What Are Oral Contraceptives
Oral contraceptives (OC). The pill. Birth control. A method of contraception that has been available in Canada since the 1960’s and according to Stats Canada it is one of the most frequently used medications by Canadian women. These pills can contain a combination of both estrogen and progestin, as well as progestin only packs.
The pill can be used to prevent pregnancy by stopping the body from ovulating. It is also used to manage side effects of the menstrual cycle like heavy, painful periods, irregular and unpredictable cycles, and skin concerns like acne that are menstrual cycle and hormone related.
Oral Contraceptives & Micronutrients
But did you know that these hormonal contraceptives can also alter the metabolism of vitamins and micronutrients in your body and may leave some of these stores depleted or deficient in your body with long term use?
A 2012 study compared the blood serum levels of vitamin B12 in oral contraceptive (OC) users versus those without OC and noted a significant decrease in serum B12 levels during the first 6 months of OC use. Long term use without proper supplementation or dietary supply, as you could imagine, could result in a deficiency over time.
Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin that is used for DNA synthesis and supports the function of nerve cells. It is readily available in animal products, fortified or added to some foods.
A review of the literature found that OC tend to depress levels of vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), folacin (folic acid), vitamin B12, vitamin C, zinc and elevate levels of vitamin K, copper, and iron.
How to Supplement
Riboflavin and pyridoxine can both be obtained from animal products like meat and eggs.
Folacin or folic acid can be found in leafy green vegetables – think spinach, brussel sprouts, and asparagus.
Vitamin B12 is obtained through animal products like eggs, meat and dairy, as well as fortified cereals. Just be sure to check the labels of your food, especially if animal products are not a part of your diet.
Food sources of zinc include meat, shellfish, seeds like hemp hearts or nuts, such as cashews and almonds.
Sources rich in vitamin C of course include oranges and surprisingly broccoli and brussel sprouts as well.
It is important to discuss these effects of OC with your healthcare provider and ensure that you are able to maintain proper vitamin and mineral intake either through diet or the appropriate supplementation to maintain optimum health.
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