Why I Quit Coffee - a story about birth control
On July 1st I gave up coffee. Not just coffee but all caffeine. Despite being warned and encouraged to wean myself off I went cold turkey and lemme tell ya the withdrawal symptoms were real!
Before I get into too many details let’s back up and discuss why I made this decision and how the first ten days have gone.
If you’re a male and you are reading this get ready to see the words uterus, cycle, birth control, vagina and period. If that’s not for you then my reasons for quitting caffeine probably won’t serve you anyway.
Why I Love Coffee
I truly LOVE coffee. I love the culture of coffee - from the morning routine of hearing it brew and seeing the steam waft out of the machine, to the bougie feeling of walking into a meeting Starbucks in hand. I love sipping an espresso after a rich dinner, or catching up with a girlfriend over a foamy cappuccino. Not to mention my perfect afternoon iced oat milk latte’s before spin. * sigh *.
And I really was a bit of a coffee snob. Folgers and whatever that one is with the word ‘house’ in the name would not cut it. Tim Horton’s? Maybe anAmericano if I was desperate. I was a die hard to a high caffeine light or medium roast, grinding my own beans and spending $20 a bag. We have an espresso machine, a coffee maker and a french press… You get the picture.
My Experience with Birth Control
Okay I know it looks like we are REALLY changing direction here but bare with me, this will all come full circle. After 4 years on the pill I remember feeling so awful. I was depressed, was gaining weight despite basically starving myself and felt like I was going crazy. At the time I was also in the first year of Uni, living in Vancouver, totally Vitamin D deficient and failing UBC courses. Which, even though MOST first years fail chemistry I was coming from an A average in highschool and basically thought the world was ending, so lots of things going wrong.
I moved back to Winnipeg and was on a mission to get healthy, I started nourishing my body, lifting weights and counting macros #IIFYM - and that was a whole new phase. I eventually went back on the pill but this time tried Alesse which was supposed to be a more ‘gentle’ cycle of hormones.
Again I began to not feel like myself. Weight gain and crying for no reason.
Finally I figured I needed something different. I thought I ‘needed’ to be on birth control but the pill was not making me a good version of myself so I started to do some research.
Injections - one big hormone blast all at once? Nope I don’t think so.
The Nuva Ring - based on the reviews it falls out a lot.
The Patch - meh.
Intra-Uterine Device (IUD) - Localized hormones? Hmm…this seems like it could work.
An IUD is inserted into your uterus and can stay for 3-5 years as an effective form of birth control. I got the Jaydess (3 year and the smallest one). There is also a copper hormone-free IUD which, in hindsight, I wish I would have went with but the Doctor and articles warned of heavier periods wheras hormonal IUDs often eliminate periods all together.
Getting the IUD inserted was very painful. First she inserted a straw like device into my cervix to “make sure the IUD would fit”. I was immediately flushed, started sweating, my whole lower torso was throbbing and I thought I was going to faint. “Okay, now for the real deal, ready?”. Another intense wave of pressure, more sweating and tears welled up in my eyes. I went home pretty rattled but happy that I finally wouldn’t have to deal with those horrible pill symptoms or remember to take a pill everyday…
The IUD came with its own set of symptoms entirely. Keep in mind that everyone experiences different symptoms on different birth control. A friend of mine said she experienced things similar to my IUD symptoms when she was on the pill but felt much better with an IUD. So it’s different for everyone.
2 weeks later when I got my period I had the most excruciating cramps of my life. I thought that my body was for SURE trying to give birth to this thing. I stayed in bed, popped Midol every 8 hours and it was right in the middle of final exams. Every 5-30 minutes a wave of pain would wash over me as my uterus contracted around this small foreign object. It. Was. Awful.
These debilitating cramps carried on for 6 months before easing off. After that they lightened month by month and after 2 years of having the IUD I would only get one cramp right before the start of my period and that was it.
But cramps weren’t the only side affect.
This one is really hard to admit but I completely lost my libido. Your libido is your sex drive and for a 22 year old it is very unnatural to not have one. I mean I’m in my prime for baby making! Try being the 24 year old boyfriend on the other side of it. It has been one of the biggest strains on our relationship. And don’t get me wrong, we actually have really great sex, the thing is it just never occurs to me to want to go do it. I don’t have any desire until I’m actually there.
As if libido wasn’t enough I also suffer from vulvodynia. Basically pain in the ‘entrance of my vagina’ glamorous right? For me this area is hyper-sensative which means the morning-after always sucks. I’m often found saying “I need one of those ice packs shaped like a hot dog for after sex” and if I’m dehydrated or have had alcohol, or eaten a lot of junk food then it stings when I pee. SWEEEEET!!!!
I also developed acne along my jaw line which is commonly referred to as hormonal acne. Hormonal acne isn’t an issue of hygiene. It’s an internal imbalance.
While the acne did bother me I didn’t REALLY do anything about it. I minimized dairy in my diet but would still be consuming it in some small way every 3-4 days because LOTS of food products have milk powder including chips, crackers etc.
I had had a really unhealthy relationship with food for a lot of years and what I learned was that when I feel restricted and have a long list of ‘no’ foods it often leads to binging. I did not want to go down that road again since I was so happy with the balance I had found.
Last summer I was getting pretty fed up with it and posted on Insta that I was doing research and ready for a change, that I would share my journey etc. but again never really did anything about it.. I took a stab at seed cycling but wasn’t aware enough of my cycle to know which days to eat what seeds.
Removing My IUD and Why I Decided To Quit Caffeine
In April of 2018 I had my IUD removed. After 2.5 years of having it I was just done the acne was making me insecure (I did not want another pill for it) and the libido thing was a clear issue. I figured that within 3 months my body would re-regulate itself and it would be alllll G. Wrong. It’s been a year and my symptoms have not alleviated whatsoever.
Then, I learned from Dr. Jolene Brighton it’s actually more common that your body will not regulate itself without diet, supplement and lifestyle modifications. Great.
So finally I was ready. And here’s the thing, you aren’t going to do anything unless you’re actually ready. But I was ready.
There are many triggers for hormonal imbalances; inflammation, high cortisol, low cortisol, high/low estrogen, high/low progesterone you get it. And some of the dietary and lifestyle factors that can exacerbate these issues are caffeine, soy, dairy, gluten, sugar, vegetables oils (canola/cotton/sunflower/safflower) and sugar spikes. Plus lack of sleep, lack of exercise, smoking, drinking, stress etc.
I started listening to Beyond the Pill by Dr. Jolene Brighton and it has taught me so much! I would highly recommend this in order to get started in reversing your Post Birth Control Syndrome or any birth control symptoms you have if you are currently on it.
I had this internal intuition that caffeine was not serving me. I would sleep 8 hours a night and wake up exhausted, have really vivid dreams that I would always remember in the morning and carry those emotions into my day, get tension headaches if I so much as moved the wrong way before having a cup of coffee. I was completely coffee dependant.
Additionally I have the acne, low libido, vaginal pain, as well as joint pain, muscle pain, eczema, I’m always cold, and I have anxiety.
So along with ditching the caffeine I also decided to give up soy, dairy and gluten and minimize vegetable oil consumption. I still use avocado, coconut and olive oil.
The first day I didn’t have a cup of coffee was July 1st. The day didn’t start off too bad but after about 11am the headache got worse and worse and worse. My whole head was throbbing, I felt hungover, I posted up on the couch and at one point I thought I was going to puke. I didn’t take advil, just drank a LOT of water.
Day 2 the headache didn’t hit till about 1pm. The pounding persisted but I continued to hydrate, took a magnesium supplement (helps relax muscles) and didn’t reach for the advil. I went to spin that evening and even though the first few tracks were rough by the end I was feeling better and the headache was gone!
Day 3 I had a lingering tension headache, I thought it was going to get worse but it never did. I figured it was too good to be true and the severe headaches would for sure be back.
Note: when I mentioned on IG I was quitting caffeine I got DM’s saying:
”Omg I had headaches for 3 weeks”
”I heard it’s harder than quitting smoking”
”Good for you, I’ve tried a few times, it’s never worth it”
Nothing encouraging to say the least LOL.
So when Day 4, 5 and 6 rolled by with no negative symptoms I was pleasantly surprised!
Day 7/8 I noticed some pretty intense cravings of wanting to eating everything sweet and salty but that could also be based on the time of my cycle.
The first week I woke up easily and with energy. Day 9/10 I have felt the grogginess again.
As far as the other symptoms go I’m not going to know at this point if these eliminations are helping me. Elimination diets are a long process of completely avoiding certain foods and then slowly introducing back one thing at a time to see if you have a ‘reaction’ to it.
All in all I am wildly disappointed with the amount of research I’ve had to do to learn basic things like the female moon cycle and how detrimental the pill can really be. Of course birth control serves a purpose but I think it’s crucial that the doctors and patients are educated on the side effects and risks.
Self Care July
I’ve dubbed July a self-care month for myself which means visits to multiple practitioners and on July 11th I’m going to see the naturopath who will hopefully provide me with even more direction for what supplements or foods I could include in my diet to help find a balance. I’m suspicious that I am low estrogen/hypothyroid so we’ll see!
I’m going to write another blog post after the month is done to report back on how I feel and all the healthy habits I incorporated during July.
I want to thank-you for reading through this long post. As much as I love to be open and I’m happy to share this info with anyone 1:1 it is a bit intimidating to blast it over the internet, so thank-you for not judging my situation or my decisions.
If you want to talk more or know more about anything discussed here feel free to DM me on Instagram @johhhanna