Nutrient depletion

Everything has risks and benefits; it’s the weighing of these two factors that all providers and patients must undertake prior to making a decision to take medication. At the point of prescribing, practitioners are aware of and consider the risks and potential side effects associated with a particular medication, however;  the nutrient depletions that many pharmaceutical medications cause are often forgotten. A nutrient depletion refers to the loss of a nutrient (e.g., vitamin, mineral) from the body in association with concomitant use of a pharmaceutical medication. But why does this happen?

There are several mechanisms that may contribute to drug-nutrient depletions:

  • Pharmacokinetics of a medication affects that of a nutrient (e.g., decreased metabolism, increased excretion)
  • Medication competes, interferes or interacts with a pathway necessary for the synthesis and/or metabolism of a nutrient 
  • Medication interferes with the absorption of a nutrient
  • Metabolism of a medication requires increased use of a nutrient (e.g. vitamin and mineral cofactors)

Nutrient depletions may become a significant problem, even contributing to health issues of greater concern than the initial reason for using the medication. When the potential nutrient depletions and side effects of such are taken into account, the risk of medication use may outweigh the benefits.

What if it’s been a beneficial medication in the short-term? Maybe it’s done the trick in managing blood pressure, diabetes or depression. There are two options: Stop the medication and find alternatives which may lead to other nutrient deficiencies, or help swing the benefit to risk ratio back into balance. In most cases, it appears that supplementing with the proper nutrients at risk for being depleted allows the medication to do its beneficial job while preventing nutrient deficiencies and the potential associated harmful implications.

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Addressing Pharmaceutical Interactions in Clinical Practice

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