Birth control or oral contraceptive pills are given out for everything.  If you have unexplained heavy cycles, skin issues or experience PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome) your doctor will likely prescribe birth control.  Why is this a problem?  It masks what it going on underneath.  Our cycles give us a ton of information about our bodies and our health.

Birth Control Messes Up the Gut

Yeast and fungal infections increase as soon as six months after beginning the pill.  Often women are on the pill for many years but don’t put the two together.  Chronic yeast infections lower immunity and are a stress on the body.

Other pathogenic bacteria become opportunistic and inhibit the absorption of critical nutrients like B12, vitamin K and folate.  A B12 deficiency has several symptoms including:

  • Weakness, tiredness, or lightheadedness
  • Heart palpitations and shortness of breath
  • Pale skin
  • Constipation, diarrhea, loss of appetite, or gas
  • Nerve problems like numbness or tingling, muscle weakness, and problems walking
  • Vision loss
  • Mental problems like depression, memory loss, or behavioural changes

A B12 deficiency can result in irreversible symptoms if left untreated.

Vitamin K is responsible for transporting calcium to the bone and therefore is important for preventing osteoporosis later in life.  It also plays a role in blood clotting which is one of the more serious health concerns with taking the pill.

Low folate can have a genetic factor and is implicated in:

  • Poor immune function; frequently getting sick
  • Chronic low energy
  • Poor digestion; issues like constipation, bloating and IBS
  • Developmental problems of the brain and spinal cord of the fetus during pregnancy
  • Anemia
  • Canker sores in the mouth and a tender, swollen tongue
  • Changes in mood, including irritability
  • Pale skin
  • Premature gray hair

Our Hormones & Gut Work Together

Estrogens increase peristalsis (movement of the intestines) and pain sensitivity. If you have gut symptoms you may notice more cramping and diarrhea when estrogen spikes and drops. This happens twice. Once before ovulation and again before menstruation.

Progesterone, on the other hand, slows peristalsis. This is why women experience bloating with PMS when progesterone naturally increases. It also peaks in the first and third trimesters of pregnancy and is the cause of constipation.  Who knew?!

When there is an imbalance in gut flora, peristalsis plays an important role in recovering.  We don’t want the bacteria hanging around where they shouldn’t.  This rhythmic motion ensures that bacteria don’t colonize the small intestine where we absorb our nutrients.

Why Not Test?

If you want to know why your cycle is heavy then you’ll want to test.  Often estrogen dominance causes heavy cycles but so can a weak digestive system.  It can and often is both.  Heavy cycles quickly lead to iron deficiency, fatigue and anxiety.  Testing lets us see where the imbalance is and what to do about it.  By testing we also prevent other, more complex problems later.

The other option is to take the pill and hope for the best.  Women are offered the pill along with an anti-depressant.  With a few dietary and lifestyle tweaks a lot can normalize even before test results come in.  Then we go deeper.

Sex & Other Risk Factors

Women are often told about the increased risk of blood clots and strokes when taking the pill.  But these more common and chronic symptoms aren’t discussed.

If you are taking birth control to avoid pregnancy what other options are recommended? 

Get to know when you ovulate.  A barrier method or abstaining can work during this time.  Exploring sex without intercourse during ovulation is also an option.  Men who know their female partner’s cycle can take responsibility for birth control too.  These men are often the best lovers.  The Fem Cap and copper IUD which are excellent options for some women.  The Fem Cap requires a spermicide lubricant.  Find a natural option.  They do exist.  The copper IUD can result in a zinc-copper imbalance and gall bladder or liver issues.

 

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