A World Health Organisation report states that “the influence of OCP on nutrient requirements is a topic of high clinical relevance and should, therefore, receive great attention.” Women taking the OCP should “prevent vitamin and mineral deficiencies by taking appropriate dietary supplements which should be considered a first-line approach by clinicians.”
Many of the symptoms mentioned above can be attributed to the drug-induced nutrient depletions caused by the OCP. However, magnesium deficiency symptoms can present in a similar way. This is why this nutrient is of greatest concern from a clinical Nutritionist’s perspective.
Magnesium is a major component of the planet, but also plants and humans alike. It’s quintessential for the normal functioning of every living cell, and nearly all body systems require this mineral at much larger concentration levels than most of us obtain through diet or supplementation. This is partly due to drug interactions but also due to factors such as global warming, agricultural practices and food processing. (study referenced #4)
A deficit of this mineral has the potential to be detrimental to health in a myriad of ways. Side effects include symptoms such as:
- Muscle cramps and twitches
- Tiredness and poor sleep
- Mood swings and anxiety disorders
- Headaches and migraine
- Abnormal heart rhythm, poor memory and concentration.
A study conducted by Maier et. Al (2020) discovered that “Up to 50% of migraine patients were found to be magnesium-deficient. The study also determined that magnesium was effective in reducing pain associated with headache and migraine by 50%. (Article reference #5)
Riboflavin is responsible for turning your urine that 1980’s neon colour. This occurs because the natural pigment reacts to exposure of UV light, highlighting how rapidly B vitamins can be excreted from the system as they are all water-soluble.
What is B2 essential for?
- Cellular energy production
- Cell function and growth
- The conversion of amino acids to vitamin B3
- The metabolism of drugs, steroids and fats
- Maintaining normal homocysteine levels— an amino acid. High levels can affect B12 & folate levels which hinders the recycling of DNA.
Pyridoxine is a great multitasking vitamin! It is responsible for over 100 enzymatic processes in the body, mostly relating to protein, fat and carbohydrate metabolism. B6 is also responsible for the creation of our feel-good neurotransmitters— GABA, serotonin and dopamine. A deficiency of these is often linked to an increase in irritability and mood swings premenstrually.
Recent studies have identified that B6 has a significant role in boosting the immune system potentially by increasing adaptive immunity responsiveness and helping T cell white blood cells to mature. (Study #7)
This vitamin really deserves its own article dedicated to its function, but here is a brief summary. Different forms of B12 are available, some are found naturally bound to animal proteins like (methylcobalamin) which is biologically identical to nature. It’s definitely the preferred form in comparison to the synthetically produced (cyanocobalamin and has a cyanide molecule attached.)
Vitamin B12 is involved in producing energy, supporting the cells of the nervous system, producing blood cells and DNA. Because this vitamin is required for energy production a deficiency is likely to cause symptoms such as:
- Heart palpitations
- Shortness of breath.
Absorption is dependent on 2 factors: adequate levels of hydrochloric acid in the stomach to separate the B12 from the protein molecule from food and an essential gastric protein called intrinsic factor which binds to B12 to move it through the small intestine where it is absorbed.
A deficiency in intrinsic factor and the lack of absorption of B12 can be caused by conditions such as abnormal small intestine bacterial overgrowth, Celiac and Crohn’s disease.
Studies have uncovered that the estrogen found in the contraceptive pill affects the absorption of Vitamin C. This vitamin is required by the body for proper immune function, cardiovascular health, iron absorption and producing collagen and neurotransmitters.
Vitamin C is not synthesised by the body so approximately 100mg per day needs to be obtained from the diet, with smokers needing an extra 35mg per day.
A deficiency of vitamin C can lead to symptoms such as poor wound healing, reduced immunity, easy bruising, dry, rough bumpy skin, tiredness and irritability.
This fat-soluble vitamin is a powerful antioxidant that reduces the effect of free radicals. These are generated by normal cellular processes and environmental toxins such as cigarette smoke, UV radiation, and air pollution. It also plays a role in immune system modulation and protects the body against cardiovascular events.
Vitamin E is used in skincare products to promote healing. This is primarily due to its ability to maintain and stabilise cell membranes and its positive effect on the delivery of antioxidants that are required in higher concentrations during healing.
One interesting study found that mice who were given oral and topical Vitamin E had less skin wrinkling and reduced cancer risk after UVB exposure. Considering the lifespan of a mouse is 2 years, it’s difficult to say how much skin wrinkling occurs. (Study #6)
Vitamin E deficiency can lead to reduced coordination and reflexes, dry skin, weak muscles and poor healing.
Folate (Vitamin B9)
This B vitamin is required for the cellular division to produce healthy DNA to generate new cells, especially during foetal development, red blood cell formation and the health of intestinal mucosa.
The government introduced mandatory folate fortification in flour milling in 2009 to reduce the incidence of neural tube defects, which resulted in a decrease of 14.4% nationwide.7
Folate deficiency can lead to symptoms such as:
- Premature aging and grey hair
Although this trace mineral is only needed in small amounts, it is vital to maintaining optimal health.
It’s a powerful antioxidant that prevents cell damage, reducing inflammation, protects against neurological disease, enhances immunity and helps produce thyroid hormones.
Deficiency is characterised by symptoms such as:
- Confusion and reduced mental clarity
- Muscle weakness
- Hair loss
- Weakened immunity
Zinc deficiencies are common because it can’t be stored by the body. Studies estimate that 17% of the world’s population are lacking in adequate zinc.
Zinc is required to make the genetic material for cells, collagen and protein formation and for proper thyroid function. Zinc is an important part of the immune system as it is required to ensure the normal function and maturation of T and B cells of the adaptive immune system.
Inadequate zinc levels can cause symptoms such as:
- Hair loss
- Impaired immunity
- Poor healing
- Reduced libido and
- The loss of taste (otherwise known as ageusia)