Are you aware of the health risks associated with hormonal birth control? Over 100 million women worldwide use hormonal contraceptives, so you or someone you’re close to may be using it. It’s often handed out like candy to young girls who aren’t properly educated on the potential side effects and long-term health implications.
It’s always important for women to have a choice when it comes to contraception, but it should be a fully informed choice. You may find after further research that the risks outweigh the benefits and alternative approaches to pregnancy prevention and hormone health should be explored.
This post is designed to inform you of the health risks of using hormonal birth control and the ways you can balance your hormones naturally with diet, natural alternative treatments, and self-care.
“The pill” and other hormonal delivery methods such as the IUD and implant are cleverly marketed as a quick and harmless solution to common ailments of early adulthood such as:
However, these common struggles should be seen as red flags for underlying hormonal imbalances. The symptoms should be addressed with diet and lifestyle adjustments rather than the “Band-Aid” approach for managing symptoms with long-term synthetic hormone (usually progestin or a combination of progestin and estrogen) medication.
The synthetic hormone intake can mask major hormonal issues for years. Many doctors are at a loss for healing or managing health issues related to women’s hormonal health and birth control is an easy option that will help their patients feel better.
The effects of the hormones in oral contraceptives obviously reach far beyond preventing ovulation. In addition to creating a cover-up for underlying ailments, hormonal birth control piles on more health concerns and side effects. In a recent article, the American Cancer Society (ACS) reported that women who have used birth control pills are more likely to develop breast cancer than those who have never taken them. A 2018 study found a 20% increased risk of breast cancer among current and recent hormonal contraception users. (1) Risk of cervical cancer has been shown to double after 10 or more years of use. (2)
The longer women are on hormonal birth control, the higher their risk of complications with hormone health and fertility. A 2014 meta-analysis from Oxford University concluded that birth control that contains both estrogen and progestin decrease testosterone levels and increases sex hormone-binding globulin (SBHG) concentrations in women’s bodies. (3) This is a terrible problem because it wreaks havoc on the thyroid and women need certain levels of free testosterone for optimal health. Low-testosterone can cause fatigue, weight gain, low libido, and other chronic issues. To use a gardening analogy:
It’s about digging into the root cause of imbalances, not burying the problem.
Then, you must nurture your hormones with tender care and weed out the bad habits that threaten to overtake optimal reproductive organ health. Here are the three tools that will help your hormones thrive.
What you put on your plate has a lot of power over your hormonal health. Many studies that say hormonal birth control has no effect on nutrient absorption, assume that women who take birth control pills have adequate diets. Unhealthy diet could be the initial cause of the hormonal imbalances that led to the choice to take synthetic hormones. Add hormonal birth control on top of a bad diet and it puts a major strain on reproductive health in general.
Research shows that key nutrient depletions caused by hormonal birth control include: folic acid, vitamins B2, B6, B12, vitamin C and E and the minerals magnesium, selenium and zinc. (4) Even after women come off the pill or other contraceptives, they could struggle from the effects of these long-term nutrient deficiencies when trying to get pregnant.
It’s vital to learn how to optimize your digestion, because digestive issues can contribute to hormone imbalances if you are not absorbing nutrients properly or not eliminating waste properly (excess estrogen from the bowels can end up back in the bloodstream!).
Be proactive about hormone health and do everything in your power to make your daily nutritional intake work for your hormones, not against them. I will give you a resource at the end of this post to explore this further, but as a quick reference here are the top 5 for and top 5 against hormone health dietary choices.
Top 5 Hormone Harming
Top 5 Hormone Helping
You also must eat regular meals to stabilize hormones. The “intermittent fasting” craze is wrecking many women’s hormones. A sure sign that fasting is disrupting your hormone production is if your period becomes irregular or you miss a period. As always, consult with your healthcare team before making extreme changes to your regimen. But in general, a balanced diet with several healthy meals a day is the way to go.
Complementary and Alternative medicine can greatly help relieve hormonal imbalance symptoms and support your journey to wellness. Here’s some options to look into! Make sure and check the practitioner’s licensure and reviews so you can be safe and comfortable.
The menstrual cycle is dismissed as a burden in our society, but it is truly a miraculous and divine part of life! One of the best things you can do to begin balancing your hormones is to educate yourself on the process, because knowledge of it makes it so much less “scary” and fosters a more intimate relationship with your own body.
Grow a Healthy Relationship with Your Cycle: Explore the inner-workings of the four phases of the cycle (follicular, ovulatory, luteal, and menstrual) and how they connect to nature. Your hormones, when in balance, are very synched with the natural world including moon cycles. When you get in touch with your cyclical nature by researching and attending to these monthly changes in your body with care and respect, it’s a sacred experience.
Know that no matter what, the fact you are reading this right now shows you are expanding your awareness and creating a deeper connection with your cycle.
Keep a “Moon Journal” to annotate how you feel throughout the month by answering these questions and freewriting as you feel inspired to do:
How are you feeling:
These answers can give you insights into what you’re moving through on a soul-level during this cycle of life. It’s truly an expansive experience when you tune in to the rhythms of your body.
Lighten the Toxic Load: We are constantly exposed to endocrine disruptors, chemicals that affect natural hormone balance, from air, water, and food – especially in big-city polluted areas. So it’s of utmost importance that we manage our exposure as much as possible by buying organic and free-range food, using filtered water, and choosing natural cleaning and personal care products. Make sure your beauty products aren’t loaded with toxins that could be contributing to estrogen dominance (choose natural perfume!).
Every step you take to eliminate toxic influences on your life is bringing you closer to hormone and body/mind/soul balance!
To learn more incredible and accessible ways to naturally improve your hormonal balance and overall wellbeing, get my NEW BOOK, Wholistic Wisdom: Awakening Your Inner Healer. I cover full body detoxification and healing adrenal fatigue in detail with practical steps you can take to benefit your hormone balance.
1. Westhoff, Carolyn L., and Malcolm C. Pike. “Hormonal Contraception and Breast Cancer.” Contraception, vol. 98, no. 3, 2018, pp. 171–173., doi:10.1016/j.contraception.2018.05.002.
2. Smith JS, Green J, Berrington de Gonzalez A, et al. Cervical cancer and use of hormonal contraceptives: a systematic review. Lancet2003; 361(9364):1159-1167.
3. MmZimmerman, Y., et al. “The Effect of Combined Oral Contraception on Testosterone Levels in Healthy Women: a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” Human Reproduction Update, vol. 20, no. 1, 2013, pp. 76–105., doi:10.1093
4. Palmery, M, et al. “Palmery M1, Saraceno A, Vaiarelli A, Carlomagno G., et al. Oral contraceptives and changes in nutritional requirements.”European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences, vol. 17(13), 2013. 1804-13.