Oral contraceptives, also known as birth-control pills, are used to prevent pregnancy. This is done through an oral dose of a combination of the hormones estrogen and progestin in higher amounts than the body’s natural levels. The combination of these two hormones prevents ovulation, which is the release of eggs from the ovaries, thus preventing pregnancy. Oral contraceptives are also widely used in the treatment of acne. Despite personal reason for use, the prescription comes with a list of possible side effects which commonly include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, increased or decreased appetite, weight gain or weight loss, and change in menstrual flow. These symptoms may seem familiar to you, but were you aware that oral contraceptives may lead to vitamin deficiencies?
Oral contraceptives primarily effect the metabolism of the three B’s: vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin B9 (folate), and B12 (cobalamin). This may result in a deficiency which could be affecting your overall health. Each B Vitamin has their own unique role in the body but are all mainly essential for supporting the body’s metabolism rate, producing energy and helping your body fight against disease and infection.
Vitamin B6 is naturally present in foods such as meat, fish, poultry, legumes, tofu and other soy products, potatoes, and fruits other than citrus. It performs a wide variety of functions in the body, but primarily deals with protein metabolism and normal red blood cells. It promotes healthy immune function and plays a key role in sleep, appetite, and mood regulation. Vitamin B6 may also reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Deficiencies may lead to depression, cognitive problems, weakened immune function, and anemia.
Folate is naturally found in select sources such as orange juice, leafy vegetables, avocados, and legumes. Folic acid is a synthetic form of folate. Folic acid can be found in fortified foods such as cereal and bread. Many are aware of the essential role of folate during pregnancy as a preventative of brain and spine birth defects, but its role in our overall health is often underestimated. Folate is needed to maintain and produce new cells while keeping nerve cells properly functioning, and it also helps prevent changes to DNA that may lead to cancer.
Vitamin B12 is generally found in all animal products. It is used to create new cell, break down fatty acids and amino acids, and turns the food we eat into energy to power our metabolism. A vitamin B12 deficiency can develop slowly, causing symptoms to appear gradually. Some of these symptoms may include mood changes, loss of energy, weakness, memory loss, paranoia or hallucinations. More severe conditions may lead to dementia or anemia since B12 is vital for the production of healthy red blood cells.
The good news is that proper nutrition and supplementation can reduce your risk of these deficiencies. Boost your intake of vitamin B rich foods or try supplementing with a vitamin B complex or a multivitamin. Don't forget to look for a high quality product with no artificial ingredients, colors or dyes, preservatives, or dairy!
"Are you getting enough of this vitamin?". RetrievedDecember , 2014 Available: http://www.health.harvard.edu/fhg/updates/update0406d.shtml
Wilson, S , Bivins, B, Russel, K, Bailey, L, "Oral contraceptive use: impact on folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 statusnure_419 572..583. " , volume ( 69 ) , p.572 - 583
Estrogen and Progestin". RetrievedDecember , 2014 Available: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a601050.html#other-uses
Listing of Vitamins". RetrievedDecember , 2014 Available: http://www.health.harvard.edu/gsearch/?q=LISTING+OF+VITAMINS&search.x=0&search.y=0&filter=0&ie=utf8&oe=utf8&site=health&client=health&proxystylesheet=health&output=xml_no_dtd&getfields=description