Post-Birth Control Syndrome Is Real: Here's How To Balance Your Hormones After The Pill

"I haven’t had my period in nearly three months, I’m snapping at my receptionist more often, and my acne hasn’t been this bad since I went to junior prom," my 34-year-old patient Jenna admitted during our first consultation a few months ago. "Just talking about it gives me a headache," she added, reaching for an Advil. As a doctor who helps women reverse autoimmune disease and balance their hormones, I frequently see frustrated patients like Jenna struggling with the miserable aftermath of going off birth control pills. And while a few do begin cycling regularly again and have minimal symptoms—most women aren’t so lucky.

Here's what you need to know about post-birth control syndrome. 

In my practice, women who go off the pill frequently suffer hormonal imbalances, menstrual irregularities, and symptoms like acne and mood swings. If their periods return, they often become painful or heavy. We call this problem post-birth control syndrome (PBCS), and it typically occurs within four to six months after discontinuing the pill. Among its symptoms include:

  • Menstrual irregularities including loss of menstruation, heavy menstruation, painful periods, and short cycles (less than 24 days).
  • Hormonal changes like infertility, hypothyroidism, hair loss, breast tenderness, acne, and adrenal dysfunction.
  • Migraines and headaches.
  • Changes in body composition like breast size, weight gain, or difficulty losing weight.
  • Mood disorders including anxiety and depression.
  • Digestive symptoms including bowel changes, digestive upset, gas, or bloating.
  • Inflammation and other immune imbalances.

You can restore hormone balance after the pill. 

Because its symptoms are so diverse, treating PBCS doesn’t happen overnight and often requires addressing multiple factors including gut health, detoxifying, nutrients, and balancing hormones. If you suffer from PBCS, please find a functional practitioner who can address these and other underlying problems. For many patients, attempting everything at once or going it alone can feel like a herculean challenge. But don’t give up hope: You can restore hormonal balance and cultivate overall health. In my practice, I’ve found these five strategies help women who struggle with PBCS:

1. Leverage your labs. 

Among the tests I use to evaluate hormones include comprehensive thyroid testing (TSH, Free T4, Free T3, Reverse T3, Anti-TPO, and Anti-Thyroglobulin), sex hormones, as well as adrenal testing. A functional practitioner can implement these and other tests to restore hormonal balance.

2. Love your liver. 

Because of the burden those synthetic hormones created, your liver needs some major post-pill TLC. Along with liver-supporting foods like beets, burdock root, dandelion root tea, garlic, and cruciferous vegetables, I had Jenna do a 21-day detox with professional-grade supplements. 

3. Realign your gut. 

Once your liver packages those synthetic hormones, your gut moves them out. Or it should, anyway. Like many former pill users, Jenna’s gut was inflamed, triggering leaky gut and disrupting her microbiome. Among the foods that helped restore her gut balance were fermented foods like kombucha and sauerkraut plus fiber-rich foods like flaxseeds. Altogether we needed about three months to heal Jenna’s leaky gut, restore microbiome balance, and clear any underlying infections. 

4. Restart your hormones. 

Like Jenna, many patients experience menstrual-cycle changes and other hormonal irregularities once they discontinue the pill. Like exes who no longer speak, the pill shut downs the conversation between your ovaries and your brain. To re-establish that connection, we implemented a high-quality multivitamin plus nutrient-dense foods including quality fats like coconut oil and avocado to build healthy hormones.

5. Dial down stress. 

Mood swings and other symptoms spiked Jenna’s already-through-the-roof stress levels. Among its many miseries, chronic stress directly affects your body’s ability to make sex hormones, exacerbates symptoms like headaches, and depletes nutrients like vitamin B6. I help patients look for ways to find bliss and dial down stress. For Jenna, that included deep breathing, going for a walk during lunch, and yin yoga. 

Dark Hair Dye and Chemical Relaxers Linked to Breast Cancer

(Reuters Health) - African-American and white women who regularly chemically straighten their hair or dye it dark brown or black have an elevated risk of breast cancer, new research suggests.

“I would be concerned about darker hair dye and hair straighteners,” epidemiologist Tamarra James-Todd said after reviewing the report online now in the journal Carcinogenesis. “We should really think about using things in moderation and really try to think about being more natural."

“Just because something is on the market does not necessarily mean it’s safe for us,” she said in a phone interview. James-Todd, a professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, was not involved with the new research.

The study of 4,285 African-American and white women was the first to find a significant increase in breast cancer risk among black women who used dark shades of hair dye and white women who used chemical relaxers.

Black women who reported using dark hair dye had a 51 percent increased risk of breast cancer compared to black women who did not, while white women who reported using chemical relaxers had a 74 percent increased risk of breast cancer, the study found.

The risk of breast cancer was even higher for white women who regularly dyed their hair dark shades and also used chemical relaxers, and it more than doubled for white dual users compared to white women who used neither dark dye nor chemical straighteners.

The association between relaxers and breast cancer in white women surprised lead author Adana Llanos, an epidemiologist at the Rutgers School of Public Health in Piscataway, New Jersey, although she worried enough about the safety of hair relaxers in African-American women like herself to stop using them years ago.

“A lot of people have asked me if I’m telling women not to dye their hair or not to use relaxers,” she said in a phone interview. “I’m not saying that. What I think is really important is we need to be more aware of the types of exposures in the products we use.”

The study included adult women from New York and New Jersey, surveyed from 2002 through 2008, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer, plus women of similar age and race but without a history of cancer.

Women were asked if they had ever used permanent hair dye at least twice a year for at least a year. They were also asked if they had ever chemically relaxed or straightened their hair for at least a year.

While the vast majority - 88 percent - of blacks had used chemicals to relax their hair, only 5 percent of whites reported using relaxers.

For dark hair dye, the numbers flipped, though the differences were not as dramatic. While 58 percent of whites said they regularly dyed their hair dark shades, only 30 percent of blacks did.

The most striking results showed increased risk in the minority of black women who used dark hair dye and white women who used chemical relaxers.

Black women who used chemical straighteners and white women who used dark hair dyes were also at higher risk for breast cancer, but that might have been due to chance. James-Todd said that because so many of the black women used chemical relaxers and so many of the white women used dark hair dye, links would have been hard to detect.

There’s no reason to believe that chemical relaxers and hair dyes would increase the risk for women of one race and not of another, she said. She believes the association stems not from genetics but from cultural norms.

It could also boil down to products, and women from different cultures might use different straighteners and dyes. But the study did not ask women to specify the products they used.

The study included the largest population of African-American women thus far examined for breast cancer risk and dark hair dye, according to the research team.

Previous studies have shown that long-term users of dark dyes have a four-fold increased risk of fatal non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and fatal multiple myeloma, the authors write. Prior research also has associated dark hair dye use with an increased risk of bladder cancer.

A 2016 report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that breast cancer rates are generally similar for black and white women, at around 122 new cases for every 100,000 women per year, although black women with the disease are more likely to die from it.

Carcinogenesis 2017.