Optimally, start supporting your body 2-3 months before you stop birth control so that the withdrawal and rebalancing process is smoother. This can help prevent many of the symptoms associated with birth control discontinuation.
Don’t fear though! Even if you are already experiencing post-pill acne, these steps will still help your body heal naturally.
1. Eat a Clean, Whole Foods Diet
What you eat directly makes up the cells of your body and affects every aspect of your health. If you eat unhealthy foods, your hormones will be imbalanced, your metabolism will be thrown off, and your body won’t be in an ideal state of health.
Focus on eating a clean diet free of processed foods and refined sugars. Junk food throws off your blood sugar balance, messes up your gut microbiome, and makes your hormones go crazy.
Avoid xenoestrogens (discussed in this post about the not-to-be-feared phytoestrogens), which are found in conventional meat and dairy products and conventional produce, thanks to the abundance of toxic pesticides and herbicides out there. Eat organic as much as possible, or at least focus on eating fruits and veggies on the EWG’s clean 15 list and avoiding the dirty dozen.
Focus on eating as many vegetables as you can, as they contain much-needed nutrients and fiber to help with hormonal balance.
2. Optimize Your Circadian Rhythm
Your circadian rhythm is your body clock, determining your sleep/wake cycle. Disruption of this incredibly important rhythm eventually leads to the dysfunction of EVERY single one of your hormones and throws off your metabolism!
Birth control can throw a wrench in this diurnal rhythm, altering the timing of hormonal release from the brain. By sticking to a regular sleep/wake schedule, you support your endocrine system and the delicate balance of your hormones.
3. Focus on Hormone Detoxification
This is such an important step! Oral contraceptives put a big strain on your liver and its ability to properly detoxify. Not only does your liver oversee glucose and cholesterol metabolism, regulate blood clotting, and produce bile, it has to metabolize and detoxify everything that makes its way into your blood so that it can be properly excreted. This includes all of your medications, including birth control, as well as environmental toxins.
What can you do to help your liver? The most important thing is to avoid substances that further compromise liver health, such as alcohol, acetaminophen (Tylenol), and environmental toxins and pollutants (like plastics and pesticides).
You can also support your liver by eating foods that stimulate healthy liver function, like beets, bitters foods like dandelion greens and arugula, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli.
4. Replete Nutrient Deficiencies
The birth control pill depletes important minerals and nutrients, including B vitamins, magnesium, selenium, and zinc. These nutrients are essential for the health of our hormones, nervous system, and immune system, as well as our metabolism, our liver’s ability to detoxify, and our skin health.
Taking nutritional supplements for awhile is fine and can be needed in the short-term, but ultimately in the long-term, you’ll need to optimize your digestion and bile production so that you can adequately digest, metabolize, absorb, and assimilate the nutrients from your diet.
5. Holistically Address Your Leaky Gut (and don’t just put a band-aid on it!)
Not only do oral contraceptives negatively impact your gut flora, but they damage your gut lining by altering the tight junctions between your intestinal epithelial cells. Normally only water and nutrients from your digested food would make it past the intestinal barrier, but a “hyperpermeable” gut (aka “leaky gut”) allows all sorts of substances through into systemic circulation, where your immune system encounters them and rightfully freaks out. This creates a chronic inflammatory response that triggers a number of symptoms, including acne.
Many natural medicine practitioners will address leaky gut by recommending specific nutrients and herbs to soothe and repair the gut lining. They might also recommend probiotics to address birth control’s affect on the microbiome. These are great first steps and sometimes can address the root cause, depending on the person.
Yet this approach is often a band-aid—a temporary fix—for a deeper dysfunction, as your gut is essentially your inner skin and reflects any dysregulation of your internal organs. Usually gut hyperpermeability can be resolved by addressing either the nervous system, certain endocrine glands, detoxification and elimination, or supporting immune system regulation.
The Big Takeaway
While everyone experiencing post-birth control acne has some sort of hormonal and immune system dysregulation, addressing it holistically is never a one-size-fits-all approach. Just as every person is unique, every holistic approach should be unique and tailored to the individual. Work one-on-one with a naturopathic doctor to come up with the best plan forward for you!