14 Foods, Herbs, And Supplements That Can Make Your Birth Control Less Effective

You might not realize that there are certain foods, supplements, and other things you consume that can be getting in the way of how well your contraception works, and these birth control mistakes could have terrible consequences. It sounds mad, but it’s actually really easy to stop contraception in its tracks, so make sure it’s not happening to you by keeping these 14 things out of your diet.

  1. Licorice It’s delicious as a snack, but avoid too much of it if you’re on the birth control pill. Licorice can boost your blood pressure, which isn’t a good thing since oral contraceptives do the same thing. It can also affect your reproductive hormones, which could make you fall pregnant!
  2. Grapefruit It’s a healthy, tasty fruit, but it can affect your intestinal enzymes that control how your body absorbs certain medicines. Grapefruit also decreases how much estrogen gets broken down by the body, which boosts the hormone’s presence. It could therefore potentially cause your contraception side effects to be increased.
  3. St. John’s wort This is a herbal remedy people use for treating depression, but it can decrease how well your birth control works, according to Brown University in Rhode Island. Be sure that any liquid extracts, pills, or herbal teas you consume don’t contain this flowering plant.
  4. Vitamin C You might take this vitamin to stay healthy, and the good news is that it won’t decrease how well your birth control works. However, research by Elon University and Penn State University in North Carolina has found that taking 1,000 mg or more of this nutrient can boost your birth control side effects associated with estrogen, such as nausea, bloating, and headaches.
  5. Red clover If you’re suffering from bad PMS symptoms, you might reach for red clover to treat it but don’t. It contains isoflavones that act like estrogen, so it can increase the estrogen-related side effects of your birth control.
  6. Activated charcoal It might be cool to use this food additive that adds a dash of dark color to your snacks but eating too much can prevent your birth control pills from being absorbed by your body. Activated charcoal works like a sponge that absorbs everything in your gastrointestinal tract, including your birth control. Always make sure you wait at least two hours after taking your birth control pill before consuming charcoal products and avoid eating too much.
  7. Detox tea This can cause a laxative effect, which means if you take birth control pills, they’ll be removed from your body instead of work in the way they should. A detox tea called Bootea was recently attacked by women who claimed that their products were causing their contraceptive pills not to work. Along with detox tea, make sure you also avoid any diet tablets as they’re also laxatives.
  8. Flaxseeds They’ve become really trendy lately for being a healthy food but should be avoided if you’re on the pill, according to University Health News. Since flaxseeds contain phytoestrogens, plant chemicals that mimic estrogen when ingested, they can interfere with the contraceptive pill’s estrogen, which prevents the body’s natural cyclical hormones that cause pregnancy.
  9. Garlic pills Some people take garlic pills for a variety of reasons but they can make birth control less effective. This is because your body disintegrates estrogen in birth control pills to eliminate it and garlic increases how much this happens. Yikes. The result is that your birth control might not work.
  10. Tea It’s known for being super healthy, but caffeinated tea can cause issues if you’re on the pill. When you ingest caffeine, your birth control pills keep it in your system for longer, which means that you can have some nasty side effects, such as anxiety, increased heart rate, and headaches. Although caffeine in itself might not stop your pill’s effects, it can definitely make being on it an unpleasant experience.
  11. Alcohol Drinking when you’re out on the town won’t affect birth control in itself, but it can mess with it in other ways. For instance, if you get drunk, you might forget to take your pill or you could throw up. If you vomit within two hours of taking birth control pills, you could affect your body’s absorption of them.
  12. Melatonin This is a natural hormone the brain produces to help you sleep. You can also get a synthetic form of melatonin to do the same thing, but it can interfere with your oral contraceptive. The birth control pill boosts how much melatonin your body produces, so if you’re adding synthetic melatonin to the mix, you could end up with too much of this supplement and not enough birth control.
  13. Alfalfa This herb is used for a variety of medical conditions, such as high cholesterol. However, it does have a moderate risk when taken with birth control pills. Alfalfa is said to contain estrogen, although not as strong as the hormone found in birth control. However, if you take them simultaneously, it can make the pill work less effectively. It’s advised to use a condom if you’re taking alfalfa at the same time as contraception.
  14. Chamomile It’s a herb that helps you to relax, but before you sip on soothing chamomile tea, consider that it might mess with your pill. Roman Chamomile and German Chamomile are both popular but both can cause problems if you’re on birth control. For instance, Roman Chamomile is broken down by the liver and therefore could interact with drugs that are also broken down in this way, such as birth control pills. It’s also said that German Chamomile can decrease how fast the liver breaks down medications, so if it’s taken with medications that are broken down by the liver, such as birth control, it can increase the side effects of the medication. Nasty!
Giulia Simolo is a writer from Johannesburg, South Africa with a degree in English Language and Literature. She has been working as a journalist for more than a decade, writing for sites including AskMen, Native Interiors, and Live Eco. You can find out more about her on Facebook and LinkedIn, or follow her on Twitter @GiuliaSimolo.