- Regular use of pharmaceutical prescriptions may deplete you of essential micronutrients, aka vitamins and minerals. Symptoms caused by nutritional deficiencies could mirror or worsen the symptoms of your illness and hinder recovery.
- Nutrient deficiencies can begin months or even years after taking a pharmaceutical. Work with your doctor to monitor various minerals and vitamins to ensure your body is functioning well at all times.
- Replenish nutrients depleted by drugs by eating a diverse diet, supplementing key nutrients, and monitoring your supplement dosage.
Almost 50% of people rely on at least one pharmaceutical prescription for their health. Whether the pills control anxiety, manage cholesterol, or work to keep an infection at bay — the use of these drugs can be essential.
But there’s always a catch. Drugs are famous for their endless side effects. Dry mouth, dizziness, and constipation are just a few common reactions to be expected with regular medication use. But there’s one side-effect that gets overlooked all too often: vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
Yep, medications like Adderall, Zoloft, and Wellbutrin can cause long-term nutrient depletion. Low stores of nutrients like magnesium, vitamin C, and folic acid (vitamin B9) can potentially make your original illness worse.
The best way to ensure your body is getting exactly what it needs is to stay informed about vitamin deficiencies caused by pharmaceutical drugs — and supplement with additional nutrients when needed.
Table of Contents:
- How Do Medications Deplete Nutrients?
- Drug-Induced Nutrient Depletion Chart
- Nutrient Depletion by Drug Class
- How to Replenish Nutrients Depleted by Drugs
- Supplementation & Pharmaceutical Effectiveness
How Do Medications Deplete Nutrients?
Did you know? Nutrient depletion can begin months or even years after you’ve finished a round of pharmaceuticals. The antibiotics you took for a sinus infection a few weeks ago might still be affecting your body, even if you’ve already kicked the bug in question.
To understand how pharmaceutical drugs deplete vitamins and nutrients, it’s important to understand how your medicine works. Stimulant drugs like Adderall and Vyvanse may help to relieve feelings of sadness or overwhelm, but they can also deplete stores of magnesium in the body. Magnesium is a key element for maintaining your mental health, so this can be problematic.
Medications may also work against your body by blocking the absorption of vitamins as well as the storage and metabolism of those nutrients.
To learn more about specific nutrients and which drugs might deplete or block them, check out our drug-induced nutrient depletion chart below.
Drug-Induced Nutrient Depletion Chart
Possible Nutrients Depleted
Antidepressants (SSRI’s like Zoloft, Prozac, Lexapro, etc.)
Calcium and Vitamin D
Cholesterol Lowering Drugs (Statins like Lipitor, pravastatin, simvastatin, etc.)
Coenzyme Q10, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, and β-Carotene
Birth Control/Oral Contraceptives
Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Folate, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Calcium, Magnesium, Zinc, Selenium, and CoQ10.
Antibiotics (Penicillin, doxycycline, amoxicillin, ciprofloxacin, etc.)
Folic Acid, Iron, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, and Vitamin K.
Acid-Suppressing Drugs (Prilosec, Nexium, Zantac, Pepsid, etc.)
Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, Iron, Calcium, Magnesium, Zinc, and β-Carotene
Anti-Hypertensives (Amlodipine, hydrochlorothiazide, spironolactone, lisinopril, etc.)
Calcium, Magnesium, Zinc, Folate, Vitamin B1, and Potassium.
Nutrient Depletion by Drug Class
Prescription drugs are supposed to make you feel better. Ideally, the goal is to put you back on your feet so that you can recover without taking daily medication. If you want to increase the effectiveness of pharmaceutical drugs, take a holistic approach to your healing that includes full-body care. Replenishing your vitamin and mineral stores should be part of the conversation — and will play a vital role in your healing journey.
Antidepressants or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
There’s no shame in taking antidepressants. In some situations, they are necessary to calm your body and mind so that you can focus on getting into a state of healing and peace. Antidepressants are used by around 13% of the population. Common antidepressant prescriptions include: Wellbutrin, Zoloft, Prozac, and Lexapro.
However, they can have major effects on your nutrient stores and leave you feeling worse over time. Common deficiencies include calcium and vitamin D.
Vitamin D deficiency especially can play a foundational role in depression — making symptoms worse over time and making it difficult for patients to stop taking their antidepressants.
This begs the question: can you take vitamin D with antidepressants? Yes! In fact, many patients report that their antidepressants work better over time with a vitamin D supplement on board. The goal is to eventually wean yourself off of the antidepressant and let your body continue to recover on its own. This transition may be easier if there’s adequate vitamin D in the body.
Cholesterol Lowering Drugs (Statins)
Statins like Lipitor, pravastatin, simvastatin, and others may deplete nutrients like Coenzyme Q10, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, and β-Carotene. Since these drugs are so commonly prescribed, the nutritional deficiencies that come with them are well-documented with reliable scientific research. Yet, most doctors are unlikely to make their patients aware of these potential deficiencies.
If you or a loved one are prescribed these medications, make sure you know the possible nutritional side effects that come with them!
Birth Control and Contraceptives
Many women view birth control medication as a nonnegotiable part of life — and often it’s used for a long period of time. Today, it’s common for girls even in their early teens to begin birth control drugs for hormone regulation or acne. (Not that we would recommend it! There are many non-drug options to balance hormones and address acne.)
Most oral contraceptives shut down your body’s own production of estrogen and progesterone, which changes a lot about your hormone status and overall nutrient balance. When taking oral birth control pills, watch out for deficiencies in B vitamins, folate, vitamin C, vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, zinc, selenium, and coenzyme Q10.
Antibiotics are the rescue drug for any major or minor infection. Antibiotics are both a villain and a hero. They shouldn’t be taken aimlessly, but when they are needed, they save lives.
Some antibiotics are very specialized and only target specific pathogenic bacteria. Other antibiotics known as broad-spectrum antibiotics, on the other hand, attack a wide range of bacteria, including your beneficial flora. So it’s important to pay attention to your microbiome when taking antibiotics.
In addition to wreaking havoc on the microbiome, long-term antibiotic use may deplete folic acid, iron, vitamin A, vitamin D, B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin K.
Acid-suppressing drugs can provide much-needed relief when a case of heartburn comes knocking. But chronic use can actually increase your risk of heartburn after discontinuing the drug and make GI symptoms worse over time.
Those who use acid-suppressing drugs on a daily basis may be at risk for vitamin B12, vitamin C, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and β-Carotene deficiencies. Work on addressing the root cause of your heartburn — not only so that you don’t need to take acid-suppressing drugs anymore, but also to prevent future side effects that come with their long-term use.
These medications are life-saving for many and can prevent heart attacks. But they come with a significant cost. Most anti-hypertensives inhibit the absorption of essential nutrients. When using these drugs, ensure you’re taking a high-quality multivitamin and check for depletions in calcium, magnesium, zinc, folate, thiamin, and potassium.
How to Replenish Nutrients Depleted by Drugs
Nutrient deficiencies are sneaky. For many patients, they cause unexplained symptoms that are difficult to diagnose when your body is already fighting against other illnesses.
Paying attention to your nutrient levels is a great way to ensure your prescription drugs are doing their best to benefit your health. There are lots of easy ways to supplement your vitamin and mineral stores — try a few of these to see if they help you feel more like yourself again.
Step 1: Eat a Nutrient-Dense Diet and Listen to Your Cravings
Eating a variety of organic fruits and vegetables is the best way to ensure no vital nutrients are missing from your body. Try using something like the plate method to meal plan so that you get ample portions of both macro and micronutrients.
Another way to pay attention to your nutrients is to listen to your cravings. Your body is smart — and it knows what you need. If you’re craving heavy portions of citrus fruits, potatoes, and bell peppers, your body may need more vitamin C and potassium. If you’re craving chocolate, you may need more magnesium.
Step 2: Supplement Missing Key Nutrients
With nutrient deficiencies in soil and a reliance on heavily processed foods, it’s already difficult for us to get the nutrients we need. An added element, like Lipitor, Nexium, or Prozac, can toss your body over the edge. Turn to a trusted supplement source for help and replenish your body daily with liquid minerals and electrolytes.
Step 3: Monitor Your Medication and Supplement Levels
Work with your doctor to evaluate your nutritional needs regularly. Pharmaceuticals can deplete essential nutrients at any time depending on your original nutrient status, so just because your vitamins and minerals are balanced one month doesn’t mean they’ll stay that way. Regular checkups and blood work can help you stay in balance.
You can also test some nutrients yourself, like minerals, just by using your sense of taste. BodyBio Liquid Trace Minerals allow you to self-test and adjust your mineral dose as needed. Learn more about mineral taste testing in this blog.
Supplementation May Be Key to Increasing Pharmaceutical Effectiveness
You’ll notice common themes in many of the medications in our nutrient depletion chart. For example, magnesium, zinc, and folic acid are already difficult for your body to get and absorb in our modern-day world, and medications force the body to use up even more of these nutrients. Even symptom-free people who take no over-the-counter medications often have deficiencies.
When taking medication regularly, we recommend using high-quality supplements to supply the nutrients you need to optimize. One option is BodyBio’s Liquid Trace Minerals.
Our liquid mineral supplements ensure your body has all the minerals it needs to thrive. Because every body is different, we wanted to create a customizable approach to mineral supplementation. That’s why we created the liquid mineral drops that allow you to customize your morning supplement routine with the exact minerals you’re lacking.
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