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The Pill: Sex, Drugs, and Mood Swings

 the pill

Brought to you by Meghan Telpner who is one of our 
favourite experts in health and nutrition!
 
Let's say that I suggested you eat something every day that could potentially cause weight gain, mood swings, breast tenderness, breast cancer, blood clotting, heart attack and stroke, migraines, gall bladder disease, increased blood pressure, nausea, benign liver tumours, and had no ingredient list to be found, would you eat it? What if I suggested you bathe the cells that make up your body in synthetic chemicals and petroleum waste, would you bathe in it?

The answer, ladies, is yes. Yes you would. Well most of you would, most of you do and for several years I did too.

Oh The Pill. It has brought us the freedom to have careless sex whenever our sweet little libidos desire. Too bad The Pill kicks the libido to the ground, packs extra junk on to the trunk and makes us crazier than we already may be. I'll admit I did it from the age of 17 to about 24 I think. I got a little fat, a lot crazy and increased my risk of cancer. Seven years later when I realized this was doing nothing for my health, I went off it and promptly grew a beard. Seriously! My team of estheticians and I have been battling my furry face ever since.

That is what f-bombing around with our hormones does, and that is just the parts we can see.

Before you get your knickers in a knot all I will ask is this, has it healed anything? Has it cured anything? Has it resolved the root of the problem? As long as you are relying on anything to function 'normally', the problem or health challenge has not been healed or resolved and that is all I am going to say about that.

I am at a bit of a loss as to where to start with this so here we go with some interesting factoids pulled from here:

  • 73 percent of women admit they have purchased one food item over another based on its ingredients
  • 60 percent have bought an item of clothing based on its materials.
  • Although 82 percent admit to not knowing what's inside their birth control pills, 74 percent believe there are differences between birth control pills and 71 percent agree that certain ingredients may have certain advantages for them.
  • More than 75% of women believe the specific type of progesterone in their birth control pills is important, but only two percent know that drospirenone is a form of progesterone.

Most of us failed to get out of our teens without being prescribed (often on our own request) a prescription drug that we would take daily, for years on end, that controlled something that was not fully developed, and definitely not in a balanced place; the endocrine or hormonal system of our body.

the pill

The birth control pill is considered by many to be the most socially significant medical advance of the twentieth century. I can't help but wonder if the birth control pill didn't also contribute to the dramatic level of breast cancer in the women who were getting it on free-love style in the 60's as the first Pill Guinea Pigs. I wonder if the common mood swing side effects don't contribute to the incredible quantity of mood and nervous system altering drugs we are now being prescribed (what's a little zanax, celexa and zoloft between friends?). I also wonder if the pill (perhaps better referred to as the estrogen supplement) has also contributed to how digestively dysfunctional most women are through their 20's, infertile into their 30's, raving sex fiends into their 40's and viciously sweaty and angry at all men into their 50's with menopause.

See, the pill wreaks havoc on our body biochemically, from a hormonal perspective as well as from a nutritional perspective. If we never correct these imbalances, don't we continue to tip further and further out of balance? Yes we do ladies. Yes we do. And then we grow beards and have to get IVF in order to get knocked up after spending ten years doing our best not to get knocked up.

The pill works by inhibiting the development of the egg in the ovaries. Lower estrogen levels will trigger the pituitary gland to sneeze out the hormone that triggers egg development. The pill, however, releases enough synthetic estrogen to inhibit that hormone from being released. The pill also contains progestin, another synthetic hormone that increases the thickness of cervical mucous and puts a hold on the development of the uterine lining which further helps to prevent the spermees from making its way to any eggy. But since you've taken the pill, you of course know exactly how that works, right?

Another interesting factoid I discovered in my research is that shortly after the birth control pill was introduced, the high falooten ladies supposed to be taking it, began to raise concerns about side effects and safety. As early as 1961, reports were circulating claiming that the birth control pill increased a woman's risk of suffering a stroke or a heart attack by causing blood clotting. In 1965, the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provided a scientist to study the side effects of the birth control pill and established an Advisory Committee on Obstetrics and Gynecology to study the relationship between oral contraceptives and blood clotting, increased risk of breast, cervical, and endometrial cancer. This committee established by the FDA, reported that it had found no evidence to render the birth control pill unsafe for human use. Of course. Does this surprise any of us? I think it would be tougher to find a study done by the FDA that finds any drug, chemical, or any other man-made substance to be unsafe for human use and/or consumption. But goodness forbid hemp be grown in the United States. That would be dangerous.

To its credit, the FDA called for a larger study on the effects of the birth control pill on blood clotting later determining that the pill hadn't been used long to study these effects.  It was also determined that studies as to whether the pill increased risk of breast, cervical, or endometrial cancer were inconclusive and required longer study periods. I think those results are in.

Over the last 30 years, all sorts of new pills have been introduced with lower doses, different doses, different hormone and varying effectiveness ratings with the result being roughly 40 different pills and the freedom for us ladies to try a cocktail of them to determine which make us less crazy, less fat, less blood clotted, less pimply, less ovarian cysty, less edometriosisalicious, and less pregnant. No pill has ever made us healthier, or even healthy.

the pill

Oh the pill. Sometimes I miss you. You made it all so much easier. Sort of. Sex may have been a little more worry-free, but I felt like poop. Not only does The Pill (hormone supplement), mess up our natural hormonal balance, take us completely out of touch with our natural cycles but also depletes a myriad of essential nutrients that then cause a whole other basket of conditions and disorders. There are too many to mention so I am going to summarize the main issues, which include estrogen dominance, yeast overgrowth and nutrient depletion.

Estrogen Dominance and The Pill
As simply put as possible, when our hormones are in balance, we are in balance. Our moods are stable, our digestion is regular, our sleep is sweet and deep, our appetite is healthy, our immune system is strong, and our energy is good. Perfect health, right? Hormones aren't just the sex hormones like estrogen and progesterone but also adrenalin, insulin, cortisol, and thyroid hormones among others. When any one of these is out of whack, the rest tumble along domino style to compensate. Our endocrine system is just that, a system, where it all needs a sweet balance to operate at its best. Now, what happens when we take hormones in the form of supplements? Humpty dumpy has a great fall and we timber to a place of imbalance.

Estrogen dominance is one of the most common results of long term birth control use. Not only is estrogen in the pill, but a form is also in soy foods and now everywhere in our environment so it is no wonder that conditions associated with high levels have taken over. Drinking from plastic bottles, drinking tap water, eating and breathing cause increases in our estrogen levels. It has infiltrated our world and is associated not only with hermaphrodite minnows but also (and this is just a selection): acceleration of the aging process, allergies, asthma, hives, rashes, sinus congestion, autoimmune disorders, breast cancer, cervical dysplasia, impaired thyroid function, decreased sex drive, depression with anxiety or agitation, dry eyes, endometrial (uterine) cancer, fat around the abdomen, hips and thighs, fatigue, fibrocystic breasts, foggy thinking, hair loss, headaches, hypoglycemia, increased blood clotting, infertility, irregular menstrual periods, irritability, insomnia, mood swings, osteoporosis, polycystic ovaries, PMS, slow metabolism, uterine cancer, uterine fibroids, and bloating.

Fun times ladies. I'll see your lumpy breasts (which doctors say is normal) and raise you abdominal fat (hello muffin top!) and perhaps a sprinkling of cranky pants (temper tantrum much?)

Yeast Overgrowth and The Pill

I have yet to meet a woman who was on the birth control pill and had never experienced a yeast infection. There is nothing appetizing about cottage cheese discharge and itchy, inflamed vag. We take The Pill which contributes to this, then take an antibiotic to get rid of it, which, actually further contributes. It's a lose lose. Candida and yeast, are commonly found in the digestive tract, where a healthy balance are imperative to digestive health and immune health. Common lifestyle choices of peeps in our society that include things like The Pill, antibiotics, processed and refined grains and sugar, oodles of stress, and acidic or negative thoughts can all lead to a yeast overgrowth.  Toxins from yeast overgrowth then lead to a kit'n'caboodle of other delicious problems, commonly starting with some sweet poon infections.  We can then move onto goodies like migraines, infertility, fibromyalgia, endometriosis, psoriasis, PMS, depression and digestive disorders. But hey! We can treat all those as symptoms right? And keep carrying on taking The Pill all the while being flummoxed about why they keep coming back. Oye-gevalt-denka-shayne. No ladies. No, no, no.

In plain English, yeast overgrowth has been closely linked to estrogen dominance in a woman's body caused by the pill and the risk increases with length of usage.

The Crazies and The Pill

In Nutrition and Vitamin Therapy, Michael Lesser, M.D.  has suggested that the "increased blood levels of copper generated by oral contraceptive use may contribute to depression and emotional symptoms". You don't say. What about increased blood levels of copper from a copper IUD? Same. Same.

Another profesh on the subject, Sharon DeBuren, nurse practitioner and nutritionist, has stated that the depression from The Pill could likely be a "neurochemical reaction to artificial steroids (female hormones), and from a lack of women's own superior hormones including estradiol and natural progesterone secreted with ovulation".

Further, the pill causes major depletion in specific nutrients, such as the B vitamins, responsible for keeping us smiling. So now let's give a little time to the nutrient losses.

Nutrient Losses With The Pill

Nutrients depleted by The Pill include vitamin B2, B6, B12, Folic Acid, Vitamin C, magnesium and Zinc. Let's have a look at a few of these.

Vitamin B2 (Roboflavin): Roboflavin has profound effects on the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and protein. All three of these basic food elements require riboflavin if they are to be properly utilized by the body. A deficiency of vitamin B2 (riboflavin) may result in bloodshot eyes, abnormal sensitivity to light, itching and burning of the eyes, inflammation in the mouth, a sore and burning tongue, and cracks on the lips and in the corners of the mouth. It may also result in dull or oily hair, an oily skin, premature wrinkles on the face and arms, and split nails. Riboflavin deficiency is associated with the malfunctioning of the adrenal glands- making us unable to cope with normal amounts of stress. It can also contribute to such disorders as anaemia, vaginal itching, and cataracts. Interestingly, vitamin B2 is vital for normal reproduction, growth, repair and development of body tissues including the skin, eyes, connective tissue, mucous membranes and the immune and nervous systems.

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine): Vitamin B6 supports more vital bodily functions than any other vitamin and works as a co-enzyme (team player) in order for many other reactions to occur in the body, including the digestion and absorption of protein. The forming of histamine, serotonin (keeps us happy), dopamine (lets us sleep) and adrenaline (cope with stress) are dependent on vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 is required for the production of serotonin and helps to maintain healthy immune system functions. B6 is required for the balancing of hormonal changes in women as well as assisting the immune system and the growth of new cells. Deficiency symptoms include itchy, peeling skin (dermatitis), cracked and sore lips, dizziness, irritability, depression, neuropathy, poor coordination, confusion, and insomnia.

Magnesium: A vital mineral in the body and is needed for the proper functioning of muscles and nerves, activates cellular enzymatic activity, necessary for calcium, vitamin C, phosphorus, sodium and potassium metabolism, important  for converting blood sugar into energy and perhaps most important, it is our anti-stress mineral. A deficiency therefore results in muscle cramping, rapid heart rate, aching muscles, menstrual cramping, depression, cranky-pantsness, insomnia, irritability, hyperacidicty, and anxiety to name a few.

Now, don't all these deficiency symptoms sound an awful lot like PMS? Funny that.

To add to that, because The Pill is metabolized by the liver before being eliminated, it puts an additional burden on an already overworked organ. You may think, 'Hey, no worries mate' (especially if you're Aussie, you would say that) 'I'll just take a multi-vitamin and be on my merry, birth control pill taking way'. Not so simple mis amgias.

Elson Haas, MD has the following recommended nutrient program and it is kind of insane, keeping in mind this is only so that you'll break even. If you already have a deficiency or are dealing with any other health challenge, you need to more than this.

Nutrient Program for Oral Contraceptives

Water

1½?2 qt.

Vitamin A

5,000-10,000 IUs

Calcium*

600-1,000 mg.

Beta-carotene

10,000-20,000 IUs

Chromium

200-400 mcg.

Vitamin D

200-400 IUs

Copper

1?- mg.

Vitamin E

400-600 IUs

Iron

15-20 mg.

Tiamine (B1)

25-50 mg.

Magnesium*

400-600 mg.

Riboflavin (B2)

25-50 mg.

Manganese

5-10 mg.

Niacin or
niacinamide (B3)

25-50 mg.

Molybdenum

150-300 mcg.

Pantothenic acid (B5)

50-250 mg.

Phosphorus

600-800 mg.

Pyridoxine(B6)

25-50 mg.

Potassium

1-2 g.

Cobalamin (B12)

50-200 mcg.

Selenium

150-300 mcg.

Folic acid

600-800 mcg.

Zinc

30-60 mg.

Biotin

200-400 mcg.

PABA

25-50 mg.

Fatty acids, olive,
or Flaxseed oils

1-2 teaspoons

Vitamin C

1?3 g.

Bioflavonoids

250-500 mg.

 

Other Random Ickies and The Pill

"A woman more than doubles her risk of breast cancer even 20 years after she has stopped taking the pill, and women who have taken the pill for more than eight years also dramatically increase their risk for all cancers." (British Medical Journal, 2008; 336: 59-60). Some more pretty news is that the "the birth-control pill can lead to an increased risk of gum disease by encouraging bacterial growth in the mouth" (Contraception, 1998; 57: 381-4).

Another sweet nothing I can whisper in your ear is that the birth control pill causes an imbalance in vaginal pH leading to an increased susceptibility to infection. So you can take the pill and go bareback to your heart's content, but you have also set your vag terrain up for the ideal conditions to contract VD.

Before I go on to talk about my fave and most natural method of birth control, I did want to dabble a little in a recipe for The Pill should you want to cook up your own. Now, because I have this near obsession about what goes into my body and what things are made of, I was curious as to what cocktail I had been consuming for seven years.

Birth Control Pill Ingredients
Um... Well... I couldn't find any. I did find an outline of The Pill manufacturing that describes a process known as the wet granulation method where the 'active ingredients' (powders containing synthetic versions of estrogen and progestin) get mixed with a dilutant and a disintegrant (the products enable the powders to dissolve in liquid) in a large mixer. This is where solutions carrying a binding agent are mixed into the moistened powder mass. This powder mass is forced through a mesh screen and then placed on shallow trays covered with large sheets of paper and placed in drying cabinets. This goodness than gets lubed up with a fine powdered lubricant and is screened onto the dried material (known as dry granulation). The lubricant and dry granulation are then mixed and tablets are formed from the mixture.

So what we have here is a combination of synthetic hormones, a dilutant, a disintegrant, a binding agent, and a lubricant cocktail - all unnamed, all unnatural. The opposite of healthful or healthy.

So how about not taking it? Yes, I know, you don't want to get pregnant. Me neither! I also don't want to be Miss Cranky Pants Big Bottom Bearded Lady with my mood swinging from here to Timbuktu in the blink of an eye causing all men in my life to run for cover.

If you are in a relationship-like-situation where no barrier method (condom) is needed to protect you from STDs and you have finally decided to let your body just be and get off hormone supplements, there are options. Oh, are there ever and wouldn't you know it that they are effective, if we suck it up and take proper responsibility rather than leaving it all up to a pill. Not only do they keep us from getting knocked up, but they also give us no choice but to get in touch with our cycle.  Please do keep in mind that this method is not for everyone and may not be right for you, all depends on your routines, lifestyle and all that.

the pill

Now, allow me to explain. With the right tracking, you don't have to abstain (no fun in that really) or use the withdrawal method (how good are the guys at that anyway?) or any other pseudo-form of faux-birth-control. See, a woman’s egg can live for only 24 hours and healthy sperm can live for up to five days. That means, there are only five, maybe six days out of the month where we can get knocked up.All we have to do is pay attention to the signals from our body. Imagine that? Paying attention to what our body is telling us! Simply monitoring our health without a pharmaceutical.

So then, short of getting our men snipped, the natural method involves three things: body temperature, cervical fluid and cervical position.

Waking Temperature (also known as basal body temperature): This is easy peezy. Wake-up, stick a thermometer under your tongue, track your temperature.  Though your temperature may very slightly, following ovulation (usually around day 14 of your cycle),  the waking temperature will increase and remain elevated. Charting temperatures makes it very easy to see the shift and thus determine when ovulation has occurred. My fave tool for tracking temperature is MonthlyInfo.com. Now there are a few reasons that we want to know when the egg is dropping. For one, it's good to know that we are in fact ovulating. Another bonus is that if we experience delayed ovulation, this will result in a late period. So our period can be late without us getting freaked. And hip, hip hooray is that after ovulation we can do it without concern of getting preggers. Now - don't go having free and easy love straight away. You do want to know your cycle a bit and also want to make sure your temperature stays elevated. Wait about three days after initial spike. Basically this means that the first 8 days of your cycle are safe, as are the last 12-14 or so. The rest of the time, just use other precautions.

Cervical Fluid. Now this I found really cool. The cervical fluid that we produce, is the same as the seminal fluid of men. Cervical fluid is designed to provide a happy home for the sperm so they can make their way to the egg.  This cervical fluid, however, changes throughout the cycle. Right after our periods, the cervical fluid is dryer and more sparse. During fertile times, just before ovulation, it is most abundant, more viscous, slippery and stretchy like egg white. It actually forms these little channels to help sperm swim along. After ovulation, the cervical fluid becomes thicker, more opaque and actually serves to block sperm.

Cervical Position. Did you know the cervix moves? This is not one I have ventured into personally, but the theory goes that around menstruation, the cervix will be firm, low, closed and drier. Then, around ovulation, the cervix will be soft, high, open and wet- a flashing welcome sign for baby making.

This method, obviously, is also super effective for tracking fertility when trying to make wee little ones.

I am not about to suggest that my little guide above is enough for you. I simply wanted to introduce you to the most natural, easy, and reliable method I know of.

Some fantastic and far better than me resources include:

Happy baby-free, pill-free sexing!

References

1 comment

Jul 06, 2016

Fantastic article! Thank you SO MUCH for putting this out there as I’ve been wanting to go off the pill for years but trying to explain the ‘why’ to my hubby has been a challenge.

Thanks again!

~ Sarah

Sarah

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