Drugs that Cause Vitamin & Mineral Deficiencies

Most people are not aware that certain medications they take can rob their bodies of much needed nutrients.  In this article we will discuss how this happens, common drugs that cause deficiencies, and how to correct those deficiencies.

Some drugs change the environment in which nutrients are absorbed and have the potential to cause nutrient deficiencies over time. For example, nutrients that require an acidic environment in the gut for optimal absorption can be depleted if the stomach environment is changed by medications.

Calcium requires an acidic environment for optimal absorption. People who take an acid suppressor like esomeprazole (Nexium) can have reduced calcium absorption. More on this in the discussion to follow.

Some drugs have the potential to affect kidney function or otherwise change how the body might handle elimination of a particular nutrient.

Loop diuretics, like Furosemide, cause increased fluid and electrolyte loss by changing the kidneys work. Therefore, they can cause depletion of potassium and other nutrients. More on this in the discussion to follow.

In some cases, drugs change the body in a way that might change how it uses certain nutrients or change how the body activates nutrients. For example, Simvastatin (Zocor), affects the production of cholesterol in the body by using up enzyme CoQ10. Enzyme CoQ10 is needed in the body for its anti-oxidant properties and the lack of this enzyme can cause the side effects associated with Simvastatin such as muscle aches and pains.

Here is a list of some common medications, the nutrients they deplete, and what can be taken to replenish them:

Aspirin and NSAIDs (like Ibuprofen): Deplete iron. What you can do: Eat iron-rich foods such as red meat, egg yolks, beans, turkey, etc.

Carbamazepine, Corticosteroids, Phenobarbital, Phenytoin, and Primidone: Depletes calcium, vitamin D, and Vitamin K. What you can do: Take supplemental doses of calcium and vitamin D (ask the pharmacist for the specific dose recommended for your age and gender) and eat green leafy vegetables for vitamin K replacement.

H2 blockers (Ranitidine, Famotidine, Cimetidine) and PPIs (Nexium, Protonix, Aciphex, and Prevacid): Deplete vitamin B12. What you can do: Consider supplementing with B Complex or sublingual B12 especially if feeling sluggish or less energized.

Furosemide and HCTZ: Deplete magnesium and potassium. What you can do: May need to supplement potassium and magnesium by askign your doctor to check your blood.

Metformin: Depletes folic acid. What you can do: Take over the counter folic acid or ask your doctor.

Statins (Crestor, Lipitor, Pravastatin, and Lovastatin): Depletes enzyme CoQ10 (the primary cause of muscle pain and weakness from these medications). What you can do: Everyone can benefit from taking enzyme CoQ10 regardless of depletion. It is a potent anti-oxidant and energy booster. Ask your pharmacist for a recommended dose.

Francis Al. Rubino, PharmD