8 Months off the Pill: Here’s How I'm Feeling
Eight months ago I began a gut healing journey, and there’s plenty to update on! In case you missed part one, read it here.
Note: I am not a doctor nor an expert in this field. I am just a girl sharing my own personal experience, and I cannot tell you what to do. Take this in as information, do your research, and consult your doctor.
Here’s the deal: I’ve been struggling with chronic gut issues for years, including severe bloating, sharp needle-like pains, constipation (I'm talking 4-5 days at a time), hives, brain fog, and anxiety. I decided to see a functional medicine doctor through joining Parsley Health, because all of the other doctors, gastroenterologists, and specialists were just prescribing me medicine instead of getting to the root of my issues. After my first appointment with my new doctor at Parsley Health, we established a game plan to begin the healing process, and it required zero drugs.
My Gut Healing Protocol
In October/November of 2017, my doctor diagnosed me with candida and leaky gut and urged me to do several things in order to heal my gut. First, I started the elimination diet. I cut out the most common inflammatory foods such as dairy, wheat, corn, soy, and eggs (for me, eggs specifically hurt my stomach).
Next, I quit hormonal birth control (HBC). My doctor concluded the pill was affecting me more than I realized (disrupting my microbiome), and I should stop it immediately. The pill is notoriously linked to Crohn's Disease, and other GI and stomach issues, and I was on HBC for 9 years. It was originally prescribed to me as a way to treat my acne. Looking back, I wish I knew more about the weight of my decision to put synthetic hormones into my body. Doctors don't talk about it enough, and this needs to change. Oftentimes, when the pill is prescribed for things other than preventing pregnancy (acne, cramps, and irregular periods), it's just slapping a band-aid on a larger hormonal issue that needs to be addressed. Now that I'm off the pill, I'm handling all of those hormonal issues that were masked by the pill.
Fast forward a few months, I continued the elimination diet, because I was feeling worlds better. In January of 2017, I did very extensive blood testing (around 35 vials were drawn), and it confirmed I was allergic to wheat, eggs, and corn. Dairy and soy didn’t show up as an allergy, but I limit my consumption as I would a sensitivity.
That leads me to now. 8 months after going off the pill.
Here's what I've been experiencing...
1. Hormonal Acne (but thankfully not anymore!)
My skin started to break out a month after I quit the pill, and it continued down this road until about 2 months ago. I owe my current state of glowing skin to the below:
Evening Primrose Oil supplements for balancing hormones
Avoiding my allergens (although, I do 'indulge' once in a while) - wheat, eggs, and corn...and very limited amounts of dairy, soy, and refined sugar.
And most of all bioClarity - I am so pleasantly surprised by this brand. bioClarity reached out THREE times before I finally agreed to try it. Spoiler alert: it actually worked super well, and my skin cleared up. So, I’m recommending it to you. Get 50% off with the code 'OMCITY'.
I do get occasional breakouts around my period, but it's nothing major and that's quite normal. My skin is finally the clearest it has been since I quit the pill.
2. Hair Loss
For me, this is the most alarming side effect, and it’s one that I knew was common when quitting the pill. I’ve been assured by my doctor that ‘this too shall pass’, and it’s up to my body to balance itself out.
Keeping my stress levels low - Despite pulling out clumps of hair in the shower, I’m doing my best not to worry too much. I’m spending more time doing things that make me happy (yoga, meditation, being outdoors) and spending less time glued to my phone.
Collagen Peptides - I started taking collagen peptides regularly two years ago, but I’ve definitely been slacking in the last year. Now I’m happy to say, my pantry is fully stocked, and I’m back to adding it to my morning matcha. Collagen helps promote hair growth, strong nails, and is packed with clean protein.
Not styling my hair as frequently - I wash it only twice a week. I limit the number of times I use heat on my hair for styling. I wear more braids, more hats, and headscarves.
3. Mood Swings
When I originally wrote about my post-HBC experience on MindBodyGreen, I mentioned my PMS was slightly stronger. This still rings true. I've noticed that my mood does, ummm, swing from time to time. It's usually before my period, and I don't always realize it in the heat of the moment. I cry hysterically like my entire world is crashing, I feel depressed, I make a big deal over little things. Yes, I admit it all. But, luckily, it's really just around period time, and it IS getting better.
Regular meditation practice - I can't say it enough... meditation is one of the best things you can do to manage your stress, anxiety, and invite more love, compassion, and understanding into your life.
Drinking more matcha and less coffee - While I don't like to admit it, drinking coffee every day may not be best for me personally. I do still drink it a few times a months if I crave it, but I don't feel like I HAVE to have it anymore (and no more caffeine headaches!). I love and crave my daily matcha in the mornings (see my recipe here). I'm less jittery, and I feel so much more focused yet peaceful in the mornings.
Open communication with my partner - Mood swings can definitely put a strain on a relationship, because it puts every little thing under a microscope. I can't pretend that I've been an angel through this process, but I do know not every issue that comes up is directly related to my mood. My feelings are justified, so it's important to remember that. BUT, how you voice your feelings is important, so I do my best to think before I speak. Of course, it doesn't always happen that way, but I'm practicing patience, openness, and vulnerability daily.
4. Mental Clarity
Since I quit the pill, I’ve gained so much mental clarity in my work and personal life. Of course, this can also be attributed to eating cleaner and avoiding my allergens, but I do feel the pill is a large contributor to my clarity. I now have a small team of 3 working with me, I launched the Healthy Hustle workbook, and I am about to roll out a few more exciting things in the next month or two. I feel SUPER productive these days.
5. Less Anxiety, More Peace of Mind
I was on the birth control pill for 9 YEARS. Every morning I’d wake up, pop a pill, and wonder how putting synthetic hormones could be affecting my long-term health. I hated having to rely on a pill every day. I didn’t like the feeling of knowing I would need to stop one day when I wanted kids but was too scared of the aftermath. I knew the longer I waited to get off of it, the more issues I could potentially have. There’s no convenient time to get off the pill/deal with symptoms but it’s just something you have to face for yourself because everyone reacts differently.
Alternatives to Hormonal Birth Control
Non-Hormonal Copper IUD (Paragard) - I personally did not do this, because I hear it’s quite painful, and I don't want a foreign object in my body. The IUD can last for around ten years. Speak to your doctor about this one. It’s a one and done option, but there is still some controversy with the effects of copper in your body.
Non-Toxic Condoms - Whole Foods carries a non-toxic brand called Sustain, and Lola (the organic tampon brand) just launched subscription-based condoms they ship to your house, which is quite convenient.
Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) - I heard wonderful things about the brand Daysy. While I haven't personally tried it, I'm looking into it. I recommend following my friend Carly (@frolicandflow). She speaks a lot about this method and has a $20 discount code for Daysy on her highlights.
It's normal to look for answers when your body is experiencing noticeable side effects. You can help balance hormones by taking daily adaptogens like gelatinized maca or ashwagandha, trying acupuncture, and taking all kinds of supplements like zinc, B vitamins, and more. But, just know sometimes your body requires time and patience. So, remember that, and be kind to yourself during this transition.
All in all, I'm very happy with my decision, and I feel so much more in tune with my body. I finally feel like I'm healing my body from the inside out instead of temporarily masking symptoms. It's very empowering to take back control of my body.