Do you take prescription medications? According to the Department of Health and Human Services,1 (HHS) over half of all Americans take at least one prescription drug, with one in six of us taking three─or more. Prescription drug use is clearly on the rise, and increases measurably with age. In fact, 5 out of 6 people 65 and older are taking at least one medication and nearly 50% of them take three or more.
What’s the connection between drugs and nutrients? Well, as you may know, most Americans already fall short on important vitamins and minerals. A recent study entitled "What America's Missing: A 2011 Report on the Nation's Nutrient Gap,"2 revealed that 90 percent of Americans are nutrient deficient. According to the report, 9 out of 10 of us are low in 11 key nutrients, including calcium, vitamin D and potassium.
Toss Rx drugs into the mix, and you add insult to injury. Why? Because both over-the-counter and prescription drugs can alter the absorption and utilization of nutrients that your body needs to function properly, and/or force them to be wastefully excreted. Drug-induced nutrient depletion is a serious issue, and sadly, many patients are totally unaware of it. Here are just a few examples:
Cholesterol lowering statins like Lipitor and Zocor deplete your levels of CoQ10, a fat-soluble, vitamin-like molecule that promotes oxygen uptake by the cells, providing a crucial "spark plug" for cellular energy production. Research suggests that even a 25% reduction in CoQ10 may cause illness, whereas a 75% reduction can actually be fatal.3 Depending on the statin dose, blood levels of CoQ10 may be reduced by 32% to 52%.4,5
Since antibiotics disrupt your gastrointestinal flora─friendly bacteria─they can adversely affect key nutrients, specifically B-complex vitamins like B1, B2, B5, B6, and B12, all of which serve many important functions. Compromised GI flora also impairs vitamin K, which may result in bleeding and prolonged clotting time.6,7 Along with replacing these vitamins, probiotics are important allies to help rebuild your friendly, protective gut flora.
Diuretics cause increased fluid and electrolyte loss by changing kidney function. They also deplete potassium as well as forcing it to be excreted, along with thiamine and magnesium, which can cause severe outcomes.8,9 Diuretics can also increase loss of calcium as well as the B-vitamin thiamine. Many patients receiving a diuretic have heart failure, which can be exacerbated by thiamine deficiency.10,11
Learn more about entire categories of commonly used drugs and the wide range of nutrients they deplete with this comprehensive chart.
By now we know even the healthiest among us would be well advised to protect ourselves with a high-quality, daily multi-vitamin/mineral formula. However, if you take any medications─even Tylenol or Advil─that daily nutritional safegaurd is more important than ever.
3 Drugs Exp Clin Res. 1985;11(8):539-45.
4 Clin Pharmacol Ther 1995;57:62-6
5 Arch Neurol 2004;61:889-92
6 Scand J Infect Dis Suppl 1986;49:17-30
7 Eur J Cancer Prev 1997;6:S43-5
8 J Am Diet Assoc 1991;91:66-73
9 Am J Med 1987;82:38-47
10 Am J Med 1995;98:485-90
11 Int J Vitam Nutr Res 1994;64:113-8