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.

Research

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.

Detoxification

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,

Erin

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

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Anusha
4 months ago

Thank you so much for this post. I had a laparoscopic excision to remove adhesions off my bowels. After that (10 months ago) I formed SIBO and the inability to defecate. I resolved the SIBO issues – an ongoing process – which gave me my motility back but I coincidentally stopped the birth control that I was taking continuously to skip my periods. I could feel my natural hormones trying to overcome the birth control so I gave in and allowed myself to have a period. Just like that, completely normal ability to have poops again. Could this be from the pill?

Melissa
6 months ago

I’ve been having very bad digestive/ bowel issues for the past 3 years. Within those 3 I’ve been on the pill and have been in a relationship. My digestive issues before were from stress/ anxiety but never happened as often. Now it’s too way too often. So often it’s inconvenient and of course that stresses me out more and gives me anxiety from possibly eating something that will ruin the rest of the day. Vicious cycle. Reading this really made things click. And me make my decision to stop taking my birth control as well so I can have my life back without worrying about where the closest restroom is as soon as I’m done eating.

Erin B.
9 months ago

This is fascinating information! I have struggled with digestive issues for 2 decades, which coincide exactly with the amount of time I’ve been taking birth control pills. This is all the motivation I need to finally stop using them and see if I can finally fix my digestive issues! THANK YOU!