What you need to know:
- Most women who come to my clinic have already been told about the common side-effects
- But what about the more serious side effects?
Before I get into any of the ill effects, let me first explain how the pill works. In short, the synthetic hormones in the daily pill prevent ovulation. With no new eggs being released, a women’s body is tricked into believing that she is already pregnant. And, lo and behold, there’s no actual pregnancy.
Most women who come to my clinic have already been told about the common side-effects of the pill, namely headaches, nausea, breast tenderness and mood changes, but since these usually subside after a couple of months, they’re not really that concerned about them. It’s the other, more serious, side-effects they are concerned about (and so should you): increased risk of breast and cervical cancers (that’s why your annual pap smear is so important), blood-clots in the legs, high blood pressure, increased risk of heart disease and stroke, weight gain, fluid retention and migraines. It seems synthetic hormones come with a price.
And this is why replacing the nutrients the pill depletes is even more critical. These are vitamin C, zinc and all the B vitamins, and it helps to explain why women on the pill take that much longer to conceive than their non-pill taking counterparts. The zinc depletion leads to high copper levels in the body (zinc and copper are antagonistic to each other) – hardly ideal, when zinc is the key mineral for foetus growth in the womb, and high levels of copper have been associated with birth defects and infertility. This is why you really need to stop taking the pill three months before you plan to conceive. Folic acid, a B vitamin, is another vital nutrient that needs replenishing – it’s essential during pregnancy to prevent a neural-tube defect called spina bifida.
But even if getting pregnant isn’t a concern, which foods should you be eating to counter the pill’s nutrient-draining effect? Rich food sources of zinc include lamb, nuts, seeds, egg yolks, rye, and sukuma.
Vitamin C, another depleted nutrient, can be found in all green vegetables, peppers, kiwi fruit, tomatoes, citrus fruits and berries. And as for the calming B vitamins, eat more wholegrains, wheatgerm, eggs, oats, broccoli and peas.
What if you’re not on the pill and are using a method of contraception like the coil (IUD)? Again, look into what nutrients you might be losing. The coil too, being made of copper, depletes zinc, so the foods listed above should be eaten. If you experience a number of zinc deficiency symptoms (white spots on fingernails, hair very slow to grow, reduced sense of smell, add a lot of salt to your food, eczema or spotty skin), it may be worth investing in a zinc supplement.
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