Thrive Nutrition Practice: hormonal contraception and the effects on our period

The advent of hormonal contraception for women is synonymous with women’s rights and female emancipation.  The pill gave us the right to choose when we had babies and the freedom to lean in to our career.

However, hormonal contraception is too often being used as a band-aid to cover up hormonal irregularities. 

Many teenagers and women are prescribed the coil or the birth control pill to manage heavy, painful, irregular periods & recurring cysts.  But is that really treating the root cause and helping women support their hormonal and reproductive health?

To help me answer these questions, I’m interviewing Dr Katherine Dale, Naturopathic Physician and fertility expert. Dr Dale helps women prepare their body for pregnancy by empowering their knowledge and connecting to their menstrual cycle, investigating & removing potential emotional blockages, and developing a customized naturopathic programme that will enhance their fertility.

Dr Dale – you’re having a webinar on June 8th to teach women how to chart their menstrual cycle.  Aren’t there apps for that?  What’s the benefit of learning to do this yourself?

The webinar is about so much more. Realizing these amazing signs that your body gives you every month. Listening to your body and listening to these signs is all about connecting to our bodies. Loving our bodies and appreciating the uniqueness of our cycles and our signs.

 There is so much value in involving your physical body in this process of charting your cycle. When you use an app, the responsibility is taken away from you; there is an outside object telling you what is next for you.

When you bring your hand to the paper, you are the one that is charge.

It becomes a full body process: putting the pencil to the paper, calculating your timings, determining the next phase. It is like drawing your own map for your life or your journey. You can always follow what others have done, yet this is not personal to your own body and your own desires.

How much more intimate can you become with yourself that through the pre-conception, conception, and birthing process?

You can see the patterns of your cycles when you put your charts side by side and extract the vital information that is present in this fertility map of your body.

Dr Dale, you’re also knows as Dr Luna Mama.  Can you tell us how recognising our connection to the cycles of the moon can help women not just with fertility, but also with hormonal balance?

There is research now that proves that our hormones are influenced by the light dark cycles of our bedrooms. When we are constantly exposed to light (all day and all night) because of light pollution, our bodies respond with irregular hormone patterns.

When we use this awareness of light and dark, we can use it to our advantage. We can ensure our bedrooms are completely dark at night and use a small nightlight during our ovulation days. We will know our ovulation days from our hand-filled charts.

What are some of root causes of really bad PMS and heavy, painful periods?  And following from that – which herbal or homeopathic remedies work best to help women with these symptoms?

There is often a hormonal imbalance that is causing these symptoms. Often these imbalances are due to the foods that we are eating which are too high in estrogen. Non-organic meats, farmed fish and dairy products containing growth hormone.

We can use herbal remedies such as Chaste Tree and Raspberry to balance our systems. Being sure that we are clearing the extra hormones from our bodies using Liver Support herbs such as Milk Thistle. And eating fiber-rich foods that encourage our bodies to release hormones rather than holding on to hormones.

This is so vital after birth as well, to re-balance your hormones. If you have not been caring for your body before and during pregnancy, then you will feel the emotional and physical effects of imbalance AFTER pregnancy.

I have a lot of clients who have been on the pill or some form of hormonal contraceptive for many years.  I’ve written before on how the birth control pill and the coil depletes the body of vitamins and minerals we need for intellectual, emotional & gut health. 

Could you give us a bit more colour on how the birth control pill affects female hormonal health as well as digestive health, from what you’ve seen?

Birth Control Pills are extra hormones added to your body. These estrogen-high contraceptive pills keep estrogen levels abnormally high in order to prevent pregnancy.

Although the level of hormone has been reduced since the first “pill” being prescribed, these synthetic hormones will create confusion in the body, particularly when women attempt to stop the use of birth control pills. It can often take many years to readjust to normal. Herbs can be helpful to rebalance.

The side effects of taking the pill can be baffling: a big side effect includes loss of libido!

Many girls are given contraceptives to heal acne. However, the high exposure to hormones is now known to contribute to cancer growth in the body. One of my dear friends died of ovarian cancer last year - she had started Birth Control at the age of 14 for her skin.

Is this danger worth it for clear skin? There are natural ways to manage the acne of teen years.

Many women will experience alternating symptoms of diarrhea and constipation throughout their menstrual cycle. It is said the estrogen increases transit and the progesterone relaxes and decreases transit time. Using a contraceptive pill will add to the hormonal effect on digestion leading to: bloating, nausea, lack of appetite, indigestion, constipation and diarrhea.

There are more recent links to Crohn’s disease other irritable bowel symptoms (e.g. IBS). If you have a history of inflammatory bowel disease, the use of contraceptive hormones could also increase and worsen your symptoms.

Many of my clients are on the pill or the coil – not primarily for birth control – but to manage painful periods, the occurrence of ovarian cysts or heavy bleeding.  And the irony is that every one of these women doesn’t want to be on the pill or the coil! 

What would you recommend as an alternative to hormonal contraception for these women with symptoms of hormonal imbalance?

There are natural ways to manage the symptoms you have described. First the body needs to clear the toxins in the body, with a healthy liver. Then the bowel needs to be functioning well to clear the toxins out of the body completely. Finally, the hormones are brought back to balance using foods, herbs and supplements to support the system.

There are bio-identical hormones that can be used for some health issues. The use of bio-identical progesterone can be used to balance out the high estrogen. Often using progesterone will remind our bodies to return to the normal production of hormones, thus allowing our bodies to cycle normally and reducing the symptoms of imbalance.

Along with the food we eat, it is important that we reduce exposure to hormone-mimickers such as plastics, including BPS. When we are constantly exposed to plastic wrapping, storage, heating containers, cutlery, drinking bottles we can run into problems.

Be sure to look at what you are using to store your food and beverages.

It is important to recognize the side effects of these medications and the deeper problems that are encountered with long-term use of contraceptives.

One more question – can you tell us how water is important to healing our reproductive system and how we can use it?

Our digestion and elimination systems require a certain amount of water to function. We can use water internally and externally for improving our health of our bodies.

I use Constitutional Hydrotherapy with my patients to improve the function of the lymphatic system. This involves the use of alternating hot and cold water over your body. You can use your shower every day!

This water treatment will cause the body to pump nutrients throughout the body and encourage the elimination of toxins through the lymph nodes in our bodies.

When we give our bodies the right amount of water we are allowing the body to function optimally.

Remember, each time you drink a diuretic such as tea, herbal tea and coffee you are actually taking away from your daily intake. So be sure to drink an extra glass of water for each cup of diuretic tea/coffee you consume!

Thank you so much Dr. Dale for sharing your wonderful insights with Thrive’s readers. 


For those of you who are interested in Dr. Dale’s webinar on June 8th on Charting the Menstrual Cycle, please click here for all the details.


In the meantime, please enjoy this dessert recipe inspired by Dr Luna Mama to nourish your Sacral Chakra – that sexy orange chakra which governs sexuality, the reproductive system and emotions.


Healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated. 

It just has to be mindful.


Cristina Tahoces is a holistic nutritionist and owner of Thrive Nutrition Practice, which focuses on digestive healing, blood sugar regulation & post-natal recovery.  Please join her Facebook Group "Thrive Nutrition Practice" for weekly articles, recipes & promotions.