After the "pill" was approved in 1960, it quickly became one of the most important social and cultural revolutions in the history of the world. Since that time it is estimated that over 80 percent of women born in the U.S. after 1945 have used oral contraceptives at some time in their lives. Currently an estimated 12-million women in the United States, and over 100-million women worldwide are using oral contraceptives.
Several years ago when I wrote a book titled The Drug-Induced Nutrient Depletion Handbook, I was amazed to find that oral contraceptives deplete a wide range of nutrients from a woman's body. In fact, oral contraceptives deplete more nutrients than any other class of commonly prescribed drugs.
The health problems that can develop from these nutrient depletions include depression; sleep disorders; anemia; low energy; migraine headaches; heart attacks; strokes; blood clots; diabetes; a weakened immune system; birth defects; cancers of the uterus, colon and breast; and accelerated aging. Actually, studies report that about 50 percent of women who begin using oral contraceptives will discontinue use within the first six to 12 months due to side effects.
The Dangers of Nutrient Depletions Caused by Oral Contraceptives
Generally, side effects from a drug occur relatively quickly. For example, a skin rash or nausea and vomiting generally occur within the first day or two. In such cases, you notify your doctor and stop taking the drug. However, the health problems from drug-induced nutrient depletions are more gradual in their onset and much more difficult to recognize.
Consider the following scenario. A woman has been taking oral contraceptives for the past eight years, seemingly without any problems. However, during the past six months, she has been increasingly complaining to her husband/partner, saying things like, "Honey, I'm so tired I feel like I don't have enough energy to even get out of bed in the morning," or "Honey, by mid-day I'm so exhausted, I'm dragging and can hardly get through the rest of the day."
Oral contraceptives deplete vitamin B12, folic acid, magnesium and coenzyme Q10. Each of these nutrients plays a critical role in energy production and a deficiency of any one of them will cause tiredness, lethargy and overall low energy. However, the woman is not likely to realize that her oral contraceptives are causing nutrient depletions that are resulting in her low energy and exhaustion.
It is also important to realize that many women are taking other drugs that can deplete the same nutrients that are being depleted by her oral contraceptives. For example, NSAIDs, acid-blocking drugs and anticonvulsant medications all deplete folic acid. So, a woman may be taking a PPI medication for her reflux, ibuprofen for headaches and if she has a seizure disorder, she will also be taking an anticonvulsant medication. This can create a serious risk of giving birth to an infant with a birth defect as well as other folic acid deficiency health problems.
Oral contraceptive nutrient depletions also increase risks for future cardiovascular problems. For example, women taking oral contraceptives have lower levels of vitamin B6, B12 and folic acid. This can cause elevated blood levels of homocysteine, which accelerates plaque buildup in the arteries. Years later, this can cause a heart attack, stroke or necessitate cardiac bypass surgery.
Oral contraceptive-induced depletion of vitamin B6 and the amino acid tyrosine greatly increase a woman's risk of depression. These nutrients are required for the production of the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, which control moods and emotions. A review of nine clinical trials reported the incidence of depression in women taking oral contraceptives ranged from 16 to 56 percent. In addition to depression, low levels of serotonin also increase the likelihood of developing sleep problems because serotonin is the precursor for melatonin, which is the chemical in the brain that triggers sleep.
Several of the nutrients depleted by oral contraceptives are important antioxidants, which include vitamin C, selenium, zinc and co-enzyme Q10. When these antioxidants are depleted, a woman's immune system is significantly compromised.
Oral contraceptives also increase a woman's risk of giving birth to an infant with birth defects. Folic acid deficiency is known to be the number one cause of neural tube birth defects and women taking OCs have lower levels of folic acid compared to non-users.
Sexual side effects are one of the most common reasons that women discontinue taking oral contraceptives. To put it bluntly, the "pill" lowers sex drive. This is because women taking OCs have lower levels of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and testosterone. These two hormones regulate sex drive in both men and women.
Common sexual side effects associated with oral contraceptives include decreased desire for sex, greater difficulty becoming aroused, vaginal dryness resulting in painful sex, and difficulty or inability to achieve orgasms.
Nutritional Supplement Recommendations For Hormone Based Birth Control
If you still insist on hormone based birth control recommended by your doctor keep this in mind; most health problems caused by oral contraceptives can be prevented or corrected by taking adequate nutritional supplementation. However, this is not accomplished by taking a one-a-day supplement.
In most cases, nutrient intakes substantially greater than the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDAs) are required to compensate for the nutrient depletions caused by oral contraceptives. Here are a couple of examples. The RDAs for vitamins B1, B2 and B6 are about 1.5 mg to 2 mg daily. I suggest that women take from 10 mg to 25 mg twice daily. The RDA for vitamin C for adult women is 75 mg daily. I recommend at least 500 mg twice daily. Numerous companies offer higher potency nutritional supplements that provide the nutrient intake levels that I am suggesting.
Nutrients like tyrosine and co-enzyme Q10 are not included in most multivitamin/mineral formulations so they have to be purchased individually. I suggest that women take 500 mg of tyrosine twice daily and 50 mg to 100 mg of co-enzyme Q10 daily.
The Pill Problem is a health manual that devotes 15 short information-packed chapters to the side effects of oral contraceptives. Each chapter discusses the nutrient depletions that can result in a particular health problem. The Pill Problem also contains dosage recommendations for each of the nutrients that are depleted by oral contraceptives.The Pill Problem is available in eBook and paperback from all major online booksellers or from www.thepillproblem.com.
Hormone Free Alternative To Birth Control Pills And Devices
Two years ago I was introduced to a product called Smart Women's Choice (SWC), which is a safe, hormone-free form of contraception for women. Smart Women's Choice is a vaginal gel that is made with all-natural ingredients. It works by causing the entire ejaculate to coagulate. This prevents the sperm from traveling up the Fallopian tubes, which inhibits fertilization from taking place.
Smart Women's Choice was invented by Dr. Francoise Farron who is a biochemist by profession. Françoise started her studies at the University of California at Berkeley, got her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from New York University Medical School, and went on to work at Harvard Medical School studying control mechanisms of cell growth in cancer.
In one scientific study on her Smart Women's Choice formula, SWC caused a 100 percent clumping or immobilization of sperm at all concentrations tested. SWC has been on the market now for over three years and there has not been a single reported pregnancy.
All hormone-containing methods of contraception for women produce significant side effects. Thus, I was quite happy to learn about Smart Women's Choice and in October 2105, I wrote a supportive article about SWC that I posted on my Natural Pharmacist blog.
SWC comes in a compact 1 oz. tube that you can conveniently carry. It is recommended to store it in your refrigerator to make it easier to apply. It does not have an expiration date.
Instructions: Squeeze approximately one inch of the product onto your middle finger and insert into the vagina immediately before each sexual intercourse: afterwards, rinse thoroughly with tap water.
Each tube has approximately 50 applications.
You can purchase Smart Women's Choice directly from their website: http://smartwomenschoice.com.
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Ross Pelton, RPh, CNN
Ross Pelton, RPh, PhD, CCN is a pharmacist, a Certified Clinical Nutritionist, and a health educator. Ross has written ten books including How to Prevent Breast Cancer, Alternatives in Cancer Therapy, Mind Food and Smart Pills, The Nutritional Cost of Drugs (2nd edition), and The Pill Problem, How to Protect Your Health from the Side Effects of Oral Contraceptives. He is also the author of The Drug-Induced Nutrient Depletion Handbook, which is widely recognized as an important reference book for pharmacists, physicians and other healthcare professionals. Ross has actually written two books on the topic of drug-induced nutrient depletions and he is the world’s leading authority on this topic. In October 1999 Ross was named as one to the Top 50 Most Influential Pharmacists in the United States by American Druggist magazine. He is also a member of the Medical Advisory Board for the Life Extension Foundation. Ross is currently the Scientific Director for Essential Formulas, Incorporated based in Dallas, TX.