4 Reasons Why Birth Control Pill Might Affect Intestinal Microbiome

4 Reasons Why Birth Control Pill Might Affect Intestinal Microbiome

  • Gut Health

  • By Jef L’Ecuyer, Registered Dietitian

    We've said it before - taking a course of antibiotics means supplementing with probiotics to help replenish the good microflora that gets wiped out by the medication. But have you ever considered the need to take a probiotic to support taking a long-term, prescribed medication, such as oral birth control pill?

    A hormonal birth control pill can be considered wonderful in many ways. It is not only an extremely effective tool for preventing pregnancy but is also often prescribed to help alleviate many symptoms such as acne, painful menstruation and endometriosis. If you’re one of the many women who takes an oral contraceptive pill daily, you have your reasons. And, if it’s working for you, you already understand how this simple step each day can positively support the needs of your body.  But did you know you should also consider taking a daily probiotic in conjunction with your pill regimen to support overall wellness in your body?


    How the pill can impact your microflora

    1. General change to the makeup of your microbiome

    It is possible that your birth control medication may be compromising your general wellness efforts. The pill has been shown to have the ability to alter our microbiome and impact gut flora in negative ways. 

    Our gut microbiome is a complex ecosystem of bacteria that help govern nearly every function of the human body in some way. Environmental factors also influence these bacteria. The stress in our lives, the food we eat, and the medicine we take - including oral contraceptives - can all alter the state of our microbiomes.1,2


    2. Dysbiosis

    We refer to an altered state of gut flora as dysbiosis. Some of the main issues associated with it are:

    • Bloating
    • Diarrhea
    • Headaches
    • Abdominal pain
    • Mental fog
    • Constipation
    • Acne
    • Indigestion
    • Acid reflux3

    Do you feel like you’re frequently experiencing bloating or gas and despite taking efforts such as eliminating foods like dairy or gluten, you just can’t seem to get it under control? Or has your acne seemed worse now on the pill even though everyone said it would get better? While gas and bloating or acne are not side effects of taking birth control, it could be a sign that your daily pill is throwing your gut out of whack. Gas and bloating as well as constipation, diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome (often a catch-all diagnosis for gut discomfort), acne and more can all be signs of dysbiosis, a microbial imbalance in the digestive tract.


    3. Increased risk for GI Inflammation

    An imbalance of microflora in the gut can result in inflammation of the GI system and lead to a number of health complications. The inflammation is typically referred to as Inflammatory Bowel Disease, or IBD, and is an umbrella term used to describe disorders that involve chronic gut inflammation. The cause of IBD is not completely known but it’s believed a compromised immune system can attribute. Ensuring you have balanced microbiota in your gut also is a way to help fight off and control inflammation.

    One disorder that is classified under IBD is Crohn’s disease. Recent studies have shown a link between Crohn’s ‘flare-up’s’ and taking oral birth control. Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory disease of the bowel and is characterized by microbial dysbiosis.4 It’s important to understand that Crohn’s is not caused by taking the pill or by microflora imbalance only but more significant flare ups happen with imbalanced microflora. Recent studies are showing that for some women who have been on the pill for five or more years AND have a genetic predisposition to Crohn’s, the GI disease is three times more likely to develop. 5,6


    4. Compromised nutrient absorption

    One of the side effects of bacterial imbalance is persistent inflammation, which can develop into something known as ‘leaky gut’. Leaky gut is a condition where the lining of the small intestine becomes damaged and undigested food particles, bacteria and toxins leak through the intestines into the bloodstream. Leaky gut can result in food sensitivities, poor nutrient absorption, skin conditions like eczema or rosacea, or more serious concerns such as thyroid or IBD.7


    How to support your gut on the pill

    The health of our gut plays a big part in our overall health, and an altered gut microbiome can influence your health in more ways than you may even realize. A healthy and diverse gut microbiome is essential for proper nutrient absorption and supports the elimination of unwanted toxins and chemicals from the body. Furthermore, when your gut is healthy, it can properly help your body regulate hormones, promote a healthy weight, and support your immune system. 

    The good news is that you don’t have to stop taking the pill to help support your gut. But there are some simple things you can do to give it a little more love.

    The easiest way to give your gut a little boost and ensure that it’s getting what it needs is to use a daily probiotic. You could either take a probiotic pill or a drinkable format as both forms support the needs of your body. Bio-K+ is an effective and clinically proven probiotic that can help replenish and restore gut flora as well as maintain it.

    An easy way to remember to take your probiotic each day is to take it at the same time you take your birth control pill. If you have not been taking a probiotic, try starting gradually with a lower CFU level such as the Bio-K+ 12.5 Billion. If you feel you need to optimize your intestinal flora, give a try to a strongest capsule such as the Bio-K+ 25 Billion or 50 Billion. Once you’ve finished a course of those, or if you’ve been taking probiotics in the past, you can choose to go back to a lower CFU level to maintain the established healthy flora.

    You could also ensure that you’re getting a daily dose of probiotics at your meals by trying the probiotic drink format of Bio-K+, which can be an excellent addition to your breakfast or lunch. Each bottle delivers 50 Billion probiotic bacteria so you can feel good knowing you’re supporting both digestive health and immune function.

    It’s also worth noting that probiotics have not been shown to affect the effectiveness of birth control pills. 


    The Case for Probiotics

    Even though “The Pill” may not be for everyone, probiotics definitely are! If you do take daily birth control medication, especially in pill form, you may want to pay attention to the cues your body is sending you about the state of your gut flora. While everyone can benefit from a daily probiotic, it can be especially important if your gut microbiome is disrupted by medications or other factors, including birth control pills.


    If you’re thinking about trying Bio-K+, head to our store locator. For more information on Bio-K+, probiotics and digestive health, contact usfind us on Facebook and Instagram or join our community.


    This article is for information purposes only. Always check with your healthcare practitioner before starting or stopping a medication or supplement.



    1. https://draxe.com/microbiome/
    2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6231418
    3. https://blumhealthmd.com/2017/06/17/what-is-dysbiosis/
    4. http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2014/03/crohns-disease-marked-dramatic-changes-gut-bacteria
    5. https://ibdnewstoday.com/2015/04/27/microbiome-imbalance-can-induce-crohns-disease-like-inflammation/
    6. https://www.medicaldaily.com/birth-control-pill-may-triple-risk-crohns-disease-women-family-history-condition-325850
    7. https://draxe.com/7-signs-symptoms-you-have-leaky-gut/


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    Jef L’Ecuyer Registered Dietitian
    About the author
    After her nutrition training at McGill University, Jef specialized in gastrointestinal health with a special interest in the microbiota and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. With Bio-K+, she continues on this path by making the world of probiotics more accessible to all.
    View all articles by Jef L’Ecuyer
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