The Contraceptive Pill + Nutrition: What You Need To Know
This article is solely based on nutritional considerations you may want to pay attention to whilst on the pill - please always discuss with your GP/gynae team as to which method of contraception is most suited to you and your lifestyle/goals.
The Oral Contraceptive Pill is a reliable method of preventing pregnancy (proving you use it in the correct way), however as with any medication, there are some things to be aware of in terms of possible side effects and/or ways we can support our bodies alongside it.
What I am exploring today are vitamins and minerals which can be depleted whilst taking the pill, and how we can ensure we're replenishing these nutrients through our nutrition choices.
So without further a do, lets take a look at some nutrients we may want to pay closer attention to when on the oral contraceptive pill:
Please note: Do not self supplement. There are many differing forms of supplements and of course doses, which can have varying physiological effects on the body and/or interact with other medications. It is essential you consult a registered nutritional professional and/or GP before making any changes.
I have included food sources of the following nutrients to focus on, so by all means, please include these!
B complex vitamins: B vitamins are crucial for the metabolism of protein, carbohydrates and fats and for aiding energy production. There's a few in particular I feel need a closer eye for optimisation though, due to the pill depleting them. Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), this helps to synthesise neurotransmitters, i.e. the production of serotonin (our happy hormone) and GABA (associated with feelings of calm and relaxation). Also B12 (cobalamin) and B9 (folate) - these are essential for neuronal health, our energy cycle and detoxification abilities. B12 must be even more so a focus for vegans and vegetarians to ensure they are consuming sufficient amounts of it in well absorbable forms!
B6: Chickpeas, poultry, beef liver, bananas, potatoes, tuna, salmon
B12: Clams/seafood, beef liver, rainbow trout, eggs, dairy, nutritional yeast/fortified milks (fortified foods need to be consumed 3 times per day and each serving should provide a minimum of 1mcg of vitamin B12)
B9: Beef liver, spinach, beans + legumes, asparagus, brussels sprouts, avocado, broccoli
Magnesium: Magnesium is required for over 300 chemical reactions in the body. ATP (adenosine triphosphate, which is the main source of energy in our cells), is dependant on a magnesium ion to be biologically effective and continue the production and conversion of energy. Magnesium is also a natural muscle relaxant and incredibly supportive for the nervous system (particularly key for those suffering cramps, headaches, anxiety or constipation around their time of the month). It's important to note that reduced magnesium in the body can also affect the balance of calcium and other electrolyte minerals - we want everything to be in a happy balance.
Magnesium food sources: Almonds, spinach, cashews, black beans, avocado, dark leafy greens, raw plain chocolate (85%>)
Vitamin C: Fundamental for the immune system, neurotransmitter production and collagen synthesis, as well as being an all round antioxidant which acts to 'mop up' free radicals created via natural stressors within the body (such as intense exercise) or from external factors such as pollution, drugs and alcohol. The pill can interfere with the metabolism of vitamin C and increase it's excretion from the body so it's important to include plenty of vitamin C rich foods in the diet throughout the day. Vitamin E is also important as it works synergistically with Vitamin C, supporting each other's antioxidant functioning and recycling for cellular stability.
Vitamin C food sources: Red peppers, kiwi, oranges, grapefruit, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, strawberries
Vitamin E food sources: Wheat germ oil, sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, peanut butter, spinach, broccoli
Zinc: Do not underestimate the importance of this mineral; it is involved in hundreds of enzyme reactions in the body and carries huge importance for immune health, hormone health, insulin modulation, and brain health. It can also help regulate sebum production and support the skin barrier.
Zinc food sources: Oysters, crab and other shellfish, beef, baked beans, pumpkin seeds, dairy yoghurt, cashews, oats
Selenium: Again, one of the lesser paid attention to minerals but absolutely key to our overall health. Selenium acts as a co-factor to 'master' antioxidant, glutathione (essential for detoxification and aiding excretion of excess hormones), selenium also aids the production and conversion of thyroid hormones. The contraceptive pill reduces the ability for the body to absorb selenium and combined with the unfortunate low selenium content of food grown in our soils, this can be problematic.
Selenium food sources: Brazil nuts, yellowfin tuna, sardines, beef, turkey, cottage cheese, eggs, brown rice