What You've Never Been Told About The Pill (Until Now)
Over 100 million women worldwide are taking oral birth control, so if you’re a woman reading this, there’s a good chance you are too. But unfortunately, women aren’t counseled about a lot of the risks and side effects when being offered oral contraceptives. Keep reading to discover what you may not have been told!
Oral Birth Control Causes Nutrient Depletion.
According to a 2013 study, women taking oral birth control had lower levels of vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, folic acid, C, and E; minerals magnesium, selenium, and zinc, the amino acid tyrosine and the powerful antioxidant CoQ10 (1). These nutrients are important for almost every cellular process in the body, including detoxification, reducing inflammation, thyroid function, fertility, nourishing a fetus in-utero, and many others. It’s not exactly known how this happens, but one theory is that our bodies are not meant to ingest synthetic hormones orally. This may cause damage to the cells in our gut, causing mal-absorption of nutrients from food. The World Health Organization states that targeted vitamin and mineral supplementation should be the first-line approach for women with nutrient deficiencies who are taking the pill (2).
Oral Birth Control Is Linked To Depression.
A 2016 study of over 1 million women reports “Use of hormonal contraception, especially among adolescents, was associated with subsequent use of antidepressants and a first diagnosis of depression, suggesting depression as a potential adverse effect of hormonal contraceptive use.”(2).
This may happen as a result of the nutrient depletions mentioned above. Vitamin B6 is needed to make tryptophan, which is then used to make serotonin, a “feel-good” neurotransmitter and hormone. VItamin B12, folic acid, and tyrosine are also important for creating neurotransmitters that regulate mood and emotions (1). Our body does not store large amounts of these vitamins and nutrients for future use. If they aren’t there, the body can’t function properly!
Oral Birth Control Is Linked To Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD) And Leaky Gut.
A lot of research has been done in the past 5-10 years on the importance of a healthy gut microbiome (gut bacteria). This could be a separate blog post of it’s own, but balanced gut bacteria are important for neurotransmitter and hormone production, immunity, sleep, protecting the body from inflammation, and removing toxins and hormones. Gut imbalances have even been linked to diabetes and obesity. The health of our gut affects far more than just the gut. So when research has shown that the Pill is linked to IBD and leaky gut, that’s obviously a big deal!
Here’s what the research has shown: One study concluded that birth control pill use was associated with Crohn’s disease, and discontinuation of the pill demonstrated resolution of the disease (4). More recent research found that the use of birth control pills is associated with an almost 50% increase in the risk of developing Crohn’s disease (4).
Multiple theories exist, but one suggested hypothesis is that oral estrogen causes intestinal permeability, or “leaky gut”, which means the lining of the gut is damaged (6). And again, it’s not natural for the gut to be exposed to synthetic hormones which can cause an imbalance in gut bacteria (4).
Oral Birth Control Affects Thyroid Hormones.
The American Thyroid Association estimates that 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease, and about 60% of those with thyroid disease don’t know it. Could the Pill be contributing to this? According to the research, yes!
Studies show that in women using the Pill, thyroxine-binding globulin is significantly elevated (8). This is the protein in the blood that binds free thyroid hormone, which can greatly decrease thyroid hormone function throughout the body. As a quick refresher, thyroid function is important for energy, mood, digestion, immune function, detoxification, LDL cholesterol, and yes, weight.
Furthermore, the Pill increases estrogen which prevents the conversion of T4 to T3. T3 tis the active thyroid hormone needed within cells (8). Also, Zinc and Selenium are needed for this conversion, which as stated above, are depleted by oral birth control use.
Oral Birth Control Increases Inflammation.
Oral birth control has also been shown to raise markers of inflammation in the blood, specifically C-Reactive Protein (CRP). One study shows that women who take the Pill have CRP levels twice as high as those who do not (6). It is now understood and widely accepted that chronic low levels of inflammation may be a driver for many chronic diseases (7).
Given the widespread use of oral birth control, these side effects are concerning. What’s even more concerning is that women aren’t fully informed of them when they are prescribed. It’s great that women have the ability to make choices when it comes to child-bearing, but do you want to prevent pregnancy at the cost of creating health problems in the future?
That brings me to another topic. Some women are prescribed birth control for reasons other than contraception, including endometriosis, PCOS, acne, etc., but this does not address the root cause of hormone imbalance! In fact, over time the pill will cause estrogen and progesterone to be even more out of balance, with estrogen becoming more dominant. In my Functional Medicine practice I see estrogen dominance linked to migraines, anxiety, extreme PMS, heavy periods, bloating, stubborn weight, increased risk of breast cancer, and thyroid dysfunction.
The best way to balance your hormones is to work with a Functional Medicine expert, like myself, who can order the appropriate tests and safely recommend quality supplements and diet and lifestyle changes for your specific needs. Call 605-271-5640 to set up a free discovery call or to schedule an Intake Visit!
My intention isn't to scare you or persuade you to stop taking the pill immediately. But now you can make a truly informed choice about what you are putting into your body! Alternative forms of contraception that are, in my opinion, safer although may require more mindfulness to be effective, include Fertility Tracking, condoms, and copper IUD.
I hope this article has given you some food for thought. I’ve been in the conventional medical world for over a decade, and just recently learned this information that needs to be told to every single woman who is taking or considering the Pill. Please share this article with your female loved ones!
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1.Palmery M et al. Oral contraceptives and changes in nutritional requirements. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2013;17(13):1804-1813.
2. Skovlund CW et al. Association of hormonal contraception with depression. JAMA Psychiatry. 2016;73(11):1154-1162.
3. Khalili H. Risk of inflammatory bowel disease with oral contraceptives and menopausal hormone therapy: current evidence and future directions. Drug Saf. 2016;39(3):193-197.
4. Cornish JA et al. The risk of oral contraceptives in the etiology of inflammatory bowel disease: a meta-analysis. Am J Gastroenterol. 2008;103(9):2394–2400.
5. Looijer-van Langen M et al. Estrogen receptor-β signaling modulates epithelial barrier function. Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2011;300(4):G621–626.
6. Dreon DM et al. Oral contraceptive use and increased plasma concentration of C-reactive protein. Life Sci. 2003;73(10):1245-1252.
7. Hunter P. The inflammation theory of disease – The growing realization that chronic inflammation is crucial in many diseases opens new avenues for treatment. EMBO Rep. 2012;13(11):968–970.
8. Medau HJ et al. Serum level of thyroxin-binding globulin under oral contraception (author’s transl). Klin Wochenschr. 1975;53(15):727-729. [Article in German]