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The Hidden Risks: 20-plus Foods and Supplements That Threaten Birth Control Safety

Certain foods, herbs, and supplements can potentially make your birth control less effective. We take birth control to prevent pregnancy, so if something compromises the efficacy, we should be well aware and act appropriately. Unfortunately, many of our medical professionals do not provide this education. Here is a detailed list of these items.

The Food List

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There are foods that can interact negatively with birth control.


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Grapefruit and grapefruit juice can increase the levels of estrogen in your body by inhibiting the enzyme CYP3A4, which is involved in the metabolism of some hormonal contraceptives.

Licorice, Yam, Soy, and Dairy Products

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These foods contain compounds that might affect hormone levels, although their impact on birth control effectiveness is likely minimal unless consumed in very large quantities.

Vitamins, Herbs, Drugs & Supplements

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There are several herbs, vitamins and supplements to be aware of. We want our birth control to be as effective as possible.

St. John’s Wort

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This herb is known to accelerate the metabolism of hormones in birth control due to its induction of the liver enzyme CYP3A4, potentially making the contraceptive less effective.

Saw Palmetto

Saw palmetto.
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Often used for prostate health and hair growth, this herb may affect hormone levels.

Garlic Pills

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Some people take these for cardiovascular health, but they might interfere with hormonal birth control.


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Used for digestive health, it may also impact hormone levels, whether it is in its whole or ground state.


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Known to potentially increase liver enzyme activity, which could lead to faster breakdown of contraceptive hormones.

Queen Anne’s Lace (Wild Carrot Seed)

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Used historically as a natural contraceptive, it is taken after unprotected sex to prevent implantation.


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Contains elements like rutin and gallic acid, which are believed to prevent pregnancy by hindering implantation.

Vitamin C

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High doses of Vitamin C can increase estrogen levels, potentially affecting the effectiveness of birth control.

Activated Charcoal

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Known for its strong absorptive properties, activated charcoal can absorb medications like birth control pills if taken concurrently, reducing their effectiveness.

Detox Teas

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These often act as laxatives, which can prevent oral contraceptives from being fully absorbed if they cause diarrhea. By the way, the term “detox tea” is very much a marketing term and their effectiveness is not evidence based, anyway.


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Beautiful black woman getting a good night’s sleep. Image credit David Prado Perucha via Shutterstock.

Used for sleep regulation, there is some concern that it might interfere with hormonal birth control, although conclusive evidence is lacking.

Additional Considerations

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There are a few drugs that can negatively affect birth control that deserve a special mention.

Antibiotics like Rifampin

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Known to decrease the effectiveness of birth control by increasing the metabolism of hormones.

Antifungal medications

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Some, like Griseofulvin, can interact with birth control pills.

Anticonvulsants and Anti-HIV Drugs

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These can also reduce the effectiveness of hormonal contraceptives.

The Takeaway

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It’s important to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new food supplement, herb, or medication if you are using hormonal birth control. They can provide guidance on potential interactions and suggest alternative contraceptive methods if necessary.

Coming Off Birth Control: What To Expect And How To Make It Easier

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The birth control pill serves as a vital tool for managing reproductive health. However, there comes a time for many individuals when they contemplate discontinuing its use. There are ways to make the transition easier; let’s look at what is in store. READ Coming Off Birth Control: What To Expect And How To Make It Easier

Over-The-Counter Birth Control Pill Becomes Available For The First Time

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In a groundbreaking move, Perrigo has commenced the distribution of Opill, the first nonprescription birth control pill in the United States, to retailers across the nation. This pivotal development promises to empower millions of individuals by ushering in a new era of reproductive health access. Read: Over-The-Counter Birth Control Pill Becomes Available For The First Time

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  • Dede Wilson

    Dédé Wilson is a journalist with over 17 cookbooks to her name and is the co-founder and managing partner of the digital media partnership Shift Works Partners LLC, currently publishing through two online media brands, FODMAP Everyday® and The Queen Zone.

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