Did you know that taking hormonal birth control can lead to certain nutrient deficiencies?
Many of you reading this may have been or still are on hormonal birth control — and likely have been for years.
For many of us, birth control was a “rite of passage” during our teenage years — whether as a tool for managing symptoms or simply for the function it was designed. But, unfortunately, your doctor may not have covered the nutritional consequences with you at the time (or since)… and that’s why we are here!
Why does this happen?
According to hormone expert Alisa Vitti, “synthetic birth control acts like an antibiotic in your system and destroys your gut microbiome”. When our microbiome is compromised, this disrupted digestion interferes with our body’s natural ability to absorb micronutrients — which is why nutrient deficiency is so common when taking hormonal birth control.
It is also equally important to look at the role of digestion and elimination in overall hormone health:
"Hormones are chemical messengers, traveling throughout the body, delivering critical information to cells - enabling them to do what is needed to keep the body healthy and functioning properly. Hormones can also be produced within organs for use on site. Once they have done their job in target cells to activate estrogen and progesterone receptors, hormones need to be removed from the body and new hormones made. All of these functions can be immensely altered by synthetic hormones used in birth control pills, with great negative consequences."
— Dr. Felice Gersh, Board Certified OB/GYN and Doctor of Integrative Medicine
Without proper digestion and elimination, we become overloaded with hormones that can lead to further imbalance, painful period symptoms, low energy, and fatigue.
What can you eat to support your hormones?
We want to help you prevent deficiencies over time, which is one of the leading causes of hormonal imbalance, painful periods, weakened immunity, and lowered energy levels.
While we could go ahead and recommend that you simply take a multivitamin, we prefer to focus on food first for optimal nutrition and health. So below, you’ll find our guide to what nutrients and nourishment to focus on in your daily diet to prevent deficiencies and continue feeling your best!
Vitamin B6: Essential for the metabolism of protein, fats, and carbohydrates, Vitamin B6, is also critical for creating red blood cells and neurotransmitters. Low levels of this essential vitamin can lead to depression, anemia, and worsened PMS symptoms (no thanks!).
- Abundant in many of our favorite foods, including chickpeas, potatoes, bananas, turkey, tuna, and salmon.
Vitamin B12: An essential nutrient for red blood cell production and your nervous system, deficiencies in B12 can lead to weakness, low energy, feelings of pins and needles in your extremities, mood changes, and pale skin.
- B12 is found abundantly in animal products from poultry and seafood to grass-fed beef, so be sure to add protein to a few of your meals each day! Vegan or vegetarian? We recommend a methylated B12 supplement to meet your requirements.
Folic Acid: Important in the production of DNA and RNA (yup, your genes, which is why it’s so important to take when trying to conceive), Folic acid (also called ‘folate’) deficiency can present as exhaustion, irritability, mouth sores, anemia, and birth defects in pregnant women.
- Good news! This nutrient is widely available in many foods we love, including citrus fruits, brussel sprouts, mushrooms, legumes, and leafy greens! Also found in animal proteins like shellfish and pork.
Vitamin C: A powerful antioxidant, Vitamin C is essential for immunity, skin integrity, and collagen production! The body’s largest organ, our skin is an excellent mirror of what’s happening underneath. Suffering from dry, red bumps, slow healing wounds, bruises, or brittle spoon-shaped nails? These are common symptoms of this deficiency. Luckily, only 7% of the US population suffers from this deficiency, so as long as you add fresh fruits and veggies to your daily diet, you’ll be in great shape.
- Some of our favorites include kiwi, strawberries, red peppers, citrus fruits, and broccoli!
Zinc: Important in growth, reproduction, cell development, and immunity, this nutrient is essential in all stages of life. However, it is often low for those on birth control. Deficiencies often show up as a loss of taste and smell, low energy, slow healing skin wounds, and loss of appetite.
- Abundant in many popular foods, including red meat, poultry, wheat germ, and oysters — be sure to add lots of protein to your meals for adequate intake of this vital mineral!!
Eating a balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and lean proteins is essential for optimal health, wellness, focus, output, and reproduction. So making sure you are adding these foods to most meals and snacks will help you to balance out these possible deficiencies no matter how long you remain (or were) on hormonal birth control. Just remember that healing deficiencies can take time, so have patience, be consistent, and remember to give thanks to your body for all that it does!