Millions of women in the UK regularly take oestrogen-containing medications such as the contraceptive pill or hormone replacement therapy (HRT). The contraceptive pill can be an effective way to avoid unwanted pregnancies, whilst HRT is used by women later in life to minimise uncomfortable symptoms associated with the menopause.
Whilst these medications are a really useful support for many, it’s important to understand that they can have negative effects on many essential nutrients too. When nutrients start to become imbalanced, the knock-on health effects can be widespread, so it’s important to understand which ones you are most at risk of so you can take steps to bring them back into balance.
Nutrients commonly depleted by oestrogen-containing medicines:
• Iodine – Many of the common brands of contraceptive pill and HRT contain a synthetic form of oestrogen such as estradiol or ethinyl estradiol, which can affect the ability of your cells to take-up iodine. Iodine is an important mineral for fertility, is needed by the body to manufacture thyroid hormones, and is also important for the immune system, for breast and prostate health and supports the ability of the liver to detoxify harmful substances such as mercury, fluoride and bromide.
• Magnesium – An essential, yet commonly deficient mineral; magnesium is often depleted by oestrogen-containing medications. Magnesium is involved in over 300 metabolic pathways in the body so low levels can have widespread effects. Magnesium deficiency is commonly associated with chronic pain, cramps, spasms, depression, anxiety, insomnia and high blood pressure.
• Manganese – Oral contraceptives may interfere with the absorption of manganese; an essential mineral for proper enzyme functioning, nutrient absorption, wound healing, antioxidant function and bone development.
• Zinc – Another essential mineral often depleted by oestrogen-containing medications; low zinc is associated with weight gain, hypothyroidism, chronic diarrhea, low immune function and lack of sex drive.
• B complex vitamins & folic acid – Both HRT and oestrogen-containing oral contraceptives can affect levels of the complex of B vitamins and folic acid. There are many symptoms associated with B vitamin deficiency from fatigue and depression to headaches, nausea, numbness and even weight gain.
• Vitamin C – This water-soluble nutrient is often depleted by HRT and the contraceptive pill. Vitamin C is important for the immune system, for collagen formation, is a powerful antioxidant and also helps the body to utilise iron.
Here's what you can do about it...
Take a high quality daily multivitamin and mineral supplement that contains a full range of vitamins and minerals. Ensure the product you choose contains therapeutic levels of iodine, magnesium, manganese, zinc, B complex vitamins, folic acid (5-MTHF form) and vitamin C. This will help to reduce the risk of widespread low levels of essential nutrients.
Di-indolylmethane (DIM) is a natural substance that is derived from cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli. It helps to support the safe metabolism of oestrogen in the body. This is especially important when taking oestrogen-containing medications.
Calcium-d-glucarate is a natural compound that helps to support a healthy oestrogen balance in the body. This balance is particularly important when taking oestrogen-containing medications.
High quality daily probiotic to support healthy gut flora,which can help to support a healthy oestrogen balance.
Diet & lifestyle
Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage
Fibre-rich foods such as legumes (beans, chickpeas, lentils), flaxseeds, wholegrains, fruits and vegetables
Fermented foods such as kefir, kombucha and sauerkraut help to support a healthy gut flora, which helps to support oestrogen balance
Organic food as it contains fewer pesticides and helps to support a healthy liver which in turn helps to support a healthy oestrogen balance
Filtered water, organic meat and dairy products to reduce your exposure to environmental oestrogens
Glass drinking bottles and storage containers. Many plastics contain oestrogenic compounds so choosing glass instead can help to reduce your exposure.