Nutrient depletion from prescription drugs

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Using prescription medicines and over-the-counter drugs can deplete some of the vital nutrients our body needs. This can happen either through interfering with absorption of a particular vitamin, or by reducing the body’s ability to synthesize some essential nutrients. Storage, metabolism, and excretion may also be at hand.

As a pharmacist, I recognize the importance of the medicines we take. I also consider our nutritional health fundamental. I have a 75-page reference chart in my office that lists hundreds of drug induced nutrient depletions. Yet, this is emerging as a largely ignored epidemic.

This can be a big challenge, especially as many of us take multiple prescriptions or non-Rx medications. We take blood pressure lowering drugs like beta- blockers and diuretics, drugs that regulate blood sugar like metformin, and statins to lower cholesterol. There are oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapies, as well as drugs that protect us from osteoporosis.

Some drugs have been well documented at increasing the risk of further disease. For example, proton pump inhibitors give rise to a concern for developing osteoporosis. Drug induced nutrient depletion generally becomes problematic slowly overtime, leading to potentially serious health complications, rather than an abrupt acute reaction.

I see a lot of ibuprofen use and other non-prescription pain medications, as well as anti-ulcer drugs. There are many benefits we can receive from these. Yet, the reality is that many of these drugs also have the potential to reduce available nutrients that are key to our overall health.

Nutrient depletion, rather than the actual drug, is often responsible for many of the side effects associated with both over-the-counter and prescription drugs.

Potential side effects of depletion vary, but can include low energy, headache, nausea, diarrhea, dizziness, tinnitus, itching, swelling, muscle spasms, weight gain, low libido, and constipation. More severe complications could include memory loss, seizures and dementia, and congestive heart failure.

Not everyone will have the same experience. We all vary in regards to genetics, diet, movement and stress. These factors affect not only our overall health, but our nutritional status while we are taking drug therapies.

The most commonly depleted vitamins and minerals include calcium and magnesium, folic acid, B12, vitamin C, and coenzyme Q10. CoQ10 is one well known nutrient that our body can be deprived of when taking a statin or tricyclic antidepressant.

Decreases in vitamins, minerals, amino acids and fatty acids can leave our body without nutrients needed for the numerous chemical reactions that influence every aspect of our metabolism.

Given, drug therapy is essential and necessary part of medicine. I think it is equally important to be aware of the nutrients that can be depleted. I like to assess depletion risks that relate to side effects, future symptoms and conditions and then take action to avoid the losses that can potentially threaten our overall health and well-being, especially with large and prolonged dosages.

Taking a high quality multivitamin enriched with antioxidants, B complex, calcium and magnesium is an important consideration to counter drug-induced nutrient depletion. You are welcome to come in and talk with us anytime about all this.

Scott Porter is a functional medicine pharmacist at Sandpoint Super Drug. He is a member of the Sandpoint Wellness Council.

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