Birth control pills deplete your vitamin and mineral stores and may cause side effects

Birth control pills deplete your vitamin and mineral stores and may cause side effectsBirth control pills are commonly used as a source of prevention. Most women seem to tolerate the pills rather well, but there are known side effects such as headaches, mood swings, and a slightly increased risk of blood clots and breast cancer. The different side effects are a result of the birth control pills and their disturbing impact on various enzyme processes, which depend on most B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium, selenium, and zinc. Vitamin C, zinc, and selenium also serve as effective antioxidants that protect our cells and cardiovascular system against oxidative stress. It is therefore essential to get plenty of these nutrients in order to lower the risk of side effects.

Twenty-five to 30 percent of women of childbearing age use birth control pills. Since the 1960s, these preparations have contained synthetically manufactured estrogen in the form of ethinylestradiol, which is chemically related to estradiol, a natural estrogen form. Birth control pills also contain synthetically manufactured gestagens that replace natural progesterone. Depending on what type of gestagen is in the pill, the preparations are categorized in different generations. The two hormones in birth control pills put a woman’s own hormone production on pause, thereby terminating her ovulation so she is unable to conceive.
Ever since the birth control pill entered the market, the hormone content and the risk of side effects have been reduced. Most importantly, the risk of getting a blood clot has gone down, but it remains and there are also other side effects as shown in the following.

The birth control pill was co-invented in the 1960s by the American scientist, Gregory Pincus.

Be careful – there is a risk of blood clots

Blood clots are extremely rare among young women of childbearing age, but birth control pills quadruple their risk. The risk is largest during the first six to 12 months after you start taking the pills, and if you don’t have any problems during this period, you most likely do not belong to the group of women at risk of having one.
Women should make sure to inform their physicians about any family history of diabetes, heart disease, or similar conditions, and they must also have their blood pressure measured before and three months after starting on the pill. Any precautions concerning whether or not to prescribe birth control pills are linked to the risk of a blood clot.

Breast cancer

Although there are many factors involved in breast cancer, it has been known for long that the risk of this cancer form increases when you use birth control pills. The link was demonstrated in a large Danish study, which is published in New England Journal of Medicine. Here, researchers compared the statistics for 15-49 year-old women in Denmark. They found 13 more cases of breast cancer in a group of 100,000 women who took the pills than in a group of 100,000 women who did not take the pills. It is a slightly increased risk, and the disease is rare among women younger than 30 years. Still, one must bear in mind that it takes many years for breast cancer to develop.
If you cut out the birth control pills, the risk of breast cancer drops again. However, it is also important to realize that there are other risk factors such as overweight, lack of exercise, too little sleep, too much alcohol, and low levels of vitamin D and selenium.

Did you know that birth control pills are able to deplete your body’s stores of selenium and vitamin B12, both of which are nutrients with anti-cancer properties?

Cervical cancer

In women who are infected with HPV (human papillomavirus), birth control pills can slightly increase their risk of cervical cancer. According to an article published in American Journal of Epidemiology, birth control pills and smoking increase the risk of cellular changes caused by HPV. The author specifies that birth control pills and smoking have a negative effect on the body’s folic acid and vitamin B12 status. Similarly, another study that is published in International Journal of Women’s Health shows that Indian women with higher blood levels of folic acid and vitamin B12 have a lower risk of HPV-induced cellular changes.
It appears that vitamin B12 and folic acid in sufficient amounts help to protect users of birth control pills against cervical cancer. Vegetarians should also make sure to get plenty of vitamin B12.

Other side effects from birth control pills

Some side effects occur rather soon, while other are insidious and show a long time after you start using the pills, which can make it difficult to link the side effects to the pills.
Some of the most important adverse effects are:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Weight gain
  • Mood swings and depression
  • Brown pigmentation and stains – mainly in the face
  • Spotting
  • Hypertension
  • Vaginal dryness and lowered libido
  • Overgrowth of the Candida albicans fungus, which is found naturally in the vaginal and gastrointestinal mucosa. Symptoms include white, grainy discharge, digestive problems, and sensitive blood sugar
  • Smokers from 35 years and older have an increased risk of cerebral hemorrhage

The many side effects may be a result of vitamin and mineral deficiencies

Birth control pills interfere with numerous enzyme processes, which depend on the presence of certain vitamins and minerals. This may account for many of the different side effects. Birth control pills specifically increase your need for vitamin B6, folic acid, vitamin B12, vitamin C, magnesium, selenium, and zinc. The following overview shows the importance and function of some of these nutrients. Lacking one or several of the following nutrients may have a negative effect on the listed functions.

Vitamin B6

  • Energy turnover
  • Nervous system and mental balance
  • Hormone system
  • Immune system
  • Antioxidant

Folic acid (vitamin B9)

  • Energy turnover
  • Blood formation
  • Mental balance
  • Regulation of homocysteine in the blood. Elevated homocysteine levels increase the risk of blood clots

Vitamin B12

  • Energy turnover
  • Nervous system and cognitive functions
  • Blood formation
  • Immune system

Vitamin C

  • Immune defense
  • Collagen (connective tissue)
  • Cardiovascular system
  • Wound healing
  • Stress threshold
  • Antioxidant

Magnesium

  • Energy turnover
  • Nervous system and mental balance
  • Muscles and relaxation
  • Blood pressure and heart
  • Bones

Selenium

  • Thyroid gland and metabolism
  • Cardiovascular system
  • Immune defense
  • Fertility
  • Antioxidant
  • Various anti-cancer properties

Zinc

  • Skin, hair, and nails
  • Vision, hearing, taste sense, appetite
  • Immune defense
  • Fertility
  • Antioxidant

Birth control pills increase your risk of oxidative stress – antioxidants protect the cells

As shown, birth control pills can increase your need for vitamin C, vitamin B6, selenium, and zinc. These nutrients are some of the most powerful antioxidants and work by protecting our cells and cardiovascular system against harmful free radicals. Free radicals are highly aggressive molecules that set the stage for atherosclerosis, cell damage, DNA mutations, disease, and decay. Free radicals are a byproduct of our own respiration. Moreover, stress, inflammation, poisoning, smoking, radiation, and ageing processes generate an increased amount of free radicals.
When the delicate between harmful free radicals and protective antioxidants is upset, the body is exposed to something called oxidative stress. Birth control pills can increase the risk of oxidative stress, especially if levels of vitamin C, vitamin B6, selenium, and zinc are too low.

Birth control pills are less suited for

  • Women who smoke a lot
  • Young women, who have still not fully matured
  • Breastfeeding women
  • Women who have not had regular periods for some time
  • Women with elevated blood pressure, diabetes, migraine headaches, and heart diseases
  • Women with elevated cholesterol levels
  • Women with a BMI higher than 30

Birth control pills are not suited for

  • Women, who smoke and are older than 35 years of age
  • Women who have had blood clots or inflammation of the veins (phlebitis)
  • Women with breast cancer
  • Women with liver diseases

If your birth control pills disagree with you, try changing brands or choose another source of birth control

Users of birth control pills should make sure under all circumstances to get enough folic acid, vitamin B12, vitamin C, magnesium, zinc, and selenium in order to lower their risk of short-term and long-term side effects.

References

Thomas Hoffmann. Skal jeg lægge p-pillerne på hylden for at undgå brystkræft? www.videnskab.dk, December 2017
https://videnskab.dk/krop-sundhed/skal-jeg-laegge-p-pillerne-paa-hylden-for-at-undgaa-brystkraeft

Catherine A. Hendricks: Genital human papilloma-virus infection: incidence and risk factors in a cohort of female university students. American Journal of Epidemiology. 2003
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12543621

Chandrika J P. et al. Indian women with higher serum concentrations of folate and vitamin B12 are significantly less likely to be infected with carcinogenic or high-risk (HR) types of human papillomaviruses (HPVs)
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2971743/

https://www.cancer.dk/hjaelp-viden/fakta-om-kraeft/aarsager-til-kraeft/hormoner/

https://www.apoteket.dk/sundhed/praevention/p-piller

https://www.netdoktor.dk/sunderaad/fakta/p-piller.htm

https://www.netdoktor.dk/sex_samliv/naturlige_kunstige_oestrogener.htm

https://www.netdoktor.dk/vitaminer/vitaminb6.htm

https://www.netdoktor.dk/vitaminer/folinsyre.htm

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3410054/

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-birth-control-pills-affect-your-nutritional-needs/

De Sousa Almeida-Filho B et al. Vitamin D is associated with poor breast cancer prognostic features. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol 2017
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29031688

Harris HR, et al. Selenium intake and breast cancer mortality in a cohort of Swedish women. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2012.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22736377