The use of hormonal birth control one of the most common and effective ways to prevent pregnancy, as well as manage unwanted symptoms of reproductive health.
Hormonal birth control, whether a pill, an implant, or a patch, all functions in a fairly similar way. They introduce synthetic hormones into the body to prevent ovulation and increase cervical mucus – a tandem effect that helps prevent pregnancy. Birth control pills are also prescribed to help alleviate symptoms of certain gynecological conditions, like endometriosis, and regulate menstruation.
However, if you’ve have been diagnosed with a chronic gut dysfunction disorder and are struggling to treat it, your birth control may be an attributing factor.
Sex Hormones and Your Microbiota
Women account for more annual diagnoses of chronic gut dysfunction than men. A growing body of evidence has demonstrated that the fluctuation of the female reproductive hormones estrogen and progesterone have been demonstrated to be a contributing factor in the onset of digestive dysfunction.
The relationship between hormones and the gut is symbiotic; one affects the other. Evidence shows that women with IBS report a higher incidence of PMS and dysmenorrhea (painful periods)3, suggesting gut dysfunction seems to have a negative impact, at minimum, on the regulation of hormones and perception of pain. Conversely, there is mounting evidence demonstrating the impacts of sex steroid hormones on the gut microbiota. To date, studies demonstrate clear evidence that specific phyla, family and genera variances to the microbiome of rodents result from gonadectomy and hormone replacement4. In adult rats who undergo ovariectomy, shifts in the relative abundances of two major phyla, Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes were demonstrated. Furthermore, we see this demonstrated in humans during pregnancy, and between sexes. Men have higher concentrations Bacteroidetes and Prevotella than women,5,6 suggesting a role for sex chromosomal gene expression or differences in gonadal hormone levels in the modulation of the gut microbiota. Koren et al7 also found a large shift in the gut microbiota from the first to the third trimester of pregnancy women, with an increase in overall diversity and a proliferation of Proteobacteria and Actinobacteria (and resultant changes in metabolism).
Lastly, we see exacerbations of pre-existing inflammatory bowel disease in women on oral contraceptives8. This poses an important question – do synthetic hormones, like the ones in birth control, further upend the balance and fluctuations of our microbiome?
So what does this mean for someone on a birth control pill?
Well, we know that hormones influence the gut microbiota, and improperly functioning microbiome can lead to several comorbidities, such as:
Rebalancing the Imbalance
To improve or eliminate the symptoms of chronic gut issues, switching to non-hormonal birth control may be an option for you. However, if you are using birth control to treat another underlying gynecological condition you may not be in your best interest to simply stop taking it. Always speak to your Doctor and Naturopath before discontinuing any medication to ensure this option is right for you. If non-hormonal interventions are not an option, it is important to focus on rebuilding and supporting a healthy gut microbiome.
One of the best ways to support our microbiota is to eliminate foods from the diet that can lead to further imbalance.
Cut back or eliminate:
It is also important to eat a diverse diet rich in whole foods to feed our microbiota, and increase the production of a very important short chain fatty acid, known as butyrate. Butryate helps to not only improve digestion, but to decrease inflammation, and is increased by the following foods:
For more guidance and help supporting your gut health, hormones, and achieving a healthy balance, please feel free to schedule an appointment online with Dr. Courtney Homberg, Naturopathic Doctor in Toronto, or by calling the clinic at 647-351-7282 today!
© 2018 Courtney Holmberg ND. All rights reserved. Dr. Courtney Holmberg, ND does not endorse or have professional affiliation with any discussed supplement or lab companies. All material provided is for general education and may not be construed as medical advice. The information is not intended to assist in diagnosing to treating a medical condition. Legal & Medical Disclaimer, sitemap