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Coming off the birth control pill: How to manage side effects

How to manage side effects of coming off the birth control pill, from a Vancouver holistic nutritionist.
How to manage side effects of coming off the birth control pill, from a Vancouver holistic nutritionist.

Whether you started the birth control pill to manage your periods, clear your skin, or simply as an effective form of contraception, going off the Pill is known to cause some adverse side effects as your body re-adjusts. Thankfully, there are simple steps we can take together to minimize negative side effects and give your body the support it needs to safely return to its pre-pill state.

Ready to start feeling like yourself again? Keep reading for my best tips on managing the effects of coming off the birth control pill through nutrition!

1. Replenish your body with nutrient-rich foods

Did you know the Pill depletes many important nutrients that your body needs, including antioxidants, B vitamins, selenium and zinc? Your body will be looking for ways to supplement all these nutrients – and the simplest way is through your diet. Choosing nutrient-rich foods can help minimize any side effects of coming off a birth control pill, help your body expel excess estrogen, and heal from any damage done by the Pill.

Foods to enjoy

  • Healthy fats (avocado, coconut oil, cold-water fish, macadamia nut oil, olive oil)

  • Organic fruits and vegetables

  • High-quality protein

  • Bone broth

Foods to avoid

  • Inflammatory fats (trans fats, processed foods, fast foods, canola oil, corn oil)

  • Gluten

  • Soy

  • Sugar

  • Dairy

  • Caffeine

  • Alcohol

How to manage side effects from coming off the pill, from a Vancouver Holistic Nutritionist
Replenish your body with nutrient-rich foods to minimize side effects, help your body expel excess estrogen, and heal any damage caused by the pill.

2. Love up your liver with a liver detox

Supporting your body with a liver detox is an essential step in the recovery of your hormonal health. I recommend doing it right away as this can move the needle the most as you transition off the Pill.

As expected, your diet is the best way to support your liver health. Many foods contain the vital nutrients you need, including diindolylmethane (DIM) and sulphur, to feed the good gut bugs that help your body process and expel excess estrogen.

Liver detox diet

  • Fibre. To help support regular bowel movements and manage estrogen levels, I recommend aiming for 25 grams of fibre per day.

  • Water. Drinking water will also help regulate your bowel movements and remove excess estrogen from your body. During a detox, add about 20oz per day to half your weight in oz to get your recommended intake.

  • Cruciferous Vegetables. A variety of vegetables, including broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli sprouts, and bok choy, will give you a boost of healthy vitamins and minerals. Cruciferous vegetables not only help to clear natural estrogens from the body, but also many other foreign chemical compounds. Additionally, sulforaphane has been shown to reduce oxidative stress, increase oxidant capacity, support glutathione synthesis, improve mitochondrial function, and reduce inflammation. Aim for 3-6 cups of vegetables daily.

  • High quality protein. Choose organic whenever possible. Look for grass-fed meats, pasture-raised eggs, and wild-caught fish. Other good sources of protein include legumes, nuts, and seeds. Aim for 1.2-1.8g/kg of body weight daily.

  • Healthy Fats. Replace unhealthy fats with healthier fats like avocados, cold-pressed olive oil, coconut oil, macadamia nut oil, and olives to help regulate your blood sugars and provide you with energy to create hormones. I recommend 44g to 77g of fat per day.

In addition, I recommend choosing organic protein and produce and buying as fresh as possible to avoid purchasing food in plastic containers as they leach harmful chemicals. Avoid using plastic containers when reheating meals in your microwave as well, as they can release xenoestrogens.

Liver detox supplements

To support your detoxification diet, talk to your nutritionist about adding liver-detoxing supplements, including:

  • N-acetylcysteine (NAC). NAC is a precursor to glutathione and helps by improving mood, fertility, and gut function. It may also reduce the risk of miscarriage. Take 600 to 900 milligrams twice daily.

  • Calcium-D-glucarate. This form of vitamin D aids in liver detoxification and the elimination of excess estrogen in your body. Take 50 to 1,000 milligrams daily, depending on the severity of your symptoms.

  • Dandelion root tea. This delicious tea supports healthy liver detoxification and can make a great replacement beverage if you’re also trying to cut coffee from your diet. Try drinking one to three cups daily.

How to manage side effects from coming off the pill, from a Vancouver Holistic Nutritionist
Supporting your body with a liver-detoxifying diet is an essential step in the recovery of your hormonal health.

3. Support your gut

Chronic medication use, like birth control pills, is one of the major offenders that alters your microbiome. Birth control pills disrupt normal flora and produce an environment that could encourage the growth of harmful bacteria and yeast.

Research has shown that the Pill can inflame the digestive tract and cause so much immune dysregulation that it increases the risk for autoimmune disease of the gut. During this time, intestinal hyperpermeability, or leaky gut, can develop, but taking steps to balance your hormones can help restore your body’s natural ability to regulate your gut function and health.

Healthy gut-promoting foods

Bone broth is a tasty way to heal symptoms of leaky gut. It contains vegetables, herbs, and animal bones which contain vitamins, minerals, and amino acids (glycine and proline) to promote healing of any microscopic damage done by the pill.

Other healthy gut-promoting foods to include in your diet include:

  • Sauerkraut

  • Dill pickles

  • Water kefir

  • Coconut yogurt

  • Other fermented foods

Healthy gut supplements

  • L-Glutamine. This amino acid has been shown to improve intestinal cell health and reduce leaky gut associated with chronic medication use. The cells of your intestines regenerate every three to six days, and this amino acid can aid in this healing. Typical adults should take a supplement with 1.5 to 5 grams, two to three times daily for thirty to ninety days.

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3s include alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). They are showing promise in reducing inflammation, supporting a healthy mood and brain function, and improving overall gut health. Mackerel, salmon, sardines, and other cold-water fish are excellent sources of EPA and DHA. Supplement with 1,000 to 4,000 milligrams of combined EPA and DHA daily.

Lifestyle strategies to support your gut

You can also make small lifestyle changes to support your gut and overall health when coming off birth control. Some mindfulness and lifestyle strategies to try include:

  • Eating in a relaxed state

  • Practice mindfulness eating (no multitasking while you eat)

  • Avoid drinking fluids during meals

  • Sing out loud to reduce stress

  • Avoid moderate to intense physical activity within an hour after eating so you can properly digest and rest

  • Practice meditation or deep breathing

  • Get castor oil belly massages with peppermint oil

How to manage side effects from coming off the pill, from a Vancouver Holistic Nutritionist
Bone broth is a tasty, nutrient-rich option to heal a leaky gut and promote gut health.

4. Eliminate inflammatory foods

The first 30 days of your detox are critical and may include eliminating certain inflammatory foods from your diet. After 30 days, you’ll gradually re-introduce them one by one, a few days apart, to determine any food sensitivities.

Need a little help replacing inflammatory foods with something healthier? Here are some food substitutions and replacement options for you:

  • Butter: coconut oil, coconut butter, olive oil, camel hump fat, lard

  • Cheese: nut cheese, nutritional yeast

  • Ice Cream: almond ice cream, cashew ice cream, coconut ice cream

  • Milk: coconut milk, cashew milk, almond milk, camel’s milk

  • Whey Protein: hydrolyzed beef protein, pea protein, cricket meal, bone broth protein

  • Yogurt: almond yogurt, cashew yogurt, coconut yogurt

If you’re looking for a few energy-boosting alternatives while you’re cutting caffeine from your diet, here are some alternatives:

  • Maca Latte. With a light nutty and malt flavour, maca lattes are made from a mix of spices and offer a natural energy boost, help balance hormones, and enhance vitality.

  • Upgraded Golden Milk. A traditional Ayurvedic drink, golden milk can be made both vegan and dairy-free with turmeric for a nutrient-rich beverage that’s super smooth and creamy.

  • Mushroom elixirs. Mushroom elixirs have various health-boosting effects, and many companies, such as Four Sigmatic and SuperFeast, make instant elixirs. Be aware that some “mushroom coffee” options are still mixed with coffee, so check the label for one that is exclusively mushroom-based!

  • Decaf matcha. With tons of antioxidants, whisk the green tea powder (matcha) into hot water or another non-dairy liquid: ½ to 1 teaspoon per 8 ounces of liquid.

  • Chicory and dandelion roots. When roasted, these take on a coffee-like flavour. Use ½ teaspoon each of chicory root and dandelion root per 8 ounces of water. Steep for 3 to 5 minutes, then strain.

  • Herbal teas

  • Spa water. I love to add cucumber, berries, lemon, or lime to water for added flavour!

How to manage side effects from coming off the pill, from a Vancouver Holistic Nutritionist
Replace your daily coffee with other energy-boosting beverages, like golden milk – a traditional Ayurvedic drink made from turmeric.

5. Talk to your nutritionist

After making your decision to go off the birth control pill, talk to your nutritionist and prepare to make nutritional and lifestyle changes to help minimize any adverse effects as your body returns to normal.

I specialize in hormone health, and am here to support your health journey at any stage. Schedule a free consultation today, and let’s talk about how we can make simple, nourishing changes so you can be a healthier version of yourself.

How to manage side effects from coming off the pill, from a Vancouver Holistic Nutritionist
Minimize adverse effects from transitioning off the birth control pill by talking to a holistic nutritionist.

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