Part 2: How to come off hormonal contraceptives smoothly

Last time in Part 1 of How to come off hormonal contraceptives smoothly we started our journey to discover the best way transition into drug-free contraception with as little upset as possible to your system. We covered some of the common reasons why women choose to come off them, what changes you can expect during this time and how to predict whether you will be likely to have side effects. This time I have loads of useful information for you about hormonal detoxification and planning your new drug-free approach to contraception!

How can I clear synthetic hormones from my system?

The two hormones usually used in hormonal birth control are oestrogen and progesterone, and it appears that excess oestrogen is the cause of the side effects encountered by most. The liver is the primary organ responsible for the removal of excess hormones accumulated during synthetic hormone use. It does this by filtering your blood, drawing out the excess hormones and binding them to molecules to then be excreted via your bowels.

Here are some tips to improve hormonal detoxification:

Consume bitter foods and drinks - such as rocket, chicory, radicchio, bitter melon and dandelion root tea (the chai spice blend is one of my favourites). These improve liver function and the removal of excess oestrogen through bile.

Increase your dietary fibre – insoluble fibre (such as that in wheat bran and vegetables) binds with excess oestrogen in the gut and sweeps it out. Soluble fibre (linseeds, psyllium) also promote the growth of beneficial bacteria which support hormonal balance.

Eat moderate amounts of organic fermented soy – foods such as soy milk, tofu and tempeh all contain phytoestrogens that competitively inhibit oestrogens produced in the body from adhering to receptor sites thereby weakening the overall oestrogenic activity in the body.

Eat and drink fermented and cultured products – such as natural yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha. These foods have cultures of good bacteria such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, which improve oestrogen excretion and hormone regulation.

Eat more cruciferous vegetables – that’s the cabbage family including all cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts. These vegetables contain compounds called indoles that competitively inhibit oestrogen and inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells.

Reduce saturated animal fats – many fats are beneficial, however this specific type of fat causes an increase in an enzyme that enables oestrogen reabsorption from the gut where it would usually be excreted in the faeces.

Increase Omega-3 essential fatty acids – These are the “good fats”; examples include raw or activated nuts, avocados and oily fish. These will help to reduce excess inflammation and pain (that may cause side effects such as a period pain and headaches).

Exercise in the sun – this is like killing two birds with one stone; exercise improves the removal of oestrogen from tissues and Vitamin D from the sun plays a role in hormonal balance.

Reduce exposure to external sources of oestrogen – this is a big topic that I will be covering in a future blog so stay tuned!

Book yourself an acupuncture session – acupuncture has been shown to be very successful in alleviating many symptoms associated with hormone disregulation. In particular I have found it useful for irritability, depression, anxiety, pain and unregulated bleeding.

Book yourself an appointment with an Herbalist – there are many herbs that act as highly effective agents to assist in detoxification however it is extremely important that you seek professional assistance before taking them, as some may not be suitable for your constitution and can cause more harm than good.

What nutritional supplements are useful during this time?

I usually base this on a case-by-case analysis as each patient’s diet and digestion is unique. There is however one nutritional that I always recommend and that is a really good Vitamin B complex.

Synthetic hormones deplete your stores of vitamin B, which is essential in energy production and serotonin production (your happy hormone). In fact, use of synthetic hormones for more than 5 years has been shown to progressively deplete folate (vitamin B9) up to 40%. This is enough to bring about side effects such as mood and cognition changes, so supplementation is particularly important in these cases.

What forms of contraception can I use while I’m still learning the Symptothermal Method?

As your body returns to balance the best options for contraception are barrier methods:

  • Condoms – the male option is popular and is probably one we are all familiar with. There is also a female version too.

  • Spermicides – in the form of a cream or a sponge (impregnated with spermicidal agents) that is placed at the cervix of the vagina before sex.

  • Diaphragm – covers the cervix (opening to the vagina) and must be inserted by your doctor.

  • Cervical cap – covers the cervix and must be used in conjunction with spermicides.

When can I start charting my cycles?

You can start charting your cycles straight away! Usually you will have a withdrawal bleed when you first come off the hormonal contraception, this is a great time to book your first appointment with me where you will receive your Naturally Not Pregnant Kit containing everything you will need including essential rules, charts and complementary fertility thermometer. I will walk you through the foundations of charting so that when you have finished bleeding you are fully equipped and ready to start.

It is important to note that as the hormones will take weeks, maybe months to clear from your system then the first few months of charting will not be able to be used for contraceptive purposes. Rather they are your learning, correcting and habit forming months so that you are confident in your practice. I’m sure you will agree that there is no room for mistakes and that is why it is so important to learn this technique from a professional like myself.

How long will it take for the hormones to leave my system?

This depends on many factors such as:

  • How long you have been taking the synthetic hormones for in the first place

  • Whether you have taken breaks from them during that time

  • The current health status of your liver (quality of diet and alcohol/drug intake closely influence this)

  • How well you follow the tips given above and those specific to your case

When can I start using the Sympto-thermal Method as my primary form of contraception?

When you have been able to apply the technique to at least three consecutive cycles and feel confident in applying the rules to varying situations. Each case is unique and I will let you know when you are ready. Most commonly it takes 3-5 sessions attended once a month and after this time I am always available for questions.