How are vi­ta­mins af­fected by the pill?

The Tribune (NZ) - - YOUR HEALTH -

I have to stay on the pill for health rea­sons but I’ve heard that it in­ter­feres with cer­tain vi­ta­mins. Which ones do I need ex­tra of to be re­ally healthy? Thank you, Lynette.

Hi Lynette. It is true that the oral con­tra­cep­tive pill (OCP) can de­plete nu­mer­ous vi­ta­mins and min­er­als in the body. So it’s im­por­tant to know how to best sup­port your body. Here’s a list of all the vi­ta­mins and min­er­als that can be af­fected in vary­ing lev­els and how to make sure you’re get­ting what you need.


An im­por­tant an­tiox­i­dant and im­mune sys­tem vi­ta­min, stud­ies have shown dis­rup­tion to vi­ta­min A lev­els and beta-carotene (the pre­cur­sor to vi­ta­min A) in the blood of those tak­ing the pill. A de­fi­ciency in vi­ta­min A can im­pair healthy eye func­tion, in­crease sus­cep­ti­bil­ity to in­fec­tions, cause dry and scaly skin, re­duce ap­petite and vi­tal­ity, im­pact teeth and gum health, and lead to heavy men­strual bleed­ing and cer­vi­cal prob­lems. Be­tac­arotene rich foods in­clude sweet potato, car­rots, dark leafy greens such as kale and retinol rich foods in­clude liver.


The OCP can in­ter­fere with lev­els of vi­ta­mins B1, B2, B6 and B12, all of which have im­por­tant func­tions in the body. Vi­ta­min B6 is a nu­tri­ent crit­i­cal in the con­ver­sion of tryp­to­phan to sero­tonin, a gut and brain com­pound that sig­nif­i­cantly in­flu­ences our hap­pi­ness, calm and con­tent­ment, our pain re­sponse, eat­ing pat­terns, moods, sleep pat­terns, psy­cho­log­i­cal drive and sex­ual de­sire. It’s also needed for blood glu­cose man­age­ment. Whole food sources of B vi­ta­mins in­clude dark green leafy veg­eta­bles, lentils, al­monds, pecans, eggs, as­para­gus, chicken and fish, ba­nanas and shell­fish.


The pill in­creases de­struc­tion of vi­ta­min C in­side your body and can re­duce lev­els by up to 30 per cent. A de­fi­ciency can re­sult in bruis­ing, spi­der veins, bleed­ing gums, loss of ap­petite, mus­cu­lar weak­ness, anaemia, fa­tigue and a low­ered im­mune re­sponse. Amp up your cap­sicum, dark green leafy veg­etable, ki­wifruit, broc­coli, berry and cit­rus fruit in­take or take a good qual­ity sup­ple­ment.


Most prob­lems arise in this de­fi­ciency if a woman con­ceives ei­ther on the pill or im­me­di­ately after com­ing off it, when the body is still re­cov­er­ing its fo­late stores. Fo­late is re­quired by the body to fa­cil­i­tate cell divi­sion (a process that be­gins im­me­di­ately after con­cep­tion) and de­fi­cien­cies re­sult in greater risk of ab­nor­mal syn­the­sis of DNA and con­gen­i­tal ab­nor­mal­i­ties. De­fi­ciency can also lead to dam­age to the wall of the small in­tes­tine, anaemia and el­e­vated ho­mo­cys­teine lev­els, which have been as­so­ci­ated with heart dis­ease, var­i­ous gy­ne­co­log­i­cal con­di­tions and re­peated mis­car­riage. Fo­late-rich whole foods in­clude dark leafy greens, as­para­gus, broc­coli, cit­rus fruits, beans, peas, lentils and av­o­cado.


De­fi­ciency can cause a va­ri­ety of pre­men­strual symp­toms, lumpy breasts, mus­cle cramps, anx­i­ety, sleep­less­ness, sugar crav­ings and car­dio­vas­cu­lar is­sues.

Mag­ne­sium-rich foods in­clude spinach, sil­ver­beet, pump­kin seeds, al­monds, black beans, av­o­cado, figs and there is even mag­ne­sium in pure dark choco­late.


Low­ered lev­els of zinc can lead to poor blood glu­cose man­age­ment, sugar crav­ings, loss of ap­petite, lousy di­ges­tion, poor re­sis­tance to in­fec­tion, skin in­fec­tions, low­ered fer­til­ity, tis­sue re­pair, scar­ring and a wide range of other prob­lems. Zinc rich foods in­clude oys­ters, beef and lamb, pump­kin seeds, and sun­flower seeds. You might also con­sider tak­ing a good qual­ity sup­ple­ment if you know you are zinc de­fi­cient.

Dr Libby is a nu­tri­tional bio­chemist, best-sell­ing au­thor and speaker. The ad­vice con­tained in this col­umn is not in­tended to be a sub­sti­tute for di­rect, per­son­alised ad­vice from a health pro­fes­sional. Visit dr­

Dark leafy greens like kale can help re­store vi­ta­mins

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