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Birth Control Pills and Vitamin Deficiencies – InViteⓇ Health Podcast, Episode 514
Hosted by Amanda Williams, MPH
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Amanda Williams, MPH:
[00:00:40] Did you know that approximately 25% of women in this country between the ages of 15 years old and 44 years old use oral contraceptives, also known as birth control pills? The reason I want to bring this up is because there is a strong correlation between nutrient depletions and the use of birth control, and this can affect women’s health in a variety of different ways. So it’s important to know what nutrients for sure that you should be taking, and to also just be aware of the fact that you may be exhibiting certain symptoms that are directly correlated to the use of your oral contraceptive, but because of the fact that it’s depleting these key and essential nutrients. So I’m Amanda Williams, MD, MPH and let’s get right to it.† [00:01:27]
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[00:01:27] We know that birth control pills are still one of the most commonly used forms of contraceptive in this country, and we can see how the use of these synthetic hormones can definitely disrupt different systems outside of our sex hormones. Because remember, when we’re thinking about the endocrine system, we’re understanding that many different hormonal pathways are kind of interrelated. And when you start to break down… And this goes all the way back to the 1980s in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine. And this is quite interesting because they talked about this since the 1980s, but if you were to talk to most women who have been put on oral contraceptives, whatever birth control it is the likelihood that their physician who prescribed them that, so whether it’s their primary doctor or it is their OB-GYN, the likelihood that they have also been told that you need to be taking said nutrients in conjunction with this is very low. But yet we can go back to the study out of the Journal of Reproductive Medicine in 1980, and we can see how it is that they’ve been able to link that close to 80% of women who are on birth control pills for upwards of six months are at a much greater likelihood for experiencing all of these decreases in key and essential vitamins, including things such as Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, your other B-vitamins, including folate, for example. These are important because we understand the significant role that these B-vitamins and our antioxidant vitamins are actually playing when it comes to so many functions in the body when it comes to our immune system, for example. So seeing this in what was really quite interesting about the study in the 1980s is that the fact that they could see the linkage to a deficiency in Vitamin B6, the fact that they could see a linkage to a deficiency in Vitamin B12. These were in and of themselves quite interesting.† [00:03:30]
[00:03:30] But what was really profound was that they could see that there was this abnormal ability to actually process tryptophan. So the metabolism of the amino acid tryptophan was implicated in so many of these women who were utilizing birth control pills. Now why does that matter? Think about the pathway of tryptophan. We know tryptophan is the amino acid, and then that’s in charge of helping to make serotonin and then melatonin. So what do we know about serotonin? Not only is that for our mood, our happy neurotransmitter, but we also have to recognize how it is that serotonin plays a role when it comes to appetite and in the setting of low serotonin, we have a greater likelihood of having cravings. So, many times you’ll talk to women who are on birth control and they’ll say, “Oh, I gained weight,” and they link it solely to the water gain that potentially the, the estrogen and progesterone creates this imbalance in the system. We certainly know that to be the case, but also this increase in appetite, and you have to then go back and say, “Oh, wait, this is because tryptophan is implicated in this whole problem here.” And then we look at how the B-vitamins are certainly playing a role in this as well.† [00:04:49]
[00:04:50] So then we look at a study that came out of the European Review of Medical Pharmacology, where they talked about how the use of oral contraceptives is at such a high rate and the influence of these oral contraceptives and nutrient requirements is really an area that needs to be addressed and because it has significant clinical relevance to this. This was in 2013. They looked at the main concern nutrients that can get depleted, including, as I mentioned, folic acid, looking at riboflavin, Vitamin B6, B12, Vitamin C, Vitamin E. There’s also the underlying potential that certain minerals, including things like selenium and zinc, can also take a hit because of the use of those birth control pills. So this is very, very problematic.† [00:05:43]
[00:05:44] Now, certainly when it comes to what women should be doing and we say, “OK, if we know that pretty much all of our B-vitamins are going to take a hit, we know that key minerals, including magnesium, zinc, selenium can also take a hit. Vitamin C, Vitamin E. What should women be doing?” Well, first and foremost, if you are prescribed a birth control pill, your physician should be telling you at minimum that you need to be taking a daily multivitamin. Now I take it a step further and I say we know that 80% of women are going to experience this, and we know that that tryptophan component is also playing a very important and problematic role into this. So what I would advise is that you are taking not only a comprehensive daily multivitamin, multimineral formulation such as the Core Multivitamin, but that you also look at taking additional B-vitamins. And I always turn to the Methyl-B because if we can take the biologically active form of those key B-vitamins, we’re taking the methylfolate, we’re taking that methylcobalamin for the B12, we can really help to support within the body the true function of those vitamins. We’re not worrying about any of those water-soluble vitamins somehow washing out if we take the biologically active form. So taking the Methyl-B in conjunction with your daily multivitamin, multimineral.† [00:07:05]
[00:07:05] But then it would also be advantageous, if you are starting to see any issue when it comes to increased cravings, if it comes to disruption in sleep would be to add in 5-HTP, so that is 5- hydroxytryptophan. That’s the rate-limiting step between the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin. So I would advise looking at taking perhaps 50 or 100mg of 5-HTP in the evening to really help to support that serotonergic pathway. And this is always very important because we can look statistically and we understand that just in this country alone, 25% of women between the ages of 15 and 44 are using oral contraceptives and knowing that 80% of women who are on a birth control pill for over the course of six months are going to start to experience significant nutrient depletion and think about even for your skin, for example. If your Vitamin E and your Vitamin C levels are starting to plummet, this will have an impact on the health of your skin. So this is an area that many women need to just be cognizant of, because certainly, whatever your choice of birth control is your choice. But you also have to be aware of the fact that your doctor is likely not to tell you because they may not actually be aware of it themselves that there is a significant likelihood for these severe nutrient deletions to occur. So the more that you know, the better off that you are. So if you’re on birth control, make sure that you stock up on your Core Multivitamin, so the comprehensive blend. Taking, in addition to that, the Methyl-B formulation and consider the 5-HTP if you are experiencing issues, whether that be with cravings or whether that be with sleep.† [00:08:46]
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[00:08:47] So I want to thank you so much for tuning in to the InViteⓇ Health Podcast. Remember, you can find all of our episodes for free wherever you listen to podcasts or by visiting invitehealth.com/podcast. Now do make sure that you subscribe and you leave us a review. You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @invitehealth and we will see you next time for another episode of the InViteⓇ Health Podcast.† [00:08:47]