I heard you in a radio interview talking about medications and how they rob the body of vitamins. You called them “drug muggers.” You said that side effects might be avoided if we supplement properly. I take furosemide and ibuprofen. Are these meds considered “drug muggers”? If so, what vitamins do they rob?” –W.I., Tulsa, Okla.
ANSWER: Medications have always been capable of depleting our body’s stores of vital life-sustaining nutrients, but the news is just getting out. A common example is with antibiotics, which are drug muggers for natural, healthy flora in the gut. Most of you know that eating yogurt, or supplementing with L. acidophilus or S. boulardii will restore gut integrity and minimize or stop stomach cramps, yeast infections and diarrhea normally associated with antibiotic use.
It’s also fairly well-known these days that statin cholesterol reducers (Lipitor, Mevacor, Zocor, Advicor) deplete the body of Coenzyme Q10. This can cause muscle aches, cramps, weakness and heart disease, among other things. Replenishing the body with CoQ10 (ubiquinone) or its activated form, ubiquinol, usually makes people feel better within a matter of days, allowing many to continue their statin, where they would normally find it intolerable.
Other drug muggers exist – hundreds, in fact. Knowing what nutrients to replenish is important because it helps avoid uncomfortable and dangerous side effects from drugs. You can eat a diet rich in the nutrients you need, or you can supplement. Here are a few examples, including the two medications you mentioned:
Ibuprofen and aspirin are both drug muggers for folic acid (5-MTHF). When you run low on folic acid, you raise bad homocysteine, and reduce happy brain chemicals, in- creasing your risk for cancer, depression and heart disease.
Furosemide (Lasix) is a drug mugger of Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine or P5P). When you run low on B6, you could develop fatigue, heart disease, nerve pain and menstrual problems.
Some laxatives and antacids are drug muggers for calcium; run low on that and you can develop muscle cramps and brittle bones.
Most blood pressure pills are drug muggers for magnesium. Run low on this mineral and you may experience muscle pain/tenderness, asthma, depression, heart disease and elevated blood pressure (yes, I said that correctly).
For now, the term “drug mugger” won’t be found in medical journals because it’s only an expression my husband dreamed up during a flash of brilliance (this happens when I bake him banana-chocolate bread). I asked him to think of a punchy way to say “drug-induced nutrient depletion” and voila! So, while the concept is well documented, discussing drug muggers tomorrow with your doctor may prompt some head scratching.
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.