I've had a number of women asking me the same question lately. How do I regulate my menstrual cycle now that I'm off the pill?
This is an excellent question and one that requires some patience. It can take months to regulate your cycle so being patient with your body is important.
Before we talk about what you can do to regulate your menstrual cycle, here are some of the things that the pill does that alters your natural cycle.
The most commonly used birth control pill contains estrogen to prevent ovulation and artificial progestogen which helps prevent a fertilized egg from implanting. This results in all of your natural menstrual hormones being reduced, and leading to an excess of artificial hormones circling in the body.
The pill also helps thicken cervical mucus which prevents sperm entering the uterus and fallopian tubes. This becomes a problem if you are off the pill and trying to get pregnant as it can take awhile to let the cervical mucus start to secrete normally again.
The pill also causes an increased production of sex hormone binding globulin in the liver, binding our hormones and making them unavailable. This means that a woman on the pill makes testosterone, but the testosterone is unavailable for its normal uses, like increasing sex drive.
Women on the pill have also been shown to have higher rates of depression. I know this from personal experience. I became extremely depressed when I was on the pill years ago, and within one week of coming off it I felt like a new human.
Adolescents are at an even higher risk for depression when on the pill, especially when taking progesterone only contraceptives. They are also at higher risk for osteopenia and reduced grey brain matter.
So how do you regulate your cycle after the pill?
First, be aware that the pill causes nutrient depletion. B vitamins (B12, B2, B6, folate), Vitamin C, Vitamin D and iron are the most likely to be depleted. I would recommend supplementing these nutrients as they are important for a healthy cycle. B vitamins are also extremely important in the healthy functioning of our nervous system, so make sure to supplement these, especially if you suffer from depression or mood disorders. Taking 1000mg of Vitamin C per day for several months can greatly increase progesterone levels (keep this in mind if you are TTC).
Have your iron levels tested. It is not advised to supplement with iron if you are not deficient. If you do suspect an iron deficiency (some signs are easy bruising, fatigue, shortness of breath) then try some herbs. Dandelion leaf and nettle are good for increasing iron. Blackstrap molasses, amaranth and sesame seeds are also great food sources of iron.
Having a little protein and fat at each meal is important in regulating the cycle. The protein is important for blood sugar balancing and the fat is important for hormone production. Healthy protein sources include nuts and seeds, tahini, chickpeas, quinoa, organic tofu and spinach. Healthy fats include olive oil, olives, avocados, cold water fish and nuts and seeds.
Seed cycling can be very beneficial. Using specific seeds at different times in your cycle can help your body's hormones to regulate themselves in the appropriate amounts.
Eat cruciferous vegetables regularly. Broccoli, kale, cauliflower and brussels sprouts can all help to bind excess hormones circulating in the body and remove them. They are incredibly important for the healthy functioning of the liver. Other things you can do for the liver that will help remove excess hormones/toxins? Eat grapefruit, apples, lemons, limes, bitter and pungent foods and drink 16oz of water first thing in the morning to help flush the toxins out that the liver has worked so hard to remove overnight.
The thyroid needs to be healthy for you to have a regular cycle. Iron, Copper, Zinc and Selenium are all important for this. Regularly eating sea vegetables (nori, dulse, kelp) will also help to support the thyroid, as will himalayan salt and coconut oil.
Working to support the adrenals with foods is of utmost importance. The adrenals decide if you are going to function as designed or if your normal functions need to be re-arranged to deal with stress. Schizandra and maca are both adrenal adaptogens, which means they balance the adrenal function. You can take these in a supplement or food form.
One of my favourite recommendations is a little supplement called Vitex (aka Chaste Tree Berry). Vitex can be extremely helpful in dealing with PMS, irregular cycles, PCOS, fertility, lactation, menopause and all around hormone balancing. It has a long history of use in herbal medicine and I have seen incredible results in cycle regulation with my clients.
Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, yoga and walking in nature are also all beneficial and help us connect deeper to ourselves. Connecting to the beauty of our cycle rather than feeling ashamed about it is important to allow the process to happen as it should. Our cycle is a beautiful reminder that us women are special human beings with a monthly cycle that gives us different gifts at different times such as self-reflection and creativity.
It is also good to note that a "regular menstrual cycle" can be anywhere from 21 to 42 days in length and be considered "normal". Your cycle does not have to be 28 days to be considered "regular".
Also important to note, if you are trying to conceive it is advised that you wait 6 months after going off the pill to allow the body's hormones to balance out to ensure a successful pregnancy.
If you are considering going ON the pill (especially if it is to help a non-sexual issue) I would advise you to do your research. There are a lot of natural ways to bring the