Common Nutritional Deficiencies Caused by Medications

Prescription Bottle

Many people do not realize the prescription they are taking to address one health issue is depleting nutrients that may cause other health problems. Unfortunately, few patients are told about nutritional deficiencies that can be caused by prescriptions. This results in health issues developing which may be a mystery but which can typically be reversed very quickly simply by replenishing the nutrient that was depleted by the prescription medication. In a strange twist of fate, many of the prescription medications I listed below deplete the body of a nutrient that is essential for preventing or controlling the very condition the prescription is used to remedy. Unfortunately, many doctors are not aware of the nutritional deficiencies caused by the medications they prescribe. As a patient, it is imperative to look up each prescription medication you take to see if you should be supplementing to replace what it is depleting. In my office, I review each client’s prescriptions medications to ensure they are taking measures to prevent a potential deficiency.

The table that follows provides a list of just a few of the most common prescriptions that can cause a nutritional deficiency. I’ve provided information about the prescription medication, the nutrient(s) it is known to deplete in the body, and information on which supplement might be used to help counteract or prevent deficiencies. I’ve shown one possible supplement per deficiency, but many options exist. I’ve merely shown the one I like or use personally. Please note this is a very tiny list and is not complete. If you’d like to pick up a book providing excellent, detailed information on deficiencies caused by prescriptions, I highly recommend Suzy Cohen’s Drug Muggers: Which Medications are Robbing Your Body of Essential Nutrients and Natural Ways to Restore Them.

Please also note this table does not list interactions which may occur between foods or supplements taken with prescriptions. Please consult your MD, read the information that comes with your prescriptions, and research to determine which supplements and foods should never be taken with your prescription medications.

NOTE: This information is being shared for educational purposes only. If this information concerns you, please discuss it with your MD before making any changes to your care plan. Please DO NOT begin taking any supplements without checking with your MD. Additionally, never stop taking a prescription medication or alter the dosage without the express consent of your MD or other healthcare practitioner. None of these statements were reviewed by the FDA and none are intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition.

Nutritional Deficiencies Caused by Prescription Medications

Medication Deficiency Caused Potential Source of Replenishment
  • Statin Drugs
  • Anti-Diabetics (Micronase, Glynase, DiaBeta, Dymelor,  Glipizide/Glucotrol, Metformin/Glucophage, Tolinase)
  • Pamelor and other Tricyclic Antidepressants
  • Beta-Blockers Used for High Blood Pressure (Lopressor, Toprol, Inderal, Coreg, etc.)
Co-Enzyme Q10 (CoQ10) Co-Enzyme Q10 is essential for heart health, so it is concerning that statin and drugs used to treat type 2 diabetes cause a severe depletion in this nutrient. Some studies indicate congestive heart failure’s base cause is a deficiency in CoQ10. If you take a statin drug of any of the antidiabetics listed, I strongly encourage you to take a Ubiquinol Supplement on a daily basis. I recommend taking .5-1mg per pound of body weight. Your body must convert CoQ10 into Ubiquinol in order to absorb it, so it is much more efficient to simply take the Ubiquinol.
  • Metformin
  • Most Antibiotics (Azithromyzin/Z-Pack, Amoxicillin, Penicllin*)
  • Most heartburn and GERD medications (Cimetidine, Omprazole, etc.)
  • Colchicine and other anti-gout medications

*Almost all antibiotics deplete Vitamin B12. A complete list would not fit in this table.

Vitamin B12 There are many differing opinions about how much Vitamin B12 a person should take to replenish a deficiency caused by a prescription medication. Luckily, Vitamin B12 is water-soluble, so it is very difficult to develop an excess without taking ridiculously high amounts. My recommendation is to take a minimum of 2000mcg of sublingual, Methylcobalamin B12 on a daily basis. I also recommend having your B12 levels checked every three months if you are taking a medication known to deplete B12. Please see my post, Surprising Facts You Need to Know About Vitamin B12 for more information about how important Vitamin B12 is and how many health issues may result from a deficiency.
  • Ritalin
  • Most Blood Pressure Medications
  • Most Acid Blockers and Antacids
  • Most Antibiotics
  • Most Oral Birth Control
  • Inhaled Corticosteroids (Flonase, Nasonex, Flovent, Pulmicort, Rhinocort, etc.)
Magnesium Magnesium is essential for lowering blood pressure, yet almost all blood pressure medications deplete the body of this essential nutrient. Seems somehow backward, doesn’t it? Several studies found that 70-85% of the US population – children included – are magnesium deficient. (See my post Why You Need More Magnesium for more information on the importance of Magnesium and information on which types are most beneficial.)
  • Valium (Diazepam)
  • Xanax (Alprazolam)
  • SSRI Antidepressants (Fluoxetine/Prozac, etc.)
  • NSAIDS (Celebrex; Ibuprofen/Motrin, Advil, etc.; Naproxen/Aleve, Naprosyn, etc.; Lodine; Daypro; etc.)
  • Hydrocortisone
  • Prednisone
  • Beta-Blockers Used for High Blood Pressure (Lopressor, Toprol, Inderal, Coreg, etc.)
Melatonin Oddly enough, Melatonin is a hormone that is essential for maintaining serotonin balance and for maintaining a positive outlook. Deficiencies can cause depression and insomnia, and may also increase the effects of aging because Melatonin is such a strong antioxidant. Dosage of Melatonin varies from person to person. I generally recommend starting with 1-3 mg each night and increasing the dosage (up to 10 mg) until restful sleep is easily attained. If you take Melatonin and it does nothing for you, that’s a good indicator that you are not deficient. However, most people taking anti-anxiety medications are deficient and find their symptoms improve very quickly once a Melatonin supplement is started.
  • NSAIDS (Celebrex; Ibuprofen/Motrin, Advil, etc.; Naproxen/Aleve, Naprosyn, etc.; Lodine; Daypro; etc.)
  • Aspirin
  • Anti-GERD Medications, both OTC and prescription (Axid, Tagamet, Pepcid, Prevacid, Prilosec, Nexium, Protonix, etc.)
  • Hydrocodone
  • Anti-Cholesterol Medications (Cholestyramine, Collestipol, Questran, Colestid, Atromid-S, etc.)
  • Colchicine (anti-gout)

 

 Iron

Please read Facts About Iron-Deficiency Anemia to learn more about combating anemia.

A word of warning about iron: Do not take an iron supplement unless you know you need it. Additionally, iron may interfere with the absorption of many prescription medications. (One example is that it should never be taken with thyroid medications such as Synthroid or Armour.) For best absorption and to prevent interactions with medications, I recommend taking iron supplements on an empty stomach, at least two hours before or after taking prescription medications.Many forms of over-the-counter iron supplements are almost impossible to absorb. This is why many of them cause constipation. I prefer to use forms of iron which are very easily absorbed and therefore do not cause digestive upset or constipation. My recommendation is to never purchase iron supplements from standard drugstores, as I have yet to find one that carries iron in a form that is easily absorbed. (Please let me know if you find one!)

Have you suffered from a nutritional deficiency you later learned was due to a prescription? How did you counteract it? If you’re taking one of the medications listed, I’m curious to know if your doctor told you in advance about the possibility that it might cause a deficiency? Were you warned and given a list of recommended supplements? I hope you were!

My passion is helping people improve their health by identifying and correcting nutritional deficiencies and other causes of illness. I have helped thousands of people improve their health, reverse symptoms and reduce their need for medication. If you are ready to improve your health using a holistic approach, please contact me to schedule a consultation.

Please note that the links in this post are Amazon affiliate links but that my use of an affiliate link in no way encouraged my listing of these supplements. They truly are my favorite supplements, most of which I use myself.

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Dr. Pamela Reilly is a Naturopathic Physician dedicated to helping people improve their health and eliminate symptoms using natural, integrative methods. She has over 25 years of experience and has helped men, women and children improve their health using a holistic, client-centered focus. She sees clients in Indianapolis, does house calls, and also conducts consultations via Skype or telephone. Please feel free to contact her or visit her Consultations page for more information. Dr. Pamela speaks nationwide on a wide variety of health topics and welcomes speaking invitations.

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15 Responses to Common Nutritional Deficiencies Caused by Medications

  1. Crystal says:

    Thanks for posting this. It is invaluable information to have on hand. It’s a must-share…

  2. Twinkle VanWinkle says:

    Thanks for this, Pamela! My daughter takes Lexapro and Xonisimide and Adderall and I’ve suspected some deficencies. Was most surprised at the sensitivity to sunlight! Crazy hives outbreak unless thoroughly coated in Broad Spectrum sunblock. Thanks for all you do!

  3. Daniel Snedden says:

    Thanks for the article and list. I wish I had known this 5 years ago when my family doctor started me on ativorstatin. In 2013 I had total heart block and had a pacemaker implanted. Less than a year later the pacemaker failed. Before I could get it replaced I went into Ventricular Tachycardi. It has all been downhill since then. I have had 3 heart ablations in 9 months. My next step is to be evaluated for a transplant.

    I had myself tested for nutrient deficiencies at my own expense after I had the ICD implanted. I went through a company called Spectracell. I was severely deficient in COQ10, Glutamine, Glutathione, Serine and antioxidants. No warning by the drug companies, AMA, or FDA let alone my family doctor. Although I have taken supplements for over 15 months my heart continues to weaken. Unfortunately by the time someone sees a cardiologist the damage is done and cannot be reversed. The AMA, FDA and drug companies have known about these problems since 1987 yet continue to murder hundreds of thousands of Americans. By the way my LDL was never higher than 167. After my 2nd pacemaker I tested my LDL at 36. My GP said it should be under 100. It is so obvious the drug companies continue to lower the levels so they can sell more drugs. My advice…DO NOT TAKE STAtINS for cholesterol. It is a huge scam.

  4. Mary Sahs says:

    Since the stroke nearly two years ago, I have been taking lovastatin, a statin, and lisinopril, an ACE inhibitor. I started taking CoQ10 immediately, as I was aware of that issue, but it was not recommended by any of the doctors I spoke with, nor was any other deficiency indicated. I discovered the magnesium problem on my own, too.

  5. Jen says:

    OH the irony, I take anti-anxiety medicine so I can “fall” asleep at night, yet its what keeps me tossing and turning. #FAIL

  6. brittney says:

    what do you recommend we do to bring iron back up if you say we rarely absorb over the counter iron supplements?

  7. Pete says:

    Thanks for the heads up! I’ve been through 5 cardios in 10 years and NOT 1 recommended COQ10 or the other supplements to go with the coreg, lipitor, altace prescriptions. When I finally asked my current cardio about q10 he looked at me kind of aloof and said, “yea sure you can take that if you want to”.

    @peteyplants on twitter

    • GWWR says:

      Hi, Pete. So sorry you went through that. Glad you realized what you needed to do. i wish you the very best!

  8. Why are cimetidine and omeprazole listed among antibiotics here? They are not antibiotics but medications that reduce stomach acidity.

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