By: Georga Holt
The oral contraceptive pill (OCP) is among one of the most commonly prescribed drugs. Several side effects are often spoken about when prescribing, but one I would like to touch on today is nutritional deficiencies. Scientific research has found that the following key nutrients are depleted by the OCP:
- Vitamin B2
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Folic acid
Why are these nutrients important? They each play an important role in our immune system, mental health, gut health, energy and basically all bodily functions.
When we take the OCP - its main role is to switch off ovulation (this is how it is a ‘contraception’). The pill replaces our hormones with synthetic versions which are meant to mimic the natural occurring hormones that we produce. However, the synthetic versions don’t produce the same therapeutic properties.
The mechanism as to how the OCP decreases these nutrients is still unclear, however theoretically, several studies have discussed the possibility that the OCP may deplete certain nutrients due to its impact on our natural hormone production. Our own production of hormones are important in regulating many metabolic functions which when the OCP is administered it has the ability to alter the natural occurring hormones in our bodies which in return can shift the metabolism of said nutrients.
Additionally, studies have found that when we are on the OCP it increases inflammation in our body (and our gut) which puts us at a higher risk of developing dysbiosis, leaky gut & reducing our immune system function. This can also be another explanation as to what contributes to nutrient deficiencies whilst on the OCP, because if intestinal permeability (leaky gut) is present in our gastrointestinal system, then this can lead to a reduction of nutrient absorption due to the lack of integrity in the GIT wall resulting in a ‘leak’ aka loss of nutrients.
While we don’t recommend going off the pill or using no birth control method at all- this could be extremely risky if you don’t want to get pregnant- it is important to get quarterly blood work done to figure out if you are deficient in any nutrients, and work with a licensed practitioner to get your levels back to normal. It’s important we take care of our bodies while also preventing unwanted pregnancy.
And if you want to reduce nutrient deficiencies and oxidative damage whilst on the pill, make sure you are eating a whole food (colorful) diet which ranges in a variety of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds & so on. And address any gut issues you may be experiencing.
Palmery, M., Saraceno, A., Vaiarelli, A., & Carlomagno, G. (2013). Oral contraceptives and changes in nutritional requirements. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci, 17(13), 1804-13.
Park B, Kim J (2016) Oral Contraceptive Use, Micronutrient Deficiency, and Obesity among Premenopausal Females in Korea: The Necessity of Dietary Supplements and Food Intake Improvement. PLOS ONE 11(6): e015817
Sütterlin, M. W., Bussen, S. S., Rieger, L., Dietl, J., & Steck, T. (2003). Serum folate and Vitamin B12 levels in women using modern oral contraceptives (OC) containing 20 μg ethinyl estradiol. European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, 107(1), 57-61.