Drug Induced Nutrient Depletion

Do you take prescription medications?  9 million Australians take prescription medications daily.

Unfortunately certain medications you may be taking are widely known to deplete very specific nutrients in the body.  

A common example is aspirin’s effect on the body’s vitamin C and iron stores or an oral contracep-tive’s depletion of folic acid and vitamin C. 

Sometimes depletions can cause another disorder to arise. An example of this is how over use of antibiotics decimate intestinal flora causeing any number of digestie and health concerns.

The following list is a concise, but accurate measure of common drug/nutrient depletions.


Intestinal Bacterial Flora – A healthy physiological intestinal flora is very important for a healthy organism. Although antibiotics are quite effec-tive in eradicating the body of harmful “bad” bacteria, they unfortunately also rob the body of beneficial “good” bacteria, located in the gut. Research shows that the absence of good gut flora can cause problems with digestion. This also leads to a malab-sorption of nutrients (especially from your food) and symptoms such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, belching, con-stipation, pressure and sometimes rebound acidity. To ensure that your bowel flora is intact, supplement with:

 – Acidophilus: To replenish and repli-cate the friendly bacteria. It is suggested to take lactobacillus aci-dophilus each time you take the antibiotic, and possibly take it for five to seven days after the course of antibiotics is finished to ensure nor-malization. (Yogurt is a good natural source of acidophilus, but it may be a problem for people sensitive to lactose intolerance).

 – Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) and Other Probiotic Support: To help restore other gastrointestinal prob-lems that the antibiotics may induce (especially the stronger, third-genera-tion type) and help offset the imbalance or the GI flora.

Antidepressant Drugs

Includes drugs used to stimulate the mood of a depressed patient. Some are used in eating disorders, treating obesity, and panic disorders. Drugs include tricyclic and SSRI medicines such as Amitriptyline, Elavil, Tra-zodone, Desipramine, Pamelor, Nortriptyline, Serzone, Paxil, Prozac, Zoloft and Imipramine.

 – B-Complex Vitamins: Additional B–vitamins are critical when taking antidepressants for short or extended periods. Vitamin B12 and folic acid are especially necessary. There may also be an additional need for riboflavin (B2).

 – Selenium: Stores of selenium are com-promised with extended use of these drugs. A suggested supplementation dose would be 50 to 100 micrograms daily.

 – Zinc: Depletion of this antioxidant can slow wound healing and reduce the sense of taste. Supplement with a dose of 10–35 mg per day.

 – L-Gluthathione: An important amino acid that decreases free radicals and helps to protect your liver.

 – Calcium/Magnesium: Take for nutri-tional support, along with additional minerals.

 – Vitamin C

Diabetic Medications

Includes sulfonylurea drugs such as Diabinese and Tolinase; second gener-ation drugs Glynase and Diabeta; and miscellaneous diabetes drugs such as Metformin and Acarbose.

 – Chromium: This mineral is essential for the body’s metabolism of glucose. Low levels may lead to insulin insensi-tivity and abnormal insulin usage.

 – Vitamin C: Vitamin C improves all aspects of diabetes, and is often depleted due to free-radical destruc-tion and increased urinary excretion.

 – Magnesium: There is a direct relation-ship between magnesium deficiency and insulin resistance. Magnesium also improves all aspects of diabetes aiding in arterial strength, normalizing blood pressure, and aiding in glycolysis. Most diabetics have an 80 to 85 percent deficiency.

 – Vitamins B6 and B12: B6 may aid in healthy eye support and proper vision. Bilberry, lutein and other bioflavonoids may be supplemented when vision problems, diabetic retinopathy or macular degeneration are present. (Note: these herbs would be contraindicated with warfarin use.)

 – Folic Acid: A deficiency is especially noted with Metformin use.

Estrogen and Progesterone

Includes oral contraceptives agents and estrogen compounds (Premarin, Estratest) and estrogen-progesterone combinations (Prem-pro).

 – B-Complex Vitamins: B vitamins are important to maintain healthy skin, nails, nerves, hair and cells. They are also critical in the production of energy. An increased requirement for vitamin B6 may be even more acute. Folic acid may be required, especially with oral contraceptives.

 – Calcium/Magnesium: Perhaps there are no two more important minerals for women (especially menopausal or post-menopausal). Calcium supple-ment with vitamin D are especially recommended.

 – Vitamin C, E and Beta Carotene: These three essential anti-oxidants are valuable in reducing a woman’s risk of post-menopausal breast cancer. They help to reverse free-radical destruction and boost the immune system. Addi-tional supplementation with vitamin E may ease hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms.

 – Essential Fatty Acids: The omega-3 and omega-6 essential oils aid in anti-inflammatory and immunoregulatory properties. They can be depleted in a typical North American diet of high saturated fatty foods.

Arthritis Medications

Includes non-steroidal anti-inflamma-tory (NSAID) drugs such as Aspirin, Ibuprofen and Advil.

 – Calcium/Magnesium: These two crit-ical minerals are essential when taking arthritis medicines. Both are needed to build bone, muscles and nerves all through life, especially in your senior years. Long term depletion can lead to high blood pressure, heart irregulari-ties, muscle cramps and asthma-like symptoms. Since bone loss can ensue with continued steroid use, vitamin D should be supplemented to prevent osteoporosis.

 – Vitamin C: NSAID medicines can cause increased urinary excretion of Vitamin C. This vitamin is essential for maintaining connective tissue, reducing the levels of free radicals that weaken the immune system and syn-thesizing collagen to strengthen bones.

 – Folic Acid: Lower levels of this impor-tant nutrient, aiding in the inhibition of uric acid.

 – Glucosamine: Although not an anti-inflammatory, glucosamine and chondroitin play a role in stimulating cartilage cells, regenerating cartilage and binding with collagen so that carti-lage can be strong. It relieves the pain of arthritis and may decrease the need for NSAIDs.

 – Essential Fatty Acids: The omega-3 and omega-6 essential oils aid in anti-inflammatory and immunoregulatory properties. They “lubricate” the joints.


Steroid drugs are used as anti-inflam-matories and for a wide range of diseases, including dermatitis, autoim-mune diseases, asthma and allergic disorders. Drugs include costisone, hydrocortisone, prednisone, triamci-nolone, dexamathasone and azulfidine.

 – Vitamin C: Steroid overuse can deplete vitamin C stores, leading to easy bruising, lower immunity, asthma and allergy-like symptoms, and poor wound healing.

 – B-Complex Vitamins: Folic acid deple-tion can lead to anemia and cardiovascular disease. Steroid use can also raise blood sugar; chromium might be needed as an additional supplement.

 – Potassium: Loss leads to edema, irreg-ular heartbeat and muscle weakness. Supplementation amounts are determined by blood levels.

 – Zinc 

 – Selenium 

 – Calcium/Magnesimn


Includes all drugs used in the manage-ment of edema associated with congestive heart failure and renal or liver disease, including furosemide, Lasix, hydrochlorothiazide, Dyazide, bumetanide, Bumex, spironolactone and chlorthalidone.

 – Potassium: All of the loop diuretics and the thiazides can contribute to severe potassium deficiency that can lead to defects in the kidneys, skeletal muscle, central nervous system, gas-trointestinal tract and heart muscle. Excessive loss leads to edema, irreg-ular heartbeats and muscle weakness.

 – Calcium/Magnesium: Long term use of diuretics can eliminate these essen-tial minerals vital for cardiac function, along with potassium.

 – B-Complex Vitamins: Diuretics can especially deplete thiamin (vitamin B1) and pyridoxine (vitamin B6). This depletion can elevate homocysteine levels, leading to harm to the heart.

 – Zinc 

 – Vitamin C

See you in the gym!

Personal Training – Bondi Junction


Drug-Induced Nutrient Depletion Handbook,1999-2000

by Ross Pelton, James B. Lavalle, Ernest B. Hawkins, Daniel l Krinsky

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