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How Birth Control Pills Affect Your Nutritional Needs

Prescription medications can affect your body's absorption and utilization of nutrients. If you use birth control pills or HRT, make sure you're getting enough of these nutrients.

By
Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
4-minute read
Episode #322
  • Seafood, including clams, mussels, crab, and salmon are all good sources of vitamin B12, and zinc, as well as heart-healthy and anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids and selenium. Canned salmon and sardines offer all of that, plus a nice dose of calcium, due to the presence of tiny bones in the fish.

  • Cashews supply both magnesium and zinc and (who knew?) they're lower in fat and, therefore, calories than most nuts. My friend Jed invented a brilliant, low sugar alternative to Nutella, by blending cashews, cocoa powder, and a bit of maple syrup. Look for the recipe in this week’s Nutrition Diva newsletter.

  • Tomato/vegetable juice has all the vitamin C of orange juice but only half the sugar and calories. I like to keep some in the fridge (both at home and at work) to ward off sudden snack attacks.

You don’t need to eat every one of these foods every day, of course. These nutrients are found in other foods as well. Just keep these foods on your weekly grocery list and look for opportunities to enjoy them when you’re dining out. (See also: How Important Is a Varied Diet?)

Surprise! The Pill Increases Some Nutrients, Too!

Taking birth control pills can deplete some nutrients but, interestingly enough, it actually elevates the levels of others, specifically: iron, copper, and vitamin K. Too much iron can be just as bad as not enough. So, if you are taking a multi-vitamin and you're on the pill, you might want to look for one that does not contain iron. 

High vitamin K levels can also be a conern if you are taking anti-coagulant medications like warfarin. But birth control pills and HRT are usually off-limits for folks who are at risk of blood clots so it would be  pretty rare for people to be on both medications at once.

See also: Blood Thinners and Broccoli

 

If you'd like to check whether another medication that you're on is known to cause nutrient depletion, here's a good resource.

References

Webb JL. Nutritional effects of oral contraceptive use: a review. J Reprod Med. 1980 Oct;25(4):150-6.

Woman with birth control pills, spinach, shrimp, and scared woman images courtesy of Shutterstock.

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About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.