A Brief Guide to Drug-Induced Nutrient Depletion

Published on July 27, 2015 by Dr. Colin O'Brien

Pharmaceutical drugs are not inherently bad. In many, many cases they improve the quality of life in those suffering from disease and they achieve their intended purposes. However, that doesn’t mean that pharmaceutical drugs are also without flaws. We have known for an extremely long time (50+ years) that prescription drugs can deplete various nutrients.
When we compound this with the fact that most drugs are over-prescribed (ie. in circumstances where dietary, lifestyle and other measures have not been fully explored) that is where the problem lies. For example, statin drugs are the most common prescription in Canada at around 22 million per year, according to data from 2010. In elderly patients aged 65 of older, 76% report the use of one more pharmaceutical drugs. Even more telling, many infants are now recommended proton pump inhibitors (PPI’s, used for heartburn and gastritis). A study examining 2,500 infants found that over 50% were given PPI’s before the age of four.
Prescription drug use is only becoming more common. With this in mind, we need to be aware of how these drugs are affecting our bodies and, in the case of nutrition, how we can offset unwanted side effects.
Here is a brief list of the most common drugs in Canada and the nutrients that may be depleted as a result of their long-term usage:

1. Statins (ie Lipitor, Crestor): CoQ10, Vitamin D3, Vitamin K2
2. Synthroid: Calcium
3. Anti-hypertensives: Zinc (ACE inhibitors such as ramipril, captopril and elanopril), Magnesium & Potassium (Diuretics such as thiazides and lasix)
4. PPI’s (ie Nexium, Prevacid): Magnesium, B12
5. Benzodiazepines (ie Valium, Xanax): Melatonin
6. SSRI’s (ie Zoloft, Paxil, Prozac) : Melatonin
7. NSAIDs (ie Advil, Aleve, Motrin): Folic Acid *only with long term and high dose use
8. Prednisone: Calcium, Chromium and Magnesium
9. Metformin: B12, Folic Acid
10. Oral Contraceptives (ie Alesse): B12, B6, Folic Acid, Magnesium

This is a very generalized list and is not intended to act as a “cheat sheet” for deciding which nutrients you should supplement. There are so many variables at play for each person that make it impossible to base recommendations simply on your prescription drug list.
Speak with your integrated healthcare practitioner about your pharmaceutical medications to determine which nutrients, if any, may require supplementation and what combinations will be the most effective and safest for your circumstances.

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Select References:

Stargrove, M., Treasure, J. and McKee, D. (2008). Herb, nutrient, and drug interactions. 1st ed. St. Louis, Mo.: Mosby/Elsevier.

IMS Brogan, Compuscript. Top 50 Dispensed Medications in Canada, 2010. Retrieved July 23rd, 2015 from: http://www.imshealth.com/deplo...

Ramage-Morin PL. Medication Use among senior Canadians. Health Matters. Statistics Canada Health Reports, Vol 20, no 1; March 2009

Smith, C. Proton pump inhibitors for irritable infants. Child Health Update. Canadian Family Physician 2013; 59(2): 153–156