Re-thinking the Oral Contraceptive Pill & HRT
The contraceptive pill was introduced in the 1960’s. It changed women’s lives, allowing them greater control over their fertility and sexuality. Hormonal contraception such as the pill is still the most popular method of birth control. Around 75-85 % of women in NZ have used the pill at some time in their lives. The early 1990’s then brought the advent of Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for controlling the symptoms of menopause in women. Overall women are taking more synthetic hormones now than at any other time in human history. Subsequently, women’s hormonal profiles today are vastly different from those of our evolutionary past. The question needs to be asked as to what effect may this have on women’s health? Studies show that synthetic hormones do impact our microbiome, nutrient status, mood, cancer risk and overall well-being. So what can we do to reduce the negative impact of hormones on our bodies, do we need to be taking them long term and finally what are the alternatives?
How does the pill work
The Pill prevents pregnancy by interfering with the bodies normal cyclic release of the hormones that cause ovulation. Taking the pill effectively “tricks” the body into thinking it is pregnant – This inhibits ovulation and the production of fertile mucous. Some of the side effects are a direct result of introducing synthetic chemicals to your body, which mimic but are not identical to the hormones you naturally produce, as these synthetic hormones are approximately four to eight times stronger than your natural hormone levels. This creates a markedly different hormonal profile in the body compared to a women in her natural hormonal state.
Side effects of the Pill
Research shows that absorption of key nutrients is disrupted by taking the Pill. Vitamins B1, B2, B6 and B12 levels are reduced, the zinc/copper balance disturbed, and iron stores increased. Research backs up that women who take the Pill have lower levels of these nutrients in their body. This affect is cumulative over time. In addition to nutrient depletion, a study conducted at the University of Copenhagen showed a link between woman on the contraceptive pill and depression. Women on the pill were 23 % more likely to develop depression, and 34 % more likely on the mini pill than non-users. Teenagers were particularly vulnerable and up to 80% more likely to develop depression when on the pill. There is also some evidence that both the pill and HRT influence the gut microbiome. Increased risk of Inflammatory bowel disease is associated with taking them and this may be because synthetic oestrogens alter gut permeability. They can also effect gall bladder function and increase the risk of gall stones which can effect digestion and assimilation of nutrients. The reason for some of these affects are speculative however could be the result of subtle nutrient deficiencies, or the pills effect on reducing testosterone levels which research has shown has a significant link to depression. Other reasons could be synthetic progesterone’s influence upon serotonin levels, which also effects the area of the brain involved in emotional and cognitive processing. For many women the pill is a useful and convenient first contraceptive method – however it can be all too easy to just keep taking it without considering how long you want to be on it, or what the alternatives are. Consider your options. Ask yourself “Do I need to be taking synthetic hormones?” If the answer is yes then consider for how long and what is your exit strategy.
What to do if you are on the Pill
I have set out some useful tips below for how to minimise the side effects of taking the pill and HRT
Take a high quality broad multivitamin and mineral.
Take a high quality probiotic
Empower yourself by learning natural contraception methods
Did you know that a fertile woman can only fall pregnant on 6 days maximum per month? You can learn to accurately read your bodies signs and identify which are your fertile days and have no need for contraception on the other days. They are some really useful Apps to help you get started with this including naturalcycles.com which has a success rate of 99% for perfect use.
What to eat if you take the Pill/HRT
Pumpkin seeds – A great source of magnesium and Zinc.
Lentils are a fantastic source of folic acid
Eggs and dairy products are a great source of B2 or Riboflavin (try almonds if you are vegan) Spinach is a great option here as a good source of B6, folate, vitamin A and K and Magnesium.
For Most of us, the Majority of our eating happens in the home. So what better place to begin your commitment to healthy eating than a good Cupboard and fridge clean out ? Cupboards full of healthy Ingredients are more likely to lead to healthy Meals and lunchboxes and ultimately a healthier and more Vibrant you.
The first step to healthy eating is having a really good look at the foods in your Kitchen. If you have had a long and stressful day -get home grumpy and starving at 8 pm and there is a packet of chocolate biscuits in the house what’s going to happen? We have all been there, they will be wolfed down at great speed and hardly touch the sides. Got a Family to family to feed and you just got home -its six o clock and everyone’s starving? reach for those frozen pizzas and pop them in the microwave. The Problem is It’s just too easy to make poor food choices if you have not sorted out your cupboards first.
What’s the definition of insanity-doing the same things and expecting the same result? If you have made a commitment to eating a healthier diet, then you need to get the foundations right for success. Having cupboards full of processed, sugar filled foods generally means they are going to get eaten at some stage -right?
The first step towards healthy eating is to get rid of the Junk-ALL of it-No exceptions, and yes it may mean throwing some food out into your Green Bin-but that’s got to be better than throwing it into your precious body?
So here’s what needs to go:
# Breakfast cereal’s- These are mostly Processed packets of refined grains with added sugar and preservatives. They will leave you feeling poorly nourished and hungry and craving for sugar- setting you up for a sugar craving roller coaster ride of a day.
# Processed and Convenience foods- Packet meals, Packet sauces, Frozen meals, frozen pizzas, pies. Mostly they contain a long list of chemicals, sweeteners and additives as well as hydrogenated poor quality fats. Aim to eat real food and avoid packets that promise health but deliver nothing.
# Biscuits cakes and sweets-If you do not have these foods in the house you will not be able to eat them when you are hungry, or after dinner when your body is craving a sugar hit. Just start buy not buying them. Avoid the biscuit Aisle in the supermarket. You Just do not need them
# Anything out of date – Most of us have food in our cupboards that is out of date, including out of date spices. Fresh spices and herbs will have greater health benefits. It’s time to get fresh and organized.
# Cheap Supermarket oils-Any oil that is in a clear plastic bottle is going to be rubbish. Select only Extra virgin, cold pressed and Organic Oils. Yes, they will cost you more, but just think about the money you’re saving on Biscuits, breakfast cereals and Packaged food!
Remember your Environment has a huge effect on your food choices. Detox your Cupboards today, as this can have a profound effect on your eating patterns and health long term. These simple changes will improve the quality of your diet profoundly.
Long after your “Detox-diet” has ended -its your healthy cupboards which will keep you on track.
Gut Instincts – Did you know that your gut bacteria says a lot about what you eat, and it may also predict your tendency to chronic disease and obesity.Read Now
Gut Instincts – Microbial Biodiversity
Did you know that your gut bacteria says a lot about what you eat? and it may also predict your tendency to chronic disease and obesity.Your gut harbor’s a staggering 100 trillion bacteria which include around 4,000 different species, all carving out their niches within the folds of your unique gut environment – known as your microbiome. Maintaining diversity and balance in your microbiome may be the key to overall good health.
We have all experienced what happens when one of those species gets the upper hand and invades another’s territory. Think back to times when antibiotics have got rid of your nasty chest infection only to give you thrush a few days later, or effectively treated your skin infection but resulted in an upset tummy. As a Nutritionist I have effectively prescribed Probiotics many times to effectively treat these side effects. I know that these probiotics can be really effective in the short term.
However, we also need to ask what steps do we need to take in our daily life to have a really healthy gut microbiome, and how can this impact our health, happiness and resistance to chronic disease? Increasingly it seems that the key to good health is a diverse microbiome. Research is showing that people with type two diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease and obesity generally have a less diverse gut environment.
The community of microbes in our gut survives on partially digested and undigested foods that we consume, so what’s changed in our diets in recent times that has led to the rise of these disease states? A recent scientific report in the Journal of Molecular Metabolism has shown that the increased rates of these diseases over the last fifty years has coincided with a decline in dietary diversity. Research is showing that higher rates of certain types of bacteria (gram Positive) are found in the guts of people who are overweight, and that people with high BMI have less Bifodo (gram negative) Bacteria in their gut. So how has this happened?
Changes in agricultural practice now mean we rely on less and less food types to feed us and it is estimated 75% of the worlds food comes from 12 plants and five animal species. Just think about how much of our food comes from wheat, corn, and the cow. In the western world we are eating more and more processed foods, and let’s face it – who ever saw mould growing on potato chips or Tim Tams? The more processed the food, the more preservatives they contain and the less likely they are to feed our microbiome.
So what is dietary diversity and how do we make sure we have it?
With every dietary choice we make we are also selecting an energy source for particular gut bacteria. We need to keep in mind that when we exclude certain food groups from our diet such as dairy products we are also Influencing the diversity in our gut. Staggeringly our gut bacteria will change after only three days of excluding a food group.
So how do we maintain this crucial balance when we have to take out food groups due to food allergy or Intolerance?
Tips for dietary diversity and a healthy gut:
The contraceptive pill and Hrt - How does it effect our Nutrient status ?
Re-thinking the Oral Contraceptive Pill & HRT