It makes sense if you think about it - altering one hormone in your body is bound to affect other hormones, including your thyroid levels. Let’s talk about how the pill can affect your thyroid and some steps you can take to counteract that effect.
The pill is a form of hormonal birth control. Changing the levels of one or two hormones can have a domino effect on other hormones in your body, including levels of the thyroid hormone. This is even true if you’ve been off of birth control for a few months since it takes a while for your estrogen levels to return to normal during a process known as post-birth-control syndrome (PCBS).
The extra estrogen introduced to your body through birth control can reduce your levels of thyroid hormone and contribute to autoimmune diseases. This happens because estrogen increases the levels of thyroxine-binding globulin (TBG), which attaches to thyroid hormone, meaning you have lower levels of available thyroid hormone.
Your thyroid requires a variety of nutrients to produce thyroid hormone, including zinc, chromium, selenium, iodine, and tyrosine.
The pill and other forms of hormonal birth control deplete levels of these nutrients, making it harder for your body to produce enough thyroid hormone.
Additionally, the pill increases inflammation, which converts T4 into reverse T3 (RT3).
Your body can’t use RT3, so you just feel tired and your body stores extra fat as if preparing you for hibernation.
If you want to remain on the pill, you may need to take supplements to increase your nutrient levels and decrease inflammation.
Luckily, there are steps you can take to monitor and support the function of your thyroid while you’re taking birth control and as your body adjusts after you stop taking it.
- Ask your doctor for a full thyroid panel that includes TSH, total T4, free T4, total T3 and TPO antibodies. Doctors often only test TSH levels, but that number alone doesn’t give a complete picture of how well your thyroid is functioning.
- Get plenty of sleep. Not getting enough sleep can crash your thyroid and adrenal glands and cause a whole host of other problems. Sleeping more can improve your quality of life in a wide variety of ways.
- Consider supplements to maintain proper levels of vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 (found in fish oil).
- Exercise helps reduce inflammation and converts unusable T4 into usable T3.
- Improve your diet. Including nutrient-dense, low-sugar fruits, vegetables, and legumes as well as quality protein and healthy fats can help replenish the nutrients that the hormones in the pill are using up.
- Go easy on your liver. Your liver does most of the work converting T4 to T3, so be kind to it by reducing your alcohol intake.
- Look at the big picture. An integrative practitioner can help you use these tips and others to improve your overall health, not just your thyroid function.
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