When it comes to digestive issues, women are at greater risk for complications such as gallbladder disease. Gallstones are very common especially in females over 40 years of age. Since this is more common in women, it is interesting to explore how hormones affect this. Can the birth control pill affect your digestion?
The gallbladder is actually a key player in hormone balance. You may have thought its only function was to help with fat digestion and the absorption of fat soluble vitamins. However, you need a healthy functioning gallbladder to properly remove excess estrogen from your system.
Elevated levels of estrogen, also known as estrogen dominance, can contribute to women losing their gallbladder. Estrogen dominance changes the quality of the bile, making it thicker and harder to excrete. But how is this connected to your birth control pill?
When you take the birth control pill, the pill causes elevated total thyroid hormones AND decreased free thyroid hormones. Free thyroid hormones are the ones our bodies actually use. With less free thyroid hormones available, the cells in your stomach produce less hydrochloric acid. This leads to a decreased ability to break down protein.
In order for the gallbladder to secrete bile, it needs a strong signal of hydrochloric acid from the stomach. So, when you take a birth control pill, a cascade of effects happen that affect your digestion. The birth control pill decreases hydrochloric acid secretion through its effect on your thyroid. This then affects the signal to your gallbladder.
Without enough bile being secreted, excess estrogen can’t be bound up and excreted from your body. What does this lead to? A myriad of symptoms including:
• Weight gain
• Fibrocystic breasts
• Abnormal menstruation
• Decreased libido
Symptoms of estrogen dominance may actually be due to gallbladder dysfunction. Taking the birth control pill increases estrogen dominance. Common symptoms of gallbladder dysfunction are:
• Excessive burping
• Gas or bloating
• Nausea, vomiting, or indigestion after meals
• Abdominal pain
• Right shoulder pain
• Vitamin D deficiency
If you are taking the birth control pill and experiencing digestive complaints, give your gallbladder some support. Supplements with ox bile, digestive enzymes, and hydrochloric acid provide digestive support when taken with meals.
Consider discussing the birth control pill with your prescribing doctor if you decide it would be best to go off of it. Support estrogen metabolism with key foods such as broccoli sprouts, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, and kale. Supplements such as B vitamins, calcium D glucarate, and DIM can also be helpful. Discuss these with your functional medicine provider to determine if they are right for you.
Lastly, schedule your complimentary consultation with me to discuss your specific concerns. It is likely that there are lifestyle, dietary, and supplement recommendations that would be beneficial.
Dr. Lori Jokinen, DC, CACCP, CFMP