Congratulations! You’ve decided to get off the Pill and stop using artificial hormones to suppress your menstrual cycle. Coming off these drugs is a huge step in the right direction for your overall health. Now what? What might you expect to see happen with your body as you make the switch? How can you support it with healthy food choices to bring back balance to your body?
Most drugs interact with and deplete one or more useful nutrients in the body. With so many drugs on the market, I hesitate to say all, but my two-inch-thick quick reference Drug-Nutrient Interaction handbook allows me to confidently say most. Oral contraceptives are no different.
Promote healthy blood sugar and a healthy weight after getting off the Pill
For example, being on the birth control Pill may alter the way your body processes sugars, particularly if a synthetic estrogen is the dominant ingredient. Research dating back to the 70s confirms that estrogen increases the level of cortisol (the stress hormone) in the blood. And, we’ve also known for some time now that cortisol and insulin “talk” to each other. Insulin, which regulates blood sugar, is a key player in the development of glucose intolerance and type 2 diabetes.
Knowing that birth control containing synthetic estrogens can throw off insulin balance means that those getting off the Pill might want to pay special attention to eating low glycemic carbs. Low glycemic carbs include:
- Beans and legumes like peas, lentils, and edamame
- Root vegetables like carrots, beets, sweet potatoes and parsnips
- Ancient grains like quinoa, amaranth, and spelt
- Seeds, especially flaxseed, which may help pull excess estrogens out of the body
- Higher fiber foods like raspberries, blackberries, kiwi, figs, persimmons and guava, if you’re lucky enough to access them
Fortunately, when it comes to weight, some women may be pleasantly surprised to find themselves naturally losing a few pounds after stopping hormonal contraception. If the Pill caused you to gain weight—either through fluid retention, or because it changed your eating patterns—you may find that getting off the Pill was the best weight loss plan you could have asked for. Of course, getting some extra exercise (although not to excess!) won’t hurt either.
Boost your heart health
Oral contraceptives are also known to boost heart disease risk, hence why smoking and being on the Pill is a big no-no. As your body works to eliminate the artificial hormones from your system, do your heart a favor and skip the trans fatty acids. Yes, you know which foods I mean: margarine and all those processed baked goods with hydrogenated oils. You just need a sprinkle of organic cold-pressed olive oil on your salad, a smidgeon of coconut oil in your pan or a handful of nuts here and there.
Research shows that oral contraceptives decrease levels of vitamin B12, vitamin E, and beta-carotene. All of these nutrients are important for heart health. Additionally, vitamin B12 is very important for proper nervous system functioning and metabolism, while vitamin E and beta-carotene help keep your skin looking good—which can be especially helpful if you’re suffering from post-pill acne.
To boost your levels of these nutrients, eat whole foods first before turning to supplements. B12 is found in animal foods, aka meat, dairy, and eggs, with spirulina and Brewer’s yeast being the vegetarian options. For Vitamin E–avocados, anyone? And beta-carotene is easy: any orange or dark green vegetable.
Detox your body
The Pill increases levels of vitamin A and D, two fat-soluble vitamins that can build up to toxic levels if present in enough excess. Levels do go down upon stopping the Pill, which led the British oral contraceptive researcher, Dr. Ellen Grant, to recommend cod liver oil to anyone getting off the Pill. Cod liver oil has both A and D, and a hefty dose of omega-3 EPA for your heart. Incidentally, Dr. Grant, a physician who used to prescribe birth control, later deemed oral contraceptives unsafe after decades of research and observing her own “hormonized” patients.
If these recommendations seem overwhelming, pick something small that you know you can change right away.
Bottom line: You’ve made a great choice to go au naturel and drop the artificial hormones. Keep the ball rolling with natural, nutrient-focused food choices that will help your body bounce back.
This article was originally published as written by Emily Kennedy on May 2, 2015. It has since been updated by Natural Womanhood to offer more information.
Last updated April 20, 2023