birth control pills

Birth Control Pills, Depression and Vitamin Depletion

The use of oral contraceptives may contribute to depression or insomnia. As women, we all know that hormone fluctuations have effects on our moods. Some women actually experience an improvement in their mood while taking oral contraceptives. Yet a portion of women experience depression, and this may be related not to the hormonal effects, but to vitamin and mineral depletion.

Oral contraceptives deplete five of the key vitamins and minerals that are needed to make our feel good neurotransmitters, like serotonin, and our sleep hormone, melatonin. I created a handy table below to illustrate this, highlighting the nutrients in common. As you can see, several vitamins and minerals are necessary to make serotonin. When any one of these vitamins or minerals is in short supply, the enzymes needed to make serotonin can’t function, and the result is less serotonin. And remember serotonin is our feel good, sunny outlook, relaxed and confident brain chemical. When it is low, we feel worried, sad, fearful, irritable, angry, have low self-esteem, and may experience insomnia.

Vitamins and Minerals Needed
to Make Serotonin
Vitamins and Minerals Depleted
by Oral Contraceptives
B1 (Thiamine)
B2 (Riboflavin)
B3 (Niacin)
B6 (Pyridoxine) B6 (Pyridoxine)
B9 (Folate) B9 (Folate)
B12 (Cobalamin) B12 (Cobalamin)
Magnesium Magnesium
Zinc Zinc
Iron Selenium
Copper Vitamin C
Vitamin E

Although, studies have not demonstrated the necessity for vitamin supplementation for healthy women using oral contraceptives, it is currently being considered as a general health recommendation given the known nutrient depletion. For the group of women who do experience some depression, common sense would dictate that you replace the depleted nutrients. I have found that most people benefit from supplementing with good quality B vitamins, magnesium and zinc, and these nutrients make up a part of my general mental health supplement recommendations.

Food Sources of Depleted Nutrients Needed for Serotonin

Folate: Spinach, romaine lettuce, leafy greens, Great Northern beans, Asparagus, lentils

B6: Wild caught tuna or salmon, potatoes, bananas, garbanzo beans, chicken breast, buckwheat, spinach

B12: Beef liver, rainbow trout, salmon, beef, haddock, eggs, dairy products

Magnesium: Dark leafy greens, especially spinach or Swiss chard, almonds, pumpkin seeds, black beans, dark chocolate, yogurt or kefir

Zinc: Oysters, beef, garbanzo beans, yogurt, pumpkin seeds

Palmery, M., Saraceno, A., Vaiarelli, A., & Carlomagno, G. (2013). Oral contraceptives and changes in nutritional requirements. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci17(13), 1804-13.

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