A little known, but potentially life-saving fact is that common medications deplete your body of a host of vital nutrients essential to your health. In this practical guide I’ll show you how to avoid drug-induced nutrient depletion and discuss options for replacing nutrient-robbing medications with natural supplements.
America has been called a pill-popping society, and the statistics bear this out. Nearly 50 percent of all American adults regularly take at least one prescription drug, and 20 percent take three or more. (1) Our increasing reliance on prescription medications has contributed to the growing problem with nutrient depletion. The truth is that every medication, including over-the-counter drugs, depletes your body of specific, vital nutrients. This is especially concerning when you consider that most Americans are already suffering from nutrient depletion. Additionally, many of the conditions physicians see in their everyday practice may actually be related to nutrient depletion. The good news is that, armed with information and the right supplements, you can avoid the side effects of nutrient depletion, and even better, you may be able to control and prevent chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.
A Common Scenario
I have seen case after case of patients who have experienced nutrient loss from taking prescribed medications. Too often, neither the patients nor their doctors are aware that the medications are the real cause of their symptoms.
Drug-Induced Nutrient Depletion is Widespread
Physicians often tell their patients that symptoms arising from nutrient depletion are simply “part of the illness” or just signs that they’re “getting older.” To make matters worse, physicians frequently try to address the symptoms arising from drug-induced nutrient depletion by prescribing even more drugs, further compounding the problem.
On the flip side, some drugs can deplete nutritional status by increasing the desire for unhealthy foods, such as refined carbohydrates. Many of the neuroleptics (anti-psychotic drugs) and some antidepressants cause insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome, with results in blood sugar swings. Patients then crave simple carbohydrates, such as sugar, bread and pasta. Steroid drugs, including those given by an inhaler, can create similar issues as well.
HRT is a Common Nutrient Robbers
Nutrients are essential to the metabolic activities of every cell in the body. They’re used up in the process and need to be replaced by new nutrients in food or supplements. Some drugs deplete nutrients by speeding up this metabolic rate. These drugs include antibiotics (including penicillin and gentamicin) and steroids, such as prednisone, and the gout medication, colchicine.
Hormone Replacement Therapy
Many baby boomers are on hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which can deplete vitamins B6 and B12, folic acid and magnesium. These nutrients are critical for heart health, as well as for mood. Rather than an antidepressant prescription, these women should be given the appropriate supplements to restore balance. I have seen many women do well once these nutrient depletions were addressed. This applies to younger women on oral contraceptives as well. (Well said Dr. Cass, I couldn’t agree more.)
For women on standard HRT (estrogen and progesterone, orally, including as an oral contraceptive, or as a transdermal skin cream) I may also recommend calcium (1,000 mg to 1,200 mg daily), folic acid (400 mcg to 800 mcg), magnesium (500 mg), vitamin B2 (25 mg), vitamin B6 (50 mg), vitamin B12 (500 mcg to 1,000 mcg), vitamin C (500 mg to 1000 mg) and zinc (25 mg to 50 mg).
Drug-induced nutrient depletion is far more common than has been acknowledged. In evaluating patients’ symptoms, doctors must assess whether symptoms are due to the illness, to the side effects of the drugs, or to drug-induced nutrient depletion. Considering the inadequate nutritional status of the majority of the population, we must remember that the illness itself may be due, in part, to nutrient deficiency. For insurance, it is easiest to provide baseline coverage: a daily high potency multivitamin mineral formula, CoQ10 (200 mg), omega-3 fatty acids (2 grams) and additional vitamin D and probiotics.
The bottom line: Physicians must look more deeply and determine underlying causes to determine whether drugs are harming patients – and what we can do to reverse these effects. As a consumer, be aware of these drug-nutrient depletions, and do what you can to avoid taking medications whenever you can, using natural products instead.
For more information, see my book, Supplement Your Prescription: What Your Doctor Doesn’t Know About Nutrition [http://www.cassmd.com/SuppYourPrescrpBk/SupYourPrescp_bk.html] available at my website, www.cassmd.com.
1. Centers for Disease Control and Statistics. Health United States 2006. www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hus/hus06.pdf#093.
2. The ALLHAT Officers and Coordinators for the ALLHAT Collaborative Research Group. JAMA 2002;288:2998-3007.
3. Clayton JA, Rodgers S, Blakey J. Thiazide diuretic prescription and electrolyte abnormalities in primary care. Br J Clin Pharmacol 2006 Jan;61:87-95.
4. Pak CY. Correction of thiazide-induced hypomagnesemia by potassium-magnesium citrate from review of prior trials. Clin Nephrol 2000;54:271-275.
5. Khedun SM, Naicker T, Maharaj B. Zinc, hydrochlorothiazide and sexual dysfunction. Cent Afr J Med 1995;41:312-315.
6. Zenuk C, Healey J, Donnelly J, et al. Thiamine deficiency in congestive heart failure patients receiving long term furosemide therapy. Can J Clin Pharmacol 2003;10:184-188.
7. Kishi T, Watanabe T, Folkers K. Bioenergetics in clinical medicine XV: Inhibition of coenzyme Q10-enzymes by clinically used adrenergic blockers of beta-receptors. Res Commun Chem Pathol Pharmacol 1977;17:157-164,
8. Stoschitzky K, Sakotnik A, Lercher P et al Influence of Beta-blockers on Melatonin Release. Eur J Clin Pharmacol. Apr1999;55(2):111-15.
9. Langsjoen PH, Langsjoen AM. The clinical use of HMG CoA-reductase inhibitors and the associated depletion of coenzyme Q10: A review of animal and human publications. Biofactors 2003;18(1-4):101-111.
10 Crane FL. Biochemical functions of coenzyme Q10. J Am Coll Nutr 2001;20:591-598.
11. Folkers K, Langsjoen P, Willis R, et al. Lovastatin decreases coenzyme Q levels in humans. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 1990;87:8931-8934.
12. Valuck RJ, Ruscin JM. A case-control study on adverse effects: H2 blocker or proton pump inhibitor use and risk of vitamin B12 deficiency in older adults. J Clin Epidemiol 2004;57:422-428.
13. Russell RM, Golner BB, Krasinski SD. Effect of antacid and H2 receptor antagonists on the intestinal absorption of folic acid. J Lab Clin Med 1988;112:458-463.
14. Sturniolo GC, Montino MC, Rossetto L, et al. Inhibition of gastric acid secretion reduces zinc absorption in man. J Am Coll Nutr 1991;10:372-375.
15. Yang, YX, Lewis JD, Epstein S, Metz DC. Long-term proton pump inhibitor therapy and risk of hip fracture. JAMA 296 (24): 2947-53
16. Zhao-Wei Ting R, C Chun Szeto, M Ho-Ming Chan, et al. “Risk factors of vitamin B12 deficiency in patients receiving metformin.” Archives of Internal Medicine Oct 9, 2006: 1975-1979.
17. Wulffele MG, Kooy A, Lehert P, et al. Effects of short-term treatment with metformin on serum concentrations of homocysteine, folate and vitamin B12 in type 2 diabetes mellitus: A randomized, placebo-controlled trial. J Intern Med 2003;254:455-463.
18. Bottiglieri T. “Folate, vitamin B12 and neuropsychiatric disorders.” Nutrition Review Dec 1996; 54(12): 382-390.,
19. Bottiglieri T, M Laundy, R Crellin, et al. “Homocysteine, folate, methylation, and monoamine metabolism in depression.” Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry Mar 2001; 70(3): 419.
20. Landau D, Kher KK. Gentamicin-induced Bartter-like syndrome. Pediatr Nephrol 1997;11:737-740.
21. Elliott C, Newman N, Madan A. Gentamicin effects on urinary electrolyte excretion in healthy subjects. Clin Pharmacol Ther 2000;67:16-21.