How to Prevent Nutrient Deficiencies while on the Birth Control Pill

Birth Control Pill

Oral birth control, or “the pill”, has done many great things for women. It’s given freedom, but like many prescription medications, there are side effects that cannot be neglected. Yes, it can prevent unwanted pregnancy and improve period problems. On the other hand, the long-term health consequences aren’t frequently discussed, and they can have a significant impact on your daily life. Once you understand how the pill works and how it can really impact your body in the long term, you can take a proactive approach to prevent these side effects.

Common side effects of the pill

  • Being moody all the time 
  • Depression 
  • Increased risk of stroke 
  • Increased risk of thyroid and adrenal disorders 
  • Increased risk of heart attacks
  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Dry skin
  • Low libido
  • Change in periods
  • Leaky gut 
  • Depletion of key nutrients: magnesium, zinc, B vitamins and vitamin C

How does the birth control pill work?

The pill acts on all your hormones, not just your sex hormones responsible for the pregnancy. This means that everything from your metabolism to your stress can be affected. 

Your natural estrogen and progesterone hormone levels will change and fluctuate every cycle. When you take the pill, you are giving yourself a dose of synthetic estrogen and progesterone, with a week of sugar pills (no hormones). These synthetic hormones suppress your natural hormone fluctuations, so you won’t be able to release an egg each cycle (ovulation) and get pregnant. 

During the week you are taking the sugar pills, you will experience a bleed and have a “period” as a result of hormone withdrawal. It’s not the same as a natural period, which is why your period problems likely went away after starting the pill. 

Why the pill does not fix hormone problems 

When it comes to hormones, the pill is a band-aid solution. While you’re on it, you can suppress your own hormones and perhaps your PMS symptoms too. But once you stop, you’ll likely be right back where you started. The more times you’ve taken the pill does not mean you are working towards your hormones being more “balanced”. In fact, the longer you stay on the pill, the more you suppress your body’s natural processes and hormonal fluctuations. 

How to protect yourself from the negative side effects of the pill

It’s not always feasible to get off the pill, so the best thing you can do is support your body with the right nutrients. Key nutrients such as magnesium, B vitamins, vitamin C and zinc are depleted by the pill, so you can choose to eat more nutrient-dense foods or use supplements.

Supplement options

Nutrient-dense foods

  • Leafy greens
  • Oysters
  • Grassfed beef
  • Beef or chicken liver
  • Camu camu
  • Avocado
  • Coconut water

Staying on the pill

Whether you choose to stay on the pill or not, you can be proactive in making sure your body is still receiving and absorbing all the key nutrients. The more you know about the side effects and nutrient deficiencies, the better you can prepare yourself.

Author

Grace Tien is a women’s health holistic nutritionist. She helps her clients optimize their nutrition habits so that they can get rid of afternoon slumps and live each day full of energy. Grace specializes in nutrition for healthy periods, you can find out more at @gracetien.ca on Instagram.

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