You may be scratching your head and wondering what the hell do the pill, copper and anxiety have to do with each other? Unfortunately, more often than not, they go hand in hand when taking the pill.
The oral contraceptive or the “pill” is used by more than 100 million women around the globe. However, most of the women I speak to have little idea what this tiny tablet is doing to their overall health and wellbeing and in particular their mental health. When we take the pill we’re taking a synthetic version of oestrogen and progesterone and these synthetic hormones hijack our body’s natural hormonal system preventing ovulation while thinning the uterine lining (endometrium) to make it harder for the fertilised egg to attach. They also produce thickening of the cervical mucus, preventing sperm progression into the uterine cavity.
How does the pill prevent ovulation? When we have constantly elevated hormone levels as a result of the pill, this elevation in hormonal levels inhibits the release of hormones from your brain that tell your body to ovulate. Yup, scary right! How does this all fit in with copper and anxiety? Well, when we take the pill, this increases our hormone levels, in particular oestrogen and elevated oestrogen in the blood stimulates the kidneys to retain copper. Oestrogen does this by stimulating similar receptors to aldosterone (a hormone produced by the adrenal gland which helps to regulate sodium, potassium and blood pressure) – when these receptors are stimulated they tell the kidneys to increase sodium, copper and water retention. Hello swollen ankles!
Copper is an extremely stimulating mineral for our nervous system this is because copper up-regulates adrenaline and noradrenaline. Elevated copper acts like caffeine and in some individuals, can mirror the effects of amphetamines. This allows you to keep going and going but prevents you from being able to settle down and calm your mind. Over-stimulation of our nervous system as a result of copper toxicity can lead to feelings of mental agitation, restlessness, insomnia, racing mind and of course anxiety and in some cases, panic attacks.
Not only does copper toxicity upregulate adrenaline it also blocks absorption of key calming nutrients particularly, zinc required for making our calming neurotransmitter GABA and magnesium our potent calming mineral. This provides the perfect storm for anxiety to come flooding through the gates and take a hold over your life.
And anxiety is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of side effects. Other side effects include:
- Weight gain
- Inflammation of the stomach and intestines
- Breast pain
- Vaginal yeast infections
- Menstrual disorders
In a time when mental illnesses are the third leading cause of disability in Australia and with one in every five Australians experiencing a mental illness every year, it begs the question – Is the pill worth it?
Stay tuned next week I’ll discuss how you can minimise the impact of the pill on your body.
Words by Megan Jane
NATUROPATH | NUTRITIONIST | BIOMEDICAL SCIENCE