Podclass Show Notes and Links
Episode 14 is about birth control use in the setting of a healthy feminine cycle and common hormonal imbalances. This episode details situations where birth control, as well as other supplemental hormones, may be used as a temporizing measure but also explains why it is not a long-term answer to hormonal problems. Besides that, there are a number of important organ systems to support while taking or recently discontinuing supplemental hormones…and this podclass goes through the most important ones. In the links below, you can find our Safely Stopping Birth Control course.
Zestyginger.com to learn more about the 4 Phase Cycle Approach.
Zestyginger.com/cycle to get our FREE Wild Feminine Cycle Guide to get started with everything you need to know about living in sync with your cycles.
Zestyginger.com/healthyhormones to join our 3 month Healthy Hormones Group Program. This program includes functional lab work with a complete hormone and neurotransmitter panel, with a personalized protocol created for each participant based on their results.
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Transcript for This Podcast
Hi there. This is Alex with you. Thank you so much for joining me. We are going to do our 14th Podclass – which last time I said was the 14th, but I was lying, it was really the 13th.
The 14th we are going to be talking about birth control. So we get lot and lot and lots of questions about how birth control plays a role in the setting of the cycle. And this will sort of also lead us into talking about what to do when you don’t really have a cycle and you’re using exogenous hormones – exogenous means just outside of your body, so things that you take. And so we’ll talk about all of that.
We have a little bit of a mix bag with birth control. Because a lot of people are on it. Just so many women have been treated with birth control for a variety of reasons. And it kind of seems like no matter what you go into the doctor with – in my own experience, I can’t speak for you – but in my own experience no matter what you go in with a symptom or a complaint or an experience to the ladies doctor, the OB/GYN, the answer that you get is birth control. And I have had a very developing experience with birth control because I really hated it for a long time. I felt like my experience with taking birth control made my pain worse, made all my hormonal problems worse, all of that stuff. And it has taken me a long time, in the order of years, to have a different experience with birth control and supplemental hormones that is now more positive. And I feel like now I am a much more balanced clinician as a result. But it really took me a while to get here.
So that’s us. And Megan and I both just sort of understand the utility of it, but we want to find more answers than birth control can provide us. And so that’s what we’re going to talk about.
So the number one thing that I want to answer that we get asked all the time is “well I understand the benefits of syncing with your cycle, I’m all on board, but I’m on birth control so I don’t think I can do it.” And our answer is always, “you can absolutely do it. And not only can you do it, but it’s really really helpful if you do it when you are on birth control.” Because when you’re adding an outside source of hormones, it’s really important to support you body in both the inflammatory cascade, that first half of the cycle, and that detoxification phase, because all of those hormones that you’re taking, it’s important that you metabolise them properly. So process them and then get them out of the body. If along the way there are breaks in the way that we are supposed to process this medication, because it is a medication, then you’re going to run into side effects and issues down the road. And so for us we recommend doing it this way and when we do the work with all of our ladies, we generally have them start doing the cycle syncing stuff while they are on birth control, and then when they want to transition off birth control that’s when the stuff becomes even more important and plays a larger role. And then, usually, in doing that at the time, you can mitigate a lot of the problems that happen from coming off birth control.
And there is a safe way to come off birth control. And then there is the way where you just stop it and hope that you can deal with everything that happens. And that’s generally not the approach that we love.
So let’s talk about birth control and how it functions within the entire world of hormone health and hormone balancing. And women’s health in general.
The way that I see birth control and supplemental hormones is that it is an intervention when you’re state of symptoms is so severe that you need an intervention right now to help support you. When you get to the point where you are having such heavy periods that you are anemic, or if you have such bad pain that you are just completely paralyzed for like two days out of the month, or you’re endometriosis is so bad that you have uncontrolled pain all the time, or any of that. Right? So I have gotten to the point where I had spotting so bad for so long that I finally was like, “I need extra estrogen and progesterone.” I had estrogen patches and progesterone pills. I’ve also done the cream – or not the cream, the vaginal suppository. And it really helped. But I understood what I was doing was I was intervening on my symptoms. I was not helping the root cause. And what people find is that they seem to think that, “Okay, I had problems and then I went on birth control, and then two years later when I went on birth control things got worse. So it must have been the birth control that made things worse.” When in reality what most commonly ends up happening is that you started having problems, and then when you went on birth control those problems, even though you weren’t having as severe as symptoms, those underlying problems continued to get worse and worse and worse and worse. And when you took away that cover up of the symptoms, all of a sudden you are left with the reality of what you’re underlying physiology and what has been going on in your body the entire time.
So it may appear that it got worse, but that isn’t necessarily the case. No it is true that some people just really don’t do well with birth control, but I would not say that that is the more common version. The more common version is that what you were using birth control for was essentially – it puts a bracket on your endocrine system. And it says, “ok endocrine system. These are the parameters. Here is a static input.” And then your body tries to work around that. But the thing is the body is much more complex than any aspect of that birth control. Even the birth controls that now have higher and lower levels depending on when in your cycle it is. Obviously what their trying to do there in doing that is that their trying to mimic the ebb and flow of the cycle just like how we’re talking about. But instead of putting that bracket and expecting our body to fall in line with that, most of the time there’s enough damage accrued that that in and of itself doesn’t actually balance anything out. I think maybe if you’re really really early on in your supplemental hormones, may be able to actually impact, but I think by the time most of us get to birth control or supplemental hormones, that in and of itself will not do anything to fix the underlying problem. And what you’re doing is just holding the endocrine system in one particular place that you’ve chosen based on which birth control you’ve chose, which dose of hormones you picked. And then you hope that the body simply balances around it.
And unfortunately that’s not exactly what happens. For the most part while you, you have this input and you’re asking the body to have a certain input. Underneath the surface – well that may appear to happen, like, you take birth control and you don’t have spotting anymore – the thing is all of those underlying factors like dysregulated inflammation, like poor detoxification, poor glucose metabolism, dysfunctional ovarian signaling, all of that is still happening under the surface. And until you address those things it’s really not going to get much better.
So we want to look at birth control as a tool that we have at our disposal. We do not want to vilify it in a way where people need it because they are miserable but they refuse to take it. I honestly don’t think that’s the best approach either. I know not everyone with agree with me, but in my opinion there is a time and place for conventional medicine. Obviously I’m a little biased being an MD. But I think conventional medicine has wonderful things to offer us. And birth control and exogenous hormones can be one of those things, but we have to recognise their limitations, and realize there is a lot more going on. And so we’ll talk a little bit about that.
In general, if someone is on birth control, we recommend – and they want to work on their hormones – a lot of the testing that we do looks a little, we like the DUTCH test a lot. And we always pair our hormone testing with neurotransmitter testing because if the input from the brain is telling the endocrine system that you’re on high alert all the time, it’s going to be really hard to just tell the adrenals to chill out. Because that signal never went away just because you’re giving things to help them chill out. You have to address that actual underlying thing. And so we always do the DUTCH test and we do neurotransmitter profiles. And with that combination we generally get funky results on birth control. But it can be done. And then a lot of that information can be used to make protocols to help people transition off birth control. Or sometimes people will start doing the cycle syncing stuff, transition off the birth control, and then do the DUTCH testing and neurotransmitter profiles. You can really approach it either way, but usually it helps to have testing involved.
I think, if it were me – and you’re listening to this and you are on birth control – if it were me, what I would personally do is start syncing up my cycle in the way that we’ve been talking about in these podclasses, and then transition off the birth control, and then reapproach some testing and do a personalized specific protocol for what’s going on. That is just my personal preference. But there is lots of ways to approach this depending on which practitioner you see and which practitioner you’re going to be working with. And so that’s all fine.
As far as extra hormones. So hormone replacement therapy where you’re taking birth control at specific times in the cycle – I’ve also done that – for the most part this is done in the Luteal Phase. So in my case I had very very low estrogen and progesterone in the second half of the cycle, so I had the first half looked pretty good, I could mount a signal to the ovaries to ovulate, I could ovulate, but then I couldn’t really mount that response to make hormones in the second half and I would just go from my period, then I would have a week, that Phase 2 would be fine which is probably why the Rise Phase is my favorite, an have spotting for another two weeks, and then my period again. So it felt like I was constantly spotting, which is a miserable place to be. And at that point is when I added in the second half of my cycle estrogen and progesterone. And then while I was getting help with that, that’s when I was doing initially all my elimination diet stuff. I really changed my diet around. It was around the time I was diagnosed with Celiac disease. I was doing a lot more work on myself and my approach to life and anxiety and my beliefs, and all of this stuff we talk about. And then I gradually transitioned from that. And then really haven’t had spotting, the spotting resolved.
So for that reason I’m a huge fan of using them when you absolutely need to. But that then after that it’s time to kind of put your cards into all the more knitty gritty stuff that will actually get you long term results. Which is what we’re actually after. And that’s what we really want to impact.
So that’s the thing with birth control and other hormones. Hopefully you found that helpful. We do actually have a small program that we do. It’s just a four part program of videos. And it’s me doing teaching about how to safely transition off birth control. It’s called Safely Stopping Birth Control. We weren’t very creative in the name. So if you head on over to zestyginger.com you can find that. Or just shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. And we can hook you up with that.
So I hope that you guys have a great day. Thanks so much for joining these podclasses. Make sure you let your girlfriends know about it so we can get the word out about more and more hormonal health. And making sure all our ladies are taken care of. Alright guys. We’ll talk to you soon. Bye.
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I appreciate your website! What are your suggestions for someone in her mid-twenties with hormonal/cystic acne that tends to worsen during ovulation and my period? I’m currently eating a low glycemic diet, using Proactive and no meds. Thanks!