Birth Control and Gut Health

Hormonal birth control such as oral contraceptives, has been generally recorded as safehowever women who are prescribed it are seldom told of any potential risks associated with it. There is information that all women should know about, so that they can make an informed choice when taking it.

For my clients who have unresolved digestive issues or weight-loss resistance, we often make progress only so far until we come down to one missing link – hormonal birth control.


Studies have shown that oral contraceptives negatively impact gut flora and estrogen metabolism. This can lead to weight-loss resistance, increased risk of inflammatory bowel disease, depression and anxiety, and unresolved digestive issues.

A study of over 75,000 women found that those on oral contraceptives had an increased risk of developing both Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. Oral contraceptives, irrespective of the specific formulation, are associated with a 60% increase in endogenous estrogen and a 2-3 fold increase in sex-hormone binding globulin (SHBG).

Oral estrogen has been shown to impact our gut flora in negative ways, making us more susceptible to intestinal permeability (aka leaky gut). This is where the lining of the small intestine becomes damaged and undigested food particles, bacteria and toxins leak through the intestines into the bloodstream. This can present as:

  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Abdominal pain
  • Mental fog
  • Constipation
  • Acne
  • Indigestion
  • Acid reflux

This can lead to poor nutrient absorption, food sensitivities, skin conditions like eczema or rosacea, or more serious concerns such as thyroid issues or inflammatory bowel disease.


The body eliminates excess hormones (e.g. those from hormonal birth control) via detoxification. If hormones accumulate in the body from long-term use and your detox capacity is impaired, you will have a buildup of excess hormones.

If you decide to stay on the pill

Taking oral contraceptives is a personal choice. The purpose of this article is to create awareness of the potential negative side effects. I was on them for 9 years and it exacerbated my chronic gut issues. If you are prescribed an oral contraceptive for reasons other than preventing pregnancy, it is important to explore and address the root cause of why a doctor might be prescribing it.

For my clients who are using hormonal birth control, I make sure they are taking a great quality multivitamin (the pill naturally depletes certain vitamins such as B6, B12, and folic acid) and a megaspore probiotic to balance their gut bacteria, and prescribe an individualized diet that supports their optimal health and reduces inflammation.

For a great resource on this topic check out Beyond The Pill by Dr. Jolene Brighton.

In great health,


Published On: January 25, 2020Categories: Gut Health, Supplements

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