Birth Control and Grapefruit Don’t Mix

Ladies, we all remember the moment when the doctor is naming all the horrible side effects caused when starting new birth control pills: nausea, headaches, risks of blood clots, risks of breast cancer and many more.

L0059976 Model of a contraceptive pill, Europe, c. 1970 Credit: Science Museum, London. Wellcome Images Birth control was still a taboo subject before the 1960s. ‘The pill’ seemed an ideal contraceptive because it was effective, not messy, and did not interfere with sex. The oral contraceptive pill also empowered women to take greater control of contraception. However, the first pills had a far higher level of hormones than required. This caused heart problems in some women. Later pills rectified this. ‘The pill’ is still prescribed worldwide. maker: Unknown maker Place made: Europe made: 1965-1975 Published: - Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0

L0059976 Model of a contraceptive pill, Europe, c. 1970
Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0

Although what most people do not know and what most doctors fail to mention is the effect that a simple fruit such as grapefruit can have on the metabolism of birth control pills.

By Citrus_paradisi_(Grapefruit,_pink).jpg: א (Aleph) derivative work: — raeky (Citrus_paradisi_(Grapefruit,_pink).jpg) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons

To see how such a fruit affects the way a female body digests the birth control pills we have to look at the constitution of these pills. Birth control pills are made of hormones that cause changes in the female reproductive system to make it incompatible with gestationEstradiol is a form of the sex-related hormone “estrogen” that controls Vaginal, Fallopian tube and Uterus growth. It is a main component of the birth control pills.  During the process of pill digestion, most of the pill is absorbed in the intestine with the help of CYP3A4 enzyme that has the ability to break down drugs and dispose them from the body.

Häggström, Mikael. “Medical gallery of Mikael Häggström 2014”. Wikiversity Journal of Medicine 1 (2). DOI:10.15347/wjm/2014.008. ISSN 20018762. (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Unfortunately, drinking grapefruit juice or eating grapefruit affects the enzyme’s activity directly by inhibiting its digestive function. The inability of the pill to be absorbed by the body, leads to a high percentage of the contraceptive’s main ingredient, estradiol, to be left in the bloodstream. Such a hormone can be very risky if found in high amounts in the bloodstream.

The most common side effects that will be felt are dizziness, nausea and breast tenderness. Meanwhile, long term exposure to this factor can be a main cause for blood clots and breast cancer.

Even though there are existing speculations that predict grapefruit  has the ability to completely reverse the function of birth control pills by exposing women to the risk of pregnancy, there is no current evidence to support these claims.

Take a look at this video that gives general information on the side effects of having grapefruit while being on different types of medication:

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Author: ABC News

So next time you’re using birth control pills to practice safe sex, please stay away from the “forbidden” fruit that literally has the ability to ruin your life.

Posted by: Doris Stratoberdha


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