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Is Your Medication Sabotaging Your Nutrition Plan?

At least half of all Americans take at least one prescription drug, with one in six Americans taking three or more medications chronically, according data released by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). (i) Additionally, the average American is reliant on six different medications by the time they are 65 years old. (i) While such medications are often modern day miracles that lessen symptoms, ease pain, and most importantly save lives, they are not without side effects that may have a profound effect on our nutrition status.

We have all read the list of side effects from over the counter (OTC) and prescription medications, but what many fail to realize is that these side effects cause depletion or even exhaustion of necessary nutrients.  In fact, one thousand of the most commonly prescribed prescription drugs and OTC medications can deplete one or more essential nutrients. (ii) Thus, millions of people are taking medications that can unknowingly rob them of vitality and health.  As we age and additional ailments develop, health care professionals often prescribe an increasing number of medications compounding these nutritional concerns.  If you are one of the millions of individuals using prescription or OTC drugs, the following information can help you to maintain optimal health.

Medications vs. Nutrients

Nutrients are vital and necessary components for the human body to function properly.  Poor diet alone can lead to nutrient deficiencies, add to that chronic (or over) use of medications and the result is often further depletion and potential negative health consequences, such as: weakened immunity, low energy/fatigue, cardiovascular problems, blood sugar imbalances, anxiety, depression, migraines, low wound healing, sexual dysfunction, insomnia, anemia, and birth defects. (iii)   Medications can also impact nutritional status by suppressing appetite, disrupting macronutrient (carbohydrates, proteins and fats) metabolism, and/or depleting micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). (iv)

Below is a list of commonly used medications, the nutrients they impact, and supplementation that may be warranted.

Table I. (ii, iii, v)

Medications Treat Deplete Supplement
Acid Blockers (i.e. Zantac, Prilosec) Stomach Ulcers, GERD Vitamin B12, Folic acid, Vitamin D, Calcium, Iron and Zinc High quality multivitamin, Calcium, Vitamin D and Iron
Antibiotics Bacterial Infection Disruption of gut flora Probiotics
Anti-convulsants (i.e. Dilantin) Seizures Vitamin D and Folic acid Vitamin D, High quality multivitamin
Anti Diabetic (specifically biguanides, i.e Metformin  &sulfonylureas i.e.Glyburide) Diabetes CoQ10, Vitamin B12 and Folic Acid High quality multivitamin, CoQ10 (Ubiquinol)
Aspirin/NSAIDS Anti-inflammatory Vitamin C, Iron, Folic Acid, Zinc, disruption of gut flora Vitamin C, High quality multivitamin, probiotic
Beta Blockers (i.e Toprol, Carvediolol, Labetolol ) Blood Pressure/CAD CoQ10, Melatonin CoQ10 and Melatonin
Diuretics (Thiazides) Blood Pressure- water eliminating Potassium, CoQ10, Magnesium, Sodium and Zinc Potassium (consult a doctor before using), High quality Multivitamin, CoQ10 or Ubiquinol
Oral Contraceptives Birth Control B-vitamins, Vitamin C, Magnesium, selenium, zinc and tyrosine High quality multivitamin
SSRI’s (i.e. Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Lexapro) Depression/Anxiety Vitamin B12, Folic Acid, Vitamin B6, Biotin, Methionine and SAMe High quality multivitamin
Statins (i.e. Lipitor) High Cholesterol CoQ10, Fat Soluble vitamins CoQ10 (Ubiquinol), Omega 3 Fish Oils, High quality multivitamin


Medications are a necessary component of so many lives, yet their benefits are sometimes not without drawbacks.  Therefore, to insure optimal health, here are some recommendations to follow:

  1. Always read the “Package Insert” of all prescription medications to understand side effects, and if you have any questions ask your doctor or pharmacist.
  2. Read the label carefully of all OTC medications and if you are confused about ingredients or side effects, ask a pharmacist.
  3. Always follow your doctor’s instructions on when to take medications.
  4. Eat a well-balanced, nutrient rich diet.
  5. Supplement with high quality nutrients to avoid deficiencies.

Bottom line: Be as compliant with your nutritional supplements as you are with your medications and if you are taking medications, you likely need additional supplementation! Here are some options if you are in need of replenishing your nutrients. Click on the image to order.

Vitamin D3/K2
Multi Vitamin
Q-Best CoQ10 Ubiquinol
  1. Multi-Vitamin Elite/Active


  2.  Pelton, Ross, LaValle, James B. ; Hawkins, Ernest, B.; Krinsky, Daniel L, The Nutritional Cost of Prescription Drugs. Morton Publishing Company; 2001
  3. LaValle, James B. Drugs That Make You Starve , The LaValle Institute
  4. Genser, D. Food and drug interaction: Consequences for the nutrition/health status.  Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism 52(suppl 1): 29-32, 2008.
  5. Physician’s Desk Reference 63rd ed. Thomson Healthcare, Montvale NJ 2009

The information provided in this post is for education only and is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor should it be used as a replacement for seeking medical treatment.  

Copyright © Jaime Coffey Martinez, MS RD    Nutrition CPR, LLC 

A version of this article was originally posted online for Lifetime Fitness.