By: Rebecca Ramdeholl, C.H.N.C.
Are you taking prescription medication? While the information sheet usually provided by pharmacies is pretty detailed, especially with interactions, it seems to occasionally omit some important details about nutrient depletions. This post will not go into all depletions/interactions in medication, and it certainly will NOT, will NOT, tell you to stop taking your medication. This post only serves to open your eyes and give you the motivation to check into things yourselves, either by starting a discussion with your medical doctor or seeking out alternative health practitioners as a supplement to your current health regime.
The following are popular prescriptions, their use and their interactions and depletions.
Synthetic thyroid hormone, Synthroid, is a very common prescription to treat hypothyroidism, goiter, and Hashimoto's Disease. These interactions not only relate to the synthetic version of thyroid hormones, but also the natural, animal-derived version as well. Synthroid (and its generic equivalent, Levothyroxine) is now the second most prescribed medication, falling behind pain-killer Vicodin in 2017, after years of being in first place. I'm having trouble getting some current numbers, but in 2016, there were 123 million prescriptions written out for Synthroid/Levothyroxine. I can only assume that number has increased, if trends persist.
When the body is deficient in iron, it impairs its own ability to make thyroid hormones. However, iron supplements may decrease absorption of thyroid medication. Iron levels needs to be checked by a medical doctor, and always discuss with a doctor before taking any iron-containing supplements if you are on thyroid hormones.
Soy products also have been shown to reduce absorption.
Thyroid hormones have been reported to increase urinary loss of calcium, but for the most part, long-term supplementation of thyroid hormones might not be associated with reduced bone density. For those who are prescribed supplementing with calcium, taking them at the same time with thyroid hormones has been reported to reduce the effectiveness of thyroid medication, so don't take them together!
The herbs, Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) and Bugleweed (Lycopus virginicus Lyrocpus europaeus) may interfere with medication as well and shouldn't be used at all while you're on any thyroid treatments. Damn! There goes my Lemon Balm tea.
Finally, as any long-term sufferers of thyroid issues knows, do not take your thyroid medication with food, because it gets in the way of absorption as well. High-fiber diets also decrease absorption.
I personally have Underactive Thyroid and Hashimoto's Disease as well. Do not mess around with your medication. However, I do have to reveal that my antibodies (Hashimoto's) have decreased since I've been consulting with a Naturopath about my thryoid issues, and it's made such a difference! I am also on natural, animal-derived thyroid hormones.
Used to prevent pregnancy and to treat menstrual irregularities and endometriosis, oral contraceptives are a pretty useful tool in the female life. They come as a combination of estrogen and progestin, or progestin only. Interactions are very common with oral contraceptives and cause depletions and deficiencies. I certainly didn't know about ANY of these interactions when I was on birth control eons ago.
Oral contraceptive use can lead to folic acid depletions. Folic Acid is a type of B vitamin, and it helps to make DNA, repair DNA and produce red blood cells. When you're deficient in folate (another word for folic acid), anemia can occur. There's been a lot of public education on the importance of folic acid for women of child-bearing age, because a folate deficiency during pregnancy can lead to birth defects, most notably spina bifida or neural tube defects. Something to think about if you're planning on having children soon after stopping oral contraceptives. Some of the subtle symptoms of a folate deficiency are fatigue, gray hair, tongue swelling and mouth sores.
One of the results of using oral contraceptives is the reduction of menstrual blood loss, which means your iron stores are increased. The need for iron supplementation in pre-menopausal women may not be necessary in this case. You should have your iron levels checked with your doctor before taking any iron-containing supplements.
Magnesium levels tend to be lower in women taking oral contraceptives. This relaxation mineral is important for many of the chemical reactions that take place in your body. People tend to have less magnesium due to diets, medications or stress, and so these chemical reactions cannot be fulfilled to full capacity. Magnesium can also help reduce symptoms of depression, can lower blood pressure, has anti-inflammatory effects, can help prevent migraines, improves PMS symptoms, and has benefits against type 2 diabetes. Magnesium is safe to consume and is widely available in foods, if you know which one to go for. Now why would we ever want to be low in magnesium with all of these awesome benefits?! 250-350 mg of magnesium supplementation a day is a safe level for most adults, but if you're not sure, check with your doctor and/or naturopath.
Vitamin B6 depletion and clinical depression has been associated with the use of oral contraceptives. A small study has shown that depression improved upon supplementing with 20 mg/day of vitamin B6.
While studies and effects remain unclear at this time, a study of literature suggests that other nutrients are decreased due to the use of oral contraceptives, such as vitamin B1, B2, B3, B12, C and zinc. Manganese absorption may be affected as well, while increased absorption of calcium and copper and increased blood levels of copper and vitamin A have been associated with the use of oral contraceptives as well.
St. John's Wort, long believed to be of use for depression, has now been shown to have a short-term effect for depression, but no evidence so far for long term effects. It also has been suggested that the herb interacts with oral contraceptives and can cause changes in menstrual bleeding, and can cause bleeding between periods. Consult your doctor before taking St. John's Wort.
Smoking and oral contraceptives is a BAD idea. Women who smoke and take oral contraceptives have a 5 times greater risk of dying from a heart attack than women who don't smoke. For women over the age of 35, the risks are even greater, for death related to circulatory disease. If you smoke, stop.
This drug is used to lower elevated cholesterol. Unfortunately, it also has been shown to decrease CoQ10 (coenzyme Q10) within 14 days of treatment, and decreases to 50% after being on the drug for 30 days.
CoQ10 helps generate energy in your cells, and this is how it helps heart failure - by improving heart function, increasing energy production and limiting oxidative damage. Our ability to naturally produce CoQ10 decreases with age, and low levels are linked to health conditions such as heart disease, brain disorders, cancer and diabetes.
Certain antacids have also been shown to interfere with Lipitor absorption, specifically antacids that contain magnesium and aluminum, such as Maalox and Mylanta. You can avoid this absorption interference by taking antacids two hours before or after taking Lipitor.
Levels of Vitamin A has been shown to increase after two years of treatment. Have your doctor monitor your levels. Just because it's too much of a vitamin, doesn't mean it's good!
Although there have been no reports of a grapefruit/atorvastatin (Lipitor) interaction, there have been cases of potential toxicity due to this interaction. As a precaution, doctors recommend that you not eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice while on Lipitor.
I started this post because I see a lot of people around me on medication, for a variety of reasons, and they still don't feel well. Modern medicine is a marvel, no doubt. Life-saving antibiotics, amazing painkillers that allow us to live a life more fuller. But when taking anything synthetic, the body will react. Take charge of your health and look into all aspects of your medication - is it helping the core problem? Are you feeling worst? Are you feeling better? The key here is to help your body regain homeostasis so that you can live a strong and healthy life. If you're missing nutrients because of medication, seek out health professionals to help you find that balance. You CAN find your way back to vitality.
Werbach MR. Foundations of Nutritional Medicine. Tarzana, CA: Third Line Press, 1997, 210–1 [review].
Comments will be approved before showing up.