The Pill + Depression | What You Need To Know
Hiya, Dr Christy From The Food Psychologist here to help you overcome your hormone, mood and energy problems on your terms so you can become your healthiest, happiest self.
In this vlog, I am going to be talking about the pill and depression. Yes, that’s why if you have been taking the contraceptive pill you may have found yourself feeling depressed and low. Or maybe you are considering trying the pill and are wondering what side effects you could experience? Then this video is for you.
As a Dr of Psychology, Chartered Psychologist, Nutritional Therapist and Functional Medicine Expert I am passionate about helping you take back control of your health on your terms. Not only have I successfully clients facing hormone, mood and energy problems I have also overcome chronic ill health and mood problems myself.
So if you are concerned about the pill and depression then stay tuned because this video, I going to show you have you can take back control of your health on your terms.
So let’s dive in.
The Pill And Depression
Most birth control pills are combination pills which means they contain oestrogen and progestin. Some, only contain progestin, but the majority of women use combined pills. These work by stopping your ovaries from releasing eggs. They also thicken your cervical mucus which makes it difficult for sperm to get to the uterus. This method also thins your uterine lining to prevent implantation of the egg.
A groundbreaking Danish study of 1,061,997 women aged between 15 and 34 found those taking the pill were more likely to be diagnosed with depression and prescribed anti-depressants. Those taking the combined pill were 23% more likely to be prescribed antidepressants.(1)
The impact was even worse on teens with 80% of those taking combined pill diagnosed with depression. The results weren’t much better for progestin-only pills with 34% more likely to experience depression, and in teens, it increased their risk by double.
In another study which followed half a million women for about eight years, recent and current users were three times more likely to commit suicide than those who never used hormone contraceptives. (2)
The pill depletes your system of nutrients which are vital for your brain, adrenal, thyroid and gut health. This can have a knock-on impact on your mood.
Are You Facing Hormone Imbalances?
While birth control pills were initially developed to help reduce the risk of pregnancy, nowadays synthetic hormones such as the pill are prescribed to address hormone imbalances. If you are currently taking the pill, you may, therefore, be taking it because you were struggling with hormone problems such as heavy bleeding, endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, PMS or acne.
While you may have experienced a shift in your symptoms, it is important to realise that the birth control pill does not cure your underlying hormone problems. Yes, it may alter your hormone levels, so your symptoms alleviate, but it doesn’t address the underlying imbalances which were causes your symptoms in the first place.
Get To The Root Cause
Like most prescription and synthetic medication, it works through inhibitory mechanisms. So while you may no longer experience the same symptoms, you do not address the root cause of the issue.
For example, if the oil light goes out in your car, it is a sign you need to take action and refill your oil tank. The light is the signal that something is wrong and you need to address the underlying problem. Makes sense right?
It’s similar to our bodies. Symptoms are merely signs that something is out of balance within our system. However, conventional approaches to ill health typically focus on suppressing or masking those symptoms, so we no longer have to feel the pain or see the problem. So we take the painkiller to dull the period pain or the contraceptive pill to stop the bleeding.
But it doesn’t correct the underlying imbalance.
This approach ignores what is causing the problem and offers us a quick temporary fix. Over time the issue manifests as a deeper problem. We are effectively smashing the oil light, so we don’t need to see the flashing any longer, but we are not addressing the underlying issue.
To do that, we need to get to the cause. To pinpoint and identify what biochemical imbalances you are facing.
The causes, triggers or factors behind your hormone problems. Then we can create a customised protocol tailored to rebalance those underlying factors. It’s not a one-size fits all or cookie cutter approach. This is true integrative and personalised treatment, and it all begins with getting to the cause.
Functional Medicine Approach To Hormone Problems
When you’re looking for a way to alleviate your hormone problems naturally, you need to consider your symptoms from many different angles. Believing that hormone problems are about more than just period pain, heavy bleeding and uterine pain or whatever you are facing.
Rather than merely suppressing your symptoms with synthetic hormones, finding a more holistic approach aims to explore the reason behind your hormone imbalances developing in the first place.
Your hormone balance is determined by a range of diet and lifestyle factors. Synthetic hormones aren’t going to stabilise your blood sugar, they won’t nourish your adrenals, and they definitely won’t support your elimination pathways since they often wipe out all your friendly bacteria.
There are no shortcuts. Merely masking your symptoms, so you don’t feel the hormonal effects of your diet and lifestyle choices, doesn’t mean they aren’t still having a negative impact on your body. To make matters worse, the longer a biochemical imbalance goes on for, the more difficult it can be to address it.
This means, when you do decide to come off these synthetic hormones, it can take far, far longer than if you had addressed the real issue in the first place.
It may be that it helps you to live your life without experiencing symptoms; however, if for example you decided you wanted to have a baby, and then came off the pill or another hormonal birth control expecting it to be ultra-simple, you may not find it easy to conceive. The reason being, you haven’t dealt with the underlying imbalance. All you’ve done is cover up the problem, so you no longer feel the effects.
Hidden Hormone Problems
Another issue is that many women are living with endocrine imbalances without even realising it. This is because they have been on the pill for so long, it has been masking their underlying imbalances.
So you could feel healthy and start one of these birth control methods purely for contraceptive reasons, but over time you develop a serious hormonal condition without even realising it.
Nowadays many couples put off having children until later in life. This means that many women are on the pill for over a decade before they decide to come off it and start trying to conceive.
The reality is that, if you wait until you are in your mid-late thirties before trying to get pregnant, you will already have reduced your chances of conceiving.
This will be further exacerbated if you have been taking the pill for a long time, yet (albeit unknowingly) been living with an underlying endocrine imbalance.
Types Of Birth Control
Although the contraceptive pill is often the most popular, there are a range of birth control methods that can affect your natural menstrual cycle include the ortho evra, depo-provera, Implanon, nuva-ring, Mirena IUS, Intra Uterine Device (IUS)
All of these hormonal contraceptive methods directly impact your hormones and your natural menstrual cycle. The progestin and oestrogen used in these birth control methods have been chemically designed in a laboratory to imitate our natural progesterone and oestrogen. They make some of the oestrogens from pregnant mare’s urine. This is the same synthetic hormone used in hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
The problem is that when we use these birth control methods, they release hormones into our system during periods when these hormones would not naturally be there. This disrupts our natural cycle.
Silencing Your Body
These methods also prevent your body from communicating with you that there is a problem. Each month should represent an opportunity to check in with your body and see how your endocrine system is functioning. You cannot do this if you’re taking these hormonal birth controls.
Natural Treatment For Depression Caused By The Pill
From a functional medicine perspective depression is a result of underlying imbalances. If you have been prescribed the pill to address ongoing hormone problems, it would be more beneficial to aim to investigate and address the underlying imbalances causing those hormone problems in the first place.
Not all of us react the same to hormonal contraceptives so should not be used a one size fits all approach. I would recommend you look for a more holistic way to support your body to address your hormone problems.
If you are taking the pill and feel you are struggling with low moods and depression as a result, then it is vital to speak to your doctor. Depression often requires support from a number of healthcare professional alongside working with a functional medicine expert to address the root cause. You may decide to work with your doctor to come off the pill and give your body the support it needs to rebalance. To help you do this, there are a number of steps which could help you take back control from a functional medicine perspective.
Step 1: Get To The Root Cause
Before you can begin making changes, you need to define what is causing your depression in the first place. This is a vital step because achieving healthy moods depends on treating underlying causes, not suppressing or masking symptoms. If the low moods started after introducing the contraceptive pill, then you should consider stopping this.
If you were prescribed this to address hormone problems and these return then obviously the next part of this would be to investigate what underlying imbalances are causing your hormonal symptoms.
After defining the underlying imbalances, you then need to tailor your treatment strategy based on your personal biochemical needs.
One of my best ways to investigate what is causing your ongoing health issues whether they are hormonal problems or depression is through functional medicine testing.
For example, there are a number of tests, which could be beneficial for investigating the underlying factors triggering your hormone havoc. One test in particular, which I typically recommend for hormonal issues is the Rhythm Plus.
Once you have pinpointed the underlying imbalances triggering your symptoms, you can then make targeting changes to your diet and lifestyle to rebalance and support your body. This takes us to the next step of the protocol.
Step 2: Supercharge Your Diet
Once you’ve figured out what is causing your symptoms, the next step is to make sure that you are eating the right foods. This is essential for giving your body the building blocks that it needs to heal.
If you would like more help in making dietary changes to support your body, then check out my Nourish 7-Day Kickstart.
Step 3: Eliminate Problem Foods
While it is essential you focus on putting in more of the good stuff you also need to eliminate problematic foods.
Knowing which foods to avoid has become a nutritional minefield. If you would like more details of which specific foods to exclude then make sure you stick around to the end of the video as a have a list of problematic foods that I created for you.
Step 4: Supercharge With Supplements
The next step is to take nutritional supplements. Once you have identified the root cause of your imbalances and fully understand the necessary changes to your diet, the next step is to ensure that your body has adequate nutrients.
It’s time for a supplement supercharge!
Step 5: Clean Up Your Thoughts
Research shows that chronic stress can exacerbate inflammation and trigger mood problems such as depression. Many of us underestimate the power of our thinking and its effect on our body.
Research over the last few decades has found that emotional and psychological states create chemical reactions in the body. It highlights the critical role that stress can play on our hormones and the importance of mastering our mind. Working to reduce your stress levels and support your adrenal function can play an essential role in helping you feel better physically and emotionally.
Step 6: Dive In Deeper
There is only so much that we can cover in this vlog. The body is very complex; therefore, rebalancing it can take time. Which is why I want to help you get started.
This will help you figure out the best diet, supplement and lifestyle changes to introduce. It also includes a rundown of all the foods which could be exacerbating your imbalances, and you may, therefore, want to avoid. The toolkit will also give you a rundown of all the supplements I recommend for Depression including the dosages which you can then download and print off.
In this toolkit, I also give you my top testing recommendations to help you investigate which underlying imbalances could be affecting you so you can take the guesswork out of your treatment strategy and get to the root cause.
Now I want to hear from you….
So now it’s your turn to tell me – In what ways have you been ‘smashing your oil light’ to mask your symptoms instead of address the underlying problem?
Leave your answer in the comment section below.
And if you want more expert health guidance, free recipes, toolkits and wellness training to help you overcome your hormone, digestive, skin, mood and energy problems on your terms so you can become your healthiest, happiest self, then become a Food Psychologist Insider.
I’ll see you in the next one and until then remember, your body never works against you so put it on speaker phone and let it guide you to health and happiness.
1. Association of Hormonal Contraception With Depression. JAMA Psychiatry. 2016 Nov 1;73(11):1154-1162. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.2387.
2. Association of Hormonal Contraception With Suicide Attempts and Suicides, 17 Nov 2017 https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.2017.17060616