Drug-Induced Nutritional Deficiencies
Many commonly prescribed medications cause nutritional deficiencies. There is a 50-50 chance you are taking one prescription medication. Did you know that while that medication may be helping you with one medical condition, it may be predisposing you to other medical problems because of drug nutritional deficiencies caused by prescription medications? How big of a potential problem is this, that is nutritional deficiencies caused by prescription medications?
Consider this. According to the CDC, 48.6% of population has taken one prescription medication the past 30 days, 24% of the population has taken three or more prescription medications in the past 30 days, and 12.8% of population has taken more than five medications prescription in the past 30 days. So that creates a huge potential for those individuals of developing a drug-induced nutritional deficiency leading to other medical conditions.
And, here is the thing that is disconcerting. Many commonly prescribed drugs have marginal benefit as we have alluded to before in this article. This article discusses that 20% of new drugs are associated with serious adverse reactions. This is one reason that it is generally recommended that you not take a new drug until it has been on the market for about five years. Moreover, between 2002 and 2011 only 8 of 946 new drugs were determined to have any clear clinical advantage over older existing drugs.
So which drugs cause nutritional deficiencies?
Drugs that Cause Nutritional Deficiencies
We will now list drug classes that contain drugs that commonly cause nutritional deficiencies.
- Acid suppressing drugs and antacids
- Anxiety medication
- Birth control medications
- Blood pressure medications
- Cholesterol lowering medications
- Diabetes medications
Chances are if you are taking a medication long-term you are probably taking a medication that falls into one of these classes. Let’s now look at some of the more common drugs in each of these classes and the nutritional deficiencies that they cause.
Acid-suppressing drugs and antacids
The antacid suppressing drugs include H2 antagonist and proton pump inhibitors. Examples of H2 antagonists include Zantac, Pepcid, andTagamet. Proton pump inhibitors include Nexium, Prilosec, and Prevacid.
There are several classes of antibiotics. Antibiotics deplete the body of calcium, magnesium, potassium, and many of the B vitamins, and vitamin K. They also disrupt the normal gut microbiome potentially causing several other medical conditions.
The antipsychotics include drugs such as Abilify, Haldol, Seroquel, Zyprexa, and, Risperdal. The anti-psychotics deplete the body of riboflavin also known as B2.
Anxiety medications include the benzodiazepines which include Ativan, Valium, Xanax and Restoril. They deplete the body of calcium.
Birth Control Pills
Birth control pills deplete the body of folic acid, magnesium, and vitamin B6.
Blood Pressure Medications
Blood pressure medications are among the most prescribed medications. There are several subclasses of blood pressure medications. These include ACE inhibitors, ARBs, calcium channel blockers, and beta blockers. The ACE inhibitors deplete the body of zinc. Calcium channel blockers deplete the body with potassium. Beta blockers deplete the body of Co Q10 which is a necessary nutrient in the mitochondria of our cells. The mitochondria produce energy.
Cholesterol Lowering Medications
This is another commonly prescribed class of medications with different subclasses with the major subclass being the statin drugs. The statin drugs include Crestor, Lipitor, Zocor, Mevacor, and Pravachol. Statins deplete the body of Co Q10 just like the beta blockers, and they also deplete the body of our fat soluble vitamins which include vitamin A, D, E, and K.
Corticosteroids are frequently used to treat inflammatory processes, allergies, and pain. They can be administered either topically, orally, as injections, and through IVs. They deplete the body of calcium and magnesium.
There are several diabetes medications. Many of these are what we call oral hypoglycemics with the most common ones being metformin, glimepiride, glipizide, and several others. They generally deplete the body of vitamin B12 and folic acid.
Diuretics are also known as water pills. They deplete the body of several minerals including calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and vitamin B1 which is thiamine.
So as you can see these medications frequently cause mineral deficiencies. So what are the symptoms of mineral deficiencies?
Calcium is naturally found in milk, yogurt, cheese, small fish with bones, beans and peas. Also broccoli kale cabbage are good sources of calcium. Prolong calcium deficiency contributes to osteopenia and osteoporosis.
Symptoms of calcium deficiency include cramping of the muscles, numbness, tingling in the fingers, fatigue, poor appetite, irregular heart rhythms.
Magnesium plays any central role in over 200 chemical reactions in the body. Some of these responses include controlling blood glucose levels and blood pressure as well as proper function of muscles and nerves, brain function, energy metabolism ,and protein production.
Magnesium is found in legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and green leafy vegetables.
Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include fatigue, weakness, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, numbness, tingling, muscle cramps, seizures, abnormal heart rhythms.
Potassium is an electrolyte and it’s required for muscle contraction, proper heart function and a transmission of nerve signals.
Good sources of potassium include fruits and vegetables such as bananas, avocados, dark leafy green vegetables, beets, potatoes as well as orange juice and nuts.
Symptoms of potassium deficiency include muscle cramping, weakness, constipation, bloating and abdominal pain as well as irregular heart rhythms.
Zinc is important for protein synthesis function of the immune system, wound healing in DNA synthesis. Good sources of sank include beans, nuts, whole grains, and dairy products
Zinc deficiency causes loss of appetite, taste, smell and impairs the immune system.
How to Avoid Drug-Induced Nutritional Deficiencies
The ideal way to avoid drug induced nutritional deficiencies is to keep yourself in good enough health that you do not need to rely on prescription medications. But beyond that, it would be advisible to see if any medication you are on causes a nutritional deficiency, and then replace that nutrient either through the diet by eating foods high in that nutrient, or through supplementation with vitamin and mineral supplements. Blood work can be obtained in advance to determine your level of a particular vitamin or mineral which would then guide dosing with a supplement.