According to the Centers for Disease Control, almost half of the American population is currently on some sort of prescription drug. Many Americans are also on more than one drug. As a result, people are experiencing more drug interactions. Adverse drug reactions can range from being mild to causing major injury or even death. Beyond interactions, medications can also deplete the body of vital nutrients, resulting in serious health concerns.
On top of this, many Americans use complementary and alternative medicine services. As a result, many take natural health products alongside prescription medications, making themselves vulnerable to potential drug interactions or other adverse effects.
Combining pharmaceuticals with over-the-counter (OTC) medications, vitamins and herbal supplements, as well as certain foods can complement or interfere with a drug’s therapeutic action. For example, an interaction can occur if someone combines prescription blood thinners with aspirin, resulting in an increased effect of both drugs. Other combinations can result in a weakened effect of one or both substances, such as with fiber supplements preventing the absorption of certain medications.
Foods can also interfere with the effectiveness of medications. Some examples of this include:
• Grapefruit juice can interact with the enzymes that metabolize certain drugs, which can result in making the drug much more potent than it should be.
• Dairy products alongside certain antibiotics (particularly tetracycline), can lessen its effectiveness.
• Cranberry juice may possess blood-thinning properties and increase the likelihood of bleeding among patients on warfarin.
• Soy supplements, soy milk, or soy-containing foods can decrease the absorption of thyroid medication, such as Synthroid.
Drug-Induced Nutrient Deficiencies
It is estimated that roughly 30% of pharmaceutical side effects are the result of drug-induced nutrient deficiencies. These common drugs are linked to the following nutrient depletions:
• Oral contraceptives can deplete the body of important B vitamins.
• Cholesterol-lowering medications (statins) can inhibit the body’s production of coenzyme Q10, a potent antioxidant needed for energy production.
• Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) deplete potassium and sodium.
• Antibiotics can wipe out beneficial bacteria that your body needs function at its best.
These and many other prescription medications and OTC products can interfere with your body’s ability to digest, absorb, synthesize, or make use of certain nutrients, resulting in nutrient deficiencies.
How to Avoid Potential Drug Interactions and Nutrient Depletions
1) Tell your healthcare practitioner about everything you are taking, including prescription drugs, OTC medications, vitamins and herbal supplements. Be sure to mention topical medicinal creams and ointments, as well.
2) Carefully read the consumer information sheet that comes with your prescription. Ask your pharmacist about potential interactions or possible nutrient depletions.
3) Always read the label on OTC products, paying special attention to the “Warnings” section.
4) Before you buy a new vitamin or herbal supplement, talk to a nutrition advisor and/or a pharmacist about potential interactions or depletions from your prescriptions. An advisor can also help suggest ways for you to replace depleted nutrients, whether through nutritional supplementation or through your diet.
Need Some Help With This?
The pharmacists and nutrition advisors at Village Green Apothecary are more than happy to help you with your prescription and nutrient questions. We are well versed in drug interactions and nutrient depletions and can provide you with the expert guidance you need to ensure your health and safety.
These charts listing the most common drug interactions and depletions are also great reference tools: