Years ago I started educating health professionals and patients in my practice about birth control pills. If they — or their wives, daughters, or patients were taking them — they should make sure to supplement with a multivitamin and mineral containing higher dosages of B vitamins.
The reason? Studies have found that oral contraceptives deplete several nutrients including vitamins B2, B6, and B12, folate, vitamins C and E, magnesium, and even CoQ10.1-5 These nutrient depletions have far-reaching effects; they can contribute to everything from depression, migraines, and anemia — to cervical dysplasia — the precursor to cervical cancer.
Today it is common medical practice to discontinue the use of birth control pills for a few months before trying to get pregnant because the folate depletion they cause can increase the risks of a baby being born with spina bifida.
As recently as 2003, a study found that young women who took birth control pills had twice as much C-reactive protein (CRP) in their blood.6 CRP is a product of systemic inflammation and is known to cause narrowing and hardening of the arteries. This was a small study, but it showed that birth control pills promoted inflammation in the body — part of which is very likely due to the nutrients they deplete.
I emphasized the word “young” because this study showed that the inflammation is happening at a young age. While the authors stated that the study could not determine whether the elevated CRP would increase the risk of heart disease, it only stands to reason that the longer a woman lives with elevated CRP, the greater her risk will be of developing damage from it.
Many gynecologists today still believe the risks from birth control pills were mainly in the past when dosages of the hormones were higher. In fact, most gynecologists still encourage the use of birth control pills because some research suggests that they lower the risk of ovarian cancer and pelvic inflammatory disease.
While this is a very personal decision, I believe women should know that even today’s birth control pills can deplete nutrients — and that any woman using them should protect herself by taking a good multivitamin every day as well as extra CoQ10 (60 to 90 mg per day).
If you or your significant other uses birth control pills, protect yourself with extra nutrients, and measure your CRP levels to see if they are elevated. If they are, you should try to decrease other sources of inflammation to your body like high intake of sugars and other high glycemic index foods.
Taking the nutrients mentioned above plus additional antioxidants will help to reduce CRP levels. If CRP still doesn’t come down, you may need to consider other methods of birth control.
- Webb, JL, J Reprod Med 25(4) (Oct 1980) : 150-56.
- Ahmed, F et al., Am J Clin Nutr 28(6) (Jun 1975) : 606-15.
- Bermond, P Acta Vitaminol Enzymol 1982;4(1-2):45-54
- Seelig MS, J Am Coll Nutr, 1993 12(4):442-58
- American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (194, 5:e35-e38, 2006).
- Dreon D, et al. American Physiological Society Annual Meeting, San Diego, 2003.