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popping the pill: nutritional implications of birth control for dancers

The recent availability of an over-the-counter (OTC) birth control pill has sparked discussions about its accessibility and the nutritional implications associated with its use. In this blog post, we will explore the nutritional considerations for dancers and menstruating individuals who take hormonal birth control pills. We aim to shed light on how these medications can affect nutrient levels and provide recommendations to help maintain a balanced diet and eMpower your performance nutrition.



Understanding Hormonal Birth Control:

Most daily birth control pills, including the newly available OTC option known as Opill (norgestrel), contain hormones that prevent conception through various mechanisms. Opill is a progestin-only oral contraceptive that thickens cervical mucus, reduces the chances of sperm reaching the egg, inhibits egg release, and thins the uterine lining.1 These hormonal changes can also impact other aspects of the body's physiology, including nutrient levels.



Effects on Nutrient Levels:

We already know, from previous blog posts, that your monthly hormonal shifts can be supported nutritionally with your food choices. Similarly, your hormonal birth control influences your nutrient levels and our ease, or difficulty, to access nutrients from your daily diet.



Here are some key considerations:

Glucose Tolerance: Although the impact is generally minimal, birth control pills may affect glucose tolerance. Nonetheless, it is important to ensure you're consuming an adequate amount of fiber (approximately 35g daily) to support overall health (and regular #2s!).


Drug-Nutrient Interactions:

  • Folic Acid/Folate/Vitamin B9: Birth control pills may impact the metabolism or availability of folic acid. To counterbalance this, incorporate food sources such as salad greens, beans, fruits, whole grains, and eggs into your diet.

  • Magnesium: Some studies suggest that birth control can affect magnesium levels. Include foods like pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, almonds, spinach, and black beans to maintain adequate magnesium intake.

  • Vitamin B6: Birth control pills may influence vitamin B6 levels. Foods like chickpeas, beef liver, tuna, salmon, and chicken breast can help meet your vitamin B6 requirements.

  • Calcium: Ensure sufficient calcium intake by consuming yogurt, fortified orange juice, mozzarella, sardines, milk, tofu, and salmon with bones, among other calcium-rich foods. Vitamin D and Calcium are closely related, so get your sunlight and consume Vitamin D-rich foods, to!

  • Copper and Iron: Birth control pills may lead to increased levels of copper and iron. Regularly monitor your lab tests and consult with a healthcare professional if nutrient levels become too high or deviate outside of a normal range.


Considerations for Specific Supplements and Foods:

  • Garlic and St. John's Wort: While consuming garlic in regular amounts is generally safe, be cautious with highly concentrated garlic supplements as they may interfere with the efficacy of birth control. Similarly, St. John's Wort, commonly used for stress/anxiety management, can also affect birth control effectiveness.

  • Caffeine: Birth control pills can reduce caffeine clearance and potentially amplify the adverse effects of caffeine. Be mindful of your caffeine consumption, especially from sources like green tea.2



Taking hormonal birth control pills, including the newly available OTC options, can have nutritional implications. It's crucial for dancers and those on birth control to be aware of potential changes in nutrient levels and make dietary adjustments accordingly. Focus on a well-balanced diet that includes nutrient-rich foods to support overall health. Regular monitoring of nutrient levels and consultation with a healthcare professional are recommended to ensure optimal health and well-being.




Resources



Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog post is intended for general educational purposes only and should not replace personalized medical advice. Individual nutritional needs may vary, so it's important to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized recommendations.


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I'm a Nutrition Educator & Wellness Coach based in and serving Washington, DC and the DMV region. My lifestyle-focused method has successfully helped clients achieve personal results and enhance athletic ability, eMpowering performance in class, rehearsals, and on-stage. As professional dancer myself, I have gained nutritional balance and improved my own relationship with food through many years of practice and a Masters of Science in Nutrition from University of Bridgeport. I bring this depth of personal and academic experience to a variety of clients, particularly performance athletes and fitness enthusiasts. In my spare time, I teach yoga and manage Ballet Embody, a professional contemporary ballet company.
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