Popping those tiny birth control pills every day usually goes one way or another for women—it either clicks and makes you feel like you’re on hormonal cruise control, or (let's be real) it turns you into an emotional and physical wreck.
Any gynecologist will tell you—hormones are powerful stuff, and the hundreds of formulations on the market prove it's not one-size-fits-all science. The benefits are great, of course: Pregnancy prevention, acne reduction, menstrual cycle regulation, not to mention the convenience. But for many women, birth control pills create side effects that are hard to swallow.
Common combination formulations like Ortho-Tricyclen, Yasmin, Yaz, the Nuva Ring (the ring), and Ortho Evra (the patch) administer synthetic estrogen and progestin into your body to inhibit the natural hormones that make you ovulate, which fools your body into thinking it's already pregnant. Pretty clever, hormones.
But playing tricks on your body can really throw things off kilter.
Aside from weight gain, bloating, migraines, tender and even enlarged breasts, and a lowered libido, perhaps the worst potential side effect is that insidious feeling of anxiety or depression that makes some women feel like they're riding an emotional roller coaster.
If you're not ready to give up on your birth control method just yet, it might be time to experiment with your diet to naturally re-balance these chemical messengers. Whether you're getting these nutrients through food or supplements, you may be surprised what a difference they can make.
1. Folic acid, riboflavin (B2), vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin E and zinc may be depleted when using hormonal birth control or experiencing hormonal imbalance. Supplement these nutrients if you’re not getting enough in your daily diet.
2. A DHEA supplement can also help balance testosterone and estrogen levels.
4. The liver needs to metabolize synthetic hormones from birth control, and that can be taxing. Drink dandelion tea or ingest dandelion herbs for a liver detox.
5. The pH levels in the vagina may also be altered, increasing the possibility of a yeast infection. Take probiotics by eating plain or Greek yogurt with live active cultures.
8. Refined sugars and pasteurized juices can exacerbate hormonal imbalance, so steer clear of these. Soy products are high in estrogen, so it’s best to avoid these, too.
Illustration by Karley Koenig