Do you Read the Fine Print? An in Depth Look at the Benefits and Risks of Common Medicine
You’ve heard it said that “no man is an island,” and I would submit that no nutrient or medication is an island either!
Everything affects everything!
While over-the-counter and prescription medications provide blessed relief for a variety of symptoms, you’ll feel even better if you read the fine print! They can help you breathe better, ease your pain, and alleviate many features of illness that can make life miserable.
Often, in the process of improving one problem, the drug can rob you of life-sustaining nutrients and cause other problems. Many, if not most, medicines have the potential to slowly deplete the production and or absorption of vitamins and minerals that are essential to joy and vitality.
It’s Medication Side Effects: Week Two and today we will explore commonly used agents for:
Heartburn and Acid Reflux
Anxiety and Depression
START SOMEWHERE today knowing the risks and benefits of what is going into your body so that you can get the maximum benefits and minimize the risks.
Drugs for Heartburn and Acid Reflux
Marketing surveys have shown that approximately half of American adults have used acid-blocking medications. About 100 million Americans experience heartburn every month and 15 million battle it daily. While antacid sales top $10 Billion annually, the possible side effects are far-reaching.
The term “heartburn” is typically used interchangeably with “acid reflux” and both are treated with over-the-counter antacids and acid blockers.
GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) is the more serious form of heartburn and may lead to inflammation in the lining of the esophagus, or food chute. When stomach acid repeatedly comes into contact with this lining, ulcers, bleeding, and blood loss can occur.
Antacids like Tums, Maalox, or Rolaids are often used to neutralize stomach acid in an attempt to control the symptoms.
Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) such as Nexium, Prevacid, or Prilosec, act by shutting down the acid-producing pumps in the stomach; H2 Blockers reduce acid by blocking histamine receptors in the acid-producing cells of the stomach. Examples of H2 Blockers include Zantac, Tagamet, and Pepcid.
All are potent acid stopping agents and it is wise to know their full effects.
Our bodies are designed with stomach acid, similar in strength to battery acid, in order to break down foods, medications, and supplements as well as to kill all kinds of bacteria, viruses, and microorganisms. This strong acid breaks the food apart so that the nutrients can be accessed and then absorbed in the intestine.
Interestingly, the medical literature has shown an increased risk of pneumonia and other diseases with their use.
When stomach acid is suppressed or blocked, potential risks include:
Food allergies: This has been studied extensively, including in children who have reflux problems. It has been shown that those treated with acid-suppressing medications have a greater risk of food allergies.
Depression: Acid suppression can inhibit protein breakdown and digestion. Several of these “essential” amino acids, such as tryptophan and phenylalanine, are crucial to mental health. The ingestion of food stimulates the secretion of stomach acid which then causes the release of pepsin. Pepsin breaks apart protein into smaller segments and into individual amino acids. They are termed “essential” because our bodies can’t make them — they have to come from food.
Autoimmune Diseases: Low stomach acid and the possible bacterial overgrowth can harm the lining of the intestine, causing it to become “permeable.” Often referred to as “Leaky Gut Syndrome,” it can result in undigested proteins in the bloodstream. The immune system can see these as “foreign” and autoimmune disease can be the unwanted result. The connection between low stomach acid and Rheumatoid Arthritis is well established in the literature. When proteins are digested completely, they are broken down into tiny fragments that don’t stimulate an abnormal immune response.
Nutrient Depletion: Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D are among the nutrients potentially depleted by acid-reducing medications. Vitamin B12, also called cobalamin or cyanocobalamin, is found in most animal food sources so non-meat eaters typically need to supplement it. Stomach acid is essential to help release B12 from food so that the body can absorb it. This vitamin is essential for DNA synthesis, is involved in the production of chemical messengers in the brain, and helps keep the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy. Vitamin D could be a whole book! It is actually a fat-soluble hormone that is necessary for proper thyroid function, growth and development of strong bones and teeth, blood clotting, and insulin stability – just to name a partial list. Foods rich in Vitamin D include canned sardines, salmon, butter, sunflower seeds, eggs, mushrooms, and fortified milk. Our bodies are designed to produce Vitamin D3 via the sun’s rays. A simple blood test can tell you your level. Because it can be stored in the body, it can be toxic to some people so get it measured!
Common trigger foods that ignite heartburn or acid reflux include: alcohol, fried and fatty foods, too much caffeine, and soda. Of course, eating too fast and too much also play a huge role!
To reduce heartburn and acid reflux naturally, enjoy foods from nature like broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, cucumbers, oatmeal, ginger, walnuts and lean meats. Allow two hours before bedtime for your food to digest and avoid lying down to allow time for the food to pass out of the stomach and into the small intestine.
The regular use of aspirin and NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as ibuprofen, naproxen, or Celebrex, can also irritate the esophagus.
Medications for Constipation
People who are constipated often take laxatives to promote regularity. Mineral Oil, Lactulose, Miralax and Senna are included in this category. These products work mostly by helping to retain water in the stool, which increases the movement out of the GI tract.
None of these drugs, prescription or over-the-counter, are recommended for any more than short-term use. If you are using this type of medication more than two times a week, then you are certainly at risk for major nutrient loss. They can also cause diarrhea, nausea, and black tarry stools. Because they speed up the passage of food through the digestive system, the body doesn’t have time to extract all the healthy nutrients from food. They basically “clean out the pipes” in your intestines like Drano does in your home plumbing system.
Laxatives have the greatest impact on fat-soluble vitamins like Vitamins A and D and on minerals, especially Zinc. Important for good vision (especially at night), normal immune function, and healthy reproduction, Vitamin A also plays an important role for vibrant skin and detoxification of chemicals such as PCB (polychlorinated biphenyl), a probable cancer-causer. We discussed Vitamin D in the above section on acid-reducing meds. Be sure to know your level. It is easy and inexpensive to replete. Many Americans are low on Zinc and symptoms of this deficiency include acne, joint pain, menstrual problems, poor immunity, and brittle hair. Zinc-rich foods include: generally animal sources and a handful of plants such as spinach, pumpkin seeds, squash seeds, nuts, dark chocolate, toasted wheat germ, beans, and mushrooms.
It’s always best in the long run to ease into lifestyle practices that boost vitality.
If chronic constipation plagues your life, START SOMEWHERE with one of these easy strategies:
Consider the use of digestive probiotics. You’ll find excellent ones here.
Boost your intake of raw fruits and vegetables by one extra serving – just one-half cup — as your START SOMEWHERE. Make this modest increase every two weeks until you are eating 8-12 servings a day. You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel!
Eat enzyme-rich foods such as pineapples, bananas, avocados, papayas, sauerkraut, kiwi, kefir, and miso. Nurturing a community of digestive enzymes will also help quell heartburn and acid reflux. Enzyme supplements are also available from quality pharmaceutical-grade suppliers.
Enjoy old-fashioned Oatmeal – not the quick-cooking kind. Oats contain 45 percent insoluble fiber, which is the kind that can’t be broken down. Consequently, they absorb water, swell, and make the stool bulky, soft, and easy to pass.
Drugs for Depression and Anxiety
According to a September, 2017, article published by the American Psychiatric Association, one in nine Americans (among all ages) reported taking at least one antidepressant med in the last month. This data was from 2011 until 2014, and is nearly one out of every five people in those over age 65.
From 1988 until 1994, only three percent of older adults were taking antidepressants. In all age groups except children and adolescents, the sharp rise followed the introduction of Prozac, which entered the U.S. market in 1988. One contributing factor to this growth is that they are commonly prescribed for non-depressive disorders such as insomnia, anxiety, and neuropathic pain. Their side effects have a long arm!
Examples of SSRI’s (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) include Lexapro, Paxil, Celexa, Prozac and Zoloft. Tricyclic antidepressants, Cymbalta, EFfexor, and Wellbutrin are among the types of other antidepressants.
I will write generally about nutrient depletions from SSRI’s but be sure to read about your specific medication; they are each slightly different. As a class, they are generally prescribed to ease depression, panic attacks, social anxiety, pain, obsessive-compulsive disorders. Non-labeled uses can include fibromyalgia, migraine headache management, and bed wetting.
Possible nutrient depletions include:
Folate: Also known as Vitamin B9, Folate is the natural form made in the intestine or found in food and is especially important for energy production and immune health. (The synthetic form is actually Folic Acid.) This nutrient is essential for detoxification of hormones such as estrogen as well as environmental toxins. It also aids in the conversion of dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with motivation and feelings of enjoyment. Deficiencies include insomnia, irritability, and depression, which is ironic since it is depleted by medications that treat depression. An inflamed and sore tongue with a smooth and shiny appearance can be a symptom of Folate deficiency. START SOMEWHERE with food sources like garbanzo beans, spinach, lentils, walnuts, asparagus, dried figs, beets, broccoli, and more!
Melatonin: This is a biggie! Melatonin is the hormone that helps regulate your biological sleep clock. Who can feel energetic without restorative sleep? It is also an antioxidant and new research indicates that it may significantly help with treating breast cancer. Because the body’s production naturally decreases with age and the brain needs sleep for good function, it is essential to address the issue. START SOMEWHERE by turning down the lights about two hours before you want to sleep to help your body’s own output. Sometimes referred to as the “vampire hormone,” it is produced primarily in darkness and inhibited by light. Because Melatonin is an immune stimulator, you should not take it if you have an autoimmune disease, are pregnant, or have leukemia or lymphoma. Remember, it is not a sleep initiator, but a sleep regulator.
Selenium: A essential micromineral for DNA repair (important in cancer prevention), thyroid function, and heart and liver health, Selenium deficiency symptoms include cataracts, low sperm count, thyroid enlargement, and recurrent infections. Brazil nuts are a delicious food source for Selenium, as is butter, smoked herring, and red swiss chard. Apple cider vinegar is also a great source! A food’s content of Selenium is dependent on the soil in which it was raised; deficient areas can be found here. Abnormally high doses of supplements can be toxic, so it is best to get it through food.
START SOMEWHERE knowing more about what you are putting in your body.
Today’s blog is by no means the complete story on prescription and non-prescription meds but it is a great place to begin.
Next week I’ll dive into three more categories. Stay tuned!
Nourish your day by reminding yourself of 2 Peter 1:3, which God’s divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness.
Our bodies are designed to thrive; we just have to learn some basics! Live life full of joy and energy. You can do it. I will help you.