I took birth control for nearly 20 years before I realized the toll it was having on my body. At age 34, I got the Mirena IUD which works by releasing synthetic progesterone into the local area of the uterus. But there are progesterone receptors all over the body that are neglected when the IUD is in place, since it acts only locally. It seemed like it aged me overnight, made me anxious, interfered with my sleep and caused cystic acne. I had it removed after only one year, but the damage was done–at least temporarily. It took me nearly 2 years to get back to feeling like “me.” Once the IUD is pulled, the body has not been accustomed to making its own natural progesterone so progesterone bottoms out, however estrogen is still present. This leads to a relative estrogen dominance which can be pretty miserable. I was one of those girls that was always moodier on birth control too. But underneath the irritability was a slight chronic sadness that I could not put my finger on. I almost felt like the world was not as bright when my hormones were synthetically supplemented. Trees looked less green and the sun didn’t make me smile quite as much. I also realize that, statistically birth control pills are not supposed to cause THAT many girls to gain weight, but I was one of those girls. And it seemed that the more women I spoke to, the more I realized I was not the only one who had these symptoms.
Approximately 98% of sexually active women have taken birth control at some point in their lives and 62% of women are currently on birth control. Hormonal contraceptives, better known as birth control pills, are synthetically-made hormones that aim to mimic the effects of our body’s own natural hormones. They can do this a number of ways including:
- Preventing ovulation by blocking the release of the egg through the use synthetic hormones
- If ovulation does occur: stopping uterine wall implantation by disrupting sperm cilia, affecting the buildup of the uterine wall or stimulating cervical mucus which prevents implantation
THE RISKS THAT COMES WITH THE PILL AND THE IUD
So lets be real. How good or bad are synthetic hormones? Well they aren’t as bad as Premarin, the hormonal replacement therapy made from pregnant horse urine, but they still are not healthy. More than 20 studies have shown the connection between birth control pills and breast cancer. Other studies have linked birth control pills to altered gut bacteria, immunity, increased risk of heart attack and strokes. The World Health Organization conducted a study that found that women who have taken the pill for 5-9 years are 3 times more likely to develop cervical cancers (as compared to non pill takers). Hows that for decreasing immunity since cervical cancer is mainly caused by Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)? The World Health Organization also categorizes oral contraceptives as a Type 1 carcinogen. Women who take low dose birth control are nearly twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack. Birth control pills have been linked to insulin resistance and a higher risk of diabetes. They also increase your risk for clotting and pose a real problem to young women who choose to take the pill and smoke, which together cause a pro-clotting state. In fact, one of my best friend’s suffered a blood clot in the leg, that then broke off and went to her lungs. This is called a pulmonary embolism and can sometimes be life threatening! And thats not all…a recent study showed a convincing link between the pill and depression…which I think most of us gals can agree on! Its easy to feel down when your hormones are askew.
The IUD comes with its own risks as well. Not only does the Mirena mess with the natural hormone ratio and cycles, but additional risks of ALL IUDs include uterine perforation, infections like PID (pelvic inflammatory disease) or an ectopic pregnancy, which is when an embryo implants in the Fallopian tubes rather than the uterus. More rare consequences are cramping, painful periods or sex and even fertility. Even the copper IUD can lead to copper toxicity, which is especially prominent in those with adrenal dysfunction. Copper overload can also cause Phase 2 liver detoxification problems.
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOUR HORMONES ARE IMBALANCED?
- mood swings
- weight gain around the abdomen
- painful, heavy or scant periods
- fibrocystic or “lumpy” breast tissue
- insomnia, waking up in the early morning ruminating about things you have to do the next day
- anxiety, flightiness
- brain fog
- aging skin
- adult acne, especially around the jawline and chin
- low libido
- night sweats, hot flashes
- ovarian cysts and fibroids
I’m sure many of us, even men included, have some of these symptoms. Conventional medicine and OB/gyns often prescribe birth control pills to “control” acne, mood swings, irregular periods, and to balance hormones. This works for some women, but at what long term cost? Could there be a better way to naturally balance hormones and get to the root of the problem? Trading out personal care products, food, and plastics for healthier, organic, or glass substitutes can help hormones as many of these contain endocrine disrupters. For hormone balancing herbs, check out my blog post here. https://drjess.com/5-herbs-help-balance-hormones/
LIFESTYLE TIPS FOR IMPROVING HORMONES:
- Pranayama breathing from yoga. Think the Darth Vader breath that everyone in yoga uses! This breath stimulates the vagus nerve that controls our relaxation system and helps to calm the nervous and hormonal systems.
- Yoga, meditation, and mindfulness all help to foster a sense of gratitude. Gratitude stimulates serotonin and oxytocin production, two hormones responsible for happiness and love.
- Forgiveness and quelling reactivity can help replace negative feedback patterns that control thinking and behaviors
- Heal any adrenal fatigue since the stress hormone cortisol can steal progesterone, throwing off the whole hormonal cascade
- Omega 3 fatty acids, like fish, krill or flaxseed oil can help to balance cholesterol which makes the sex hormones
- Hormone Master, Vitex, licorice, DIM, and Maca can all help to balance hormones
- Liver cleanses and liver cleansing herbs/foods help to balance hormones by preventing recirculating estrogen and include milk thistle, burdock root, beets, carrots and NAC.
- Check Vitamin D levels and cholesterol levels as both are tied intimately into the balance of hormones.
- Cut out dairy, processed sugar and carbs
WAIT THERES A WAY TO PREVENT PREGNANCY SAFELY WITHOUT CHEMICALS, HORMONES OR IMPLANTS?
Some people are surprised to learn there is a extensively researched computer that can track your cycle down to pinpoint accuracy using core body temperature. This is the basis for some old rhythm methods but has come a loooong way!
- My number one choice (and the one I’ve used for years now) is the Daysy Fertility Monitor https://ca.daysy.me which uses the fertility awareness method (FAM) by learning your own unique cycle. It is 99.3% accurate! It is a German computer built inside a thermometer that measures temperature down to 1/100 of a degree precision. Each morning, before getting out of bed, take your temperature. It takes the Daysy about a month to learn your own cycle. Once it does, it flashes a green light if it is safe to have sex or a red light if you are fertile. If yellow, this means Daysy is still learning about your cycle. It costs anywhere from $350-450 and has been a Godsend.
- OvaCue Fertility monitor is a close second at 98.3% accuracy. It uses the Electrolyte Method to predict ovulation and has been tested by the National Institute of Health. Throughout a woman’s cycle, different electrolytes increase or decrease and are quite measurable. HELLO-think sodium retention right before you start your period? I haven’t personally used this one but do know it is a safely and accurate alternative method.
- Queen Annes Lace has been used for centuries by ancient cultures to prevent pregnancy. PLEASE NOTE THAT QUEEN ANNES LACE, OR WILD CARROT SEEDS, CAN BE USED AS THE MORNING AFTER PILL AND THEREFORE IS KNOWN AS AN ABORTIFACTANT. Not a lot of human studies exist on Queen Annes Lace as birth control but there are some small animal studies which show the seeds disrupt the implantation process or can cause the fertilized egg to be released from the wall. Take one teaspoon immediately after sex and continue for seven days.
- Neem Oil has also been paired with Queen Annes Lace to help prevent unwanted pregnancy. Neem is a spermicidal and the gel can be used as such.
- Smartweed infusions can be used after intercourse to also prevent implantation. It contains elements of gallic acid, quercetin and rutin. The period should begin shortly after consuming.
Trust me one of the best ways to prevent aging and prolong your health is to take care of your hormones!
You are becoming your own best doctor