What I’m about to tell you has been known for awhile now, but isn’t widely publicized. Those of you who have followed me for years know that I published a bestselling book called Drug Muggers, which is about all the ways taking various prescription medications can deplete your body of vital nutrients, causing unpleasant and/or dangerous side effects and even other medical conditions.
Today’s article is about a very important depletion because it has to do with a popular medication and an anti-cancer nutrient you need to avoid depression. Carbamazepine is a popular anti-epilepsy drug which works by suppressing nerve impulses that trigger seizures. It’s quite effective for certain types of seizure disorders and sometimes used for diabetic neuropathy, bipolar disorder and trigeminal neuralgia, a facial pain syndrome.
According to a 2016 study published in the journal Clinical Laboratory, the drug seems to significantly reduce levels of both vitamin B12 (methylcobalamin) as well as natural folate, also called Vitamin B9. Why is this significant?
1. Folate plays a huge role in cell and tissue growth. You have trillions of cells and the crystalline DNA strands in each cell are highly susceptible to harm. Folate encourages DNA synthesis and repair of “injured” strands. Folate is needed for red blood cells, and to make iron in the body. So if you take a drug mugger of folate like carbamazepine (and over 150 other medications) then you need to be aware of this depletion. But I’m not suggesting you take folate supplements either, and I’ll explain why at the end of this article. Right now I want to make the case for what happens to you when you take a drug mugger of natural folate (B9).
2. When folate levels fall, especially in combination with a B12 deficiency, homocysteine rises and this is a known risk factor for heart attacks. Homocysteine can also act as a neurotoxin, causing brain fog.
3. Your body requires folate to convert compounds in your brain into happy neurotransmitters and sleep hormones. In particular, folate is required to make more of your happy hormones like serotonin and dopamine. Folate deficiencies play a role in depression and tearfulness, pre-menstrual moodiness and suicidal ideation. There’s even a drug version of folate called Deplin on the market, but it’s a stronger version of the same natural folate you can eat or supplement with.
By the way, in my opinion, natural folate is superior to the synthetic “folic acid”. But be very careful because supplementing with folate vitamins can block the effect of your seizure medicine. The mechanism of action of anti-seizure drugs requires suppression of folate (in some cases) so please don’t just go and supplement! Ask your doctor first and if permitted, use very low doses and separate from the medication. In some cases, you will not want to supplement at all, however, it might be okay to increase your intake of foods like leafy greens, which are very high in natural folate. Again, please talk to your physician before making any changes in your supplementation or dietary regimen.
Suzy Cohen, has been a licensed pharmacist for over 30 years and believes the best approach to chronic illness is a combination of natural medicine and conventional. She founded her own dietary supplement company specializing in custom-formulas, some of which have patents. With a special focus on functional medicine, thyroid health and drug nutrient depletion, Suzy is the author of several related books including Thyroid Healthy, Drug Muggers, Diabetes Without Drugs, and a nationally syndicated column.