Why birth control pills are not good for mental health.
I have been concerned—no, make that worried—about the nutrient depletion impact of meds for years. Many anti-depressants can make us fat while others impact our ability to exercise (like statins). So—to get the low down on which class of drugs might be making us depressed, I turned to my friend the Natural Pharmacist Ross Pelton who wrote The Drug-Induced Nutrient Depletion Handbook a number of years ago.
In it, I was astounded to learn that oral contraceptives are downright dangerous because they deplete more nutrients than any other class of prescribed meds. When I learned Ross had also written a book called The Pill Problem, I asked him to weigh in on how women can protect their health from the side effects of oral contraceptives.
Here’s what he told me:
One of the health problems I’m most alarmed about is depression. My concern is due to the fact that antidepressant prescription drugs cause very serious long-term side effects and they are also very hard to discontinue which makes them essentially addicting. Scientific studies report that women taking oral contraceptives have lower levels of vitamin B6, vitamin B12, folic acid and tyrosine. Low levels of any one of these nutrients can cause depression.
Vitamin B6 is required for the synthesis of serotonin which is a neurotransmitter that is known to regulate mood, emotions and sleep. Oral contraceptive-induced depletion of vitamin B6 inhibits a woman’s ability to produce serotonin which substantially increases the risk of depression. In one study, 33% of women developed depression within 2 to 5 years after they started taking birth control pills. Since vitamin B6 is also required for the production of melatonin, women taking oral contraceptives are more likely to develop sleep problems in addition to depression.
The amino acid tyrosine is the precursor for the synthesis of dopamine and studies reveal that women taking oral contraceptives have lower levels of tyrosine compared to non-users. Dopamine is another neurotransmitter that regulates moods and emotions. Thus, both the serotonin and the dopamine metabolic pathways are inhibited in women who take birth control pills.
Numerous studies report that women who take birth control pills also have lower levels of folic acid and vitamin B12 compared to non-users. Low levels of either of these B-vitamins also increases a woman’s risk of depression.
Birth control pill nutrient depletions are also a frequent cause of sexual side effects. Although some women are less affected by hormonal imbalances than others, scientific studies report that virtually all women who take oral contraceptives have lower testosterone levels compared to non-users. Decreased levels of testosterone is a primary cause of the sexual side effects that develop in women who take birth control pills.
In one study, titled “Does oral contraceptive-induced reduction in free testosterone adversely affect the sexuality or mood of women?,” all women taking oral contraceptives for 3 months were found to have lower levels of both total testosterone and free testosterone compared to non-users. Women taking OCs also have lower levels of the hormone DHEA, which is the precursor for testosterone and elevated levels of sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), which binds testosterone and makes it unavailable at the cellular level.
The most common sexual side effects associated with oral contraceptives include:
a) decreased desire for sex
b) greater difficulty becoming aroused
c) vaginal dryness resulting in painful sex
d) difficulty or inability to achieve orgasm
In addition to the nutrient depletions that directly increase the risk of depression, I believe that the sexual side effects listed above can also create problems in a woman’s relationship and lead to or contribute to depression.
I realize that many women, for a variety of reasons, need to take oral contraceptives. I just want women to be aware of what the potential side effects are and realize that proper nutritional supplementation can prevent and/or correct many of the side effects caused by birth control pills.
Low thyroid hormone levels or hypothyroidism is another health problem that can cause depression in women. Birth control pills deplete the trace mineral selenium and the amino acid tyrosine which are both required for the production of thyroid hormones. Thus, I suggest that women who are taking OCs have a complete thyroid panel done, especially if they are experiencing problems with energy and/or depression. Most conventional MDs will just check a woman’s TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). This is NOT sufficient. I recommend testing for TSH, T4, Free T4, Free T3 and reverse T3.
For more info on this topic, I encourage you to check out the paperback and/or the electronic version of The Pill Problem, which can be purchased from his website naturalpharmacist.net or online from Amazon.
I also recommend that you add UNI KEY’s Female Multiple into your daily routine. It’s copper-free and provides over 30 essential vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and antioxidants that women need—including the ideal 2:1 magnesium to calcium ratio, Vitamin B6 and B12, and wild yam to prevent hormone fluctuation—to give your overall well-being a serious boost.
It’s time to take your health back!