As our bodies get older they function with less efficiency. Like all sophisticated machines they eventually suffer the wear and tear of prolonged use. To name a few signs of deterioration, our joints start to hurt, our energy level decreases, our digestion is not as efficient, our thought processes slow down, and our arteries start to narrow. Indeed to many the “golden years” are synonymous with taking medication.
Although some medication is necessary to repair a faltering system it usually comes with a list of side effects. The drugs very description such as “inhibiters”, “blockers”, “antagonists” carry the message that they will be interfering with something in the body in order to accomplish the desired effect and forewarns of a negative. This negative in many cases can be due to drug nutrient depletion. Nutrients are vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids, etc., which are usually obtained from the breakdown of food to supply the biochemical building blocks that the body needs to exist. It is this nutrient depletion that in many cases defines the side effect of the drug. Western medicine is vigilant in its monitoring of nutrients that can interact negatively with a drug. However, the absence of that vigilance with regards to the nutrients that are depleted by a drug is very disconcerting.
Let’s take Co-enzyme Q10 [CoQ-10] to illustrate this topic. CoQ-10 is one of the most important nutrients in the human body. It is a fat-soluble vitamin-like compound which is critical in the production of energy in the mitochondria of every human cell. It is also an important anti-oxidant and plays a major role in preventing the oxidation of LDL-cholesterol and the prevention of atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries). CoQ-10 is intimately involved in the production of energy. A deficiency of CoQ-10 first affects the heart and cardiovascular system because the heart is the most energy-demanding muscle in the human body. Coenzyme Q10 deficiency can cause congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, angina, mitral valve prolapse, stroke, cardiac arrythmias, cardiomyopathies, lack of energy, gingivitis and generalized weakening of the immune system. There is an extensive list of pharmaceutical drugs that deplete CoQ-10. To name a few: Statin drugs (e.g. Lipitor) used to lower cholesterol, beta-blockers (e.g. metoprolol) to lower high blood pressure, thiazide diuretics (e.g. hydrochlorthiazide) to lower high blood pressure, and metformin a common medication used to treat insulin resistance and Type II diabetes.
Ageing, in itself, by virtue of lower biochemical production and absorption of critical nutrients such as CoQ-10 increase our risk of various cardiac problems, weak immune systems, and lower energy levels. The additional intake of a broad spectrum of drugs that further deplete our levels of crucial nutrients can increase our risk levels substantially. It must be noted that many of these drugs deplete multiple nutrients important to other functions of the body.
Often when a change of lifestyle has failed to produce the desired change to one’s chronic illness, it becomes necessary to resort to the use of a drug. It is important to pay attention to the nutritional needs not only of that illness but of the nutritional needs made necessary by the use of a particular drug. The failure to address this issue may result in the health problems not being resolved and may lead to other symptoms later on. In turn this may lead to the prescribing of additional drugs.
A health care provider familiar with drug nutrient depletion can help make your medication more effective and cut down on some of the long term risks.