Control Pills for Painful Periods?
By Dr. Ben
Dr. Ben Kim's Mailbag:
doctor is recommending that our teenage daughter be put on birth
control medication to remedy anaemia and pain with periods. Can
you tell us about the health implications of putting young girls
on birth control pills?
A reader from New Zealand
general, my experiences have led me to believe that it is best to
avoid birth control pills whenever possible. Not because of any
major short term concerns; more because of long term health considerations.
control pills are xenoestrogens, which are man-made chemicals that
can mimic or amplify the physiological effects of the different
types of estrogen that are produced naturally in our bodies.
term exposure to xenoestrogens can lead to a physiological state
called estrogen dominance, which refers to having too much estrogen
and/or too little progesterone.
Of Estrogen and Progesterone Output During a Healthy Monthly Cycle
the onset of puberty to menopause, a woman's body is designed to
have estrogen and progesterone work together to fuel and regulate
her monthly cycle.
bulk of estrogen is released into a woman's blood circulation during
the first half of her monthly cycle. Estrogen works to build the
lining of a woman's uterus to prepare it for implantation of a fertilized
egg should fertilization occur.
bulk of progesterone is released into a woman's blood stream during
the second half of a healthy monthly cycle. During this time, progesterone
acts to maintain the rich lining of the uterus that estrogen helped
to build up during the first two weeks of her cycle.
a fertilized egg successfully implants into the uterine wall i.e.
if a woman becomes pregnant, her body must continue to produce a
large amount of progesterone on a continuous basis to maintain a
thick and well vascularized uterine wall throughout the course of
pregnancy. This job of continuous progesterone production is handled
nicely by a healthy placenta.
there is no implantation/pregnancy, a woman's body stops producing
large amounts of progesterone, which results in sloughing off and
elimination of the thickened uterine lining, also known as a woman's
cycle repeats itself about once every month until a woman experiences
menopause, with estrogen dominating the first half of each cycle,
and progesterone dominating the second half.
When young girls and premenopausal women are continuously exposed
to birth control pills and other xenoestrogens, this delicate balance
between estrogen and progesterone production can be disrupted. More
specifically, some females who are exposed to birth control pills
for many years become estrogen dominant; they have too much estrogen
or too little progesterone in their bodies.
to Dr. John Lee, author of What Your Doctor May Not Tell You
About Premenopause, some common health conditions that are associated
with being estrogen dominant are:
Unexplained depression, anxiety, and irritability
Weight gain (fat tissue around the hips and legs)
Irregular menstrual cycle
is a comprehensive look at the most common causes of estrogen dominance:
Exposure to Xenoestrogens
sources of xenoestrogens:
Birth control pills
Hormone replacement drugs
Conventional personal care products, particularly cosmetics
Growth hormones found in factory-farmed animal products
Pesticides and herbicides
PCBs - polychlorinated biphenyls
Foaming agents in soaps and detergents
is produced in three different areas of the body:
Ovaries (testicles in men)
right. Estrogen is produced by fat cells. The more fat cells a person
has, the greater chance he or she has of experiencing estrogen dominance.
a person experiences chronic physical and/or emotional stress, his
or her body will begin to convert progesterone into the stress hormone,
cortisol. In fact, we now know that a woman who experiences significant
stress during pregnancy can actually draw upon her baby's progesterone
stores to manufacture enough cortisol to deal with her stress. The
point is, stress can lead to a depletion of progesterone, which
creates the same condition of estrogen dominance that a woman experiences
when she has too much estrogen in her system.
bring all of this back to the original question about having
young girls take birth control pills to address painful periods
and associated anemia from excessive blood loss, I recommend taking
the following steps with one's food and lifestyle choices before
resorting to taking birth control medication:
Strive to avoid unnecessary exposure to xenoestrogens. Study the
list of xenoestrogens provided above and do your best to avoid
Because fat cells produce estrogen, reaching and maintaining your
ideal body weight by losing excess body fat can help to prevent
Exercise regularly. Doing so can decrease stress, which can effectively
prevent "progesterone drainage" that might be occurring
due to a greater-than-normal demand for the stress hormone, cortisol.
Regular exercise can also help to ensure that excess fat cells
are not contributing to estrogen dominance.
Finally, estrogen dominance must be addressed in part by making
a conscious and consistent effort to manage emotional stressors
experience has been that young girls and premenopausal women who
follow the steps outlined above tend to experience a significant
reduction in menstrual flow-related discomfort.
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