Written by Tangela Kindell, M.S, FH Contributor
The pill is the hormonal contraceptive of choice for ~25% of women in America. And many individuals take it to manage certain health conditions and uncomfortable symptoms or to prevent pregnancy. Have you made a change recently to stop taking the pill? It may have taken a single day or many years but, you made an important decision related to your health. Whether it’s to optimize your fertility, explore alternative contraception methods, avoid side effects, cut medical costs, or simply make a change, we’re here to support you on your post-pill transition with a few helpful nutrition tips.
What Does Nutrition Have to Do with Stopping the Pill Anyway?
Food is more than just fuel for the body. Food plays a crucial role in the health of your menstrual cycle. Birth control pills work by disrupting the natural fluctuation of the sex hormones estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone that occurs each month to trigger the four stages of your menstrual cycle. In doing so they are very effective in preventing pregnancy (91% with typical use) and are often used to treat other hormone-related health concerns.
Unfortunately, this suppression of natural hormones and exposure to pseudo-hormone chemicals may result in side effects for most people, including the depletion of essential vitamins and minerals like vitamins C, and E, folate, magnesium, and zinc. One of the best ways to counteract these negative effects and replenish key nutrients is to eat a balanced diet high in fruits, vegetables, high-quality protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates.
Nutrition Tips Before You Stop the Pill
Did you know changes you make right now may result in an easier post-pill transition? Coming off the pill may not only leave you seriously lacking in the nutrients you need – it may also result in post-pill acne, mood swings, sudden weight changes, PMS, and missing or irregular periods. Get started with these three tips. You’ll want to make changes to your nutrition at least one month before coming off of birth control, but talk to your provider for specific recommendations based on your health goals.
- Add variety to your diet and replenish nutrients with colorful fruits and vegetables like dark leafy greens, peppers, avocados, berries, melons, and citrus.
- Increase the number of healthy fats and proteins in your diet with lean meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, nuts, seeds, and beans to support healthy hormone function.
- Ask your doctor about taking a quality multivitamin that includes B vitamins, folate, magnesium, zinc, iodine, coenzyme 10, and selenium.
Nutrition Tips for After You Stop the Pill
High five girl! You’ve made a big change. Now what? If you’ve already started with the “before you stop” tips above keep it going. If not, it’s never too late. Get started right now. Read on for a few more helpful tips to add to your list.
- Feed Your Good Gut Bacteria:
- Studies have shown that long-term use of hormonal birth control may disrupt the balance of good bacteria in your gut resulting in potential digestive issues like gas, bloating, and IBS. Support your digestive health with probiotic foods like kimchi, miso, pickled vegetables, kombucha, and yogurt with live and active cultures. You can also support the gut by consuming prebiotic (food for the probiotics) foods like apples, bananas, oats, barley, onions, and garlic. Bonus: these foods contain fiber, vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds that nourish the whole body.
- Eat More Whole Foods:
- As much as you can, include more whole, fresh foods in your diet, if able. They contain more nutrients than their processed forms. You can make this change easier by preparing and storing foods in advance. You can also include frozen fruits and vegetables (which are frozen at peak of freshness) in meals and snacks.
- Feed Your Good Gut Bacteria:
Whether or not you take hormonal birth control is 100% your choice. It’s always best to work with a Registered Dietitian to ensure you are getting proper nutrients to support your body and health. Remember that every meal, snack, and drink you have each day is also a choice and an opportunity to nourish your body properly.
- PMID: 28613632 – link
- PMID: 23852908 – link
- PMID: 35452382 – link
- Briden L, Period Repair Manual: Natural Treatment for Better Hormones and Better Periods. Greenpeak Publishing; 2018.
- Hendrickson-Jack L, Briden L. The fifth vital sign: Master your cycles and optimize your fertility. Fertility Friday Publishing Inc; 2019.