Coming off the pill in my mid twenties changed the way I felt and looked. I first went on the contraceptive pill when I was seventeen years old, and was on it continuously for roughly seven years. In my mid twenties after a bout of problems with migraines and mood swings, I decided to come off hormonal contraception.
The few years that followed were intense to say the least health wise. My periods were long and irregular, often painful, and took years to regulate. My skin was a complete mess, adult acne was at its worst a year after I stopped taking the pill. In my early twenties whilst I was on the pill, I noticed my hair was falling out, my body was bloated and uncomfortable and I was just out of shape despite going to the gym and exercising.
It took a lot of trial and error to get my body back to its natural state and cycle. It took even longer for my mood, skin, weight and period to stabilize.
Looking back at this whole experience, it was a really confusing time. I had no idea what I was doing, why I felt the way I did and what was actually helping me. It took years of looking after my body to get to the place where I am today where I am happy with my health and how I look.
Although I like to focus on adult acne with my blog posts, I am going to cover a few topics that I think are really important to know when you are coming off the pill, and what that process may be doing to your body, especially if you have been taking a hormonal contraceptive for years like I had. To be clear I am not advising or recommending coming off the pill - this article is purely to support those of you who have already stopped taking the pill and are trying to navigate your way through afterwards.
1. INSULIN LEVELS
I love looking at insulin resistance and the link it has to clear skin. Our diets today are filled with processed ingredients and excess sugar, causing our glucose levels and hormones to be all over the place, often leading to insulin resistance.
Stabilizing insulin levels is an important step in obtaining permanently clear skin, and is the main reason why the Radiance Powder has such a high dose of soluble fibre within (to regulate glucose levels, suppress sugar cravings, eventually causing lower insulin fluctuations over time).
The birth control pill has really unfortunate effects on women’s blood sugar levels, glucose regulation, leading to insulin resistance.
When our blood sugar is not balanced we get higher spikes in insulin, causing our body to produce higher levels of androgens, which leads to acne. In my blog post ‘Getting to the root cause of acne’ I talk about how higher levels of androgens like testosterone lead to an increase in sebum and hormone fluctuation, which in most cases leads to a bout of adult acne.
My greatest tip for stabilizing insulin levels is focus on what you consume in terms of food. Prioritize whole foods, lots of high-quality vegetables, fats, fiber and proteins. Avoid sugar, white flour and alcohol – full disclosure I still have these things occasionally but keep them to a minimum. Exercise also helps to manage blood sugar levels and helps detoxify the body of excess hormones.
I have come to believe that in women, hormones really are everything. Understanding what the pill does to your hormones is a good first step.
When you take a hormonal pill, it affects the body’s own ability to produce hormones naturally. This is why people often report having clearer skin after the pill as it works by reducing the amount of androgens circulating in the blood. However women often also report having clearer skin whilst on the pill, this is because you are artificially supplementing your hormones.
After you come off the contraceptive pill you are not consuming artificial hormones anymore, so your ovaries try to return hormone levels back to normal. This can lead to even higher levels of androgens, which causes more sebum production, oily skin, bacteria formation, meaning breakouts.
My top tip to counteract this is to supplement effectively for detoxification and increase your levels of cruciferous vegetables which enhance estrogen and testosterone metabolism to promote overall hormone balance.
For an added boost I would also recommend supplementing with DIM (diindolylmethane) as there is some evidence that shows this raw material helps with post-pill acne. Supplementing with Zinc will also help to regulate testosterone, reduce keratin production that blocks pores and reduce the specific bacteria on skin’s surface that causes acne.
In my opinion chronic or continuous stress is one of the most harmful things you can do to your body long term. Coming off the pill causes our natural hormones to go out of balance, however stress causes our natural hormones to go out of balance too. When the body is stressed, it releases cortisol which in turn increases insulin levels. This in conjunction with hormones being irregular from after the pill can lead to sugar levels, insulin resistance, more stress and anxiety, and even a loss of sleep.
Now sleep is important as hormonal changes really affect sleep, and a lack of regular sleep can cause low estrogen levels.
The main takeaway is to centre both your mind and body during this time, be aware of your sleep patterns and make sure you are getting enough exercise, eat better, supplement better, and remember that consistency is better than perfection!