Birth Control Worsens Vitamin A Toxicity

birth control vitamin A toxicity

Birth control pills and hormonal IUDs cause MANY specific nutrient deficiencies while increasing blood levels of toxic “vitamin” A.  For many women, “the pill” is the real and most obvious starting point of their downhill health slide.  The copper IUD is not any better, and guarantees copper toxicity, just like having mercury/amalgam fillings in your mouth guarantees mercury toxicity.  Don’t be fooled otherwise.

I’m going to give you something to think about.  FERTILITY is a marker of HEALTH.  If one is INfertile, then they can be assumed to be UNhealthy.  Therefore, if something specifically makes a person INfertile, then it should be assumed that this thing is causing UNhealthy effects to the body. 

By logical extension then, birth control pills are entirely UNhealthy to begin with, and the research below shows that they are a nutritional disaster (no, I don’t care about “low-dose” excuses, if it causes INfertility, the same logic applies).

Birth Control, Vitamin A Toxicity, & Fertility

To begin…as you may already know, I am of the belief that ALL autoimmune diseases stem from a foundation of “vitamin” A toxicity.  As you will see laid out in lots of research below, pharmaceutical birth control RAISES serum (blood) “vitamin” A levels in the system.  Is there any evidence, then, linking birth control usage to later autoimmunity?  YES, “substantial evidence” at that:

Hormonal contraception and the development of autoimmunity: A review of the literature

Horrible Side Effects of Birth Control

Based on this review, substantial evidence exists linking the use of combined oral contraceptives to a lower incidence of hyperthyroidism, an increase in multiple sclerosis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, and interstitial cystitis

Progesterone only contraceptives are linked to progesterone dermatitis and in one large developing world concurrent cohort study are associated with increases in arthropathies and related disorders, eczema and contact dermatitis, pruritis and related conditions, alopecia, acne, and urticaria. Hormonal contraceptives modulate the immune system and may influence the susceptibility to autoimmune diseases with significant increases in risk for several autoimmune diseases.

Wow, right?  Bet your Ob/Gyn never told you about these little life-long side effects, did they?!?

How Birth Control Pills Causes Vitamin A Toxicity: Studies

I’m going to put the most recent study first that specifically demonstrated that long-term birth control pill usage caused “vitamin” A toxicity in rats. Then, I’ll go back to the oldest studies I have (1975) and go through them to the most recent.

The mechanism by which birth control raises “vitamin” A levels (by inhibiting its degradation/detoxification) are discussed after that.

Short story:  if you ever took birth control pills, this is a major red flag for ongoing “vitamin” A toxicity that could greatly benefit from our Love Your Liver Program.  It will not just go away on its own…in fact, without specifically addressing it, it will steadily get worse.

The below study shows how birth control use in rats caused them chronic liver damage due to retinol hypervitaminosis aka “vitamin” A toxicity:

The toxic pathophysiology of retinol hypervitaminosis and norethisterone enantate in rats. [1990]


The use of the long acting contraceptive was accompanied by clinically overt toxic manifestations on the liver, glucose tolerance, in addition to the danger of carcinogenicity. Also chronic hypervitaminosis “A” leads to a variety of toxic manifestations of obscure mechanism. 

The objective of this experimental work was directed to study the toxicity of the isolated and combined augmented doses of the two therapeutic agents on the female albino rat. The results of the present study evidenced that the long acting contraceptive norethisterone enantate is potentially hepato- and nephro-toxic. 

More damage to the liver; and luteinization of theca and stroma cells of the ovaries occurred as a result of retinol hypervitaminosis. The brunt of toxicity and damage on the test organs after coadministration of both chemicals proved to be synergetic except on the ovarian tissues.

Now I’ll show you the massive amount of research showing that birth control raises toxic “vitamin” A (and toxic copper will show up too!) in the blood:

Oral contraceptives and vitamins: a review. [1975]

The literature concerning the influence of estrogen-containing oral contraceptives on vitamins is reviewed. The appearance of an elevated plasma concentration of vitamin A is probably without clinical importance, while there seems to be a clear connection between disturbances of vitamin B6 metabolism and mental symptoms. Low levels of folic acid and vitamin B12 have also been noted. 

Despite this, it is very rare that hematologic abnormalities develop during hormonal contraception. A reduced concentration of vitamin C in plasma and blood corpuscles has been reported. The clinical significance of these alterations is unknown.

Effects of oral contraceptive steroids on vitamin and lipid levels in serum. [1975]

The group of women using oral contraceptive agents was found to have significantly higher levels of hemoglobin, packed cell volume, serum vitamin A, total lipids, triglycerides, vitamin E, and alpha1-protein and significantly lower levels of serum and red cell folacin, vitamin B12 and albumin. The biological significance of many of these differences has not been elucidated satisfactorily.

Effect of oral contraceptive agents on nutrients: II. Vitamins. [1975]

As a rule the intake of oral contraceptive agent subjects of vitamin A, C, B6 and folic acid did not differ from that of the controls. 


Increased plasma vitamin A and decreased carotene levels were observed in oral contraceptive agent users.


Erythrocyte folate and plasma pyridoxal phosphate was decreased in A groups due to oral contraceptive agents. 

Relationship between levels of blood lipids, vitamins C, A, and E, serum copper compounds, and urinary excretions of tryptophan metabolites in women taking oral contraceptive therapy. [1975]

The highest blood pressures and serum triglycerides and vitamin A levels were obtained in those women who ingested the highest level of estrogens. Pregnant women had the lowest levels of serum vitamin A. The oral contraceptive agents users had the lowest average levels of carotenoids corresponding to the highest average levels of vitamin A in the serum. 

Thus, estrogens not only increase the rate of change of tryptophan to niacin but may also increase the rate of conversion of carotene to vitamin A. 

Effect of Ovral, a combination type oral contraceptive agent, on vitamin A metabolism in rats. [1975]

When a typical combination-type oral contraceptive agent (Ovral, which contains 0.5 mg norgestrel and 0.05 mg ethinyl estradiol per tablet), is given to young female rats at 50 x the human dosage for an extended period, plasma vitamin A levels are elevated about 50%. 

Effects of oral contraceptives on vitamin metabolism. [1976]

PIP: Literature on the effects of oral contraceptives (OCs) on vitamin metabolism is reviewed. OCs have been reported to markedly increase serum levels of Vitamin-A. OCs may induce a thiamine deficiency and lower levels of Vitamin-B2. Concentrations of ascorbic acid in platelets, white cells, plasma, and urine are decreased by OCs. Decreased plasma and red blood cell concentrations of folic acid have been reported in OC users, though it does not appear that absorption of folate polyglutamate is affected. 

OC users may develop megaloblastic anemia because of folic acid deficiency. OCs have been reported to markedly reduce serum levels of Vitamin-B12. 

Vitamin A Interaction With Hormones [H4]

Vitamin A transporting plasma proteins and female sex hormones. [1979]

Oral contraceptive therapy induced a significant increase of retinol-binding protein which was correlated with the increase of vitamin A. The increase was about 35% for the formulation containing synthetic estrogen as compared with 15% for the one with natural estrogen. 


Women taking oral contraceptives have about a 50 percent higher than normal concentration of retinol in their plasma. 

Serum vitamin A and retinol-binding protein in malnourished women treated with oral contraceptives: effects of estrogen dose and duration of treatment. [1979]

Malnourished women who had been treated with combination-type oral contraceptives containing 0.03 mg or 0.05 mg of ethinyl estradiol and 0.15 mg d-norgestrel had significantly higher levels of serum retinol-binding protein (RBP) and vitamin A after two or five cycles of treatment compared with untreated control subjects. 


Both of the pills produced significant increases in serum vitamin A and RBP after 2 or 5 months of use, the rise being slightly, though not significantly, greater with pill B; however, after 12 months of treatment, RBP levels were normal or only marginally elevated, whereas vitamin A levels continued to be high. 

Nutritional effects of oral contraceptive use: a review. [1980]

OC users have 50%-80% higher serum levels of Vitamin A than nonusers…

Effect of oral contraceptive agents on vitamin and mineral requirements. [1980]

Vitamin A, in contrast to the B vitamins, increases in the plasma of women taking OCs, perhaps due to greater mobilization of the vitamin by the liver. 


Zinc levels generally decrease, whereas copper levels in serum significantly increase in association with OC use. At present, supplements of vitamins and minerals are recommended only for high-risk groups.

Nutrition and the pill. [1984]

The use of contraceptive pills has been shown to decrease the physiologic levels of six nutrients–riboflavin, pyridoxine, folacin, vitamin B12, ascorbic acid and zinc–and to increase the levels of four others–vitamin C, iron, copper and vitamin A. 

Effects of Birth Control on Metabolism [H4]

How do birth control pills raise “vitamin” A levels if they don’t contain any, you wonder?  They inhibit an enzyme system that includes ALdehyde DeHydrogenase (ALDH) and Alcohol DeHydrogenase (ADH), both of which are critical in the breakdown of “vitamin” A and alcohol.  I will explain.

Birth Control & Alcohol Metabolism [H4]

First, let’s establish that alcohol dehydrogenase metabolizes aka breaks down aka “detoxifies” ethanol/alcohol.  Note the intermediate compounds, that will be important later:

Alcohol Metabolism: An Update


Alcohol is metabolized by several processes or pathways. The most common of these pathways involves two enzymes—alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH). These enzymes help break apart the alcohol molecule, making it possible to eliminate it from the body. 

First, ADH metabolizes alcohol to acetaldehyde, a highly toxic substance and known carcinogen (1). Then, in a second step, acetaldehyde is further metabolized down to another, less active byproduct called acetate (1), which then is broken down into water and carbon dioxide for easy elimination (2).

Is there evidence of birth control pills (oral contraceptives) inhibiting alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH)?  Yes.

The effect of oral contraceptives on reproductive function during semichronic exposure to ethanol by the female rat.

Hepatic alcohol dehydrogenase was inhibited due to EE [ethinyl estradiol] when compared to water-controls in the 5% ET [ethanol] drinking animal,

Is there evidence of birth control pills inhibiting aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH)?  Yes.

Studies on ethanol and oral contraceptives: feasibility of a hepatic-gonadal link.

Short-term administration of a synthetic estrogenic steroid ethinyl estradiol, inhibited liver mitochondrial ALDH in the intact female rat

Is there evidence in women on birth control experiencing reduced/inhibited breakdown of alcohol?  Yes.

Ethanol metabolism in women taking oral contraceptives.

These results were consistent across the three phases of the menstrual cycle and when body leanness was taken into consideration. The decreased rate of ethanol metabolism in women taking oral contraceptives is consistent with reports of other drugs having decreased metabolic rates in women taking birth control pills. 

These results suggest that women taking oral contraceptives should be cautioned concerning their possible interaction with ethanol, as well as other drugs.

You may be asking yourself…why are we talking about alcohol so much here, when we’re really after the connection to toxic “vitamin” A?  I will get there, I promise!

It’s because the very systems–aldehyde dehydrogenase and alcohol dehydrogenase systems–that break down alcohol are involved in the detoxification of “vitamin” A!


Studies from several groups provided evidence that the aldehyde form of vitamin A was oxidized irreversibly to vitamin A acid, and that this reaction was catalyzed by aldehyde dehydrogenases (ALDHs) in calf and rat liver (Dmitrovskii 1961; Futterman 1962; Elder and Topper 1962; Mahadevan et al. 1962; Dunagin et al. 1964; Lakshmanan et al. 1964) (Figure 1, step 2). 

Thus, it was concluded that together with alcohol dehydrogenase, the aldehyde-oxidizing enzymes provided a pathway from the vitamin A alcohol to the acid (Dmitrovsky, 1961; Futterman, 1962; Bamji et al. 1962; Mahadevan et al. 1962), similarly to the metabolism of ethanol to acetaldehyde and further to acetic acid.

Remember from the first alcohol breakdown process?

Alcohol -> acetaldehyde -> acetate / acetic acid

Does that look similar to this process that was just described above?

Retinol (vitamin A alcohOL) -> retinaldehyde (the VA aldehyde) -> retinoic acid (the vitamin A acid)

It is the same chemical process.  If something inhibits that system, it inhibits the breakdown of BOTH alcohol and “vitamin” A.  Hence, the increase in “vitamin” A levels in many, many studies from taking any type of birth control.

Birth Control & Vitamin A Toxicity: Conclusion

With the ample evidence I’ve provided, there is a clear link to birth control causing and/or increasing “vitamin” A toxicity via a number of different pathways. Its effects on fertility can be likened to a male bodybuilder taking Androgenic Anabolic Steroids (AAS). AAS shut men down in a similar way to birth control in women. Moreover, birth control affects women in a variety of ways exogenous testosterone does not in men. If you are adamant to detox “vitamin” A – or detox anything for that matter – birth control is one of the last things you want to take. 

Birth Control & Vitamin A Toxicity: A Testimonial [H3]

Before reading the quote, it should be known that oral contraceptive pills (OCP), also known as birth control pills (BCP), are well-known in the scientific literature to RAISE “vitamin” A in the bloodstream.  

I also saw your post this morning about SAD [Seasonal Affective Disorder, the “winter blues”] and “vitamin” A. I was actually just thinking of that yesterday. All of my health issues started at the age of 17 when I started taking oral contraceptives, so I was trying to think back and remember if I had SAD prior to that point, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t. 

Prior to taking birth control, I was highly motivated, didn’t procrastinate, I wasn’t depressed (I can’t say I was a happy kid, but that was family circumstances rather than my health), I didn’t have gut issues, I always slept well. The only issues I had prior to starting birth control were ear infections and headaches/migraines, but my mom smoked in the house and I attribute those things to that. 

My period started when I was 14. It wasn’t great (heavy bleeding, terrible cramping, up to 10 days of bleeding), but I didn’t have the menstrual migraines that have plagued me since coming off the birth control about 10 years ago. Actually, I should tell you, the migraines stopped when we increased my zinc dose after my last hair/blood test! [she is a Testing & Consultation client]

I’m just getting going on the detox because my personal life is in major upheaval (divorce and loss of a beloved dog). I have lost 9 lbs in the last couple months – it started because I didn’t have much of an appetite with everything going on, but I also stopped eating dairy because it seemed like the easiest step to start with. I had assumed I’d gain the weight back when I started eating more again, but I haven’t. So getting rid of dairy alone was huge for me. Alright, this is already too long. Thank you for everything that you do!

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