It’s been a few months since I wrote Hormone Hell Part 1 where I shared my experience of the Yasmin contraceptive pill, and the dreadful side effects coming off it. I promised to follow up with what helped me to find balance again, so here it is!
I included a link last time to the Holy Kale site where Lauren shares some wonderful tips and information for anyone having hormone problems related to the pill. I largely followed her advice in the beginning and then found some of my own ways of dealing with the problems I had. I am going to quickly recap and list the health issues I experienced on the pill and coming off it.
Almost immediately after starting the Yasmin pill and then throughout the 9 months on it the following were the most noticeable side effects:
- severe emotional episodes
- mild depression
- chest pain
- panic attacks
When I looked into it, many many other women also experience the same, or similar issues. Those who do not take one of the third generation pills also complain in large numbers of weight gain. Yasmin is one of the pills that have a diuretic added to avoid the weight gain often experienced but denied by Doctors and drug companies as a real side effect. According to them, the large numbers of women who complain about weight gain are eating more without realising it, women are stupid like that. Hmmm. One of the reasons lots of young women take Yasmin, and certain other pills, is because they usually don’t make you gain weight, in fact you often lose weight. But on the flip side, coming off them has the exact opposite effect.
After realising the pill was causing me problems, I came off it and within a month or so noticed the following:
- sudden weight gain, especially in my breasts
- irregular and painful periods
- serious fluid retention and uncomfortable feelings in my feet and hands
- back pain
I should note that I had never been someone who had very bad PMS at all. Since giving up all dairy products some years ago I barely noticed any symptoms. I literally had none aside from feeling extra tired the day before I was due. So when I looked into side effects, I saw that I was not alone in these experiences coming off the pill, particularly Yasmin, and actually my problems were pretty mild in comparison to others. Most other women seemed to also get very bad acne. Yasmin is in fact used as a solution to acne problems, especially for teenage girls, which I find extremely irresponsible. So many women having relied on it for this reason are very reluctant to ever come off. I was surprised I didn’t also get acne coming off, as I had been very prone to it after having my daughter almost 13 years ago. But in the last 4 years I have had no problems, a fact I put down to drinking green smoothies almost every day.
So, if you go to the Holy Kale website you will see she has some recommendations for a number of natural solutions to help your hormones to balance again, this is what the problem is when coming off any pill. You have actually suppressed proper hormone function while taking the pill, and now your body must learn to make its own hormones again. As is often the case, I was estrogen dominant. On researching about what this actually means I found out a little bit more about where estrogen is found in your body. The receptor cells are mostly found in your brain, your breasts, your abdomen, your hips, bottom and thighs. My weight gain was most obvious in my breasts, I went up more than a cup size and even now am still a cup size bigger. I also gained weight in my butt and thighs.
Once I realised what was happening to me, and after reading Lauren’s advice, I took the following supplements and herbal remedies. Please note, this is just what I personally took, and what worked for me. This is not medical advice, but is what a lot of women find helpful. You will need to make sure that you don’t have any conditions which may be contraindicated for any of the herbs, and if you have serious health issues always consult with your doctor first.
Straight away I started taking:
- DIM Detox by Pure Encapsulations: this is the most important remedy and the one I have taken for 6 months now. DIM is a component of cruciferous vegetables, which you should also eat plenty of but more on diet later. It is the large quantity found in this supplement, along with some other herbs that promote liver detox and proper hormone function that help. I personally took 2 of these a day. I have only just stopped this after 6 months.
- Milk Thistle: I took this straight away and in conjunction with the DIM even though it already has some in it. I found upon researching you need to be taking at least 500mg a day for liver detoxification and irregular periods. I took 2 tablets a day, based on quantity of the tablets I bought. I am still taking this now.
- Ginseng: I drank this as a tea, 3 x a day. I have never peed so much in my life! But it helped the fluid retention enormously. I still drink this now.
- I drank LOTS of water, as pure as possible. At least 3 litres a day.
I found after a month or so that a lot of the fluid retention had eased, but around menstruation I would still balloon. After about a month, I added the following, some recommended on the Holy kale site:
- Max B ND by Premier Research Labs: this is a live source B complex supplement. Contraceptive pills can cause a Vitamin B6 deficiency so supplementing during or after can be helpful. I noticed a massive difference once I added this and Vitamin B6, the weight started coming off and I felt less exhausted. I personally take the recommended 1 teaspoon a day, and am still taking this now
- Vitamin B6: I ended up having to get this from Victoria Health as the one and only place that you can get Premier Research Lab products from here in the UK did not stock the B6. I know and trust the Solgar brand, and the Pyridoxal 5 Phosphate is the biologically active form of B6, which is important. I take one 50mg tablet a day and am still taking this now.
- Agnus Cartus drops: I read a LOT about this useful herb regulating menstrual cycles, and I believe this helped mine also. I have 20 drops twice a day. I am still taking this now.
Lauren at Holy Kale also recommends taking bee and flower pollen for bioflavanoids. She takes this with raw honey. It’s not going to be appropriate for most vegans and I personally only have honey if I am happy that it is from a natural beekeeper and is raw. I did try it, but I have hay fever and I found the pollens irritated me. You can also find bioflavanoids in fruits and vegetables though, which leads me onto diet.
Diet: I already eat a pretty good, clean and plant based diet. It is important when you have hormone imbalance that you avoid estrogen mimickers, sometimes referred to as xenoestrogens. These disturb the balance and block your natural production. So you must avoid the following in order to balance your hormones:
- meat and dairy
- unfermented soy products
- BPA found in plastic containers, water bottles and canned foods
- conventional sanitary products- I use organic natracare
For me, as I’m a whole food vegan, I just had to reduce my soy products. I stayed away from tofu for a while, I occasionally had fermented soy in the form of tempeh. I also avoided canned foods unless I could be sure they were BPA free, and avoided plastic food containers unless, again, I knew them to be BPA free, like the ‘Lock and Lock’ brand which state they are. I use a lot of glass to store food and make fermented foods, my sourdough starter etc etc
I also invested in a Big Berkey Water Filter. It’s amazing what you find in tap water, chlorine, hard chemicals and yes, estrogen mimickers. It’s so damn frustrating. If you can’t stretch to a Big Berkey, which is much cheaper in the long run, do try and get a decent water filter jug. I honestly think this helped me a great deal.
I want to write in the future about Yoga properly, but I will just add here that it is highly recommended for anyone with hormone issues. I have practised yoga for about 13 years or so to varying degrees, sometimes every day and sometimes not for weeks. But since this all happened it has become a regular part of my life again and I find it extremely beneficial, for so many reasons. If you’re not already doing it, think about starting, it will definitely help.
My final recommendation is something I found myself. I only started this 2 months ago, when I felt I wasn’t quite there yet. I found it was the key to regulating my cycle and stop the extreme fluid retention. From my training in massage therapy some years ago I was aware of something called Manual Lymphatic Drainage Massage. This is very different to any type of massage I have ever had before. The key difference of course is that it is not working on your muscles, it is working on unblocking your lymphatic system. The Lymphatic System is often overlooked, but should be considered when dealing with any toxin elimination, including ridding your body of xenoestrogens or estrogen mimickers, like those found in the pill. The Lymphatic System drains fluid back into the blood stream, filters lymph and blood and is important in a strong immune system. This is a light touch ‘massage’ which involves very slight movements, lots of skin brushing and ‘sweeping’. For something which involves very little pressure, I felt intensely relaxed and very heavy by the end of my massage. It is a very difficult sensation to explain actually, and I am amazed by the effect. I truly felt a deep sense of relaxation which does not happen to me easily, at all! I am not very good at relaxing and perhaps because I am trained in massage, I don’t generally enjoy massages, with the exception of reflexology. I went every week for MLD, a one hour massage each time, for a full 4 weeks. Now I go once a month just as I am due for my period. I am convinced it helped my fluid retention, and after 1 month my period became regular- to the day and almost to the hour! I was back to being just a bit tired the day before, no more back pain or cramping or anything else. And a welcome but unintended benefit, which I was not aware it was a treatment for, is hay fever relief. This time last year I was unable to exercise outside and running was absolutely out of the question. I get seasonal asthma with my hay fever that was so bad last year I was advised to avoid being outside for any extended length of time. This year I am fine. Totally. I asked Julia, the lovely lady I see, and she said that this was one of the benefits of MLD and that people seek treatment for it specifically. MLD does involve applying treatment to the head and face. I intend to continue with MLD once a month for the rest of the year. If you’re in London, you can check out the clinic I went to here, which is significantly less expensive than other clinics.
So, that’s the round up of what worked, is working, for me. I honestly hope it helps someone, and would advise anyone thinking about coming off any pill to arm yourself beforehand to avoid the worst of it. Be prepared and understand that this is a process that will take a bit of time. But, even after feeling so crap, I can honestly say I believe it is worth it! Seven months on, I am glad to be off it, and through the worst of it too. I just wish I had read about it a bit earlier and was better prepared. Now I feel much more aware of not just my hormones and my cycle, but aware of what a toxin-filled life we all lead. I thought of myself as quite a natural girl, but we must be ever vigilant when it comes to toxins and our health. Always think long and hard before taking ANY medication, including the pill. Reach out to other women, enquire about their experiences and share your own. It is so important that we talk about our health and make sure our voices are being heard. The side effects of the pill are often brushed aside as necessary and minor, but this is not true and extremely patronising to women. I think it is time we addressed if the pill we all think gave us freedom, in fact has instead made us reliant on an almost self-regulating pharmaceutical industry and lumbered us with health issues which we have convinced ourselves are unrelated or worth suffering through for ‘freedom’ from the fear of unwanted pregnancies. I wonder if men would be so willing to have their health affected in the same way? Only through open discussion and demands for better, will progress be made.
UPDATE: I will be following this with a 3rd instalment soon. After an initial slight improvement, a year later I was still ‘not quite right’, in fact some symptoms were much worse. I have now had a diagnosis for hypothyroidism, adrenal dysfunction and low sex hormones. If your symptoms persist or get worse, please do ask for a full hormone profile and a Complete Blood Count. More next time but in the UK at least, it can be especially hard to get assistance.