Imagine this scenario: A 15-year-old girl walks into an office and complains to her doctor about acne and painful and irregular menstrual periods. Your doctor is quick to write a prescription for birth control pills . And she tells the girl that this is going to help balance her hormones, regulate her cycle, and stop acne. During the medication, her skin clears and her periods are regular and pain-free, she is delighted and continues to take the pill without a second thought until she is ready to start a family.

Birth control pills, what you should know before taking them

In another case, a woman in her 30s or 40s is experiencing perimenopausal symptoms with mood swings, irregular bleeding, suffocation, and night sweats. Your gynecologist wants to prescribe a birth control pill to ease your symptoms instead of working to find out the cause of your hot flashes and mood swings.

The situation of these women would not be exactly rare, in fact, they would be in the company of 9.7 million other women who are currently taking birth control pills. After all, the birth control pill is so ubiquitous that it is often referred to simply as “the pill.” So this pill must be pretty harmless right?

The truth is, birth control pills are not harmless . For one thing, when a doctor immediately turns to birth control pills to alleviate a woman’s symptoms, he is not dealing with determining the causes of the symptoms, but is simply masking them with a medication, leaving the real untreated. root cause. What’s more, birth control pills themselves pose several health risks.

In this article, we’re going to look at what birth control pills actually are, how they affect your body, and the functional medicine approach to balancing your hormones naturally.

What are birth control pills?

Birth control pills are a type of hormone replacement therapy. They contain synthetic (man-made) hormones that interrupt the natural hormonal cycle to stop ovulation. In a woman’s natural hormonal cycle, estrogen and progesterone fluctuate.

Estrogen spikes occur just before ovulation, and progesterone spikes just after.

Birth control pills work by providing the body with synthetic hormones (either estrogen and progesterone or simply progesterone) to keep hormone levels high, tricking the body into thinking you are pregnant and thus preventing your ovaries from releasing an egg.

The original purpose of birth control pills, of course, was to stop the pregnancy, but conventional doctors prescribe the pill very quickly for other reasons, such as acne, PMS, painful periods, ovarian cysts, fibroids, mood swings. , and perimenopause, this just to name a few.

What are the problems with birth control pills?

The main problem with birth control pills is that instead of containing estrogen they have many synthetic hormones , such as stridiol ethinyl estradiol and norethindrone , which are not recognized or broken down by the body in the same way as natural estrogen. The birth control pills also disturb your natural hormone levels , maintaining artificially high levels of estrogen, which has a ripple effect on the endocrine system. These factors can cause a whole host of health problems.

1. Increased risk of cancer from taking birth control pills

Synthetic estrogens such as those found in birth control pills can increase the risk of developing certain types of cancer, such as breast, uterine, and cervical cancer. Studies show that women who take birth control pills, and even women who recently stopped taking them, have a 20 to 30% higher risk of developing breast cancer than women who have never used the pill.

2. Candida overgrowth

As we already know, most of us already have some candida in our digestive tract. When we are in good health – and we follow a healthy diet and lifestyle – this yeast does not cause any problems; However, when our internal ecosystem becomes unbalanced, it can lead to candida overgrowth and triggers all the unpleasant symptoms that come along with it.

Birth control pills upset our internal balance, causing something called estrogen dominance – which means too much estrogen in the body. In one study, researchers found that using birth control pills can double the risk of developing a Candida overgrowth.

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3. Increase in binding globulin hormones

The synthetic hormones in birth control pills increase thyroid-binding globulin and sex hormone, mimicking pregnancy. This decreases the amount of testosterone and thyroid hormone available in your blood, which can lead to hypothyroidism, constipation, depression, being overweight, and almost non-existent sexual desire.

4. Liver toxicity when taking birth control pills

Birth control pills are processed by the liver and go through what is called the first-pass effect or first-pass metabolism . During this process, the pills are metabolized by the liver and the concentration of the drug is greatly reduced before reaching the bloodstream.

This process can significantly damage the liver as it leads to increased inflammation, liver tumors, and a decreased ability to properly detoxify.

The metabolism of birth control pills by the liver also requires additional amounts of B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium, and zinc. If you’re not getting extra amounts of these nutrients, it can lead to nutritional deficiencies that show up as weight gain, fluid retention, depression, and mood swings.

5. Cardiovascular risk

Studies have found that birth control pills (specifically combination pills that contain synthetic estrogen and progesterone) increase blood pressure , increasing the risk of heart attacks, blood clots, and strokes.

Functional Medicine Approach to Natural Balance of Your Hormones

While birth control pills may seem like the quick fix to many health problems, they are actually quite the opposite. The functional medicine approach looks at all aspects of your lifestyle – and your individual biochemistry – to get to the root of your symptoms, and set you on the path to finding long-term relief.

One should consider possible food sensitivities and gut problems of women struggling with acne. Hormone testing in functional laboratories can determine if hormonal imbalances are involved in women with early menopause or painful or irregular periods.

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No matter what the underlying cause is, the first step is to follow a necessary diet and lifestyle.

Taking a look at the personal care products you are using is also essential. Many personal care products contain parabens and phthalates – chemicals that mimic the activity of synthetic estrogens in your body.

Supplements can also help reduce symptoms and provide some relief naturally, while you work to fix the underlying problem. For women going through early menopause, herbal formulas that help stimulate progesterone are recommended.

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Other contraceptive methods

In many cases, women turn to birth control pills as a way to avoid unwanted pregnancy, and not just for the relief of persistent symptoms. While this is one of the most common methods of contraception, there are other options available.

A highly recommended option is a non-hormonal copper IUD. The copper IUD is approved for 10 years of use, although some studies have shown it to be effective for up to 20 years. You may also want to consider male condoms (if you are not in a committed relationship, definitely always use condoms).

You can also use the rhythm method, where you keep track of your cycles and avoid having sex on days that are fertile. There are a number of fertility apps designed to help you conceive through the rhythm method that can be used in the opposite way to avoid pregnancy. Or, if it makes sense to you and your family, your partner could have a vasectomy.

It is important to weigh the pros and cons of different methods of contraception and find out what works best for you at this stage of life and marital status. Keep in mind that the only birth control method that is 100 percent effective is abstinence.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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