I’m assuming you are here because like me, you are having the same battle about whether or not to go off the pill. You have a fear of what life will be like post pill- Will I gain weight? Will I get acne? Will I suffer with PMS symptoms? We have all heard the symptoms can be less than pleasant. Everybody’s symptoms are different but I am here to give you my personal experience and I can say with confidence, it was TOTALLY WORTH IT!
I went on the pill the summer before starting college, pretty typical of all girls after hearing horror stories about unwanted pregnancies and other terrible things that can happen while in college (none that I care to mention). To protect myself I went on the pill. Fortunately, the pill I was put on at age 18 was the exact same one when I quit it. Yes, 12 years of the exact brand and dosage. It worked for me, I had zero side effects and I felt pretty darn good on it.
So why did I decide to stop taking the pill you ask? No, I do not want to get pregnant. I have switched to a completely all natural lifestyle from the products I put on my body to the cleaning products I use to the food that I ingest. I had to question why I was still pumping my body with synthetic hormones. I was so ready to let my body just do its thing, naturally.
The 8 symptoms I experienced going off the pill:
1. Chronic Rhinitis This was the most debilitating symptom of them all and had me re-thinking my decision of going off. About a month post pill I started getting really bad vertigo, drowsiness, headaches and brain fog that lasted from the time I woke up until I went to bed, most days. I lived with this for a solid 4 months. At first I though it must be allergies.
First step: I went and had a blood test through my gyno to see where my hormones were at (this is not the best method and I do not recommend). My results showed that I had low estrogen and progesterone but since this was not a full panel I was still kind of left clueless. And naturally, my Gynocologist offers me to go back on on birth control to fix the situation, no thanks. Regardless of low hormones it did not stop the fact that I was still waking up feeling like I had a head cold every single morning.
Second step: I went to an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat Doctor) I had an MRI that concluded I had Chronic Rhinitis – inflammation of the sinus cavities. This could be caused from changes in the atmosphere, allergies, hormonal fluctuations, etc… Since I did move to Portland only a year prior and I spend the majority of my time outdoors I decided to get an allergy prick test done. Thankfully I was allergic to nothing, not even 1 out of the 100 allergens popped up. SCORE! After the test the ENT informed me that hormonal changes are actually a very common cause of chronic rhinitis. I decided to heal this on my own, naturally, which I did with a couple supplements and a neti pot. I felt much better but that still didn’t get to the root cause: hormone imbalance.
2. Coffee Intolerance
Now this is something I have never heard of and plan on doing more research. About a month after going off the pill I became very intolerant to coffee. Jitters, anxiety and brain fog immediately after having only a few sips. I have been drinking coffee every day for the past 10 years with no side effects. I am now a matcha latte type of gal and have nothing but a positive result when drinking it, leads me to believe it’s not caffeine but the actual coffee bean.
3. Painful Larger Breasts
NEVER HAVE I EVER! About 3 months post pill, I started having throbbing, painful to touch breasts right around ovulation time and it would last a full two weeks until I get my period. I could barely lay on my side at night without that throbbing pain. OUCH! Oh AND I have gone up an entire cup size! Why get a boob job? Just go off birth control…
4. Period Changes
Luckily, I got my first period post pill in 10 weeks. This was a shocker from all the research I had done it can take women up to a year to get it back. I started at about 40 days between each period and then gradually went down each month and right now I am at about 27-30 days. Nothing else big to report here, luckily they are pretty much exactly the same as they were while on the pill. I am one of the lucky ones who does not get PMS, mood swings, cramping or heavy periods.
Is this what it feels like to be a women? Ladies! I can feel myself ovulate, like REALLY feel it from the bloating to the cramping to the discharge to the painful larger breasts. Considering the pill stops ovulation from occurring this was all a first for me. Regardless of the pain I am in, I had no idea the women’s body could be so cool! This is also a huge plus since I don’t plan on having kids it’s a great natural birth control!
6. Skin Changes
Before going on the pill I never had breakouts or acne so I thought I was in the clear. I thought wrong. For a girl that has been blessed with beautiful skin and had maybe a handful of zits in her life, it is now safe to say I will have a breakout during my period every month. Ugh.
This symptom took a few months to set in but once it did, it never went away. Every single day my lower stomach felt so heavy and actually looked distended. At first I thought this was just around ovulation but realized it was turning into a daily occurrence no matter where I was at in my cycle.
8. Weight gain
This was my biggest fear and the one that unfortunatly came on the hardest. I gained a solid 12 pounds in just a few months post pill without any change to diet or lifestyle. Since I know this is hormone related (yes folks, our hormones play a huge role in weight loss or gain, not just that burger you ate for lunch), I decided to get to the bottom of it and go get a Hormone Saliva Test to figure out what the heck is going on.
Conclusion: Hormone Testing
I went to my Naturopath and she had me take an at home Hormone Saliva Test by Labrix. Unfortunately, most doctors and gynecologists will not do this type of testing. Your best bet is to go to a Naturopath or Functional Medicine Practitioner. I was one of those cases where I was doing everything right regarding diet and lifestyle but I was still having symptoms, in particular, the weight gain, breast changes and bloating so a hormone test seemed logical.
We did a full hormone panel testing for Cortisol Levels (morning, noon, evening), DHEA, Secretory IgA, Estrone E1, Estradiol E2, Estriol E3, Progesterone, and Testosterone.
Cortisol is your stress hormone and is produced in the adrenal glands. It is responsible in keeping us alert, prevents fatigue and brain fog, regulates metabolism, balances blood sugar, reduces inflammation, regulates salt and water balance in the body, and supports memory. It is a critical hormone for our well being.
DHEA is another hormone produced in the adrenal glands. These are the hormones that regulate fat and mineral metabolism, sexual and reproductive function, and energy levels. They support a healthy weight, healthy skin/ aging skin, supports libido, bone density, and well being.
Secretory IgA is the predominant antibody found on the mucosal membranes of the eyes, nose, throat, and gastrointestinal tract. It is the bodies first line of defense, these levels change with stress.
Estrone E1, Estradiol E2, Estriol E3 are forms of the hormone Estrogen. These Estrogens all play different roles in the body. Estrogen is made in the ovaries, adrenals and fat cells. Estrone in excess can create estrogen dominance, partially due to being exposed to xenoestrogens, such as heavy metals, pollutants, chemicals in your makeup, skin care products, cleaning products and pesticides in food. Estradiol is the major estrogen made in the ovaries. This hormone is known to play a huge role in energy, sleeping, seratonine levels, pleasure, sex drive, and healthy bones, skin, & hair. Estriol is made in the liver and breast cells. This is a highly protective form of estrogen that reduces cellular growth factors and other estrogens. Estriol reduces the more aggressive estrone.
Progesterone is produced in the fat cells. It works in the body to balance the effects of estrogen and is often referred to as the relaxing and “feel-good” hormone.
Testosterone plays a vital role in bone strength, brain function and the overall development of lean muscle mass and strength and enhances sex drive. It also helps contribute to a general sense of well-being, higher energy levels and a zest for life.
Estrogen and Progesterone counterbalance one another. There is an ideal ratio between the two. When one becomes deficient and the other prominent this is where we run into problems such as estrogen dominance and adrenal fatigue.
Some symptoms of a hormonal imbalance include weight gain, fatigue, low libido, difficulty sleeping, digestive problems, irregular period, PMS, depression and anxiety. Depending on what hormone is affected can alter what symptoms you would experience.
My Test Results:
Secretory IgA is ideal.
Cortisol, DHEA, All 3 Estrogens, Progesterone, and Testosterone were all very low. But regardless of my Estrogens being low, my Progesterone is SO LOW, it is actually causing estrogen dominance. My Cortisol is also very low indicating adrenal fatigue.
My results directly correlated with the symptoms I had been experiencing.
Currently, I am working on balancing out my hormones with my naturopath. I have been put on a supplement protocol which seems to be doing wonders so far (2 months out). I feel much less “heavy” and bloated, my breast pain has become minimal and I haven’t had any breakouts since.
Needless to say, if you feel you may have a hormonal imbalance don’t hesitate to do a saliva test and go on a doctor recommended protocol.
Supplements I am using or had used to help balance hormones:
Do not take any of these supplements before discussing with your doctor.