • maintains the uterine lining in pregnancy

  • regulates bleeding during menstruation

  • has a calming effect on the body

  • natural anti-depressant and improves mood

  • stabilises blood sugar

  • calms and focusses the brain

  • supports thyroid function

  • reduces period pain


You may not ovulate right away after stopping birth control, due to the communication between your brain and ovaries being switched off for so long, which may further upset the oestrogen-progesterone balance and lead to oestrogen dominance.


Symptoms of oestrogen dominance include:

  • unexplained weight gain particularly around the midsection

  • difficulty losing weight

  • breast tenderness

  • fibrocystic breasts

  • endometriosis

  • heavy periods

  • missing periods

  • prolonged cycles

  • painful periods

  • infertility

  • low libido

  • mood swings

  • insomnia

  • fatigue

  • anxiety and/or depression

  • headaches and migraines


This is why it is vital to support the body after hormonal birth control to encourage healthy ovulation and efficient hormone metabolism and elimination, ensuring sufficient levels of progesterone are present to balance the effects of oestrogen.


The progestogens found in hormonal contraception are not the same as naturally produced progesterone. They are synthetic forms of progesterone and are not recognised by the body in the same way meaning the positive benefits of this hormone are lost.


The same is true of the synthetic oestrogens, and the amounts you are exposed to. In a normal cycle, free from birth control, oestrogen levels rise and fall providing balance in the body, whereas taking the pill everyday gives your body a steady stream of oestrogen throughout the month. This of course impacts your reproductive system, but also negatively affects your brain chemistry, gut health and liver function too.




The Heart-Womb Connection


The menstrual cycle not only affects the physical body, but is intrinsically linked to your energetic and emotional bodies too.


Every month as you go through the cycle and come to the menstrual phase, you are releasing blood and shedding the previous month's uterine lining, but you're also releasing emotions and stuck energy and receiving insights from the previous cycle.


In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the energy of the heart and womb are intimately connected. Any heavy emotions or emotional disturbances felt by the heart are processed down to be released by the womb.


This can help to explain why, during times of stress or if you ignore your emotional needs, PMS symptoms, cramping and pain can increase. The only way to release an emotion is to feel it, one way or another.


So when we don't go through this cycle, things can build up energetically and emotionally, which may be a reason for symptoms such as mood disturbances, anxiety and depression associated with hormonal contraceptive use.



Using Herbs To Rebalance


Your body will experience lots of changes when you decide to come off the pill so it is important to support it as much as you can.


Herbs can be used to help your body find its natural balance and rhythm again, and any symptoms that come up, either those experienced pre-pill or post-pill, can often be remedied by some gentle supportive herbs.


While "hormone balancing" herbs can be of benefit and can be very effective in treating symptoms of hormone imbalance, it's best not to rely too heavily on these right away to give your body a chance to rebalance and correct on its own.


Instead focussing on herbs that support the liver and the body's natural detox processes, restore the gut, and replenish the nervous system can offer a smoother and more sustainable way to help your body find balance.




Supporting The Liver

The liver is your body's natural detoxifier and has over 500 identified vital functions in the body. Namely for the sake of this post, it is key in metabolising, neutralising and eliminating excess hormones from the body. Sex hormones are fat-soluble so the liver converts them to water-soluble compounds which are then more easily excreted by the body. This is why it is crucial to support liver function when coming off the pill or if you are experiencing any of the symptoms of oestrogen-dominance detailed above.


The more you are doing to support your liver, the more you are doing to support your hormone balance.


Some of my favourite herbs to gently but effectively support liver function for hormone balance include:

  • Dandelion root/leaf (Taraxacum officinalis)

  • Burdock root (Arctium lappa)

  • Milk Thistle (Carduus marianus)

  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

  • Vervain (Verbena officinalis)

  • Yellow Dock (Rumex crispus)

These herbs can all be found in the LIVER LOVER Tincture which you can find here.


Alternatively, you can buy or mindfully forage these herbs and add some dandelion leaves to your salad, or make a decoction by adding a handful of your chosen herbs to a pot and gently simmering in boiling water for 15-20 mins and drinking a cup 1-3 times a day.


* Note for working with liver stimulating and supporting herbs:

Energetically, the liver is the seat of anger in the body and where it is stored if not fully expressed, so when working with these herbs be mindful of your emotions and take some time to journal if you need. Anger is a healthy and normal human emotion that allows us to communicate our boundaries and when they have been crossed. You could experience some releases of anger so make sure you find a healthy outlet.




Supporting The Nervous System

As the body experiences the many changes that comes with stopping hormonal birth control, your nervous system will be undergoing a lot of stress. Stress can also contribute to hormonal imbalance, so it is extra important to nourish your nerves throughout this time.


Stress has been a part of life since time began - it may have looked a little different through the ages but the physiological effects on the body are mostly unchanged - and humans have always looked to herbs to strengthen our body and mind to navigate stress effectively.


While it is also important to reduce and manage stress in your life and lifestyle where possible, nervine and adaptogenic herbs can be used to support the nervous system and help mitigate the effects of and build resilience to stress.


Some wonderful herbs to help restore peace and balance in the body and mind include:

  • Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata)

  • Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora)

  • Ashwagandha root (Withania somnifera)

  • Milky Oat Tops / Oat Straw (Avena sativa)

  • Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)

  • St John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) (*not to be used alongside any pharmaceutical medication as it can reduce their effectiveness)

Many of these herbs can be found in the CALM SPIRIT Tincture which you can find here.


Alternatively, making an infusion with one of these or a selection of nervines can be an extra calming and relaxing way to take your herbs. Simply add 1-2tsp of your chosen herb(s) and pour on freshly boiled water. Allow to infuse for at least 10 minutes before enjoiyng. Drinking at least 3 cups daily is ideal when you are experiencing high levels of stress.


Bonus points for carving out the time in your day for a relaxing tea drinking ritual and meditation.




Supporting Gut Health And Mineral Balance

Many people are now aware that just one round of antibiotics can severely impact your gut health, potentially causing gut chaos for up to 2 years. Unfortunately, the pill has also been shown to negatively affect the balance of our good and bad gut bacteria in a similarly severe way.


How does the pill impact gut health?

  • Most pills contain iron which may contribute to bloating, constipation and disrupt gut microbiome balance.

  • The disruption of the gut microbiome negatively impacts the oestrobolome (oestrogen metabolising bacteria) causing more oestrogen to be reabsorbed rather than properly excreted by the bowels, further contributing to excess oestrogen.

  • Can influence the intestinal lining of the gut causing inflammation, leaky gut, allergies and inflammatory bowel conditions such as Crohn's Disease.

  • The pill influences the functioning of the thyroid which can further impact digestive processes as thyroid hormones are important to regulate digestion.

As well as all of this, the pill is known to deplete the body of vital nutrients such as B vitamins, vitamin C, zinc and magnesium. These vitamins and minerals are not only vital for the health of your gut and microbiome, but your entire body, including your nervous and reproductive systems.


B Vitamins

  • Several B vitamins are essential for regular and healthy ovulation

  • Essential for detoxification of hormones by the liver

  • Reduces PMS symptoms

  • Helps with energy production to helps reduce fatigue

My favourite source of bioavailable B vitamins would definitely be Beef Liver. This really is one of Nature's multivitamins. As well as B vitamins including folate and B12, beef liver contains vitamin A, selenium, copper, choline and is a good source of protein.


Try to find organic, grass-fed beef liver from your local butcher if possible, but if you find the taste a bit much for you or want a more convenient way to get your daily dose I recommend trying Hirsch Organic supplements. You can use code "POPPY10" at checkout for 10% off your order.


Other sources of B vitamins include:

  • Other organ meats, particularly liver (from beef, lamb, pork or chicken)

  • Meat, fish (particularly wild salmon), eggs, milk

  • Leafy greens such as spinach, collard greens and turnip greens


Zinc

  • Zinc nourishes the ovarian follicles and is essential for healthy, regular ovulation to help naturally produce your sex hormones again

  • Protects cells from oxidative stress and supports proper functioning of the immune system

  • Helps to maintain healthy hair, skin and nails

The best source of zinc we have available to us are oysters, another one of Nature's multivitamins. Just 3 oysters provide almost 5 times the daily recommended intake of Zinc, Vitamin B12, and copper, as well as being a natural source of iodine, which supports healthy thyroid function.


The OysterMax supplement is a great choice if you're trying to replenish your mineral stores but don't have the resources to be eating oysters every day! Use code "POPPY10" at checkout for 10% off.


Other sources of zinc include:

  • Shellfish, beef, turkey, tuna, cheddar

  • Nuts, seeds, whole grains and legumes

  • Fermented soy, ginger root, leeks, swiss chard, tahini


Magnesium

  • Supports healthy detoxification, stable moods, and regular ovulation

  • Supports healthy muscle and nerve function

  • Improves stress resilience and relaxation

  • Reduces period pain, muscle soreness, and headaches/migraines

  • Regulates blood pressure and blood sugar levels

  • Supports energy production

Magnesium is most readily absorbed transdermally (via the skin) so swimming in salt water, such as the sea, is a great way to naturally boost your magnesium supplies. If this is not possible BetterYou have a great range of magnesium products, such as bath salts, sprays, and body lotions. Click here for 10% off their entire range of products.


Other sources of magnesium include:

  • Almonds, peanuts and cashews

  • Barley, rice and wheat

  • Cod, salmon, mackerel and eggs

  • Cocoa and molasses

  • Figs, avocadoes, raspberries and bananas

  • Kelp, leafy greens, broccoli and parsnips

  • Lima beans, kidney beans, chick peas and black beans



I always recommend natural food-based supplementation over synthetics as they are much more readily absorbed and utilised by the body. Many supplements and multivitamins on the market are synthetic and are never actually properly taken up by your cells, so you are just paying for very expensive urine! The natural mineral-mineral ratios needed by your body are also not often taken into account, which can lead to further mineral imbalance and disruption. If in doubt, just stick with Nature.



Some herbal remedies that can improve gut function and motility, support remineralisation, rebalance the gut microbiome, and reduce inflammation include:

  • Alfalfa (Medicago sativa)

  • Dandelion root (Taraxacum officinalis)

  • Psyllium husk (Plantago psyllium)

  • Marshmallow root (Althaea officinalis)

  • Burdock root (Arctium lappa)

  • Calendula flowers (Calendula officinalis)

Many of these herbs can be found in BELLY LOVE, our prebiotic gut restore powder, which was created to support gut (and liver) function and soothe inflammation, while also providing Vitamins K, A and C as well as calcium, potassium, iron and magnesium.




Supporting And Strengthening The Reproductive System

Depending on how long you have been on the pill, a certain degree of stagnation may have built up in your womb space and reproductive system. The cervical mucous ducts may have become clogged, which can have some implications for fertility if you are looking to conceive. Stagnation in the womb space can also manifest as painful or heavy periods, blood clots, cysts, fibroids, endometriosis and PMS so if you have experienced these pre or post-pill the following herbs may hold some benefit for you.


Uterine tonics and emmenagogues include:

  • Raspberry leaf

  • Nettle leaf

  • Calendula flowers

  • Rose flowers

  • Mugwort

  • Motherwort


Emmenagogues are herbs that stimulate blood flow to the uterus and reproductive systems to clear stagnation and can promote menstruation.


Uterine tonic herbs have astringent properties that help to tone and strengthen the womb.


You can find many of these herbal allies in our delicious and nutrient-rich WOMB WELLNESS herbal tea, which can be enjoyed at any point during your cycle to deeply nourish yourself and reconnect you to the power and strength of your womb.



Additional Suggestions


You may have been using hormonal contraception for some time, and even though you may be ready to come off it for whatever reason, you may still be nervous to experience your natural cycle again, especially if you experienced difficulties in the past. Or maybe you're simply curious to discover more of what your cycle can tell you and want to reconnect to its wisdom.


There are a few ways you can start to strengthen your connection to your womb and your cycle.

  • Take some time to check in with your womb space each morning and/or evening. Place both hands over your womb, take a few deep belly breaths, and ask how she is and if she has a message for you. Try not to expect anything, simply observe what arises. If you don't initially hear or receive anything, be patient. Building a consistent practice will help you become more sensitive to the voice of your womb.


  • Just as Nature has 4 seasons following a cyclical pattern, so does your body. Your own inner seasons of Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn correspond to the menstrual, follicular, ovulatory and luteal phases. Learning about the wisdom of each season, understanding what the hormonal and physiological realities mean for your day-to-day life, and learning how to live in accordance with your inner seasons can help to optimise your energy, mood, and overall health and wellbeing, as well as improving your trust in your body and her wisdom. This topic deserves a post of its own so watch out for this in future. Subscribe to the newsletter to be the first to hear about new posts.


  • Measuring your basal body temperature (BBT) each morning can help you to track your cycle and help you know if and when you are ovulating once you stop taking the pill. During the luteal phase of your cycle, just after ovulation, you will have a sustained rise in your BBT. Your BBT will drop again just before the start of menstruation. This, alongside other Fertility-Awareness Methods, can also be used as a method of identifying your 6-day fertile window to either help you conceive or avoid pregnancy. Again, I will discuss this further in a future post.


  • Give yourself and your womb the gift of intentional loving touch by building a regular womb self-massage practice - ideally daily or at least 3 times weekly. By doing this you can help to calm your nervous system, support your digestive and reproductive health, and help you reconnect to your womb space. Find a guided video in a future post. Alternatively, you can receive a full womb massage treatment by booking here.



Lastly, I want to emphasise the importance of being patient and gentle with yourself during this time. Healing takes time and it can take 6-12 months for your body to find her balance again. Thankfully these steps can help to shorten that time and ease the process, and help you to tap in to the power that comes with understanding and fully flowing with your cycle in the process.


I'd love to hear if you found this post helpful.


Let me know what your biggest take aways are and what has helped you to balance your hormones after hormonal birth control in the comments.


*This post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice.*


*This article contains affiliate links. I only ever recommend products that I use and love myself.*





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