The choice to take hormonal birth control affects more than your sex life. Here’s why you should take a close look at the role birth control plays in your health.
- A version of this article previously appeared on Sotela.
The more I talk to women about the reason I started Sotela, the more I find out how common digestive and hormonal issues are among women.
Up until last year, I had been on birth control pills for 7 years. My doctor recommended the pill because I had irregular periods and terrible PMS. The pill was exactly the “relief” I needed because I wasn’t doubled over in pain every month.
After getting married, I started feeling off and not like myself. I chalked it up to a new birth control brand that I had switched to right before the wedding.
In 2015, I decided to completely get off birth control pills. My intuition told me something was off and I needed a change. The first couple months were great because I didn’t have PMS or heavy periods like I previously had in college. However, three months after getting off the pill, I had major bloating that made me look pregnant. I thought it was the heavy meal I had eaten the weekend before, but a week had passed and still no relief. This started the long journey with countless doctors to figure out what was wrong.
The first appointment I had with my doctor was three weeks into the bloating. She determined a UTI was causing the bloating and sent me home with antibiotics and Gas-x. I finished the treatment and still felt bloated. She sent me to get an ultrasound and found that I had cysts on my ovaries and a fatty liver. The liver part threw her off because I’m neither alcoholic nor overweight. I eat a plant-based diet, and I didn’t think that could be causing these problems.
My doctor sent me to a gastroenterologist, and after an endoscopy, they found a bacterial infection in my stomach. Cue the antibiotics, yet again. Everyone thought it was IBS, but I was positive it wasn’t. Still no answers…
The cysts had continued growing, and now I started breaking out all over my face (hello, puberty!). Birth control pills were again recommended as a solution for my cysts and acne. I refused to go back to the one thing I knew that caused these issues.
I decided to try Eastern medicine and contacted a Chinese doctor who also performed acupuncture. He told me it was stress and nothing more. Even though I knew there was more, he had a point. My dad passed away of stomach cancer thirteen years ago, so bloating and stomach issues scared me. I tried his herbs and went to acupuncture for two months. Things had felt better, but the bloating wasn’t completely gone.
I found my answer in the most unexpected place, The Lively Show podcast. In November, Jess Lively interviewed Dr. Alissa Vitti, a hormone expert. Everything I had been thinking was finally confirmed. I had a hormone imbalance that started in high school, leading to irregular periods and PMS. I never addressed these issues, and in college, they only got worse, which is why I started taking the pill.
Birth control pills are like a bandaid. They treat your symptoms by shutting your hormones off. If you start taking the pill because of an irregularity (i.e. irregular periods, PMS, cysts, acne, polyps, PCOS, etc.), then you have a hormone imbalance that needs to be treated as soon as possible.
After listening to the episode, I bought Dr. Vitti’s book, Womancode, and have been following her hormone balancing protocol. I no longer have bloating, my acne is 90% better, and I’m starting to feel normal. The best part was that I didn’t have to take any medication to start feeling better. There’s a reason why Hippocrates said, “Food is medicine.”
If you are a woman, I highly recommend reading Womancode. It is so important we start learning and talking about our cycle because most of us really don’t know what’s going on other than we ovulate and have a period every month. It’s truly amazing what our bodies can do, and I think it is time we know exactly what it is doing every day of our cycle. We can optimize our health, energy, and lives by simply living in sync with our bodies.
Have you had an eye-opening health experience while taking (or getting off) hormonal birth control?
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Photo: Hanna Baror-Padilla