Birth Control

Coming Off Birth Control: Do You Need to Detox? 

Hello, I'm Dr. Pooja
I am a former pharmacist turned licensed dietitian-nutritionist, Institute for Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner, and the founder of Pooja Mahtani Wellness, a virtual functional nutrition practice specializing in
PCOS, Thyroid, and Fertility.
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Birth Control Detox Home Remedy

The idea of hitting the reset button on your body when coming off birth control is tempting. But is it necessary? You may be familiar with products marketed as a “birth control detox home remedy” or a “birth control cleanse.” However, in my professional opinion, you do not need a birth control detox when stopping hormonal birth control. 

This article will bust the myth that you need a special cleanse after stopping the pill, explain what actually happens when you transition off the pill, and what you should do instead to naturally balance your hormones post-pill.

What Happens When You Transition off the Pill?

First, let’s talk about what happens during a normal menstrual cycle. Estrogen levels rise and peak right before ovulation during the follicular phase (the first half of your cycle). This estrogen surge plays a role in ovulation, or the release of an egg from the ovary. 

Then, the luteal phase (the second half of your cycle) takes place after you ovulate and lasts until right before you get your next period. During this phase, your progesterone levels peak. Additionally, if you become pregnant, your progesterone levels stay elevated to help maintain your pregnancy.

Hormonal birth control contains synthetic estrogens and progestins to help prevent pregnancy by blocking ovulation. In fact, these synthetic hormones interrupt your natural menstrual cycle by completely suppressing the levels of your reproductive hormones.

When you transition off the pill, your hormones must work hard to reestablish your natural cycle. In fact, it takes a bit of time to restore communication between the brain and the ovaries and resume its natural rhythmic pattern. It is normal to wait up to 1-3 months to get your period after coming off the pill.

But what happens when you don’t get your period, or you do get your period but end up with other symptoms like changes in mood and libido, anxiety, and acne? Unfortunately, in my practice, I see this all too often. Women come off hormonal birth control only to have a tsunami of symptoms to deal with.

They are desperate for answers. What’s going on? This phenomenon is commonly known as “post-birth control syndrome.”

Related Post: Looking to transition off the pill? Here’s what you need to know before making the change

What is Post-Birth Control Syndrome? 

Post-birth control syndrome refers to a set of symptoms that arise after you stop taking birth control. These symptoms tend to emerge within the first 3-6 months of discontinuing the pill.

Most women struggle to reestablish their menstrual cycle after the pill. A common symptom of post-birth control syndrome is post-pill amenorrhea. This occurs when periods do not return within 3-6 months of stopping birth control. If this problem persists, I would recommend getting a full evaluation from your physician to uncover the root cause of the amenorrhea.

Another common symptom of post-birth control syndrome is nutrient deficiency. Research shows that certain nutrients may become depleted while a woman is on oral contraceptives. Key nutrients that hormonal birth control depletes include vitamins like folic acid, B2, B6, B12, C, and E, as well as minerals such as magnesium, selenium, and zinc.

Further, birth control may also have suppressed underlying reproductive health issues like polycystic ovarian syndrome and endometriosis. If you have been using birth control for a long time, you may not be aware of these conditions. 

Alternatively, you may have been diagnosed with one of these conditions in the past and recommended birth control as a treatment option. In this case, coming off the pill is problematic because the very problem the pill was designed to suppress is now returning with a vengeance.

Here is a list of the most common symptoms of post-birth control syndrome: 

  • Amenorrhea (or loss of period)
  • Dysmenorrhea (or painful periods)
  • Menorrhagia (or heavy periods)
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Mood swings
  • Brain fog
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Acne and rosacea
  • Weight gain
  • Hair loss
  • Sore or swollen breasts
  • Decreased libido
  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • GI symptoms like gas and bloating
  • Gut dysbiosis (or an imbalanced gut microbiome)

What is a Birth Control Detox Home Remedy?

If you research “birth control detox home remedy,” you may come across several gimmicks that claim to fix your post-birth control syndrome symptoms. What exactly is a birth control detox home remedy?

A birth control “detox” refers to a product or home remedy that promises to balance your hormones after stopping hormonal contraceptives. They are often sold in the form of a drink or “cleanse,” with the premise that your body needs to detox after coming off birth control.

A birth control detox home remedy or short-term cleanse usually contains a combination of ingredients, such as antioxidant-rich foods and herbs. Some examples include lemon water and ginger tea. 

Do you Need to Detox?

While your body certainly needs to reestablish proper hormone communication, no single formula can do that for you. Moreover, no birth control detox home remedy, drink, or other specialized cleanse will magically fix your hormonal health. 

You do, however, need to support your body’s return to optimum health when you stop taking the pill or other form of hormonal contraception.

Let’s discuss the practices you can implement today to help you naturally balance your hormones after stopping birth control.

How to Naturally Balance Your Hormones After Stopping Birth Control 

While there is no specific birth control detox home remedy that is effective, there are ways to naturally balance your hormones after stopping birth control. 

Prioritizing diet and lifestyle changes can help you address the frustrating symptoms of post-birth control syndrome. In my practice, I see this time and time again: simple adjustments to diet and lifestyle can result in a big health transformation.

Here are the key diet and lifestyle changes that can help with post-birth control syndrome:

  1. Restore your nutrient stores
  2. Eat an adequate amount of calories
  3. Support your body’s natural detoxification pathways
  4. Improve gut health
  5. Practice good sleep hygiene

Restore Your Nutrient Stores

Recall that birth control can deplete key nutrients in the body. These include B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin E, magnesium, selenium, and zinc. Eating a whole foods diet will support your body’s nutritional needs and help replenish your nutrient stores.

Prioritize high-quality, organic, and grass-fed proteins such as beef, poultry, eggs, and tofu. A variety of vegetable fibers, such as leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables, are essential as well. Lastly, healthy fats such as avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, and full-fat organic yogurt can also play a crucial role in restoring your nutrient stores.

If you need further support, you can consider working with a functional medicine nutritionist, who can perform comprehensive testing to help you identify any nutritional deficiencies. From there, you can add specific supplements to your regimen to help fill in any nutrient gaps.

Eat an Adequate Amount of Calories

While post-pill amenorrhea can occur for a number of reasons, one of the root causes is low calorie intake. This form of post-pill amenorrhea is known as hypothalamic amenorrhea.

If you are struggling with hypothalamic amenorrhea, it is important to consume an adequate amount of calories.

Why is this important?

If your brain senses a “famine” state, it will shut down reproductive function and prioritize other systems in the body instead. Therefore, it is important to consume enough calories daily to support both reproductive and hormonal health.

Women with post-pill amenorrhea should be cautious about how restrictive their diet is and ensure they are not only getting enough calories but also taking in a sufficient amount of macronutrients (proteins, fats, and carbohydrates) to support their daily activity levels.

Support Your Body’s Natural Detoxification Pathways 

Your liver is the main organ in the body that removes toxins and regulates hormones. To overcome post-birth control syndrome, you need to support your liver’s detoxification pathways.

This does not mean adding a birth control detox home remedy or cleanse to your diet. Instead, focus on increasing the intake of certain foods that boost natural liver detoxification and promote hormone clearance. 

The liver uses raw ingredients like B vitamins and sulfur to help package up excess estrogens (including synthetic estrogen from birth control) for removal. Eating foods rich in these raw ingredients can help promote estrogen metabolism.

Examples of these liver-loving foods include: 

  • B vitamins: seafood, poultry, eggs, and dark leafy greens
  • Sulfur-rich foods: egg yolks, garlic, onions, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cabbage

Foods high in soluble fiber are also beneficial for estrogen removal. In fact, soluble fiber binds to estrogen in the intestines, increasing its clearance through the digestive system. Examples of foods rich in soluble fiber include vegetables such as asparagus, Brussels sprouts, and squash, as well as legumes like peas, lentils, and chickpeas.

Lastly, eliminating alcohol, limiting caffeine, and avoiding unnecessary pharmaceuticals can also help boost liver function and, in turn, support your body’s innate detoxification system.

Improve Gut Health

The gut microbiome is a complex ecosystem of bacteria and other species that support digestion, the immune system, and many other aspects of your overall health. Environmental factors like stress, diet, and medications can alter these gut species. 

In fact, research shows that oral contraceptives can negatively affect gut flora and estrogen metabolism. Birth control can also further promote gut dysbiosis, or an imbalanced gut microbiome, by contributing to an increase in fungal overgrowth like candida albicans.

Ultimately, an imbalance in gut flora can result in inflammation of the GI tract and lead to a number of health complications, like hormonal imbalance and autoimmune disease.

You can improve gut health by eating anti-inflammatory and fiber-rich foods like wild-caught salmon and cruciferous vegetables, as well as fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir. In addition, a daily probiotic supplement can also help promote a balanced gut microbiome.

Practice Good Sleep Hygiene

Your body’s natural circadian rhythm, or internal clock, controls hormone release as it relates to a daily 24-hour schedule. More specifically, following a proper sleep-wake cycle is crucial so that hormones can peak at the right times throughout this 24-hour period, which in turn can promote regular monthly cycles.

On the other hand, an altered sleep-wake pattern (i.e., sleeping less than 7-8 hours each night or going to bed past midnight) can add a tremendous amount of stress to the body, interrupt hormone function, and ultimately disrupt the menstrual cycle. 

In fact, early research shows that circadian rhythm disruption from jet lag and shift work can wreak havoc on a woman’s reproductive system, including an increased risk for infertility.

In my professional opinion, getting enough sleep (both quality and quantity) is just as important as eating a whole foods fiber-rich diet. It’s crucial to practice good sleep hygiene and get at least eight hours of sleep each night.

Work with a Functional Medicine Nutritionist 

When it comes to post-birth control syndrome, it’s important to address all the underlying factors affecting your menstrual cycle. A birth control detox home remedy or any other cleanse claiming to be an all-in-one solution for your symptoms is a popular option, yet it does not solve the problem at the root of the issue.

As a functional medicine nutritionist, I work with women all the time in my one-on-one consultation program and help them either transition off the pill without major side effects or resolve their post-birth control syndrome symptoms.

This is achieved through a detailed health history review, comprehensive functional lab testing, and a personalized action plan that includes diet, supplement, and lifestyle recommendations that would be most appropriate for you.

Most clients see significant improvement within 3-6 months of working together. 

Are you ready to heal your hormones? Apply to become a client today!

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Hi there

I’m Dr. Pooja!

I am a pharmacist turned functional medicine clinical nutritionist. After years of struggling with PCOS, I finally uncovered the root cause of my hormone symptoms and found a solution that actually works long-term. Now I'm on a fierce mission to help other women achieve hormone healing!

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