Since its release in the early sixties, the birth control pill has been surrounded by concern and controversy. While over three hundred million women worldwide have at some point employed the pill due to its alleged convenience, most have done so unaware of its implications for women’s health and future fertility. Contrary to popular wisdom, the pill, with its immediate and long-term effects on the body’s biology, is not the ideal form of contraception. Its risks far outweigh the ease with which it is administered. Regardless of the length of time a woman has used the pill, the body will require support in recovery from its use.
Over the decades of the pill’s availability, manufacturers have lowered its levels of synthetic estrogen and progesterone as evidence of the damaging effects of synthetic hormones emerges—such as increased risks of uterine and breast cancers.1 The resulting detrimental effects also come from the use of other hormonal contraceptives delivered via patches, injections, under-the-skin implants, vaginal rings and hormone-impregnated IUDs (intrauterine devices).
Such early effects as thrombosis and embolism sent the developers back to the labs in hopes of a safer formula for what they seem to consider a chronic condition: fertility. And as time moved along, many doctors began using the pill for acne and dysmenorrhea as well. Sadly, the consequences of exposure to synthetic hormones continues to be a problem with the pill and other hormonal contraceptives.
The three most troubling physical side effects of using the pill and other hormonal contraceptives are hormonal imbalances, nutritional deficiencies and the likelihood of multiple abortions while on the pill. The birth control pill is known to deplete the body of vital nutrients, and yet very few physicians alert their patients to this when prescribing it. The nutrients that the pill depletes are the very ones that are so critical to the development of a healthy nervous system in future developing babies. Vitamins B6, B12 and folate, all depleted by the pill, are crucial to the brain and nervous system of all humans— adults, children and growing babies in utero.
Other nutrient deficiencies associated with the pill include low vitamins B1 and B2, biotin, vitamin C and critical minerals such as copper and zinc. These deficiencies can result in fatigue, low libido, skin eruptions, insomnia, paranoia, weight gain, bloating, depression, anxiety, dizziness, dandruff, hair loss, itchiness and hormonal imbalances.
Further aggravating hormonal imbalances resulting from nutrient deficiencies, synthetic estrogen and progesterone add insult to injury. The results include weight gain, fibrocystic breast disease, bone loss and infertility. The contribution of synthetic hormones to the formation of cancer growth in the breasts and uterus is well documented.
A more recently understood problem associated with the use of the pill involved a significant disruption of gut flora. David Perlmutter, MD, explains that while almost all medications adversely affect the microbiome, the long term daily usage of this synthetic hormone-altering medication is especially damaging to the intestinal terrain.2 It can decrease thyroid hormone production as well as available testosterone. Additionally, its long-term use can contribute to insulin-resistance and oxidative stress, increasing systemic inflammation. The pill’s negative effect on the microbiome is part of the reason mood swings and anxiety disorders are common among users. Our gut flora are intimately involved in the production of neurotransmitters that influence mood and outlook. Research has shown that hormonal contraceptives have been linked to the development of inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s and colitis.3 As Hippocrates once said, “All disease begins in the gut.” Addressing the potential damage by the pill on the gut is imperative to supporting one’s health and the health of those to come.
Ideally a young woman hoping to have a baby should wait at least two years after discontinuing the pill before attempting to conceive. Also important is avoidance of antibiotics for at least two years prior to conception. This will allow the woman’s body to build up the vital vitamins, minerals, hormones and intestinal flora necessary for a vibrant pregnancy and healthy baby. Low levels of beneficial bacteria in the gut, as well as the overgrowth of candida and other pathogenic yeasts and bacteria, are commonly found in the mothers of autistic children. I highly recommend the implementation of the Gut and Psychology Diet (GAPS) after stopping the pill. This gut-nourishing and healing diet developed by Natasha Campbell-McBride, MD, will support the re-establishment of beneficial gut flora and greatly improve one’s ability to assimilate and synthesize key nutrients, especially B6 and B12.
The weekly inclusion of liver is the most significant way to address vitamins B6 and B12 depletion. Four to six ounces of chicken liver or three to four ounces of beef liver should be consumed on a weekly basis. This can be spread out over the course of a week. Liver pâté or my raw milk and cream shake (see sidebar, page 43) are both simple, delicious and satisfying ways to include liver in the diet.
Folate is best repleted through the generous use of cooked dark leafy green vegetables daily along with the liver. By including real food sources of vital nutrients (especially B12 and folate), one need not worry about genetic mutations interfering with the absorption and utilization of vitamins. In cases where supplementation is desired, consider the use of genetic testing such as is available through 23andme. com with interpretative data via a company like livewello.com or mthfrsupport.com. Synthetic folic acid and cyanocobalamin (a form of B12) should be avoided. As much as folate deficiency can be injurious to developing babies, excessive synthetic folic acid can also be problematic.4,5 Some researchers believe that synthetic folic acid does not cross the placenta barrier,6 which is all the more reason to obtain folate directly from food sources.
Vitamins B1 and B2 (thiamine and riboflavin) are found in organ meats, seafood, grains (ideally properly soaked), nuts (also properly soaked), vegetables and legumes (soaked). Biotin, also known as B7, is abundant in almonds and walnuts, wild cold water fish (sardines, anchovies, salmon and trout), liver and egg yolks. For mineral boosting, bone broth should be included in the recovery diet daily. Additionally, zinc can be obtained by consuming oysters, liver and red meat; copper from liver, nuts and oats; and lastly but so very important is the inclusion of vitamin C-rich foods like liver (yes, liver is high in just about every vital nutrient), fresh berries and citrus as well as peppers.
Along with rebuilding nutritional deficiencies supporting liver function (and thereby the excretion of resulting excess hormones), use of botanical therapies such as gemmotherapy or herbal tinctures is important. In most cases, I use Rosmarinus in the gemmotherapy form. Rosmarinus has traditionally been used to support the liver in its processing of hormones, especially estrogen. Milk thistle can also be very helpful for this same purpose. I recommend you work with a trained health care practitioner knowledgeable in the use of gemmotherapy and other biotherapeutic and homeopathic drainage remedies. Employing the use of daily castor oil packs over the abdomen for a period of time will allow for the increased efficacy of the chosen liver support.
Hormone balancing is often needed after cessation of the pill. Many women find that their menses becomes very irregular or even non-existent after stopping the pill. In addition to dietary and liver support, Protomorphogen™ brand extracts can be very helpful. Protomorphogens are produced by every living cell in the body. The germ cells, the sperm and egg of humans, are bundles of protomorphogen blueprints, if you will.7 Standard Process has been producing high quality Protomorphogen brand extracts since the 1940s. These therapeutic supplements assist the body in regenerating targeted tissues and glands. The inclusion of pituitary, hypothalamus, ovary, adrenal and thyroid support via Protomorphogen brand extracts can be exceptionally beneficial for women who have used any hormone medications. I regularly use these in assisting women to recover from the pill and normalize their menstrual cycles.
Other supportive supplementation may be helpful as well. The addition of unrefined cod liver oil supports inflammatory states such as endometriosis. Evening primrose oil or black currant seed oil encourages production of natural progesterone, as does the use of a high quality chaste tree product, such as that produced by Mediherb.
When cycles are irregular, I have found a rotation of cod liver oil given from new moon to full moon and evening primrose oil with chaste tree taken from full moon to new moon to be extremely beneficial. A little-known fact is that ideally a woman’s menstrual cycle should last twenty-eight days, syncing with the lunar cycle.8 This is one of the most basic rhythms found in nature. In days of old, a woman’s ovulation most commonly occurred on the full moon. For this reason, weddings were planned on the full moon. A honeymoon conception was considered a blessing on the couple’s new union. This changed with the advent of electricity. Scientific studies have found that the moon governs the flow of fluids, both those of the ocean and those of a woman’s menstrual cycle.9 We can use the lunar calendar as a schedule for those in a state of amenorrhea after coming off the pill to create a more rhythmic cycle.
Lastly, the third detrimental side effect the pill and other hormonal contraceptives (IUD, Dep-Provera, the Patch, hormonal vaginal contraceptive rings like NuvaRing, and the “morning after” pill) is that conception can still occur and most often results in the embryo being aborted without the woman’s knowledge.10 The abortion itself (detachment of the fetus from the uterine wall), as well as the use of Progestin, a synthetic form of progesterone used in hormonal contraceptives (as well as in hormonal replacement therapy for menopausal women), can cause uterine scarring. To address this problem, unrefined cod liver oil, Utrophin PMG, a Protomorphogen brand extract from Standard Process, and the gemmotherapy Rubus Idaeus are excellent choices for support and regeneration of the uterine lining. Additional homeopathic remedies can also be very helpful and should be chosen for the individual by a trained homeopath.
The wisdom of our ancestors calls us to respect nature’s provisions and its cyclical rhythms. Those who walked before us understood the good judgment of honoring our own biological cycles, as well as those of the earth and moon. Being intentional in eating seasonally and in taking our sleep cues from the sun will open up opportunity for more vibrant health. Moving young women to a more natural and traditional diet and lifestyle is our best hope for creating a healthier world for tomorrow—one that gives each child a nourishing beginning and a chance to experience life to its fullest.
Raw Milk & Cream Shake
2-4 ounces raw organic cream* or coconut cream (Artisana coconut cream)
3-6 ounces raw milk or kefir or yogurt, if desired* (or coconut milk or whole milk yogurt)
1 cup berries, fresh or frozen (optional)
2-3 raw organic egg yolks
1 tablespoon or more raw liver, cut into small pieces, frozen for at least 14 days prior to use
1 teaspoon raw honey
1 tablepsoon organic, unrefined coconut oil
Place all ingredients in blender or food processor and process until well blended. Enjoy!
*People following the GAPS™ Diet should omit raw cream—instead use sour or piima cream. Ideally raw or
sour/piima cream is best for supporting hormone health. Cultured cream may be made from viili, piimä and
filmjölk cultures (all mesophilic cultures, room temperature cultures). Cultures may be purchases online from
Cultures for Health.
1. Jane Bennett & Alexandra Pope, The Pill: Are you sure it’s for you? Crows Nest NSW, Australia: Allen & Unwin, 2008, pgs. 51-52.
2. David Perlmutter, MD, Brain Maker, New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2015, pgs. 166-167.
3. Kathleen Doheny, Birth Control Pills, HRT Tied to Digestive Ills, HealthDay, May 21, 2012, http://consumer.healthday.com/women-s-health-information-34/birth-control-nes-62/birth-control-pills-hrt-tied-to-diegestive-ills-664939.html.
4. Stephanie Seneff, PhD, Folic Acid and Glyphosate, http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/abcs-ofnutrition/folic-acid-glyphosate/
5. Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, Too much folate in pregnant women increases risk for autism, study suggest, http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-05/jhub-tmf050916.php
6. Pelton, R and others. Drug-Induced Nutrient Depletion Handbook. 2001. Lexi-Comp. pg. 467-471.
7. Royal Lee, DDS, An Introduction to Protomorphology, from lecture on April 19, 1956, reprinted 2001. San Diego: International Foundation for Nutrition and Health.
8. Christine Northrup, MD, The Wisdom of the Menstrual Cycle: Honoring the Sacred Moon Cycle, http://www.drnorthrup.com/wisdom-of-menstrual-cycle/
10. E. Hartman, Dreaming sleep (the D State) and the menstrual cycle, Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, vol. 143:406–16; Swanson, E.M., Foulkes, D. 1968. Dream content and the menstrual cycle, Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, vol. 145(5):358–63.
11. U.S. Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health. http://www.womenshealth.gov
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Summer 2016