More often than not, birth control pills are prescribed without a proper “pros and cons” discussion. For women taking oral contraceptive pills, the pros are obvious: light, predictable and easy menstrual cycles. It is unfortunate, however, that side effects are rarely discussed prior to prescription. In addition to a hormonal effect that inhibits the natural menstrual cycle, birth control pills have been shown to lower many key nutrients essential for maintaining healthy endocrine, immune and nervous systems.
The following important nutrients are lowered by the presence of birth control pills:
- Riboflavin (Vitamin B2): Riboflavin metabolizes carbohydrates, fats and proteins. It contributes to cellular energy production and is important for a healthy nervous and immune system. Vitamin B2 is also necessary for healthy hair, eyes, mouth and liver.
- Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6): Vitamin B6 aids the production of neurotransmitters and helps against depression. It is involved in red blood cell production and protects against anemia. Further, Vitamin B6 is involved in enzyme protein metabolism, reduces homocysteine, contributes to healthy nerve and muscle function and is necessary for hormonal balance and immune function.
- Folic Acid: Folic acid is involved in metabolism, infant DNA/RNA production, red blood cell production, iron function and it reduces homocysteine.
- Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 is necessary for the maintenance of healthy nerve cells, red blood cell production, and iron function. It decreases homocysteine and is important for the production of energy from fats and proteins.
- Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C): Vitamin C is a major antioxidant and immune stimulant. It is involved in energy production, collagen synthesis and neurotransmitter production.
- Zinc: Zinc is vital to growth and development, immune response, neurological function, reproduction and the health of skin.
Other nutrients to consider supplementing with while on birth controls pills:
- Liver supportive herbs, nutrients and foods: Birth control pills are metabolized in the liver. A healthy liver helps to maintain normal circulating estrogen levels and is vital for hormonal balance. Some liver support supplements and foods that I recommend include: dandelion root, curcumin, burdock root, artichoke, beets, carrots and milk thistle.
- Anti-inflammatories: birth control pills increase the risk of blood clots and can elevate the inflammatory marker hsCRP. Inflammation can lead to heart disease and other chronic diseases. Good examples of anti-inflammatory sources include: fish oil (an omega 3 fatty acid), bromelain, curcumin, ginger and chamomile.
- Vaginal Support: Birth control pills can increase the pH of the vagina and contribute to changes in the vaginal micorflora which contributes to yeast infections and other vaginal infections. Taking a good probiotic, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus helps to maintain a proper vaginal pH and balances the good and bad bacteria in the vagina.