WLM ARTICLE: “Drug-Induced Nutritional Depletion”
Submitted by: Dr. R. Todd Shaver / Shaver Chiropractic & Natural Medicine
8 April 2014
America is awash in a flood of prescription medication. Certainly, there are instances when drugs are necessary and even life saving …. but there is no denying that Americans are over-medicated. One out of five children and 9 out of 10 seniors in the United States are on prescription drugs. The United States accounts for only 4.6% of the world’s population, yet Americans consume 80% of the world’s opioid pain medication. In any given month, 48.5% of Americans use at least one prescription drug.
This excessive use of medication is not helping; rather, it is sickening and killing us. The New England Journal of Medicine reported that the United States spends more per capita for healthcare than any other country but we rank only 36th for life expectancy. More than 2 million Americans per year suffer serious side effects from prescription drugs. Another 106,000 Americans die annually from adverse reaction to prescription drugs. Medication-related deaths now exceed traffic deaths in the United States.
One of the more insidious dangers posed by prescription drugs is nutrient depletion. Nutritional depletion renders people less able to resist disease, heal, and function optimally. Yet, many commonly used medications literally rob your body of essential vitamins and minerals. To illustrate, we will discuss the nutrient depletion caused by a few of the most widely prescribed medications.
Analgesics (pain medications) are among the top three drugs types prescribed during physician office visits. Analgesic drugs like Tylenol, Percocet, Oxycodone, Vicodin (and others) drain the body of Glutathione, one of the body’s most important antioxidants. Glutathione protects the body’s tissues; it can help to control symptoms related to autoimmune disease (i.e. Rheumatoid Arthritis, Hashimoto’s Disease, Chrohns Disease, etc.) and may help to prevent such autoimmune dysfunction. Glutathione preserves and protects nerve cells against inflammation and degeneration. Glutathione also promotes proper immune responses, supports maintenance of the protective blood-brain barrier and the intestinal barrier. Glutathione is a natural chelator that can bind and facilitate removal of harmful environmental compounds such as heavy metals and pollutants that may trigger autoimmunity and other disease.
In addition to analgesic medications, Anti-cholesterol drugs and anti-depressant drugs round out the top three most prescribed drugs. Many of cholesterol and anti-depressant drugs rob the body of an important substance called Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). Every cell in the body uses CoQ10 in the process of energy production. People with heart failure have been found to have lower levels of CoQ10 in heart muscle cells. Lower levels of CoQ10 have also been observed in patients with Parkinson’s disease.
Nutrient depletion is also associated with popular anti-inflammatory medications. Anti-inflammatory drugs include ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), naproxen (Aleve), Voltaren, and steroid drugs. The anti-inflammatory class of drugs drains the body of critical nutrients including Calcium, Folic Acid, Magnesium, Potassium, Selenium, Sodium, Strontium, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, Vitamin D and Zinc.
Many other prevalent drugs also contribute to this problem. For example, oral contraceptive drugs can cause depletion of Folic Acid, Tyrosine, Magnesium, Vitamin A, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Vitamin C and Zinc.
Antacid medications can drain the body of Beta Carotene, Calcium, Chromium, Folic Acid, Iron, Magnesium, Vitamin B12, Vitamin C and Zinc.
Antibiotic drugs can cause depletion of several B vitamins, Calcium, Chromium, Vitamin D, Vitamin K, Magnesium and Zinc. Additionally, antibiotic drugs kill beneficial bacteria that promote healthy gastrointestinal function.
By now, the point has been made that many medications compromise the body’s nutritional status. So, what do we do about this? First, if you must use a medication, it is especially critical that your diet is nutrient dense. Eat plenty of fresh raw or lightly cooked vegetables & fruits. Include lean cuts of protein like chicken, turkey and beef filet. Get healthy fats from foods like cold-water fish, avocado, olive oil and coconut oil.
Also, plan to make your use of drugs as short-term as possible. When provided with a prescription, ask your doctor for the “exit plan”. Know how and when you can terminate your reliance on the drug.
Most importantly, make lifestyle and healthcare choices that can help to minimize your risk of requiring drug therapy. Eat well, exercise, maintain healthy relationships with family and friends, be content, pray, shed unnecessary stress. Do not just react to disease, rather, be proactive; assure that your healthcare team includes a doctor who considers it his/her responsibility to provide services and information that will allow you to cultivate health and avoid disease.