Taking oral contraceptives for the prevention of pregnancy can seem very empowering. However, it is as equally empowering to know how the pill affects your overall health, especially your nutritional status and gut health.
Your Period as a Vital Sign
Your period is an important indicator of health status as it plays the part of a vital sign. A vital sign, meaning symptoms around your menstrual cycle, can provide valuable insight into possible underlying health conditions, hormone imbalances, or nutrient deficiencies.
Your period symptoms can help play detective in root cause healing!
The pill works by shutting off your natural hormones (estrogen and progesterone) and replacing them with synthetic versions (estrogen and progestin combination, or progestin-only). This masks the vital sign and puts a ‘Band-Aid’ on these period symptoms – it is not a cure.
Oral contraceptives also decrease your body’s absorption of certain essential vitamins and minerals. You may need to increase specific food sources of these nutrients or supplement one or several. A clinical nutritionist can evaluate nutrient deficiencies based on your lab work, functional testing, symptoms, and nutrition-focused physical exam.
Vitamin depletions with use of the pill:
Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
Vitamin B9 (Folate)
Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)
Mineral depletions with use of the pill:
Many of these nutrients play a key role in gut function and health, mood balance, detoxification, energy production and immune support. For example, B vitamins are essential for energy production and mood balance, zinc enhances the gut lining to protect against leaky gut and selenium has been shown to improve gut microbial diversity.
Common Side Effects of the Pill
There are several possible side effects to oral contraceptives: including depression, weight changes, headaches, increased blood glucose, hair loss, decreased libido, digestive symptoms, increased risk of blood clots and certain cancers. It may take time after coming off the pill to become pregnant or to balance your hormones in general. Increased acne and premenstrual symptoms (PMS) are common post-pill symptoms – though it’s not forever.
Birth Control and Gut Health
Unfortunately, birth control can lead to yeast overgrowth (candida), decreased microbial diversity and altered gut motility – leading to digestive issues like constipation and bloating as well as dysbiosis (imbalanced gut flora) and leaky gut.
So, it’s not only important to boost nutrient-rich foods while on birth control, but also to consider overall gut health. Remember to consume probiotic and prebiotic rich foods daily and utilize healing foods such as coconut oil, ghee, bone broths, omega 3s (wild caught seafood, flaxseed) and other healthy fats (avocados, olives) and superfoods like liver and oysters, etc.
Knowledge is Power
Your health and method of birth control are very personal. There is no wrong choice when it comes to pregnancy prevention, but it is important to be educated. Armed with this knowledge you can make the best choice for yourself, understand side effects, and adjust your eating habits or supplement routine to fill the gaps that may be missing from the pill.
If you’re having symptoms throughout your cycle, are on the pill and want to support your overall health, or are thinking about getting off the pill, consider working with us! We can help guide and support you.
Check out the handouts below for what these specific nutrients do for your body every single day along with where you can find them in foods.