Are Your Meds Robbing Your Body Of Key Nutrients?

Suzy Cohen R.Ph.
Posted: 03/21/11 09:59 AM ET

Tired and Depressed? Chronic Pain? Brain Fog? Leg Cramps? Digestive Problems? Hair Loss? Nerve Pain? These symptoms may be a result of the medications you're taking! Surprised?

Prescription and over-the-counter drugs help millions of people with diseases and chronic conditions, but did you know that in the process, these medications can also deplete the body's natural stores of vitamins, minerals, and hormones, causing uncomfortable and unpleasant side-effects and even new diseases?

The drug-induced nutrient depletion suppresses the very nutrients that you need to keep energy levels high, fend off infections, and remain healthy. I call these medications "Drug Muggers," and it's essential to replenish what a drug mugger steals from your body in order to feel your best.

Let's first talk about taking medicine, since millions of Americans do. Taking medicine means that you are being robbed of essential nutrients because drugs have the ability to rob your body's stores of vital life-sustaining nutrients. When a drug robs your body of a nutrient you will experience another effect of that drug, something you call a "side effect." Side effects are often the reason that people don't stay compliant with their medication regimen. They become so miserable that they have to stop taking the drug, against their physician orders. If you need your medicine (or if you want to stop it) then that decision is between you and your doctor. I'm not getting in the middle of that.

My highest desire is to help people find their side effect solution. If you have to take medicine, then you should know how to "marry" it with the essential nutrient that it steals, so you can minimize or eliminate uncomfortable and unwanted side effects.

You probably didn't know that drugs could deplete nutrients or "mug" them as I say, but I bet you have experienced the drug mugging effect first hand. Everyone who has taken a medicine and felt a side effect knows exactly what I'm talking about. The classic example is antibiotics -- they are drug muggers for your normal intestinal flora and when they rob your gut of these 'friendly bacteria' you develop side effects such as diarrhea, abdominal cramps, indigestion and nausea. As the natural healthy environment in the gastrointestinal tract gets destroyed by the antiobiotic because they can't distinguish the good bacteria from the bad bacteria, then you get more uncomfortable side effects.

Women may develop a vaginal yeast infection and men could get jock itch. It's all because of the drug mugging effect of antibiotics, these drugs mug probiotics. One way to avoid these side effects is to take probiotics in-between each antibiotic dose. Start taking the probiotics on the day you begin your antibiotic, and for 10 days after you finish your course of therapy. It's okay to stay on these indefinitely as far as I'm concerned. Probiotics are rock stars when it comes to protecting you from infection and improving digestion and regularity.

Another example of the drug mugging effect is statin cholesterol drugs, such as Zocor, Mevacor, Lipitor, Crestor or Pravachol. These medications are capable of mugging your body of Coenzyme Q10 (also called CoQ10). When your body is robbed of CoQ10, your muscles pay the price. You may experience side effects such as muscle aches, spasms and muscle cramps. This is because CoQ10 is an antioxidant that is needed to feed your muscles. When you become deficient, your muscle cells basically 'suffocate' so you feel the pain.

Dozens of popular medications mug CoQ10, not just cholesterol reducers. Your heart is a muscle too, so low CoQ10 could affect the heart. Well designed clinical trials have proven that a CoQ10 deficiency can cause heartbeat irregularities, angina and ultimately lead to congestive heart failure. You can supplement with CoQ10, about 100mg twice daily taken without regard to meals. This is widely available at health food stores and pharmacies nationwide.

Let's take a closer look at some of the other popular drug muggers:

Many believe that women who take hormonal replacement drugs or birth control pills could be robbed of B vitamins, iron, selenium, magnesium, zinc and probiotics. A long-term deficiency of these nutrients could cause all sorts of problems including low thyroid, weight gain, hair loss, panic attacks, memory deficit, bone loss, frequent infections and depression not to mention a higher risk for high blood pressure, stroke and heart attack. Instead of taking numerous drugs for all those side effects (which could easily get diagnosed as a new disease if you don't know about drug mugging) you can simply restore the lost nutrients with affordable vitamins and minerals among which include a high-quality B-complex supplement, about 100mg daily, and probiotics.

Alcohol smashes levels of thiamine and glutathione, an important antioxidant for liver function. This leads to liver failure, neuropathy and psychiatric problems. It's easy to supplement with whey protein shakes or with an over-the-counter nutrient called N.A.C. (N-acetylcysteine). This is made by Jarrow, Life Extension, Twinlab and others.

Blood pressure medications and steroids like prednisone are drug muggers of magnesium. It's needed for a healthy, stable mood and for attention span. Without enough magnesium, a person could become irritable, anxious, develop low-attention span (ADHD), melancholy, depression, panic attacks and high blood pressure. Very ironic!

Low magnesium causes pancreatic dysfunction (think diabetes). Magnesium is tough to absorb, and often causes diarrhea. The best way to take magnesium is with blue-green algae, called spirulina. This natural supplement contains an easy-to-digest form of minerals and B vitamins. It contains a lot of healthy magnesium and zinc that work in synergy. Try Spirulina. It is sourced from pristine waters of Hawaii and purified into tasteless tablets as well as powder. Spirulina is also known to help a person nourish the production of thyroid hormone and therefore lose weight faster, and improve hair and nail growth. Lately, there are many fears of radiation from the Japan nuclear crisis, I should mention that there are well-designed clinical trials that suggest spirulina's ability to protect humans from damage caused by radiation.

The number one diabetes drug in the world (metformin) just so happens to be drug mugger of a few nutrients such as CoQ10 and vitamin B12. Low levels of these nutrients can affect the brain causing memory impairment, confusion and depression. Also, the nerves could start to hurt, and neuropathy may develop because B12 protects the myelin which is a coating that protects nerve fibers. If you require metformin for your blood sugar, just "marry" this medication with the two nutrients so you can avoid or minimize the side effect. As to forms of vitamin B12, the best type is called "methylcobalamin" and is widely available by dozens of makers. The CoQ10 can be found easily as well in both health food stores and pharmacies nationwide.

By now, it's probably become clear to you that you can replenish your body's warehouse of nutrients with absurdly inexpensive nutrients that are available over-the-counter. It's so easy to feel better, if you know what to target. There is no need to suffer and spend your days trying to figure out how to feel better. Within weeks, sometimes days, you start to feel better. Now you have knowledge, and knowledge is power.

I wish you well.

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