Candida & Oral Contraceptives
While the modern oral contraceptive for women has come with many benefits, such as freedom from unwanted pregnancy (with a 99%+ effectiveness rate) and increased sexual freedom, unfortunately it has come with some downsides too. In recent decades, we have discovered that one of these may be an increased risk for developing Candida infections.
In this article we will examine how oral contraceptives work, how they can lead to Candida overgrowth, and what alternatives you might want to consider. We will also look at the steps you can take to help your body detox from estrogen.
Understanding Oral Contraceptives
While in recent years there have been new medications developed that work differently (like Depo-Provera), most oral contraceptives contain both estrogen and progestin. This means that they disrupt the typical progesterone/estrogen balance in the female body.
In a healthy young woman, progesterone and estrogen rise and fall, like the tide coming in and going out. Both of these cycles last approximately 28 days. Traditional oral contraceptives disrupt this ‘tidal flow’ of the predominant hormones in the female body, creating an ‘estrogen dominance’ which comes with a host of potential problems. This can result in weight gain, breast tenderness, increased risk for fibroids, estrogen-linked cancers, and yes, Candidiasis.
Estrogen Dominance And Candida
As you probably already know, most of us are already carrying Candida in our guts. When we’re generally in good health, it doesn’t cause us any problem at all. However, when things start to get out of balance internally, Candida albicans can begin to overgrow and lead to many unpleasant (and unfortunately common) symptoms. In recent decades, science has illustrated a close connection between estrogen dominance and Candida overgrowth.
Estrogen dominance is already quite common in women aged 35-50 as we approach menopause, even before the extra estrogen from oral contraceptives. In women over 35 on oral contraception, the risk of Candida overgrowth is even higher. And this is further exacerbated by common lifestyle factors that tend to promote estrogen dominance besides the oral contraceptive pill.
The contraceptive pill can lead to estrogen dominance, which in turn triggers a Candida overgrowth. In fact, a University of Michigan study recently suggested typical oral contraceptive use typically doubles the risk for developing Candidiasis.
Other Consequences Of Oral Contraceptive Use
Hormones must be metabolized by phase I and II liver enzymes, so oral contraceptives can stress the liver and other internal organs. They are also known for depleting B vitamins and magnesium. More specifically, this means increases in a blood marker called homocysteine, which requires adequate levels of magnesium and certain B vitamins to stay in an optimal range.
When we combine nutrient depletion with a state of estrogen dominance that means extra work for the liver, the body becomes unable to regulate homocysteine levels efficiently. Homocysteine has been linked to a higher risk of heart attacks, strokes, and Alzheimer’s, among other things. Research has found significant increases in homocysteine among those taking the oral contraceptive pill.
There is some conceptual overlap with Candida treatment here. One of the keys to reducing Candida symptoms and enjoying a full recovery is to support the liver. That’s why I recommend liver-supportive supplements such as molybdenum and milk thistle as part of the Ultimate Candida Diet plan.
Other Choices For Contraception
When it comes to contraception, the choice is obviously a very personal one. However, you should make sure that you are fully informed before you make any decision. Speaking to your doctor is a great way to start learning about the alternatives. All oral contraceptives come with some risks and side effects as they deliberately throw out of rhythm the normal, healthy ebb and flow of progesterone and estrogen.
For those who don’t want to risk the potential health complications that may come with ‘the pill,’ they may want to opt for barrier methods of contraception instead. These include the traditional male condom, the female condom, the diaphragm, or the cervical cap. None of these carry the same hormonally disruptive and liver-straining risks that oral contraceptives typically do.
If you want to stick with an oral contraceptive but you are experiencing regular yeast infections, then consider switching to a progestin-only pill. Progesterone alone (as opposed to combined with estrogen) is far less likely to create the kind of imbalances that lead to Candida. Other options for progestin-only treatment include shots and implants.
You can also look at natural family planning methods, which use a number of techniques to predict ovulation times. These techniques will likely never be as effective as the contraceptive pill, but they have the benefits of normalizing your hormone levels and putting you in closer touch with your body’s natural rhythms and cycles.
Time To Give Your Liver A Break?
For individuals that have already used oral contraceptives for months or especially years, you may also want to consider doing a gentle liver cleanse. As mentioned before, hormones require metabolization via the liver in order for them to be broken down. Ensuring that you are getting optimal amounts of B vitamins and magnesium in your diet will help bring inflammatory markers down, assisting in detoxing and healing.
Doing a hormone ‘detox’ will also help the body come back into better balance. How can you do this? A few simple steps include:
- Avoid using plastics that contain BPA
BPA is a compound found in hardened plastics that mimics the effects of estrogen.
- Eat more cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower
These contain many powerful cancer-fighting compounds as well as others that encourage better detoxification.
- Consider taking a supplement called milk thistle
Milk thistle is a liver-supportive herb that supports both phase I and II liver detox. Look for a supplement like Liver One that contains milk thistle extract as well as other liver-supporting active ingredients.
Remember that your body is always striving to return to good health. Many times we do things, often unknowingly, that disrupt its optimal healthy state. For many women, this may include oral contraceptive use. Knowing your options and how to help it along can only help your odds of being and feeling the best you possibly can.
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- LIVER ONE to process and remove the toxins created by Candida.
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Does long term HRT treatment make a person more prone to suffer candidiasis?
Hi Vivienne, yes it can be a factor. According to a research report from 2011 (see here), “Postmenopausal women taking HRT are significantly more prone to develop vulvovaginal candidiasis than women who are not”.
I take BC for severe endometriosis pain with cycles…I wish I could do something else instead as I just got over candidiasis (with taking a 2 month break from the pill )but the it is the only thing that stops the pain at all and within minutes. Any suggestions?
Hi AD, have you considered getting a second opinion from an integrative doctor? I know that some dietary changes and supplementation have been shown to help with endometriosis pain. You might be able to put a plan together that helps you to get off the oral contraceptives.
Hiya I have recently been told that the contraceptive injection is good pain relief for endometriosis, it has stopped my periods all together and I’ve suffered no other side affects
You may want to look into Naprotechnology. They have developed a safe method of removing the endometrosis. It is a surgical procedure but it does not require constantly putting harmful chemicals into your body. I guess I look at it as “If eating organic foods and hormone free meat is supposed to be the best for my health doesn’t taking strong chemicals and drugs defeat the purpose?”. Something to consider.
I was recently diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome and was told by several doctors that if i didn’t get onto a contraceptive to cue my body to ovulate, that I run a significant risk of developing uterine cancer as the lining of blood isn’t able to shed each month. What suggestions do you recommend from a holistic perspective?
Hi Courtenay, this is really too complicated a question to answer without much more information. I would suggest finding a good integrative doctor, comprehensively testing your hormone levels, and working out some options for a treatment plan.
Thanks for the info! Do you know if the same is true for an IUD?
Hi Emily, IUDs offer a very friendly place for Candida to create biofilms – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18402852
What about taking the progesteron only pill or inplant-is that less likely to increase candida?
Using a progestin-only method seems to be much less likely to contribute to a Candida infection. Research has shown that elevated progesterone levels do not typically trigger Candida overgrowth, whereas an excess of estrogen is much more likely to do so. However, anecdotally it does seem that some women do experience more yeast infections after taking progestin-only pills, so it really depends on the individual.
Hi! I have been taking the pill for over 15 years! The only reason is for acne control. As soon as I would stop (because I did try) acne came back like crazy. Is there anything you would suggest to help balance out the hormones and help with the acne? Like diet or supplements? I did try MACA powder which didn’t do much.
Thanks so much
Hi Catherine I would suggest speaking to an integrative doctor about hormone testing and some alternative treatments. Supplements like maca root, magnesium, vitamin D and others can all help to balance your hormone levels, but the plan needs to be tailored to your own particular situation.
Hi Lisa, I have the IUD called Mirena, which gradually secretes progesterone into the lining of the uterus. Does this have the same effect as the oral contraceptive on yeast?
Hi Anna, any IUD can contribute to a localized Candida infection. In fact, Candida is able to form biofilms on any part of the IUD. Here is a research study from 2008 that might help: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18402852.
What about all the host of fertility awareness methods? They can be used to achieve or avoid pregnancy and help you find out of there are any gynaecological problems that wouldn’t otherwise be picked up.
Absolutely! Natural family planning techniques are great alternatives for many women.
BPA is primarily found in hard transparent plastic containers of different kinds and in the thin coating inside metal cans and tins. BPA is more efficiently transfered to food with high fat content.
Have you heard of the NuSwab Vaginitis Panel? My doctor suggested that I have that test to help us determine if I have a virus or not.
Hi Sibyl, I just looked at the Nuswab brochure and it looks like they do test for Candida albicans. They have panels that test for Candida krusei and other species in the Candida genus too. And they also test for bacterial vaginosis . Get the most comprehensive test that you can!
I’m confused..i have estrogen positive breast cancer and confused why all the doctors have told me that taking contraceptives is a risk REDUCING factor for ER+ cancer. Why does your article say otherwise and where’s the studies to back up your claim? https://www.thecandidadiet.com/candida-oral-contraceptives/?utm_content=buffer60727&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer
Hi Annie, it really depends which cancer you are talking about. Here’s what the National Cancer Institute has to say about this:
“the risks of endometrial and ovarian cancer appear to be reduced with the use of oral contraceptives, whereas the risks of breast, cervical, and liver cancer appear to be increased”
I’m been go through Menapause for 3 years, I keep getting thrush in the mouth, I have never experienced in my life time , only ever since Menapause
I have being in pre menopause for the past two years.. the dr put me on birth control in august.. and it worked wonders for my menstral cycle and pain.. but— i have been sick ever since..infection in my mouth,, then oral thrush twice.. 3 lots of nystatin.. now burning mouth.. my god.. its a nightmare.. so after reading so much stuff about what birth control can cause,, i am stopping today and see what happens for the next 6 months.. i know it takes a while to see if anything will clear up.. but i don’t know what else to try. I could fall apart completely.. or who knows,, it just get rid of all this stuff thats making my life very sad.
Pamela, I too suffered infections, thrush type situation and as soon as I stopped taking birth control pills it went away. I’ve had no problems since.
Thank you for your amazing website and helping so many of us out there. I started the Candida diet and I suffer from M.E as I have Chronic Reoccurring Epstein Bar. I believe I have had Candida even inside the womb as my mother has always had it. 6 weeks into the lifestyle change and I was nearly the old Carey. However I got a sinus infection as I think I went to intense to fast ( to many fungal killers). My doctor cried when she had to put me on antibiotics for it and all my work went down the toilet as antibiotics cause candida overgrowth in the first place ( antibiotics for a year). I have noticed since I have gone off the pill I have improved dramatically with candida. I am back on the detox and having 60 grams of carbs a day. However I need some form of contraception. Do you know if the jab is okay for candida? Thank you for all your amazing work. Keep changing lives 🙂
I have a nexplanon implant in my arm, does this have the same effect with yeast as the oral contraceptive?
I have tried the progesterone only coil and got thrush but my Doc said it could be due to the candida gathering around the coil and not being flushed out so I am now trying the Noriday 3 hr pill. I thought the female cap might work but needs to be used with spermicide which is well known for giving thrush. I had a chronic period 10 years ago and the no sugar diet and supplements got rid but i am always wary that it could return if i dont watch my diet. My partner cannot used condoms (and dammit i have tried it with condoms on but no joy) what would your advice apart from natural methods? I am not sure about the female condom? Many thanks