A new Swedish study found that birth control pills can help with period pains in people who are on the contraceptive, reported in an article in Mind your Body (The Straits Times, Jan 26, 2012). According to the article, the pill lowers the body’s prostaglandin production and thus, reduces dysmenorrhea (painful periods). Alternatively, a right combination of salmon oil and evening primrose can effectively do the same thing: regulate prostaglandin synthesis (not lower but regulate, and to stimulate the production of anti-inflammatory prostaglandin).
The pill is often prescribed to treat symptoms of menstrual cramps, back pain, dysmenorrhea and PCOS (Polycystic ovarian syndrome) so that the women’s life will not be disrupted. It is indeed an attractive option for many women who may regard the discomfort associated with menses as a hindrance in the increasingly stressful and demanding lifestyle. However, in the words of Australian clinical nutritionist, Henry Osiecki, the introduction of orally synthetic hormones, such as the oral contraceptive pill (OCP), has caused untold damages to the women population (Osiecki, 2006, p.374).
First of all, we need to reaffirm that the menstrual cycle is part of a women’s physiological make-up and is not a ‘curse’. You need to love this part of your body and enjoy being a woman.
Birth control pills are known to deplete the body of many nutrients, including Vitamins B6 and C (both associated with cancer prevention and psychological health), magnesium (necessary to counter stress, prevent cancer and inflammation) and zinc (for the immune system).
A hospital-based case control study found that long term use (more than 3 years) of OCP is a co-factor that increases the risk of cervical cancer by three-folds (Vanakankovit & Taneepanichskul, 2008). Though regular cervical cytology screening is said to help in reducing risk of cervical cancer, why take the risk?
Those who take the pill for more than 5 years have been found to have reduced pancreatic function (probably due to insulin dysfunction), resulting in poor digestion. Some of the symptoms are food allergies, bloating, indigestion, gall bladder disease and reduced elimination of toxins from the body. And we know that good digestion is the foundation of health of the whole body.
The chronic use of OCP also increases the risk of Candida – a condition of chronic overgrowth of Candida albicans – associated with many diseases, including chronic migraines, fatigue, digestive disorders (bloating, cramps, irritable bowel syndrome, altered bowel function), decreased libido, depression, inability to concentrate, chronic vaginal yeast infection, premenstrual tension, thrush, leaky gut, food allergies, eczema, psoriasis, constipation and frequent infections (Zakout, Salih & Ahmed, 2012).
There is accumulating evidence that the use of OCP may increase risks of insulin resistance (diabetes) and cardiovascular diseases (Kandarakis et al., 2003).
Just like erectile dysfunction in men is associated with increased risks of heart failure and insulin resistance (diabetes), menstrual imbalances (manifesting symptoms like period pains and headaches) are often related to dietary imbalances, nutritional deficiency and unresolved chronic stress. Therefore, for your overall health, it is necessary for you to look deeper into the possible root causes and trigger factors, and not just easing the pain with OCP and painkillers. Besides, there are many safer alternatives and herbs that can be used holistically to treat the root causes. For example, galangal is a safe alternative remedy to increase blood flow to the uterus, wherein the lack of is often the root cause of menstrual pain.
Sebastian Liew, MNHAA (Australia)