Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis risk was found to be associated with the long-term use of oral contraceptives. Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs), like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, are more common in women than men, and previous research has linked their occurrence with the use of birth control pills.
The original 2012 study found clear connections between IBD and oral contraceptives. The researchers looked at 232,452 women who provided information on IBD status every two years along with their use of contraceptives, pregnancy status, number of pregnancies, menopause status, and other lifestyle factors.
The initial findings found a strong association between the use of birth control pills and IBD. Other findings included:
- Pregnancy status and the age of the first pregnancy were not associated with IBD.
- Three hundred ninety two cases of ulcerative colitis and 315 cases of Crohn’s disease were observed in the group.
- Current users, compared to never-users, had higher rates of ulcerative colitis, but the numbers were not statically significant.
- In women who currently or previously smoked, the use of oral contraceptives was associated with a higher risk of colitis. This association wasn’t significant among non-smokers.
- Crohn’s disease did not appear to be affected by smoking status.
- Body mass index or age did not impact Crohn’s disease or colitis cases.
Researcher Dr. Hamed Khalili said, “What’s very clear is that Crohn’s is not caused by oral contraceptive use by itself. It’s a combination of oral contraceptive use among individuals with a strong genetic predisposition to Crohn’s. It’s an interaction between these two that significantly increases the risk of an individual developing it.”
In a letter to the editor, Dr. Khalili wrote, “Recent data have linked modification in the gut microbiome to endogenous levels of androgens, which are also known to be altered with OC [oral contraceptive] use and influence the development of autoimmune diseases. This supports the intriguing hypothesis that the gut microbiome lies at the crossroads of pathways linking exogenous hormone use with innate and adaptive immunity.”
Tips to help you cope and manage Crohn’s disease
Crohn’s disease can be difficult to manage, so here are some tips to help you better navigate the illness and improve the quality of life.
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals.
- Jot down foods that cause symptom flares and avoid them in the future.
- Stop smoking.
- Exercise regularly to boost energy and reduce stress.
- Avoid alcohol if you are on antibiotics.
- Stay well hydrated to prevent dehydration.
- Try a low-fiber diet.
- Ensure you are absorbing nutrients properly or take a multivitamin.
- Watch out for corticosteroid side effects.
- If you feel you are entering a depression, seek help.
- Join a support group.
These tips, along with following your treatment plan, can help you better manage your Crohn’s disease with minimal complications.