Why Medications and Lifestyle Deplete Nutrients
By Natalia Daughton, R.Ph.
In my 25 years of experience in retail pharmacy (17 years as a registered pharmacist), I have never seen as many medications being prescribed as I do today. I learned that, when compounded with our "on-the-go" lifestyle, individual stress, consumption of processed foods, lack of exercise, and genetic makeup, we may have the ingredients for disaster.
Pharmacists have been trained to recognize drug interactions. However, as health professionals, shouldn't we also be looking at the possibility that these prescriptions might be depleting us of crucial vitamins and minerals—or actually be interfering with how our bodies naturally produce the substances required to keep us functioning and performing optimally?
Addressing nutritional deficiencies is not only the foundation to good health, but, in today's healthcare system where prevention is being mandated because healthcare costs are out of control, it is truly necessary. Let's investigate two key nutrients hit hard by longterm prescription medication use and depleting lifestyle choices.
Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include the following:
• Muscle cramps and spasms
• Increased blood pressure
• Nervousness, insomnia, anxiousness
• Kidney stones
• Arrhythmias, irregular heartbeat, palpitations
• Blood sugar dysregulation
One of the most depleted nutrients when diuretics, such as hydrochlorothiazide, indapamide, and metolazone (typically a firstline therapy for hypertension), are used is magnesium. Most pharmacists address only the potassium depletion. Other medications are also implicated in magnesium depletion.
It is very important to address magnesium deficiency since 75% of Americans have magnesium intake below the recommended daily intake to begin with. Compound that with certain lifestyle factors, including stress and alcohol consumption, and magnesium reserves fall quickly.
Magnesium is a co-factor assisting in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body. It is needed for energy production, muscular activity (especially the heart muscle), increasing oxygen supply to the heart, inhibiting platelet aggregation, temperature regulation, vasospasm regulation, cell detoxification, and helping to build healthy bones and teeth. Magnesium is also necessary for the conversion of vitamin D to its active form. (FYI: Low vitamin D levels will prevent proper absorption of magnesium.)
The best way to determine your personal requirements for magnesium is to increase the dosage to bowel tolerance, meaning start by taking the suggested dose of magnesium and increase the amount until it causes a laxative effect. Once reached, reduce slightly and that is the dosage of magnesium your body requires.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
Another nutrient commonly depleted by medications is CoQ10. With Lipitor® being the leading selling prescription drug in the United States, one can see why. Lipitor® (Atorvastatin) along with Zocor® (Simvastatin), Mevacor® (Lovastatin), Pravachol® (Pravastatin), Lescol® (fluvastatin), Crestor® (rosuvastatin), and Vytorin® (ezetimibe/simvastatin), also known as HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors or statin drugs, decrease the production of cholesterol, but they also decrease this very important cofactor naturally produced by the body. Other medications have also been implicated in CoQ10 depletion.
CoQ10 is necessary for the production of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which makes energy, is a cofactor necessary for cellular respiration, and an antioxidant.
Some of the consequences of CoQ10 depletion include:
• Muscle weakness
• Cardiovascular disease
• Periodontal disease
• Weakened immunity
• Loss of cognitive function (Alzheimers, Dementia, Parkinsons)
There are many animal and human studies demonstrating the effectiveness of this coenzyme. A double-blind, three-year trial involved administering 100 mg of CoQ10 daily to patients suffering from cardiomyopathy. Results showed a significant increase in ejection fraction (the amount of blood pumped through the heart), increased cardiac muscle strength, and fewer instances of shortness of breath by the 12-week mark. The effects lasted only as long as CoQ10 was being administered. There was 89% improvement in the 80 patients treated.
A direct correlation of CoQ10 deficiency with increased risk of periodontal disease has been established. Symptoms include swelling, bleeding, loose teeth, redness, pain, deep gingival pockets, and exudates.
Tissues involved with immune function require a significant amount of energy. CoQ10 has an "immune enhancing" effect on the human body according to a study that showed an increased immunoglobulin G in the serum of patients taking the nutritional supplement daily for 27 to 98 days. Improving immune function is necessary when treating AIDS, chronic infections (Candidiasis), and cancer. There are no adverse interactions between CoQ10 and any other drug or nutrient.
CoQ10 is typically dosed at 50-300 mg/day, although doses of over 3,000 mg daily have been proven safe and effective. It works very well in conjunction with vitamin E and L-carnitine.