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  • Writer's picturePoppy

How to Come Off the Pill Safely

Updated: Jul 5

Last month I had a rant about the many downsides of hormonal birth control. Rant over.

This month I’d like to talk about how to come off the Pill (or coil, or implant), safely, re-balance your hormones and prevent any post-pill symptoms from developing.

Nasty withdrawal symptoms from the Pill include acne, irregular periods and problems conceiving... and these can last for up to a year, even more in some cases.

But I've got you - by implementing the steps outlined here, you can feel confident that you've got the bases covered, and start your natural cycling journey like a pro!

Let's consider some of these common scenarios... and explore the different ways to approach each of them.

1) You had normal periods before you started the Pill

You went on the Pill simply for contraception, and last time you tried to come off it your period returned as normal. This is the easiest scenario - just stop taking it.

During this time, pay attention to how much protein you're eating. A general rule of thumb for hormone health is to get 30g of good quality protein at each meal. Amino acids are the building blocks for hormone production, so if we're lacking in protein, we won't be able to produce the hormones we need to have regular healthy periods.

Sadly for the veggies out there, this means animal protein. You want to be eating eggs, fish, dairy and meat, daily. For some easy ways to do this, check out my most recent blog post, 8 easy meal prep hacks to support hormone-healthy eating.

The Pill also depletes your stores of the follwing essential nutrients, which is worth considering especially if you've been on it a long time. Make sure to include lots of the following foods in your diet, and supplement where necessary:

  • Vitamin C - citrus, leafy greens, berries, broccoli

  • Vitamin E - nuts, seeds, dark leafy greens

  • Zinc - beef, oysters

  • Selenium - chicken, sardines

  • Magnesium - best to supplement

  • B vitamins - best to supplement

Supplement brands I recommend for B vitamins & magnesium include Seeking Health, Jigsaw and Life Extension (see, I told you I had you covered!).

Vitex agnus castus or Chasteberry

If after three months your period has not returned, you may need some herbal assistance. This is where I recommend the ovulation stimulant herb Vitex agnus-castus.

Vitex promotes ovulation by encouraging the secretion of dopamine from the pituitary gland (in the brain), and reducing the secretion of prolactin. Less prolactin means better ovulation, and good ovulation creates more natural progesterone, which has natural anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory and circulatory effects.

Never take Vitex too soon after stopping the Pill, and don’t take it for longer than 3-6 consecutive months.

If after three months your period has not returned, you may need to take an ovulation stimulant herb such as Vitex agnus castus.

2) You had irregular periods before you started the Pill

You may have been put on the Pill to help ‘balance’ your hormones - and last time you stopped, your periods came back as irregular as before, or not at all.

In this case, you’ll need to ask yourself: “What is the problem with my periods?”

If you were put on the Pill as a teenager for irregular periods, chances are you may have simply grown out of that problem.

If not, reach out to your doctor or natural health practitioner to reach a diagnosis. Is it PCOS and insulin resistance? Are you under-eating and over-exercising? Are you deficient in a particular nutrient that is preventing ovulation?

A good place to start is with some blood tests. Check your insulin levels, thyroid function, mineral status and for gluten sensitivity - all these can affect ovulation.

Check your insulin levels, thyroid function, mineral status and for gluten sensitivity - all these can affect ovulation.

If you’re insulin resistant, eliminate sugar and simple carbohydrates from your diet, take magnesium and chromium, minimise stress and get some good quality sleep.

If your thyroid is functioning sub-optimally, remove gluten from your diet and see a natural health practitioner (me!) for further tests & advice.

If you test your minerals via HTMA and see that you are deficient in several key minerals, supplementing with these is sure to help your periods come back. I've seen it with my own eyes!

Finally, if you’ve been given a PCOS diagnosis but you’re not insulin resistant, you’ll need to explore this further. There are many sub-types and the condition is often wrongly diagnosed. My next article will be all about PCOS, so stay tuned for that.

Once you’ve made the necessary changes and you’re ready to stop the Pill, you may want to practice ‘lunaception’ to nudge your cycle back to regularity:

Sleep in a completely darkened room until the full moon, then sleep with your curtains open and facing towards the full moon for three nights every month. Sounds wacky, but this method helped one of my clients get pregnant many years ago!

3. You went on the Pill as a treatment for acne

Synthetic hormones block the production of skin oils and are therefore effective at clearing the skin - however, the skin compensates by making more oil, so when you stop the Pill the acne may come back even worse than before.

Start natural treatment at least one month before coming off the Pill - follow a sugar and dairy-free diet with limited refined carbs, take zinc and berberine, or the herb Barberry.

Barberry is a powerful antibacterial herb - it helps to re-establish a healthy gut flora and intestinal barrier and lowers chronic inflammation associated with conditions such as acne. It is also a potent insulin regulator and lowers blood glucose levels, which is important as too much insulin and glucose in the blood leads to oily skin and blocked pores.

Berberis vulgaris or Barberry

A 2012 Iranian study found a 45% reduction in acne amongst teenagers fed a daily dose of barberry for four weeks. Changes were not significant in the placebo group, leading the researchers to conclude that barberry is a safe and effective treatment for moderate to severe acne vulgaris.

Other herbs to use include liver herbs like dandelion root & milk thistle, and skin clearing herbs like burdock, calendula and gotu kola.

Post-pill acne is a condition that can happen even in women who haven’t suffered from acne in the past. All the above treatments will help - but persevere! These withdrawal symptoms can last up to 12 months after stopping the Pill.

If you're experiencing a stubborn case of acne, get in touch with my colleague Fieke, who healed her own acne and is now having great success helping clients kick this nasty condition.

Post-pill acne is a condition that can happen even in women who haven’t suffered from acne in the past.

4. You had very heavy and/or painful periods before the Pill

If this is you, you may be understandably worried about coming off the Pill.

Firstly, you’ll need to check whether you have any underlying gynaecological conditions like fibroids or endometriosis. If you do, you’ll need to seek proper treatment, ideally with both your doctor and natural health practitioner, before coming off the Pill.

If you don’t have any gynaecological issues, your heavy bleeding will be due to oestrogen excess. To detoxify from oestrogen, cut out alcohol and processed foods, go organic, avoid plastic, use natural skin care products and take diindolylmethane or DIM.

For period pain, start by reducing inflammation - go dairy, gluten and sugar-free and take 2-3 teaspoons of turmeric per day during your period, with your food or mixed into a drink like golden milk. These two simple strategies can yield dramatic results.

It is also possible to grow out of painful periods, just like irregular periods. My sister Molly, for example, stopped taking synthetic hormones only last year after having been on birth control for about 10 years straight. I coached her to make some simple dietary changes and her periods returned, regular and pain-free! So there is hope - it doesn't have to be hard.

If you've found this article useful, but want a personalised, step-by-step approach to solving your period problems, check out my program The Hormone Mastery Method. I'm currently accepting new clients at a discounted rate.

Next up: stay tuned for the lowdown on PCOS or polycystic ovarian syndrome...

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