My history with the pill
My story with birth control started back when I was 17. My period, which I’d had since 6th grade, always came with irregularity, intense cramping and severe mood swings. So much so, that my mom and doctor suggested trying birth control as a way to balance my hormones. Over the years I’ve tried more brands than I can count, both in pill and patch form, and most recently had been on a “low estrogen” dose of the pill. While birth control certainly helped in the short term with leveling out my intense PMS symptoms, I didn’t realize the other affects it was having on my body until more than a decade after I started using it.
In the summer of 2016, I was 30 years old and already two years into suffering from chronic yeast infections. As I was searching the internet for any information I could find to help cure myself, I read about a possible connection between birth control and yeast infections. None of my doctors had mentioned a possible link, but my acupuncturist had mentioned that I may want to consider that my hormonal birth control was playing a role in my infections. After all, birth control uses man-made hormones (that mimic estrogen and progesterone) to inhibit the body’s natural cycle of hormones, stopping your body from ovulating and ultimately making it harder for you to get pregnant.
Regulating hormones…or disrupting them?
I realized then that while I thought all these years that I was using birth control to help “regulate my hormones,” thus making my cycle predictable, less moody and less painful, it was actually doing the opposite — it was inhibiting my body from naturally regulating its own hormones, as it pumped it full of artificial ones through the pill.
Many are aware these days of the fact that antibiotics can wreak havoc on your gut, but studies show that hormonal birth control pills can also have an impact on our gut flora by disrupting our estrogen levels. Higher estrogen levels can cause the vagina to produce more glycogen (sugar), which feeds candida yeast. The pill has also been linked to an increased risk in IBD, which is connected to gut dysbiosis (when your gut bacteria is out of balance). Our bodies can be so affected by birth control that there’s even something called PBCS (Post Birth Control Syndrome), with some key symptoms that sound pretty similar to people fighting candida overgrowth – leaky gut syndrome, blood sugar dysregulation, gut dysbiosis, anxiety, bloating, inflammation and more.
When I finally stopped
In the months after I stopped taking the pill, I noticed many changes in my body – the most profound of which was the ability to FEEL my body going through its own natural cycle. I realized I could actually tell when I was ovulating — something my body hadn’t done in years, and I certainly hadn’t been in touch with my body enough to notice it happening when I was younger. I felt lighter, clearer headed, and most importantly — I noticed a significant decrease in my yeast infection symptoms. Did this cure my yeast infections for good? No. I still needed to do a lot of work on my gut to fix my candida issues (something I’m only realizing now might actually be attributed to PBCS?!), but regardless, the simple act of removing birth control from my life did improve my yeast infection symptoms significantly for MONTHS.
I’m now over 3 years free of hormonal birth control and have no plans to go back. I finally feel so in tune with my body, so aware of each phase. Once I finally had a cycle with four distinct phases, I was able to determine that my symptoms always occurred in the luteal phase of my cycle, which helped me (even post-candida cleanse) to pay closer attention to diet and lifestyle choices that I make during that specific window of my cycle (eat less sugar, drink less alcohol, don’t go in the hot tub, etc.) to help manage my candida issues. It helped me to realize that my body wasn’t just always angry and yeasty and out of my control – it actually only was about 10 or so days a month. In some way, I felt like I had finally regained a little bit of power and control over my body once again.
Have you been considering cutting hormonal birth control from your life? Leave your questions below!