Are Your Medications Causing Problems?
Posted 3/24/2016 by UHBlog
Many medications come with warnings – “don’t operate heavy machinery” or “avoid alcohol while taking this drug.” But what about the drugs and supplements that don’t give you a heads up? These can lead to side effects that interfere with your health and well-being, says naturopathic doctor and licensed acupuncturist Lina Sbrocco, ND, MSOM, NCCAOM, Lac.
According to Sbrocco, some medicines interact poorly with other drugs or supplements you take or they deplete the vitamins and minerals your body needs. While you may know about some of the more common culprits – such as narcotic-based medicines leading to intestinal blockage – there are many that fly under the radar. In fact, a good portion of the drugs approved in the U.S. commonly deplete specific nutrients, creating the need for possible nutritional supplementation, she says.
Here are some of the lesser-known drug interactions and their effects:
- Acid blockers – Acid blockers rank as the third most commonly used medication, and are used to minimize the amount of acid the stomach produces. However, with prolonged use, they can deplete many nutrients because your stomach needs acid to aid in the absorption of important vitamins and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron and Vitamin B12.
- Blood pressure drugs – Known as diuretics, blood pressure pills deplete your body's stores of magnesium, calcium and other minerals you need for bone integrity. This may lead to a variety of health issues, such as osteoporosis, heart disease, frequent infection, leg cramps, depression, lowered immunity, vision problems, high blood pressure, fatigue and mood swings.
- Fluoride-containing medications – Although fluoride is used in toothpaste, when used in medications, it can cause negative reactions in some people, Sbrocco says.
“Fluorine – which is the name of the element from which fluoride is derived – can compete with iodine in your body,” she says. “People who are iodine deficient can struggle with low thyroid – known as hypothyroidism, making them feel tired or gain weight.”
It can also affect men’s and women’s reproductive organs and lead to infertility.
- Statins and cholesterol-lowering drugs – Although these medications have been in use for decades, some people experience a coenzyme Q10 – or CoQ10 –deficiency while taking them. CoQ10 is an antioxidant in your body. When your body has a shortage of this, your muscles ache and/or you experience cramps.
CoQ10 has also been found to be compromised in people taking Metformin, a type 2 diabetes medication, and in some antidepressants and beta blockers, which are used to manage certain heart diseases.
- Estrogen-containing medications – Birth control pills and other estrogen medications can deplete your body of the B vitamins, Sbrocco says.
“The B vitamins are commonly known as the stress vitamins,” she says. “They give you energy, relax you and calm you down. Vitamin B12 is needed for the proper functioning of your brain nerves and blood cells.”
People who are low in the B vitamins often have fatigue, depression and anemia. It can even lead to a neurological disorder called peripheral neuropathy, which affects the nerves in your hands and feet.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – Aspirin, ibuprofen (such as Advil) and naproxen (Aleve) are common pain relievers. But if taken daily or excessively, they can harm your liver.
“These kind of drugs can affect the antioxidant, glutathione, which your liver uses in its detoxification function to rid your body of chemicals, toxins and medications,” Sbrocco says.
“A lot of times we find there are relationships between certain medications and the effect on the vitamins and minerals in your body,” she says.
That's where naturopathic medicine can help. It takes a complementary approach to health care by integrating standard medicine with preventative measures and natural therapies. These natural therapies may include:
- Herbal medicine
- Diet and lifestyle modifications
- Detoxification strategies
Lina Sbrocco, ND, MSOM, NCCAOM, LAc is a naturopathic doctor and a licensed acupuncturist with University Hospitals Connor Integrative Health Network. You can request an appointment with Sbrocco or any other UH Connor Integrative Health Network provider online.