Hormone Q+A with NWL

Coming off the pill was, and continues to be SUCH a journey. First it was confusing, discomfort — now its finding myself, learning my bodies own cadence and rhythm and learning how to jive with it. It is beyond me how much I didn’t know about my own body. What’s even more shocking? Some of the things I've learned through my own experience and reading my mom literally didn’t even know and she is in her post-menopausal life stage. It’s not her fault that she didn’t teach me these things, she literally didn’t know. But how fucked up is that? We’ve gotten to a point in society where bandaid-ing issues and throwing money around comes first over understanding the body and getting down to the real problems at hand and fixing those!

While I could rant about this for ages, I will step off my soap box and share my learnings and answers to so many of the questions that have floated around my DM inbox on instagram. That said, if you ever want to chat about this topic — i’m your lady! I’ll get mad with you, I will listen to you vent, and I’ll share my own personal experience…what I won’t do? Tell you what you should do. You’re in charge of your own body and know what’s best for it. Maybe coming off hormonal birth control isn’t the best thing for you to be doing. I have no judgement! We all have different health conditions and yours may best be solved by low-dose hormones. That said, I have NAFLD so my liver function isn’t 100%. I honestly believe that’s why it took so long for my period to come back after going off the pill and why it still isn't regular — even over a year and a half out. I have a hunch that my liver had a hard time processing the excess hormones out of my body. Because of this and the toxins that float around out everyday lives, I work extra hard to help my liver out on a daily basis. While liver support is an important key for all when coming off the pill, if your body functions as it should — I would not stress about this. The only reason I’m particularly focused on it is because I know that’s something my body has a hard time with. If your liver functions normally, let it do its own thing — you know the saying, don’t fix what ain’t broke.

Okay, now onto the Q+A!

Q: Do you have to talk to your doctor before coming off the pill?

A: It’s not mandatory (nothing in life is), but I would highly recommend pairing up with a functional medicine doctor // naturopath // or physician who “gets you” to help you through the process. It’s not uncommon to experience post birth control syndrome symptoms like mood disorders (think depression and anxiety), along with a host of not so positive things like nutrient and hormone imbalances. Every body is different, so while it would be nice to plan, it’s best to just set yourself up for success so you’re prepared in any circumstance and have the support you need.

Q: What’s step 1 in figuring out your hormone levels?

A: Take a hormone test! You can order a saliva test through a functional physician. Modern fertility tests also cover a good amount of hormone levels (just not cortisol!). There is no way to know exactly what’s going on if you don’t test for it. Basing your symptoms on what someone else is going through and supplementing with something because they are is a REALLY BAD idea. Everyone’s body is different and it’s important to know exactly where yours stands before playing with trying to alter things.

Q: What am I using for birth control now?

A: This was a funny question when it first came up because it was right after my split with N. Truth be told, abstinence was my form of bc. I was in a funk man. The good news? Funk is over and the current form of birth control is condoms. Here’s the thing though, not all condoms are created equal when it comes to the PH balance and overall health of your vagina. Condoms are not monitored by the FDA and therefore can include some v scary ingredients. Just like we watch what we’re feeding our bodies and putting on our skin, we have to watch what we’re putting in our vaginas, too. I’m working on a non-toxic, vagina safe condom roundup coming at you soon!

Q: Once I got my period back, how did I know I was ovulating?

A: I use the clue app to track my period as well as my mood, sleep, sex drive, etc. throughout the course of the month. Based on that info and your typical cycle lengths it estimates your window for ovulation. However, truth be told, I could actually feel it! There’s even a term for it — Mittelschmerz. Not everyone experiences it and it’s definitely not the most comfortable thing — it’s diagnosed with complaints of pelvic // lower abdominal pain during // around the time of ovulation. I’ve also recently started tracking my morning basal temp with some help from the daysy. The device analyzes data month to month to tell you when you’re ovulating and when you will get your period. Happy to chat about this more if you’re interested in a deep dive here and also talk a lot about it quite frequently over on my instagram stories.

Q: Did I use adaptogens to help heal myself // balance my hormones?

A: This answer isn’t super cut and dry. Yes I did, but I also used a million things // different techniques so can’t nail down what exactly worked for me and what didn’t. My thought? They all contributed and I eventually hit some sort of tipping point. I incorporated maca in smoothies, yogurt bowls, etc. as well as included my Ayurvedic tea blend (which was created just for me with fertility boosting herbs by my Ayurvedic practitioner). This blend contained adaptogens and herbs like Shatavari that promote a healthy women’s reproductive system. I wrote an article for The Thirty about my experience with Ayurveda that you can read here if you’re interested!

Q: Do I feel a certain diet is necessary to balance hormones?

A: Let’s get this straight before you go any further - I am NOT a doctor. That said, my answer is probably yes. When there is an imbalance in the body, food can play a large role (though there are supporting roles, too). This is the reason I got so into Ayurveda when I was on my hormone balancing journey. It’s important to find and learn the make up and current status of your body so you can feed it and treat it with the TLC it needs - note EVERY BODY IS DIFFERENT. For me, this meant upping my warming and grounding foods because I am a Vata with a serious Vata imbalance. My body needs all the help it can get to calm down and ground itself.

Q: What negative symptoms did I experience when going off the pill?

A: Acne - which I explain more below, but mainly CRAMPS! Cramps were the reason I went on the pill at such a young age in the first place. I used to have debilitating cramps that left me in bed for a day or two. In hindsight, I wish I had the knowledge and desire then to figure out the root cause vs. masking my cramps and period symptoms with the pill — but oh, well — live and learn! After coming off the pill, I also learned I had a major copper overload // imbalance. As you can imagine, I went crazy testing my water and everything, only to realize it really was just from being on the pill (it’s actually a pretty common symptom). The scary part is it can cause depression among other big time issues. The good new is my functional medicine doctor caught it and we worked together to correct the imbalance. This is why I truly believe it’s important to partner with a practitioner when coming off the pill. Had I been doing this alone, I would have never known.

Q: Did I experience acne when coming off the pill?

A: This isn’t the answer you want to hear — but it’s a big, fat yes! To this day (almost 2 years out), I still struggle with hormonal acne breakouts, though they’re much more under control than they were when my cycle initially came back. The funny part is, I never broke out much as a teenager, so it truly felt like I was going through puberty again. I took evening primrose oil for a bit in hopes that it would help. It may or may not have. I’m not taking it anymore, so that makes me feel like it wasn’t doing much. What does help? Getting regular facials, getting laser genesis treatments, and using January Lab’s toner! More tips on managing hormonal acne can be found in my blog post here.

Q: What was the biggest hurdle I encountered trying to balance my hormones?

A: This is such a good and important questions — feeling like my body wasn’t working was the toughest part. It takes an emotional toll. Then, if you’re like me and you run a little anxious, you start freaking out about if you’re fertile and if you’ll ever have kids, and it all spirals from there.

Breathe, be mindful, talk it out, go to yoga or therapy, movement and communication all help energy flow through the body. The mind body spirit connection is a thing and plays a role.

I hope these answers are helpful! Always here to answer more, just leave your questions below or email me.