What if Your Medicines are Making You Sick? (Part 1)

What if Your Medicines are Making You Sick? (Part 1)

Part 1:  A Look at Drug-Induced Nutrient Depletion

Many patients and even doctors are unaware that several of the most commonly prescribed medications can deplete vital nutrients.  This is concerning, especially considering that most Americans already struggle with poor nutrition.  As Americans, we are also heavily medicated.  Almost 50 percent of all American adults regularly take at least 1 prescription medicine and 20 percent take three or more.  Many drugs lower levels of nutrients by inhibiting crucial enzymes, binding nutrients in the gut or flushing vitamins and minerals out through urine.  An understanding of these interactions can help to prevent some of the “side effects” of these common medications.

Jen Ramaekers, Pharm D

Lipitor (atorvastatin) is the number 1 prescribed drug in the United States.   This, like all the other “statin” drugs inhibit the enzyme HMG-CoA reductase.  This enzyme is responsible for a key step in synthesizing cholesterol.  This same enzyme is crucial in the synthesis of CoQ10 (a type of fuel for the mitochondria, or energy houses in cells).  It has been shown that supplementation of CoQ10 which taking statin drugs may prevent muscle pain, liver toxicity and increase energy.  CoQ10 should be supplemented at 30-200mg per day.  Beta-blockers (i.e. metoprolol, atenolol, propranolol), drugs used for hypertension and slow heart rate, have also been shown to deplete CoQ10 and supplementation is also recommended while using them as well.

Another commonly prescribed group of medications are thiazide diuretics (hydrochlorothiazide, chlorthalidone, metolazone).  Many clinicians are aware that these medications can decrease potassium levels and will many times prescribe potassium to be taken in conjunction with the diuretic.  But, these diuretics can also cause loss of magnesium, sodium and zinc.  Furosemide and other loop diuretics can deplete not only potassium, magnesium and zinc, but also calcium, pyridoxine (B6), thiamine (B1) and ascorbic acid (Vitamin C).  If you are currently taking one of these diuretics, a good supplement regimen would contain calcium 1000mg, magnesium 250-500mg, potassium 100mg, vitamin C 1000mg, B1 320mg, B6 10-25mg and zinc 25mg.

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