There’s a reason conventional medicine is known as a culture of sickness. And it’s not just because the American approach to healthcare favors medication over prevention.
There’s an even more vicious cycle at work here. Turns out, many of the most popular prescriptions in this country treat one condition only to create countless more. (And not infrequently, the same types of problems drugmakers designed them to solve.)
One way they do this is by stripping your body of the vital nutrients it needs to stay healthy—a side effect that can send your whole body into a deadly tailspin.
So here are the facts you need to know… along with some safe, simple ways to keep yourself from becoming another statistic.
Nutrient Thief #1: Cholesterol Reducers
Considering that statin drugs are marketed to protect your heart, this fact might surprise you. But it’s true: These popular cholesterol reducers also deplete your levels of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)—a critical antioxidant tasked with preserving cardiovascular health, among other important roles.
Research shows that CoQ10 can lower levels of LDL cholesterol—and small dense LDL particles in particular, which play an especially dangerous role in heart disease development.1 Ironically, this is the exact same thing that drugmakers designed statins to do—but with one major difference. Unlike CoQ10, statin drugs come with a laundry list of notorious side effects, from muscle pain to increased diabetes risk.2
Research suggests that these side effects are at least partially due to statin drugs’ depletion of CoQ10.3 And they’re not the only cholesterol reducers linked to significant nutrient depletion, either.
Another class of lipid-controlling drugs called bile acid sequestrants can deplete an even longer list of critical vitamins and minerals. Among them: beta carotene, calcium, folic acid, iron, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin B12, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K and zinc.4
It goes without saying that you’ve got more than one reason to question the safety of prescription cholesterol-reducing regimens.
Natural Cholesterol Reducers
Luckily, there’s a better way to balance cholesterol. Quite a few of them, in fact.
Like niacin, for starters. Clinical research shows that a simple niacin supplement can boost good HDL cholesterol by a quarter, while lowering LDL and triglycerides by 13 percent and 20 percent, respectively.5
Guggulipid is another effective cholesterol-lowering alternative. Studies show that supplementing with this tree resin extract can bring your lipid profile back into balance in as little as six months.6
Gamma-oryzanol and beta-sitosterol are two other plant compounds that can help to block cholesterol absorption and keep LDL levels in check.7-8
Nutrient Thief #2: Blood Pressure Drugs
While we’re on the subject of heart health, let’s take a minute to talk about blood pressure drugs. Turns out these popular medications aren’t exactly risk-free either.
Take thiazide diuretics, for example. They’re one of the top prescriptions when it comes to battling hypertension. But they do so at a price, robbing your body of several key electrolytes—including potassium, sodium and magnesium—in the process. (Not to mention CoQ10—just like statin drugs.9)
As you may know, electrolytes are vital for proper muscle function. And that includes the most important muscle in your body—your heart.
ACE inhibitors, meanwhile—which include drugs like Captopril and Vasotec—can leach your levels of sodium and zinc. And that, in turn, can impede immune function and wound healing, among other key biological processes.10
Lower Blood Pressure Naturally
As with cholesterol control, you have a lot of options when it comes to natural blood pressure balance.
A simple magnesium supplement could make all the difference. This mineral is a well known hypertension-fighter. And research shows that daily supplementation can drop systolic, diastolic and mean blood pressure levels significantly.11
Grape seed extract is another powerful solution. This antioxidant can increase nitric oxide production, which allows your blood vessels to relax and widen.12 And clinical studies show that it can deliver life-saving reductions in blood pressure in as little as eight weeks.13
Nutrient Thief #3: Thyroid Medication
Hypothyroidism, or sluggish thyroid gland, is a common condition—especially among older women. And that’s what makes one of its most noteworthy interactions especially problematic.
Thyroid hormones, like levothyroxine, can increase calcium loss.14 What’s more, calcium supplements (including calcium-containing antacids) can interfere with the absorption of these drugs, which makes replacing that lost calcium a tricky task.15 It also means that without careful timing, even your daily multivitamin could block the effects of your thyroid medication.
This is obviously bad news for your bones. But it’s not the only troublesome interaction you could encounter on levothyroxine. This thyroid medication has hundreds of potential drug contraindications—including a number of over-the-counter allergy drugs and the popular estrogen therapy Premarin.16
Natural Thyroid Balance
Give your thyroid all of the nutrients it needs to function properly—and head off problems before they start.
This means looking at your iodine intake, first and foremost. This nutrient is essential for thyroid function. And while deficiency became uncommon with the introduction of iodized salt, it’s on the rise again.
If tests show that your levels are low, eating more iodine-rich fish, sea vegetables and eggs can help to get you back on track. But you may need a supplement for serious results.
In fact, studies show that daily iodine supplementation can reduce harmful antibodies in patients with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis—one of the most common forms of thyroid disease.17
Nutrient Thief #4: Heartburn Medication
Heartburn medication is probably the least surprising entry on the list of nutrient-robbing drugs. The digestive process is responsible for breaking down your food. So any medication that interferes with that is going to come with consequences.
Popular proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) like omeprazole work by reducing stomach acid. And as you might expect, this can lead to dangerous deficiencies in any nutrient that needs stomach acid for proper absorption—including beta-carotene, calcium, magnesium, chromium, folic acid, iron, vitamin B12, vitamin C and zinc.
So it’s no wonder that research has linked heartburn drugs to a whole host of serious problems—including an increased risk of hip fractures and infections.18
Ease Heartburn Safely
Heartburn is a fairly simple problem to solve—assuming you know the real cause.
Most people assume that their issue is an excess of stomach acid. And in some cases, that’s certainly true. But it’s also true that plain old water works just as well as antacids—and even better than some popular heartburn drugs—at reducing gastric pH.19 So before you reach for that little purple pill, try drinking more water first.
If this doesn’t work, there’s another possibility at play. You may not have enough stomach acid—and that could be causing your problem.
Believe it or not, your levels of hydrochloric acid (HCl) can drop dramatically with age. The result is a common condition called hypochlorhydria, or low gastric acid. And not surprisingly, overuse of antacids can make this problem a lot worse.
The solution here is easy. Simply take an HCl supplement. Just be sure to work with your doctor if you’re dealing with a serious case of gastritis.
Nutrient Thief #5: Diabetes Drugs
Metformin is one of the top prescriptions for diabetes management and blood sugar control. It’s also riddled with some serious side effects—especially with long-term use.
Recent studies show that close to half of all type 2 diabetics taking this drug are deficient in vitamin B12 because of it. Among its many critical roles, B12 is essential for brain function and nerve health. So it’s hardly surprising that more than three quarters of these B12 deficient diabetics were also suffering from peripheral neuropathy—a painful hallmark of uncontrolled diabetes.20
But your nerve health isn’t the only thing at stake when you’re taking metformin.
Research shows that this drug can affect your levels of folate—another critical B vitamin—as well as B12. This, in turn, raises your levels of homocysteine—a well known heart risk marker, and one that your body uses B vitamins to keep in check.21
Obviously, depletions in either nutrient throw a wrench into metformin’s risk-benefit ratio. Especially since diabetics are already at a higher risk of nerve damage and heart disease.
Lower Blood Sugar Naturally
Supplementing with goat’s rue can keep your insulin levels and blood sugar in check—as can the trace element vanadium.22-23
The trace mineral chromium is another indispensable ally against diabetes. Studies show that this supplement can increase insulin efficiency and help to keep blood sugar controlled over the long term. (As an added bonus, it can also curb those nagging carb cravings that leave you reaching for the nearest sugar shot.) 24-26
Bitter melon and cinnamon are powerful glucose regulators, as well. Research shows that these natural compounds can enhance your body’s insulin receptivity and ward off post-meal blood sugar spikes.27-29
- Schmeizer C, et al. IUBMB Life. 2011 Jan;63(1):42-8.
- The Mayo Clinic. “Statin side effects: Weigh the benefits and risks.”http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/statin-side-effects/art-20046013.
- DiNicolantonio JJ. Expert Rev Cardiovasc Ther. 2012 Oct;10(10):1329-33.
- “Nutrient Depletion Checklist: Cholesterol Lowering Drugs.”http://www.chiro.org/nutrition/ABSTRACTS/Nutrient_Depletion_Checklist_Cholesterol.shtml.
- Squires RW, et al. Mayo Clin Proc.1992 Sep;67(9):855-60.
- Singh RB, et al. Cardiovasc Drugs Ther.1994;8:659-664.
- Berger A, et al. Eur J Nutr. 2005 Mar;44(3):163-73.
- Moghadasian MH, et al. Am J Med.1999 Dec;107(6):588-94.
- “Nutrient Depletion Checklist: Diuretics.”http://www.chiro.org/nutrition/ABSTRACTS/Nutrient_Depletion_Checklist_Diuretics.shtml.
- “Nutrient Depletion Checklist: ACE Inhibitors.”http://www.chiro.org/nutrition/ABSTRACTS/Nutrient_Depletion_Checklist_Ace_Inhibitors.shtml.
- Sanjuliani AF, et al. Int J Cardiol. 1996;56:177-83.
- Freedman JE, et al. Circulation. 2001;103:2792-8.
- Lu B, et al. FASEB Experimental Biology Conference, Washington, DC, April 30, 2007.
- Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. “Drug Influences on Nutrient Levels and Depletion.” http://naturaldatabase.therapeuticresearch.com/ce/ceCourse.aspx?pc=08-40&cec=0&pm=5&AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1.
- The Mayo Clinic. “Can calcium supplements interfere with hypothyroidism treatment?”http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hypothyroidism/expert-answers/hypothyroidism/faq-20058536.
- Rebecca Berzow, N.D. “Nutrient Depletion and Drug Interactions of the Top Prescriptions in America.” 20 Oct. 2013. http://www.drberzow.com/dr-bs-doctor-as-teacher-blog/2013/10/20/nutrient-depletion-and-drug-interactions-of-the-top-prescriptions-in-america.
- Rink T, et al. Nuklearmedizin. 1999;38(5):144-9.
- Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide. “ Do PPIs have long term side effects?”http://www.health.harvard.edu/fhg/updates/do-ppis-have-long-term-side-effects.shtml.
- Karamanolis G, et al. Dig Dis Sci. 2008 Dec;53(12):3128-32.
- Warner, Jennifer. “Metformin linked to B12 deficiency.” WebMD. 08 June 2009.http://www.webmd.com/diabetes/news/20090608/metformin-linked-to-b12-deficiency.
- de Jager J, et al. BMJ. 2010 May 20;340:c2181.
- Witters LA. J Clin Invest 2001 Oct;108(8):1105-7.
- Beliaeva NF, et al. Vopr Med Khim. 2000 Jul-Aug;46(4):344-60.
- Vladeva SV, et al. Folia Med (Plovdiv). 2005;47(3-4):59-62.
- Rabinovitz H, et al. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2004 May;74(3):178-82.
- Martin J, et al. Diabetes Care. 2006 Aug;29(8):1826-32.
- Gruenwald J, et al. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2010 Oct;50(9):822-34.
- Kirkham S, et al. Diabetes Obes Metab. 2009 Dec;11(12):1100-13.
- Virdi J, et al. J Ethnopharmacol. 2003 Sep;88(1):107-11.