How to recover from birth control and the damage it does to your system By Divina Ramirez for Women’s Health
Prior to modern methods of birth control, women relied on periodic abstinence to prevent pregnancies. In some underdeveloped parts of the world, these so-called natural or traditional methods of birth control are still in wide use among women.
That said, more and more women worldwide are switching to modern contraceptives like intrauterine devices, birth control pills and birth control shots. Most of these contraceptives were developed as far back as the 1930s to offer women more options for birth control besides abstinence and their partner’s use of condoms.
But like most things that seem too good to be true, there is a catch to using these modern contraceptives.
The harmful effects of birth control pills
Modern contraceptives release hormones that alter the uterine environment, thus making it near impossible for fertilization to occur. The most popular contraceptive among women is the oral contraceptive pill because it is the cheapest option. It can also be purchased over-the-counter.
Women’s bodies are sensitive to hormonal changes, no matter how minimal. For instance, a dip in estrogen can make a woman more susceptible to bone conditions like osteoporosis. Cancers like breast cancer and ovarian cancer are also hormone-sensitive.
Therefore, it’s no surprise that birth control use can cause a host of complications. Besides minor short-term issues like mood swings, acne, migraines and period changes, birth control pills can cause the following serious side effects in the long run:
Studies show that oral contraceptives can deplete essential nutrients fast, such as B complex vitamins, magnesium, selenium, zinc and vitamins C and E. This rapid depletion can cause nutritional deficiencies that impair vital immune functions.
Women taking oral contraceptives tend to experience fluctuations in their hormone levels. Sudden changes like these can trigger a wide range of complications, from acne to osteoporosis. Other signs of hormone imbalances include tender breasts, painful periods, constipation, depression and blurred vision. In severe cases, hormone imbalances can activate dormant cancer cells in breast tissues and ovaries.
Oral contraceptives also mess with the bacterial communities in the gut that help protect the gastrointestinal tract from inflammation and pathogens. As a result, women taking the pill might sustain damages to the lining of their small intestines. This makes them more susceptible to gastrointestinal infections and diseases.
Aside from its natural filtering activities, the liver also helps process hormones. Fluctuating hormones can overwhelm the liver and impair its vital functions. (Related: How to spot signs of liver damage.)
The chemicals in oral contraceptives can also overload the liver and heighten the risk of toxic liver disease, much like alcohol. It can cause severe inflammation and irreversible liver damage if left untreated.
Side effects of other contraceptives
Different forms of birth control cause different side effects and complications. No method of birth control is 100 percent free of health risks, so it’s worth taking each one into careful consideration when looking at birth control options.
Here are some of the common side effects associated with other forms of birth control:
- Hormone patches and birth control shot – Nausea, vomiting, weight gain, skin discoloration, acne, bleeding in between periods, mood swings, breast tenderness.
- Diaphragm and cervical shield – Painful urination, bleeding in between periods, genital irritation, swollen vulva, abnormal vaginal discharge.
- Surgical sterilization – Infection, internal bleeding, chronic abdominal pain, damage to the bowel or bladder.
- Morning-after pill – Nausea, heavier menstrual bleeding, abdominal cramps, breast tenderness, migraines, fatigue.
- Intrauterine device – Heavier menstrual bleeding, abdominal cramps, puncture of the uterus, hormonal imbalances, breast tenderness, headaches.
How to recover from the harmful effects of contraceptives
Some of the harmful effects of contraceptives can crop up long after you’ve stopped using them. In some cases, birth control-related side effects and complications can still persist in later life. Still, it’s possible to recover from them. Here’s how:
- Eat a balanced diet – A balanced diet full of nutrient-rich foods can help restore lost or depleted nutrients due to birth control use. You can also take vitamin supplements for good measure.
- Manage blood sugar levels – Changes in blood sugar levels can trigger hormone fluctuations. To prevent spikes in blood sugar, eat regular meals and avoid sweets or sugar-sweetened drinks.
- Replenish good gut bacteria – Eating fermented foods rich in probiotics can “fix” gut imbalances. Besides restoring gut microbiota, probiotics also work to protect the gut from inflammation.
- Eat liver-cleansing foods – Ginger, turmeric and other spices are great liver-cleansing foods. Add them to a balanced diet to get rid of excess toxins and harmful substances clogging the liver.
- Reduce toxin exposure – To protect the liver from toxin exposure, it’s best to limit or avoid using contraceptives altogether.
Despite their reported benefits and advantages, modern birth control methods pose both short-term and long-term health risks. Consult with a healthcare professional when considering birth control options to avoid health issues and complications.
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