While it continues to be a controversial topic, the birth control pill has offered women the opportunity to have more control over their reproductive health and choose the time when they are ready to have children. However, in recent times, science has also shown that taking birth control pills comes with some very real risks.
Blood clots, cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, strokes, and breast cancer are just some of the potential side effects of taking hormonal birth control pills. Studies are also now showing that these pills may have an effect on gut health as well.
What Birth Control Pills Do to the Body
Birth control pills introduce hormones into the body to prevent pregnancy. However, since the natural function of the body is to maintain hormonal balance, any introduction of hormones causes a disruption.
Here are some ways birth control pills affect the body:
Antioxidants protect us from free radicals, which are molecules that cause DNA damage. They are also anti-aging because they are able to protect and repair cells. However, birth control pills may deplete us of important antioxidants. Two of these major antioxidants are vitamin C and vitamin E.
Deplete Essential B Vitamins and Key Minerals
The birth control pill is known to deplete us of vitamins such as folate, biotin, pyridoxine (B6), and cobalamin (B12). Selenium, zinc, and magnesium are some minerals that may also be depleted while on the pill. Deficiencies in these vitamins and minerals may lead to conditions such as depression, mood disorders, and anxiety.
Affect Gut Health
According to studies, oral contraceptives affect gut flora as well as the metabolism of estrogen. As a result, the gut’s health is affected and women on the pill have reported experiencing conditions such as:
- Abdominal pain
- Mental fog
- Acid reflux
What to Eat While on the Pill
If you are currently on the pill, there are a few things you can do to negate some of the side effects and mitigate vitamin and mineral deficiencies through a healthy and conscious choice of nutrient-dense foods to heal our gut. Take a look at some of them.
The vitamin B6 in bananas boosts serotonin levels in the brain. Higher serotonin levels counter mood swings caused by birth control pills. Bananas are also high in potassium, a great energy source.
Curd is made by curdling milk with an edible, acidic substance such as vinegar or lemon juice.
Curd is very rich in probiotics and vitamin B. It helps reduce feelings of nausea and headaches.
Damage to skin and hair can occur when one is nutrient-deficient. You can reverse this damage by consuming citrus fruits, which are high in vitamin C. This vitamin can also be found in other foods like strawberries, bell peppers, pineapple, tomatoes, kiwi, and broccoli.
Avocado is probably one of the healthiest fruits in the world. It is rich in folate and omega-3 fatty acids, and is a tasty source of magnesium. It helps regulate hormonal imbalances by reducing absorption of estrogen while boosting testosterone levels.
Hair loss may be one side effect of taking the pill. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fish is believed to help regulate the body’s functions. In the process, it triggers hair growth, nourishes hair follicles, and promotes hair strength.
Aside from providing fibre, whole grains are a rich source of magnesium. This is a great way to replenish the magnesium and other minerals lost by taking birth control pills.
Free radical damage on the skin may cause premature aging. Almonds are rich in antioxidants, and may help negate this effect.
Taking oral contraceptives is a personal choice. If birth control pills are a necessary part of your life, work on incorporating foods like those listed above into your diet as often as possible so your body can mitigate any potential side effects.