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How medicines could drain vital nutrients
Published on 14 Jun. 2011 12:44 AM IST
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Medication can do much to alleviate the symptoms that make your life miserable. But in most cases they don’t actually tackle the cause. There is also the risk of side-effects. And as a new book suggests, they might be adding to your health woes by ‘stealing nutrients from your system or preventing their absorption’. As a result, you could end up feeling worse, or even being diagnosed with another condition.
The book, Drug Muggers: Which Medications Are Robbing Your Body Of Essential Nutrients, has been written by leading U.S. pharmacist Suzy Cohen. “If you run low on even one vital nutrient, you can experience a cascade of uncomfortable side effects,” she claims.
These side effects — which she’s labelled ‘drug mugging symptoms’ — may not show up right away; some can occur months to years after taking a drug.
So could we counteract this nutrient loss by eating more healthily? “Even if you eat fresh fruits and vegetables every hour, you still get only a fraction of the essential nutrients you need from these foods — and if your medication is depleting them, you’ll need even more,” says Cohen.
She suggests the solution is supplements, though you should take care. “You must ask your doctor which nutrients are right for you. But when you’re given the go-ahead, it takes only a few weeks or months to replenish depleted nutrients.”
Here, Cohen sets out some of the most common culprits
Antibiotics: These kill bad bacteria; some interrupt the chemical processes used to make bacterial cell walls, others stop them multiplying. But they also kill good bacteria that produce B vitamins. These are involved in maintaining muscles, bones and heart, as well as helping keep the nervous system healthy.
Risk: Heart disease, increased risk of cancer, leg cramps, low thyroid, bone loss.
Painkillers: Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) include ibuprofen and aspirin and work by tackling prostaglandins, chemicals in the body that trigger inflammation, pain and fever. Prostaglandins also protect the lining of the stomach from damaging effects of acid. They raise the risk of stomach ulcers and bleeding - leading to a loss of iron. These painkillers have been shown to reduce the activity of folic acid, needed to reduce homocysteine, an inflammatory compound linked to heart disease.
Risk: Heart disease, depression, diarrhea, mouth sores, anaemia.
Blood Pressure Pills: One treatment for high blood pressure is ACE inhibitors, drugs that dilate the blood vessels. Some of them - captopril (brand name, Capoten), enalapril, lisinopril (Zestril), quinapril (Accupro), ramipril (Tritace), fosinopril - attach themselves to the mineral zinc. But zinc in this ‘bound’ form is unable to replace the zinc the body needs for cell growth, utilising protein - important for hair growth - and boosting the immune system. It’s also essential in the manufacture of testosterone and has a protective effect on the prostate gland.
Risk: Loss of sex drive, prostate problems, hair loss and slow wound healing.
Diabetes Drugs: This reduces the amount of glucose produced by the liver, limits the amount of sugar absorbed from diet and makes insulin receptors more sensitive. But some types of medication - metformin (Glucophage), metformin and sitagliptin (Janumet), glipizide (Glibenese, Minodiab) - also reduce levels of haemoglobin, which can lead to low levels of vitamin B12, says one study. The drugs also appear to reduce levels of succinate dehydrogenase, and in turn, CoQ10.
Risk: Anaemia, muscle cramps, fatigue, memory loss, irregular heartbeat.

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