The birth control pill has been around for decades. It is an effective and reliable way to prevent pregnancy when taken as directed. Additionally, it has been prescribed to women for reasons other than contraception, such as irregularities in the menstrual cycle, painful periods or even hormonal acne. Today more than ten million women in the world take oral contraceptives. What some of these women are unaware of is that the pill can deplete the body of vital nutrients.
What Studies Are Showing About Nutrient Depletion and Oral Contraceptives
Many studies have been released that show a correlation between birth control usage and nutrient deficiencies. A handful of studies have shown direct relationships between oral contraceptive use and folate and B-vitamin depletion. Although one study explains that contraceptive use may not exactly cause a deficiency in B12, it concluded that total vitamin B12 binding capacity of the serum as well as the transcobalamin I levels were significantly lower in the users of the pill than in non-users (Shojania, 1982).
As we know, B12 plays an active role in the methylation cycle. Additionally, without B-vitamins, your body cannot synthesize thyroid hormones. Interference with thyroid hormones can cause an array of symptoms, including the following:
- Hair loss
- Anxiety and/or depression
Oral Contraceptives and Folate
According to Dr. Ben Lynch, if women take specific types of oral contraceptives and also have the MTHFR C677T mutation, then their methylfolate levels are highly likely to drop below normal (thereby causing significant issues). This folate depletion is part of the reason for some of the most common side effects of birth control pills – fatigue, mild depression, and even acne. In theory, if you went on the pill to combat your hormonal acne to begin with, you may actually be making it worse due to the decrease in folate levels in your body.
Here is a list of other vital nutrients that can be depleted by the pill (other than folate and B12):
- Vitamin C
- B2 – Riboflavin
- B6 – Pyridoxine
- Vitamin E
What Are My Options If I Need to Be on the Pill?
Due to the overwhelming evidence pointing to contraceptive use and nutrient depletion, the FDA has recognized a new birth control option on the market called Beyaz. Unfortunately, this form of birth control contains folic acid rather than the active form of folate. If you have a MTHFR mutation, you may not be able to convert folic acid to the form that is recognized and used by the body. Although Beyaz is marketed as a type of contraceptive pill that contains the very nutrients it may be depleting, it still may not be the best option for those with a MTHFR gene variance.
Women who are taking oral contraceptives should also ensure they are eating a diet rich in foods that contain folate and B12. Some foods high in folate include legumes, asparagus, leafy greens and eggs. Foods high in B12 include clams, sardines, grass-fed beef, salmon and eggs. For those on a plant-based diet, getting enough B12 from food can be difficult.
Another option would be to use the lowest dose of hormone possible and make sure you’re adding extra supplements to counteract nutritional deficiencies. As stated before, the contraceptive pill is a good option for those who are looking for an effective method of birth control. Being aware of which pill you choose and making sure you are filling the nutritional gaps is critical.