The Southern Side of the Endocrine System: Finding clues in The Pill
“Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history.” ~Abraham Lincoln
The further I get into my life, the more appreciation and value I’ve placed on ferreting out root causes… not only in health matters, but also in the consequences (both good and bad) of relationships, government, … pretty much anything that has made me ask “Why?”. This curiosity has proven to be both a blessing and a curse because I’ve been down some pretty deep and winding rabbit holes, usually coming up for air with a different outlook on what I thought I knew. For those of you who have also engaged in learning in this manner, this will resonate deeply with you. Once you have learned something that is verifiably true but unpopular in media presentation, you have to make a choice: either swim upstream, or swim in the direction of the majority and try to forget what you have learned. In my own personal observation, the latter does not bode well either emotionally or physiologically . A person cannot live a duality (believing one thing yet acting in opposite) for long without negative consequences ultimately manifesting.
I spent decades (both personally and professionally) in educated ignorance, believing that birth control pills were benign “helpers” for preventing pregnancy and calming dragonesque cycle symptoms. Perhaps you do (or did) too. In my defense, it wasn’t my fault. This is what we are taught in pharmacy school as are all health professionals taught within the singularly allopathic education setting.
Hormone based birth control is one of the most common types of prescriptions filled in a retail pharmacy setting. An estimated 14% of women aged 15-49 utilize synthetic hormone based birth control (pills, IUD’s, implants, vaginal rings, and patches). With numbers that high, how could a class of products not be both safe and effective?
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” ~ Upton Sinclair
What he said!
At some point, culturally, we lost the history of birth control pills. Had we known the history, and had we kept up with the outcomes, would we (culturally) still be choosing the perceived easier swim downstream? I don’t have the time within this series to write the pages upon pages that should be devoted to this topic, so I’m leaving breadcrumbs for you to go digging on your own, or at the very least perhaps raise a hairy eyebrow and give the facts some serious thought.
Ethinyl estradiol was studied and used by the Nazi’s in chemical sterilization experiments in the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II. Ethinyl estradiol is one of the most common ingredients found in birth control pills today.
The Pill was first tested experimentally in Puerto Rico in 1956. The women involved in the study were not informed that they were participating in a drug trial or of the potential side effects of the trial they were involved in. 11% of the women withdrew from participation because of adverse effects. According to information in the Congressional Nelson Pill Hearings of 1970, 5 participating women died and were buried without an autopsy. The focus of the Puerto Rico study was on efficacy, not safety.
The Pill was introduced in 1960 during a cultural revolution, when all things natural were being shunned in favor of man made…. Tang for orange juice, formica and shag carpet instead of wood or stone, margarine instead of butter. Coincidentally, the incidence of autoimmune disorders began rising rapidly by the early 1970’s, with more than 80% of those cases being found in women. That statistic has not changed. The Pill became a symbol of women’s rights, and in the process, it hormonally defeminized women. In a twist of irony, as birth control pill waste is flushed (literally) into the water supply, it now also plays a role in the demasculinization of men through its contribution to the estrogen dominance phenomenon in males.
It was recommended early on that The Pill be used by a woman for two years or less in order to prevent possible sterilization. Some women take The Pill for 30 years or longer. Meanwhile, infertility rates continue to rise. According to the CDC’s most recent data, approximately 19% of women in the USA ages 15-49 now have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant.
The Pill was approved for use prior to Congress passing the 1962 Kefauver-Harris Drug Efficacy Amendment which requires drug manufacturers to prove both safety and efficacy.
“It would be natural at this point to think, ‘It’s been 50+ years! Surely today’s version of The Pill has been proven safe.’ That’s a reasonable assumption. However, it’s dead wrong. The maker of today’s most popular birth control brands [as of 2019] Yaz and Yasmin, paid out $2.04 BILLION to settle over 10,000 blood clot lawsuits as of 2016, and the number of injuries, deaths, and lawsuits continues to rise.” ~ (Book: In the Name of The Pill, page 30)
The reality is that sometimes decades go by before a very serious side effect is appreciated, and if there is enough money to be made, “those with the gold ultimately make the rules” (and make digging for truth a little harder).
Birth control pills come with a fine print document thanks to the 1962 Kefhauver-Harris Amendment. In addition to establishing both safety and efficacy, it also introduced the concept of patient informed consent. Allow the patient to make their own decision after weighing the pros and cons. Have you ever read one of these patient package inserts?
I’m including a link here for the popular birth control pill, Yaz, as a real world example. It’s 29 pages long and corroborates what I’m about to share:
According to FDA access data sheets on birth control pills, there is risk (think clues!) of:
Thromboembolic disorders and other vascular problems (Note: that BCP’s containing drospirenone have been found to cause 2-3x more blood clots than in previous pill generations)
Increased copper retention. Symptoms of excess copper include anxiety, depression, hyperactivity, chronic fatigue, inflamed joints, insomnia, infertility, hair loss, headaches, diabetes, endometriosis, recurrent fungal infections, both high and low blood pressure, and increased breast cancer risk. It is also a biomarker for thyroid disease. Note that copper and zinc are closely connected, and their ratio is important for optimal health. BCP’s (including copper IUD’s) also concurrently facilitate zinc depletion, causing further disruption of this ratio. Hair analysis is often the most accurate way to check copper and zinc levels.
Migraines and other headache types
Atherosclerosis (plaque build up and hardening of the arteries). Risk increases with duration of BCP use.
Increase in C-Reactive Protein levels, a marker for inflammation. The longer a body is inflamed, the greater the risk for autoimmune disorders, vascular diseases, and brain disorders.
Diabetes. Synthetic hormones affect the body’s ability to process carbohydrates. Nearly 1 in 5 women taking The Pill develop abnormal glucose tolerance.
Elevated triglyceride levels, affecting nearly ⅓ of BCP users.
Breast Cancer. Note that the American Cancer Society recognized synthetic hormones as a possible risk factor for breast cancer in 1961, and that The Pill ingredients have been found to cause breast cancer in all 5 animal species commonly used in pharmaceutical research and development.
Immune system suppression. Estrogen plays a key role in the immune system. Synthetic estrogen causes the body to cut back on its own production of body made estrogen.
Gallbladder disease (According to the American College of Gastroenterology, women between the ages of 20 and 60 years are three times more likely to develop gallstones than men.)
Bleeding irregularities (In relation to menstruation), including heavy bleeding and pelvic pain that may result in a suggested hysterectomy.
Depression. The American Journal of Psychiatry published a 2016 study by researchers in Denmark who reported that women taking hormonal contraceptives have up to triple the risk of suicide when compared to women who never took hormonal birth control. Another study found that 1 out of every 3 pill users showed depressive personality changes and 1 out of 20 had suicidal ideations.
The possibility of “over suppression syndrome” (Any part of the body which is not used or little used over an extended period of time leads to disuse atrophy: otherwise known as infertility in this case.)
Loss of Libido
Nutritional deficiencies including B1, B2, B6, Folate, B12, Vitamin C, Zinc, Magnesium, Iodine, and many other micronutrients.
Osteopenia and osteoporosis
Increased risk for developing lupus. The incidence of lupus has tripled in the last 40 years, and 90% of those affected are women.
Crohn’s Disease (beneficial bacteria in the gut is adversely affected by BCP’s)
Weight gain (Just prior to the FDA’s endorsement of The Pill, the federal government ordered all poultry producers to stop using synthetic estrogens to fatten chickens because it was known to cause cancer in animals. )
Increased risk of developing cervical cancer by 2-3x. Risk increases with BCP use longer than five years.
An estimated 6-7 out of every 10 Pill users take medication to counteract BCP side effects on a routine basis. Most commonly: diuretics, pain medication for headaches, anti anxiety medications, antidepressants, self medicating for fatigue and lethargy (caffeine etc).
I’ve focused mostly on synthetic estrogen and estrogen dominance up (see previous posts on estrogen dominance and endocrine disruptors) and I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss the distinct differences between natural progesterone and synthetic progestins.
Progesterone is enormously beneficial to a woman’s body. It:
Protects and supports cardiovascular health
Stimulates hair growth
Generally beneficial for mood and a good night’s sleep
Is healing and calming to the body
May reduce the risk of breast cancer
Helps with weight loss
Improves bone formation
Conversely, Progestins (the synthetic version of naturally occurring progesterone) can cause:
High blood pressure
Can cause anxiety and depression
Can increase the risk of breast cancer
Loss of libido
Interference with sleep
Progestins are believed to cause birth defects and are contraindicated in pregnancy. Conversely, progesterone is an absolute requirement to maintain a healthy pregnancy.
Progestins reduce electrolyte availability within cells ( this may manifest as irregular heartbeat, fast heart rate, fatigue, lethargy, seizures, nausea, vomiting, muscle cramping, irritability, headaches, numbness and tingling)
(Note that many of these are similar in nature to estrogen dominance.)
When you use synthetic progestins, the body quits making its own progesterone (the good stuff!), and the synthetic variety “clogs up” the progesterone receptors in the body. If a woman has been taking progestins for quite some time, it’s likely that her body will have to relearn how to produce progesterone again which may take several months. Herbs that help support the body’s natural progesterone production include chasteberry (also known as vitex), evening primrose oil, rhodiola, ashwagandha (found in Young Living’s EndoGize ), schisandra, and wild yam (found in Young Living’s Progessence Plus serum, Femigen capsules, Regenolone and Prenolone Plus creams). Foods which also support healthy progesterone production include those high in zinc, Omega 3’s, vitamin C, magnesium, and B vitamins. Do your research and eat for your hormones! If obtaining enough in a daily diet is challenging, consider adding Young Living’s Super C chewables, and Super B tablets. Several Young Living supplements (ex: Master Formula & OmegaGize3 respectively) also contain magnesium, zinc and Omega 3’s!
I realize I’ve dropped many bread crumbs for you to follow here. Heck, there are some downright loaves waiting to be picked up and examined should you be so inclined. There is much more to be learned from the story of The Pill.
There are many reasons women use BCP’s outside of preventing unplanned pregnancies, and by using synthetic hormones as a chemical band-aid, the root cause of the issue is being left to fester. Find a holistically minded health care professional who will help you find and address your root cause(s). It literally could be as simple as changing diet, addressing stress, supplementing to prevent a deficiency, using Young Living essential oils strategically, or increasing exercise!
Are there other effective options for preventing unplanned pregnancies? Certainly, there are, and there are emotional, physical, and relational health benefits to be had in utilizing them. There are a variety of cycle “health detective” clues you can come to rely on with remarkable accuracy. Do some digging on the topic “Natural Family Planning Methods”.
Fertility is not a disease and there is a rather steady supply of evidence which indicates that by medicating otherwise healthy women, we have unwittingly done great harm in the process. My job as a pharmacist is to provide the patient package insert as instructed by the Congressional Kefhauver-Harris Amendment, thereby giving the patient the opportunity of informed consent.
Risk versus benefit.
It’s the patient’s right, responsibility, and choice to either consent or deny. Most have never received a thorough explanation allowing for an educated decision.
Lots of clues friends! Embrace the sleuthing process. It will only serve you well. I promise.