What Your Doctor Won’t Tell You About “The Pill”

1960 was a significant year for women’s health.  Enovid, the first oral contraceptive, was approved by the FDA, having been invented less than a decade prior.  Thirty years after its introduction, the birth control pill experienced ups and downs due to severe side effects and safety concerns, but by the late pills-1354782_960_7201980’s, newer and safer pills were introduced.¹  And in 2012, birth control pills were finally ruled to be covered by health insurance (for comparison, Viagra had essentially been covered since its introduction in 1998).²

The progress made for women’s rights thanks to this little pill have been great. However, this particular step towards women’s equality has come at a silent but serious cost.  Yes, todays oral contraceptives are safer than the ones first introduced over fifty years ago, but they still have their fair share of issues.  So if you’re currently taking or have ever taken some form of birth control pill, you may be shocked to learn what it’s actually doing to your body.

 

Vitamin and Mineral Depletion

Birth control pills, like many medications, rob the body of vitamins and minerals including magnesium, selenium, zinc, tyrosine, CoQ10 and an assortment of B vitamins.³ To better understand these effects, let’s look at these nutrients individually⁴:

  • Magnesium deficiency can cause anxiety, depression, fatigue, insomnia, irritability, panic attacks, muscle cramps, chest tightness, faintness, memory loss, confusion, neck pain, headaches, GI complaints, palpitations, and noise sensitivity
  • Selenium deficiency can cause hair loss, infertility, anemia, muscle pain and weakness, and white fingernail beds. Selenium is also vital for thyroid health
  • Zinc deficiency can cause impaired taste sensation, impaired concentration, depression, jitteriness, night blindness, intention tremor, anemia, low testosterone, and insulin issues
  • Tyrosine deficiency can cause depression, narcolepsy, and acute stress
  • CoQ10 is used to prevent or treat angina, CHF, high blood pressure, hyperthyroidism, migraine, parkinsons, tinnitus, infertility, hearing loss, and gingivitis
  • B vitamins have a wide range of function and uses so a deficiency can and does effect many systems of the body, too lengthy for the purpose of this article

While many of these symptoms can be due to other underlying diseases, it may be worthwhile to think about when certain symptoms started or worsened in relationship to when you first started birth control pills.

 

Diseases

Based on the symptoms listed above, having a deficiency in one or many of those aforementioned nutrients can have a major impact on your quality of life.  However, there are additional diseases that have been associated with using the birth control pill.  It’s been widely known that the pill increases your risk for blood clots (up to five times more than non-users), strokes, heart disease, and can worsen migraines and headaches. In addition, long-term use of the birth control pill (more than 5 years) can cause decreased levels of thyroid hormone and increased insulin resistance (think type 2 diabetes), oxidative stress, and inflammation⁵. More recently, oral contraceptive use has been linked to increase incidence of Crohn’s disease, an autoimmune disorder of the intestines⁶.  Some of these diseases may be due to the nutrient deficiencies caused by the pill or someone may have been pre-disposed and taking the birth control pill was just the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak.

Now let me stop you before you throw your birth control pill in the trash.  For some, birth control pills are a convenient way to avoid unwanted pregnancy or regulate their menstrual cycle due to having endometriosis or polycystic ovarian syndrome. Taking a good quality multi-vitamin can help reduce the likelihood of these deficiencies if you know birth control is a long-term plan.  You can also explore other options depending on your reasons for using the pill.  Every type of birth control method comes with some risks but making an informed choice about which method you prefer is important.

Stay radiant,

Dr. Russell

 

 

1. “A Brief History of the Birth Control Pill” <http://www.pbs.org/wnet/need-to-know/health/a-brief-history-of-the-birth-control-pill/480/>
2. “Difference Between Viagra and The Pill” <http://prospect.org/article/difference-between-viagra-and-pill>
3. Pelton, Ross. The Pill Problem.
4. Gaby, A. Nutritional Medicine.
5. Perlmutter, D. Brain Maker.
6.Khalili, H., et al. “Oral contraceptives, reproductive factors, and risk of inflammatory bowel disease.” Gut. 2013. 62(8): 1153-1159.

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