Drug-Induced Nutrient Depletion: How Serious is it?

Oct 2019

About half of all the drugs used in clinical practice have documented drug depleting effect. With so many people today on the Standard American Diet (SAD) and consuming more medications for their chronic conditions with lots of chemicals in these pills as well as environmental exposure more than ever before, result in significant nutritional deficiencies that is leading to metabolic disruptions.

It is a known fact that many of the chronic conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and cancer are all subject to a nutritional consequence in- regards to their root causes. Whether you take prescription medications like cholesterol-lowering statin drug such as lipitor, blood-pressure med like metoprolol, proton-pump inhibitor like nexium, or over-the-counter drug occasionally, your chances for potentially serious nutrient depletion increases.

While medications provide relief and treatment for many chronic conditions, they also deprive the body of vital nutrients necessary for optimal health. While it is easy to suspect nutrient that’s deficient due to one medication, the more medication someone takes long term, the greater the chances of more nutrient depletion, especially in the older adults mostly due to their extensive medication profile with reduced drug clearance. Other people who are prone to nutrient depletion include poor eaters, those with digestive issues, smokers, frequent alcohol users and people on multiple meds. Are you one?

It is important to know that drug induced nutrient depletion can include a number of multiple factors. This can lead to patients complaining of new onset of side-effects that usually makes their physicians prescribe more and more new medications to treat those side-effects leading to a vicious cycle. This provides

a lot of opportunities for pharmacists to intervene and look back at patient’s medication profile and do some digging to see when these side-effects first started and therefore spare the patient from yet another drug being added. Prescribing cascades are a known problem nationwide.

How do you avoid side-effects of nutrient depletion and what are your options for replacing these nutrients with natural supplements?

I will discuss a few of the many medications and over-the-counter products that have been shown to cause drug-induced nutrient depletion.

Drug induced nutrient depletions usually start with gradual onset, which is why it is often overlooked.

Some examples of medications that deplete nutrients include:

Statin drugs such as crestor, lipitor, zocor and Pravachol for lowering cholesterol. They deplete Omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin K, vitamin C, iron, Co-Q10 and potassium which are important nutrients for the health of the cardiovascular system.

Proton-pump inhibitors such as prilosec, protonix and nexium for GERD. They deplete Vitamin B12, Folic acid, calcium and zinc. The risk for long-term use lead to low vitamin B12 levels, increased risk for fractures and life-threatening infections like Clostridium difficile (C.Diff). This can cause severe diarrhea and continues to claim thousands of lives every single year according to the CDC.
If you start to have watery stools, seek immediate medical attention. Talk to your doctor to monitor your vitamin B12 levels with long-term use, and ask if to supplement with calcium and vitamin D supplement.

Metformin for Pre-diabetes and diabetes. It depletes Folic acid and vitamin B-12. People taking metformin should ask their doctor to closely monitor their folic acid and vitamin B12 levels and replenish depleted nutrients as necessary.

Birth control pills (BCP) and hormone replacement therapy deplete Vitamin B6, vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, folic acid, vitamin C, vitamin E and vitamin B12. If you’re taking BCP, talk to your pharmacist on how to replenish these essential nutrients such as trace mineral or vitamin needed in minute amounts to keep your body functioning well. It is also important to use nutrition to counter depletion by focusing on eating a balanced diet with foods rich in the vitamins and minerals that tend to drop with the pill utilization.

Antibiotics such as erythromycin, zithromax and biaxin for infection deplete Vitamin B1, B2, B3, B12, vitamin K, folic acid and biotin. NSAIDS for pain relief and antibiotics also eliminate beneficial bacteria that are found in our intestinal tract that support healthy digestion and immune function. Talk to your pharmacist about replenishing with a high- quality probiotic and fermented foods such as kefir, sauerkraut, Korean kimchi and miso.

H2-blockers such as Pepcid, for heartburn deplete vitamin B12 causing anemia, depression and increase the risk of cardiovascular problems. They cause vitamin D depletion resulting in osteoporosis and muscle weakness. They deplete iron levels causing anemia, weakness and brittle nails. They deplete zinc levels leading to sexual dysfunction and low immunity.

Drug-induced nutrient depletion occurs more frequently than people realized since these warnings are not written on prescription labels.

Pharmacists are well knowledgeable in helping physicians to assess whether symptoms are due to illness, side-effects of the meds, or perhaps, due to drug-induced nutrient depletion.

Obviously, genetics plays a crucial role in how our bodies grow and age, especially when it comes to our metabolism. Variations in our genetic code can have both positive and negative effects on how our body utilizes nutrients.

The Gene SNP Analysis can compile a personalized Health Action Plan that provides recommendations regarding lifestyle, diet, exercise, and supplementation. This can help you understand how these gene variations affect the choices you make – from diet to exercise to supplementation – so you can maintain optimal health.

Pharmacists are drug experts who can give accurate information on nutritional supplements and their role in patients’ health.

Most people should have baseline coverage of a daily high-potency multivitamin, Co-Q10, Omega 3 fatty acid, probiotic and vitamin D supplements.

It is important to know that there is a healthy range of nutrient levels and exceeding these levels can also cause adverse health effects. This is where pharmacists can educate patients. Pharmacists can pay close attention to a patient’s full medication list, including

prescription, OTC drugs and herbal supplements and insist patients bring a list of all these meds to the pharmacy and to their doctor’s appointments every time. We also educate our patients about nutrient deficiency symptoms to watch out for. Example include fatigue, trouble breathing, depression, tingling or numbness, and changes in appetite just to name a few. Talk to your personal pharmacist today.

To replenish your nutrient depletion needs, click this link for high-quality natural nutrient supplements without fillers, gluten, or GMOs.

About the Author:

Dr. Christina Wachuku is the Founder/Owner of MediFixx Health, LLC. She’s a Board-Certified Ambulatory Care Clinical Specialist, and places strong emphasis on Medication Therapy Management services as the ultimate preventive healthcare practice.


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