Did you know that the Oral Contraceptive Pill can be a major contributor to anxiety? This is due to the way it suppresses hormones, affects neurotransmitter production, alters the gut microbiome and depletes nutrients.
The OCP is a form of contraception that in basic terms ‘switches off’ your hormones that stimulate a menstrual cycle. One major hormone that it shuts down is Progesterone. Progesterone is a neuroprotective hormone and a GABA-A receptor agonist. This means that when progesterone levels increase, so do GABA levels. GABA (Gamma-amino-butyric-acid) is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that plays a role in promoting calmness, good mood and sleep. Low levels of GABA have been associated with anxiety and an inability to relax and calm down a racing mind.
The OCP also switches off your Oestrogen production, which is a hormone that helps to calm a fear response, regulates serotonin production and stimulates beneficial mood changes in the brain. It makes you feel energetic, outgoing and confident, and without optimal levels can leave you feeling depressed and anxious.
Gut Microbiome Altering
From as little as 6 months of use, the OCP alters both the intestinal and vaginal microbiome, which can lead to candida overgrowth (thrush in both the gut and vagina). Studies have also shown that the OCP changes expression of tight gap junctions in your gut which can lead to dysbiosis and leaky gut syndrome. Along with bloating, fatigue, diarrhoea and headaches, both candida and leaky gut are associated with anxiety and mood changes.
Your gut health and mental health are intrinsically connected as they send messages to each other via the gut-brain axis. If you have been experiencing both gut and mental health issues, the pill could actually be the problem.
The OCP depletes many vital nutrients in the body, including a very important one, Vitamin B6. B6 is required for the production of serotonin and GABA (your anti-anxiety neurotransmitters). Even with supplementing B6 daily, your body will still be depleted of the amounts required for optimal production. The OCP also depletes zinc, selenium and magnesium, which are micronutrients your nervous system uses to regulate your HPA-axis (the network of communication between your hypothalamus, pituitary gland and adrenals), which control the body’s response to stress.
There is a lot to take into consideration when coming off the pill due to the hormonal changes that may cause acne, sleep problems, mood changes and physical symptoms that occur when your sex organs wake up and start producing hormones you may not have produces for several years. This is why it is so important to work with a qualified Naturopath when deciding to make the change to ditch the OCP so that they can have a pre and post pill plan to make your transition symptom free.
If you are ready to make this change, I would love to work with you!
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