Birth Control and B12

On the pill? Check your b12 levels.

I mentioned in a previous post that I recently had a scare with a b12 deficiency. It has been over a month since I finally  have been able to track down a doctor who could give me the type of consultation I was looking for: a holistic approach that takes both a medicinal and natural stand, someone able to integrate the two types of medicine and look at my case on all levels. And boy was I surprised when I learned that yes, I probably have a b12 deficiency because I have been vegetarian and then vegan for so long without proper supplementation, however, it is also likely because I have been on birth control for nearly a decade.  What does that have to do with my b12, I asked. Well apparently birth control seriously decreases the natural levels of b12 due to the high levels of estrogen in the pills.

Foods like leafy greens, tempeh and nutritional yeast contain b12

Learning this made me extremely frustrated with the traditional system of medicine ….Of course, part of this is on my head because I should have done more research than I did about the prescriptions I am on. But additionally, my gynecologist — who prescribes my birth control — knows I follow a vegan diet,  and yet never mentioned the b12 factor to me. This is because, as a professional in a specialized field, he probably got only a few hours of general education nutrition training in med school. Perhaps our healthcare system is trying its best, but it’s becoming more and more clear that our diets affect every part of our lives — our moods, sleep patterns, stress levels, ability to fight disease and sickness, and  capacity to think clearly.

With this green revolution our country seems to be going through, and the rise in the popularity of natural medicine, I hope to see more holistic doctors popping up all over. A great friend of mine just got accepted to Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine and I know she will do great things (congrats AC!). I look forward to the future of medicine when a doctor can take a look at a patient and evaluate them from an all-inclusive, holistic point of view.

So for any vegans or vegetarians out there who are on birth control, get your b12 levels tested and then get on a supplement! Don’t play around with this. Also, check out this video of an interview with Dr. Jay Gordon, who believes that diet should be the foundation of a medicinal practice.

About the author  ⁄ Zoe

Zoe writes about food and sex on SexyTofu.com.

9 Comments

  • Reply
    March 16, 2011

    Sorry, but I disagree. The medical profession is not trying it’s best and is not serving the American public very well. Drug companies make it lucrative for doctors to prescribe, prescribe, prescribe…and so the doctors do.
    Yours truly,
    A.S.

  • Reply
    rachel
    March 19, 2011

    I am a vegan, i don’t take birth control because i feel it would be bad for me? can you help. is it really safe to take birth control? i fear it will do damage to me.

    hope to hear from you soon. please please reply to my e-mail because i will forget to check back

    • Reply
      March 24, 2011

      I am not a doctor, but my personal advice is that, as a vegan, you shouldn’t be on birth control unless you are also taking a b12 sub lingual supplement. That being said, I believe that there is no (or at least none that I am aware of) hormonal birth control that is vegan. I think there are some IUDs out there that are cruelty and hormone free, but that is about it.

      Hope this helps! Anyone else have any info on this?

  • Reply
    June 29, 2011

    Can’t comment about birth control, but I totally agree about wanting doctors to understand both Western and natural healing methods. Incidentally, I have injected B12 since before becoming vegan as I learned inadvertently that I had a B12 deficiency, which, in the case of non-vegans means one is unable to obtain B12 from foods (therefore oral B12 supplements would not work, either). The interesting thing is, when I went to refill the prescription of Cyanocobalamin recently at Costco, the price was more than 3 times the price paid about 2 years ago! I was sure they had made a mistake, but their pharmacy insisted it was correct, and said the price increased because it was not going to be made anymore! All the while, other pharmacies still carry it for the original price (Costco refunded the difference in this case). I can’t find any reference to discontinuation of the medicine anywhere, and wonder whether I should stock up now, although the 30ml bottle I have will last another 2.5 years.

    • Reply
      June 29, 2011

      Aha, the shot! I was planning on buying it in bulk as it seems you have, but a doctor told me I would be better off going in for regular shots instead of getting a whole bottle, as it would expire before I could possibly use it all–but you say it will last 2.5 years? Must investigate..

  • Reply
    Lisa
    April 7, 2012

    What do you consider normal range of B12?? Mine was 340 in Nov. 2011 and my dr. Told me it was normal. I was getting dizzy, huge hair balls in shower, tingly hands and feet. I started b12 tabs at 1000mg and haven’t been retested but my symptoms went away. I recently switched to the sublingual lozenges 500mg after reading from a commenter on your xojane story saying they absorb better. I don’t take the pill so that does not affect me. I have been vegetarian for 9 years and on and off before that. Vegan for almost 4 years. I do need to get a checkup but I just don’t trust dr.’s near me.

    • Reply
      April 7, 2012

      I am not sure what a “normal” range would be, but when I was on birth control and taking b12, the b12 was showing up in my blood because I was popping pills but it was not being absorbed…my suggestion is to find a Dr you like and trust. Mine is nearly an hour drive from me but she is terrific (I wrote in XOJane she is an MD and an ND) and well worth the drive.

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