Note: This article is not intended as a debate about birth control. It is intended to offer education regarding nutritional deficiencies that are known to be caused by the use of hormone based birth control. Most medications have known associated nutrient depletions. There are multiple books available on this subject. While the books are helpful in listing the depletions, they do not discuss the ramifications of these deficiencies. The purpose of this article is to take that next step and help individuals make better informed decisions. If you use or intend to use this form of birth control, you may want to consider nutritional supplementation.
What you will read below is how the nutrients depleted by hormone based birth control pills play a major role in overall health and may be directly responsible for some of the issues experienced by the women using them including: depression, low energy, and thyroid issues.
Birth control is big business! It is marketed for a variety of purposes to women aged 10-60! They are claimed to make periods “regular”, “lighter”, or “less painful”; to relieve menstrual headaches; to control endometriosis; to clear acne; to help with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome; to help with peri-menopausal changes; and “may lower” ovarian and endometrial cancer risk. Whether or not they live up to these claims is highly debatable.
These oral contraceptives are marketed as “hormones”, but they are not natural – they are synthetic estrogens and progesterone. As such, they do not act the same of natural hormones. In fact they are suppressing the normal cycle, not “regulating” it. They create a false period. One of the ways the female body clears toxins is through the monthly shedding of the uterine lining. This “false period” creates the condition where there is less cleansing of toxins.
There are numerous known side effects including headaches, vomiting, unclear speech, dizziness, weakness or numbness in arms or legs, chest pain, coughing blood, shortness of breath, rash, heavy bleeding, blood clots, stroke, leg pain, altered vision, stomach pain, loss of appetite, tired, weak, fever, swelling, and depression. In fact, many women quickly discontinue usage due to these side effects.
It is likely that many of these side effects are associated with the nutrient depletions. Following is a very brief description of the key impacts of some of these nutrients:
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) and Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine): These have many functions, but a major one is the tryptophan pathway. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid and a precursor to melatonin and serotonin. Melatonin is a key anti-oxidant and important for sleep; serotonin is important for mood. Depression is associated with lack of serotonin.
Vitamin B2 is also an integral part of enzymes involved in oxidation reduction reactions that drive cell respiration. What does that mean? It is critical in our cell making energy for our body. It also supports the function of antioxidant enzymes and interacts with the other B vitamins. It promotes a healthy immune system and regulates the activity of 50 of our enzymes.
Vitamin B6 plays an important role in our metabolic reactions, specifically amino acid metabolism (making proteins for your body to use in building itself) and glycogen utilization (blood sugar control). B6 also acts as a co-enzyme for 100 other enzymes that play key roles in many biological processes. It is also involved in supporting the production of hormones and neurotransmitters – the chemicals that are directing all your body’s activities.
Vitamin B9 (Folate): Folate is key to the process of methylation which covers just about everything our body does – from clearing of toxins to energy production to neurotransmitter regulation to DNA replication. Folate is critical to the metabolism of nucleic acids and amino acids. Because of this, it supports overall growth and development and blood cell formation and supports normal growth of the fetus.
Vitamin B12: Shortages of B12 can cause anemia. B12 is a cofactor for two, yet very important enzymes. One is used for methionine metabolism. Methionine is an essential amino acid. The other enzyme aids in producing energy from proteins and fats. Overall B12 supports the nervous system, promotes the maturation of red blood cells (hence the tie to anemia when deficient in B12) and other cells, and supports bone and joint health.
Vitamin C: Many functions, chief among them immune system support. Vitamin C is also involved in forming collagen which is in our connective tissue. It also facilitates iron absorption and assists in cholesterol metabolism. So it is helping the blood, cardiovascular, endocrine, immune, musculoskeletal, and nervous systems.
Zinc: Many functions, main co-factor in many biological processes plus immune system support. Zinc supports the formation of many enzymes and insulin. The same insulin we need for blood sugar control. It also assists with wound healing, reproductive organ growth and development, and metabolism of phosphorus, carbohydrates, and proteins. Putting it simply – zinc helps many body processes work.
Magnesium: Many functions and most people are deficient even without being on hormonal birth control. Magnesium aids in enzyme activation; helps metabolize blood sugar; supports healthy nerve and muscle function; assists in forming bones and teeth; and plays a role in nucleic acid, protein, carbohydrate, and fat synthesis.
Tyrosine: A building block of thyroid hormone. Shortage of tyrosine can then lead to low thyroid symptoms.
Selenium: Many functions, among them converting thyroid hormones from storage form (T4) to available form (T3) and for breast health. Selenium supports a healthy immune system response, prostaglandin production (hormone precursors), and healthy reproductive, pancreatic, and thyroid functions.
CoQ10: A key nutrient for energy production in the mitochondria.
It is evident that the nutrients depleted by hormone based birth control pills play a major role in overall health. When we look at three main health concerns of women today (depression, low energy, and thyroid issues) there is a very strong association between these symptoms and the nutrient being depleted by birth control pills.
Bernard Rosen, PhD is a Nutrition Consultant and Educator. He works with individuals, groups, and at corporations to create individualized nutrition and wellness programs. His office is in Mequon, WI. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, call (262) 389-9907 or go to www.brwellness.com.