There are many reasons why someone might choose to take hormonal birth control.
As with many medications, hormonal birth control can come with side effects and symptoms, but this doesn’t mean you can’t support your body through nutrition and lifestyle at the same time. Let’s explore some of the most important factors to help your body stay nourished while on hormonal birth control.
First, how does hormonal birth control impact your nutrition?
Hormonal birth control has been linked to lower levels of a range of nutrients.1 This depletion could cause a chain reaction effect of symptoms. Focusing on these nutrients in the diet and supplementing to fill in the gaps can help to mitigate negative effects of depletion
Let’s talk about why it’s so important to maintain healthy levels of these nutrients and how they can impact the body.
Five nutrients to nurture:
1. B vitamins (folate, B2, B6, B12)
B vitamins covers an important range of nutrients including folate, riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin B6, and B12. B vitamins are essential for DNA synthesis and metabolism. Folate especially is critical for reproductive health for better outcomes with fertility treatments, reduced risk of neural tube defects, and preterm birth.2,3 But beyond fertility and pregnancy, B vitamins across the board are important for mood balance, building neurotransmitters and have been linked to depression outcomes.4
Delicious ways to add some B vitamins:
- crumble oatmeal chocolate chip cookies into yogurt
- add chickpeas to a spinach salad
- Try a turkey wrap
2. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is an important key player in your immune system health. It helps the body prevent and fight infections and acts as an antioxidant to help reduce cellular damage from oxidation.5 It has also been associated with hormone health by supporting progesterone levels.6
Delicious ways to add some Vitamin C:
- Start your day with a strawberry-kiwi smoothie
- Munch on some red bell peppers dipped in hummus for snack
- Chop up some broccoli into your stir fry
Magnesium is a mineral that can influence many of the symptoms commonly associated with hormonal birth control and PMS such as bloating, cramps, constipation, and mood swings. Studies have shown that supplementing with magnesium helped to improve symptoms.7
Delicious ways to add some magnesium:
- Top your favorite toast with almond butter and Cinnamon Maca Seasoning, made with magnesium-rich pumpkin seeds
- Try out some spicy black bean burgers
- Meal prep some baked potatoes for an easy weeknight side dish
Selenium is an antioxidant that supports immune function and regulates inflammation.8 It also has a notable role in thyroid health, not only improving lab values but also translating into better quality of life for those with thyroid conditions due to symptom improvement.9 Since the thyroid is important for major processes like metabolism, reproductive health, and brain development, selenium should not be overlooked.
Delicious ways to add some selenium:
- Nibble a couple of brazil nuts with dried cherries
- Toss in some shrimp on your pasta dinner
- Make cottage cheese overnight oats
Zinc is a mineral that is often associated with its important role in immune system health and fighting off colds. Studies also show that zinc can be helpful for women’s health as well. It’s been linked to reducing painful periods and PMS symptoms like anxiety, depression, irritability, headaches and bloating.10,11
Delicious ways to add some zinc:
- Add lentils into your crockpot chili
- Snack on some beef jerky alongside dried apricots
- Have a glass of milk with a side of Double Chocolate Chip Cookies made with cocoa powder and pumpkin seeds for a zinc boost
How does hormonal birth control cause these nutrient deficiencies? It’s likely a mix of factors but one of the reasons is thought to be related to the next important considerations: gut health.
Hormonal birth control may change the health of your gut by changing how the gut lining functions, making it more permeable or leaky which can increase risk of inflammation. It could also affect the bacteria levels in the gut, disrupting the microbiome balance.12 More research is needed, but supporting your gut health through your diet is a helpful action step to start with.
Here are three top ways to nurture that gut:
Focusing on nutrient repletion, gut health, and nourishing choices to support your body allows you to take an active role in promoting your health while taking hormonal birth control. If you are considering transitioning off of birth control, continuing to nurture these factors will be important as your body adjusts. For more tips on supporting your cycle after transitioning off of birth control check out our article here.
- Palmery M, Saraceno A, Vaiarelli A, Carlomagno G. Oral contraceptives and changes in nutritional requirements. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2013;17(13):1804-1813.
- Scholl TO, Johnson WG. Folic acid: influence on the outcome of pregnancy. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000;71(5 Suppl):1295S-303S. doi:10.1093/ajcn/71.5.1295s
- Gaskins AJ, Afeiche MC, Wright DL, et al. Dietary folate and reproductive success among women undergoing assisted reproduction. Obstet Gynecol. 2014;124(4):801-809. doi:10.1097/AOG.0000000000000477
- Coppen A, Bolander-Gouaille C. Treatment of depression: time to consider folic acid and vitamin B12. J Psychopharmacol. 2005;19(1):59-65. doi:10.1177/0269881105048899
- Carr AC, Maggini S. Vitamin C and Immune Function. Nutrients. 2017;9(11):1211. Published 2017 Nov 3. doi:10.3390/nu9111211
- Mumford SL, Browne RW, Schliep KC, et al. Serum Antioxidants Are Associated with Serum Reproductive Hormones and Ovulation among Healthy Women. J Nutr. 2016;146(1):98-106. doi:10.3945/jn.115.217620
- Fathizadeh N, Ebrahimi E, Valiani M, Tavakoli N, Yar MH. Evaluating the effect of magnesium and magnesium plus vitamin B6 supplement on the severity of premenstrual syndrome. Iran J Nurs Midwifery Res. 2010;15(Suppl 1):401-405.
- Huang Z, Rose AH, Hoffmann PR. The role of selenium in inflammation and immunity: from molecular mechanisms to therapeutic opportunities. Antioxid Redox Signal. 2012;16(7):705-743. doi:10.1089/ars.2011.4145
- Ventura M, Melo M, Carrilho F. Selenium and Thyroid Disease: From Pathophysiology to Treatment. Int J Endocrinol. 2017;2017:1297658. doi:10.1155/2017/1297658
- Ahmadi M, Khansary S, Parsapour H, Alizamir A, Pirdehghan A. The Effect of Zinc Supplementation on the Improvement of Premenstrual Symptoms in Female University Students: a Randomized Clinical Trial Study [published online ahead of print, 2022 Feb 28]. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2022;10.1007/s12011-022-03175-w. doi:10.1007/s12011-022-03175-w
- Teimoori B, Ghasemi M, Hoseini ZS, Razavi M. The Efficacy of Zinc Administration in the Treatment of Primary Dysmenorrhea. Oman Med J. 2016;31(2):107-111. doi:10.5001/omj.2016.21
- Khalili H. Risk of Inflammatory Bowel Disease with Oral Contraceptives and Menopausal Hormone Therapy: Current Evidence and Future Directions. Drug Saf. 2016;39(3):193-197. doi:10.1007/s40264-015-0372-y