Herbal Self-Care Guide to Prevent Post Pill Syndrome - Mediatrix Wellness

Herbal Self-Care Guide to Prevent Post Pill Syndrome

You may be deciding to go off the pill, but you’re worried that you’re about to let reign a hormonal storm. Or you may already have stopped, and you’re experiencing a number of uncomfortable symptoms. Post pill syndrome is a holistic medicine term that describes a range of symptoms that are common to encounter when you stop the pill.

But don’t worry! There are plenty of ways to support yourself through the transition naturally. I’m going delve into what post-pill syndrome is and how you can use natural medicines and fertility awareness charting to nurture yourself through the transition.

What is post pill syndrome?

Rather than being a formal medical condition, post pill syndrome refers to a cluster of symptoms that have been triggered or worsened in the first 4-6 months after stopping the pill.

Common symptoms include:

  • loss of menstruation (amenorrhoea) or other menstrual
  • irregularities
  • mood swings
  • acne
  • hair loss
  • thyroid issues
  • fatigue
  • weight gain

Cycle disruption and the pill: the chicken or the egg?

The way the pill interacts with your body in very simplified terms is by closing the ovaries communication systems down via synthetic hormones. These synthetic hormones have some significant differences to our own and are potent medications. Many symptoms that arise when you stop the pill are drug withdrawal reactions and will eventually pass.  (Check out this great and well-researched article by Dr Aviva Romm for more backstory on this)

If you went on the pill for acne, PCOS, endometriosis or other menstrual irregularities, there is a very high chance that when you stop the medication, these will return, as the root cause has not been addressed.

Another possibility is that the underlying cause developed during the time you were on the pill. This is common if you started the pill at a younger age purely for birth control before your cycles had time to establish themselves or you have been on it for a long time. Remember, while on the pill you do not have periods. The bleeding you experience is a hormone withdrawal bleed.

Because there is such a wide range of symptoms with many different causes, treating post-pill syndrome requires a holistic approach. So let’s have a look at what this may be for you.

Getting to the root cause of post pill syndrome

Working with a naturopath or herbalist can be very valuable for uncovering what is at the root of your symptoms and they can recommend relevant blood work, but there is certainly detective work you can do on your own.

What’s your oldest health story?

Think back to before you went on the pill. What was your health like? How were your stress levels? Sleep? Digestion? Skin? What was happening with your period? Were you eating well?

Your answer to these will give you some useful clues to where the imbalance lies.

Gather information

Charting your cycles with a fertility awareness method can provide you with surprising insights into your entire health – and it’s virtually free to do (you just need a thermometer and a pen). You will be able to see how your thyroid is doing, if and when your body is ovulating and provide insights into your oestrogen and progesterone.

I have written a free starters guide to the Fertility Awareness Method complete with charts, so that is a very powerful place to begin. Pop over here to download your copy.

Printable moon map and fertility chart by Clara Bitcon Bailey Naturopath

Fortify the health pillars

Nourish and Restore your Nutrients

The pill is known to deplete your levels of:

  • magnesium
  • vitamins B12, B6 and folate,
  • selenium
  • zinc
  • vitamins C and E

Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fish, modest amounts of pasture-reared (organic if possible) meat and healthy fats (think nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil and ghee) is the best place to begin. Once you have these in place, bringing in a good quality B vitamin complex, magnesium and immune nutrient complex (selenium, zinc, vitamins C and E are often formulated together) are icing on the cake.

Sleep and stress

Getting enough sleep and keeping your stress in check is essential for hormone balance. Sleep and stress govern your circadian rhythm. And your circadian rhythm is like a conductor and your hormones the orchestra. If the conductor is all over the place, so will the music.

Make sure you’re getting 8 hours or more of sleep and weaving in plenty of rest, relaxation and fun into your days.

Gut healing

If one of your health challabges is digestive discomforts, then this pillar is particularly relevant to you. The synthetic hormones in the pill need to be detoxified. The heavy lifting is done firstly by the liver (see below) and secondly by the microflora in your gut – both are central players in your digestive function. Long-term use of the pill can, therefore, put a strain on both. Healing the digestive system is a long game, but if you’re serious about it and stick to it, you can see remarkable improvements very quickly. I’ve written an entire article on how to do just that over here.

Specific Support with Herbal Medicines

Vitex agnus castus – A supreme hormone balancer

Herbal medicines are a powerful complement to supporting your body and hormones back into balance. These are a handful of my favourites:

Womb Nourish

Raspberry leaf and red clover blossom nourishing infusions are a classic combination that I learnt from Susun Weed. The mixture can be used for both regulating your cycle and improving your fertility. Raspberry leaf is rich in nutrients, is a womb tonic and gently balances hormones. Red clover is a cleansing herb and is valuable if you’re experiencing any skin breakouts or rashes after stopping the pill.

Red clover blossoms are also phytoestrogens, which means that they gently interact with your oestrogen receptors, which can help the body transition from the stronger synthetic oestrogen in the pill to your natural oestrogen. If your period hasn’t yet returned, this combination is handy.

The combo is best taken as a tea, 15 grams of each herb added to 1 litre of water off the boil and allowed to sit for at least 4 hours, or overnight. Drink 2-4 cups daily.

Liver & Stress Support

Schisandra berries are excellent medicine for post pill syndrome and safe to take long-term (but not during pregnancy). They support your liver in detoxifying excess hormones; they help you adapt to stressors and promote focus and energy. Quite the impressive range of virtues for the job!

If your skin has gone berserk, you find that you are unable to tolerate alcohol, caffeine or strong smells or you experience bloating, constipation or poor appetite, then Schisandra has a lot to offer you. I make an extract in my practice and prescribe 1ml before meals. It is also lovely as tea with a pinch of liquorice root.  I love this video of Deb Soule in the Avena Botanical’s garden in Maine, USA talking so lovingly about Schisandra.

Re-establishing Cycles

Vitex, also known as chaste berry, is possibly the most well-known herb for menstrual cycle regulating. She helps to regulate the activity of the ovaries, therefore, regulating the whole menstrual cycle.

The important thing to know about vitex and post pill syndrome is not to rush into taking it too soon (I learnt this very useful principle from naturopath Lara Briden).

Give your body three months to reestablish these lines of communication on their own.  You can absolutely start with the raspberry leaf and red clover blossom tea and Schisandra extract. If your period hasn’t returned by then or it’s unregular, then bring vitex into your self-care plan. There is so much to say about this incredible plant, so if you’d like to know more about how she works and dosing, pop over to this article.

Herbal Self-Care Guide to Prevent Post Pill Syndrome

Women's Health Issues & Conditions

January 8, 2018

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