We have a lot to thank those little one-a-day pills for. The Oral Contraceptive Pill (OCP) has been responsible for a huge improvement in women’s lives and created a social change as it allowed us finally, autonomy over our own reproductive decisions and essentially our own life path. For all its good, it is important to acknowledge that it is still a relatively new science, only having been used for 50 or so years, we still haven’t really seen the full extent of long term OCP use. We do know however, that that amongst the risks and side effects is a very real degradation on certain nutrients.
Crucial for: Brain health, wound healing, immunity. Low zinc levels have been seen in women on the OCP since the 60’s. The current theory is that the absorption of zinc is inhibited. As an aside – it is particularly important to take time to rebuild zinc levels before conceiving if coming off the OCP.
Crucial for: immunity, skin cell repair, and sex hormone production. The Pill can increase destruction of vitamin C can reduce levels by up to 30%.
Crucial for: Healthy mood and energy production. Women taking the OCP commonly have increased requirements of B1, B2, B6 and B12. OCP users on a vegetarian or vegan diet need to be even more aware of this to prevent a B12 deficiency.
Crucial for: Healthy mood, pain control, minimising PMT symptoms. Low magnesium is linked with OCP use and is thought to be due to an increase in estrogen. It has been estimated that less than 30% of the population are currently consuming adequate magnesium. Soil degradation plus a shabby diet high in caffeine or fizzy drink and a high stress lifestyle can all contribute to magnesium depletion.
Crucial for: Healthy foetal development. Studies have shown women on the OCP have a significantly lower blood level of folate than those who don’t. This is a key nutrient in healthy foetal development, it is so, so, so important that women coming off the pill to start a family are aware that it can take up to three months to rebuild stores. Tell your friends.
My advice when it comes to the OCP is to be informed, and if you still feel it is the right decision for you, take every step to mitigate these concerns.
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