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Death by Doctoring


Antibiotics and other commonly prescribed drugs can deplete the body of essential vitamins and minerals. Regular supplementation is needed to reduce the effects of pharmaceuticals on our nutrient levels when these drugs must be taken.

Antibiotics and other commonly prescribed drugs can deplete the body of essential vitamins and minerals. Regular supplementation is needed to reduce the effects of pharmaceuticals on our nutrient levels when these drugs must be taken.

The number of cases of heart failure treated in one urban health system has more than doubled since 1989, Detroit researchers announced recently at an annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology. This is because cholesterol-lowering (statin) drugs, highly prescribed to heart patients, suppress the metabolic pathway that produces coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) at the same time that they suppress cholesterol production.

CoQ10 deficiency has been shown to cause cardiomyopathy - wasting of the heart muscle. Other unintended side effects from statin drug use include liver and kidney damage and painful wasting of muscle tissue. In fact, Bayer's statin drug Baycol was withdrawn from the market in August 2001 because its use was associated with these symptoms and several deaths.

A CoQ10 deficiency can also happen with other drugs, including beta blockers, centrally acting antihypertensive drugs, and antidiabetic drugs. For example, the fenofibrate class of cholesterol-lowering drugs deplete CoQ10 as well as vitamin E. Hydrochlorothiazide (diuretics) depletes the body of not only CoQ10 but also magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and zinc as well. The list goes on, yet it is quite conceivable that a diabetic patient with heart disease, Parkinson's disease, and high blood pressure could be placed on two or more of these drugs.

Is it any wonder that some health practitioners now describe "death by doctoring" as a leading cause of death in North America?

Antiobiotics Are Also a Problem

Antibiotics circulate throughout our bodies whether they've been prescribed or not. Ubiquitous in the practice of human and veterinary medicine, antibiotics contaminate the tissues of farmed fish and animals raised for human consumption. When we eat these foods, antibiotics accumulate in our bodies, attach to minerals such as zinc, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and iron, and then are excreted from the body via the kidneys. Because antibiotics are eliminated through the kidneys they can contribute to impaired kidney function. Concurrent use of certain diuretics can lead to kidney failure.

Antibiotics do not discriminate between friendly or unfriendly bacteria. Unfortunately, virtually every antibiotic causes a disruption of bowel flora while leaving a remnant of unfriendly bacteria and yeast to overgrow and fill the void left by the killed off "good guys."

If not corrected with probiotic (Bifidobacteria bifidus and Lactobacillus acidophilus) supplementation, this imbalance of intestinal flora can bring about a condition known as dysbiosis, which can interfere with digestion and absorption of nutrients and cause the immune system to be further impaired.

The combined loss of these minerals, vitamins, and intestinal flora can make an individual more susceptible to infection with a more virulent strain of bacteria, yeast, or fungus.

Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies

Antibiotics also destroy the essential nutrients vitamin B complex and vitamin K (phytonadione). B vitamins are the foundation of good health and we need them for physical, neurological, and mental health. Vitamin K is a liver coenzyme essential for the synthesis of protein clotting factors in the blood. Lack of vitamin K can lead to problems associated with external blood clotting, which is essential to wound healing. Other known effects of vitamin K deficiency include rickets, osteoporosis, and osteomalacia (softening of the bone).

Careless application of corticosteroid anti-inflammatories or non-steroidal anti-inflammatories in combination with antibiotics is like throwing gasoline on a fire. When corticosteroid anti-inflammatories are used in conjunction with antibiotics, the result is the additional loss of vitamins and minerals. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories can contribute to loss of folic acid, leading to anemia, cardiovascular disease, and, in pregnant women, birth defects. Salicylates (aspirin) aren't much better since they deplete folic acid, iron, potassium, sodium, and vitamin C.

Here's What to Do

If for medical reasons you have to take a prescription drug that has been shown to deplete nutrients, take extra supplementation. Start with a daily multiple vitamin and mineral supplement that includes high potencies of all the B vitamins (50 milligrams or higher) and at least one mg of folic acid. Also compensate for losses of vitamin C by taking take an extra 500 to 1,000 mg daily.

If you must take antibiotics, redevelop healthy intestinal flora once the antibiotics have run their course by taking a high-potency probiotic at 10 to 15 million cfu (colony forming units) twice daily (with food) for two weeks.

If you are taking statin drugs, beta blockers, centrally acting antihypertensive drugs, or antidiabetic drugs, boost levels of CoQ10 by taking up to 300 mg daily under advisement of your health care provider.

Your return to health will be faster and more sustained when daily supplementation increases the body's nutrient levels lost through prescription medication.

Signs of Nutrient Depletion

  • Zinc deficiency can manifest in loss of taste and smell, poor-quality nails, hair loss, strong body odour, slow healing of wounds, and reduced immunity to bacterial, fungal, and viral infections.
  • Magnesium and calcium deficiency increase risk of cardiovascular problems, osteoporosis, asthma, and cramps. A lack of magnesium means potassium will not be absorbed by our cells.
  • Potassium deficiency can cause irregular heartbeat, muscle weakness, fatigue, and edema.


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Matthew Kadey, MSc, RDMatthew Kadey, MSc, RD