It’s a well-known fact that every mainstream medication that has an effect on your body also has a side effect. But not many people know that another dangerous effect of most medications is nutrient depletion.1 While short-term medication use may not lead to nutrient deficiency, long-term use may interfere with your body’s ability to absorb vital nutrients or produce them – like calcium, folic acid, crucial B vitamins, and other nutrients.
1. Antidepressants Deplete Several Nutrients
Studies have shown that many people with depression had lower levels of vitamin B2 and treating depression with psychiatric medications can actually make them feel worse over time.2 Vitamin B2, also called riboflavin, is vital for energy metabolism throughout the body. Its deficiency affects the whole body and can cause weight gain, low energy, and skin and thyroid problems. Prescription drugs that can inhibit the absorption of vitamin B2 include anti-psychotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers, antidepressants.
Vitamin B6 plays an important role in boosting mood, improving sleep, and supporting the entire nervous system. It is crucial for the production of many neurotransmitters in the brain, including serotonin, GABA, and dopamine. Certain psychiatric medications such as antidepressants and benzodiazepines alter these neurotransmitters and also affect the vitamin B6 levels in the body.
Symptoms of vitamin B6 deficiency include weakness, mental confusion, depression, insomnia and severe PMS symptoms. The medications that deplete vitamin B2 will also indirectly deplete vitamin B6 as vitamin B2 is required to activate B6.
Vitamin B9 (Folate)
Folate is a B vitamin essential for copying and synthesizing DNA, producing new cells, and supporting the immune system. Antidepressants, benzodiazepines, antipsychotics, anticonvulsants, and mood stabilizers deplete folate too. This can be especially worrying in pregnant women who are on psychiatric medicines. Deficiency of folate can result in severe birth defects in the child. It may also cause anemia and produce symptoms like chronic fatigue and low energy.
Psychiatric medications like antidepressants, benzodiazepines, antipsychotics, anticonvulsants, and mood stabilizers also deplete vitamin B12. Since vitamin B12 is essential for a number of body functions, including transmission of nerve signals, a drop in B12 levels can be dangerous. Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include fatigue, dizziness, nerve problems, vision loss, and depression.
Research has shown that the psychiatric medications that deplete magnesium from your body include antidepressants and central nervous stimulants. Insufficient magnesium levels can cause and aggravate many neuropsychiatric problems like depression, anxiety, ADHD, insomnia, seizures, schizophrenia, premenstrual syndrome, short-term memory loss, and IQ loss.
Magnesium is an important mineral that is required by the body for over 300 biochemical reactions that include neurotransmitter, enzyme, and hormonal activity, all of which have a direct impact on your mood and brain function.3 Magnesium is essential for reducing depression, anxiety, and irritability and is crucial for optimal brain health. The symptoms of magnesium deficiency are very similar to the side effects of many common psychiatric medications. Some common symptoms include insomnia, headaches, migraines, suicidal thoughts, heart arrhythmias, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, and muscle weakness.
Though melatonin is not a nutrient, it is an essential hormone released by the pineal gland located in the brain, and the amount can be increased through diet. Melatonin regulates our sleep and wake cycles (circadian rhythm). It is essential for deep and restorative sleep, which is vital for optimal brain and mental health.
Many psychiatric medications can deplete melatonin supply, increase the need for melatonin, or interfere with the activity of melatonin. 4 A deficiency may cause insomnia and fatigue.
2. Birth Control Pills Can Deplete Folate, Vitamin B12, And Zinc
Research conducted in women who use oral contraceptives has shown that they can deplete the levels of several nutrients in the body, namely vitamins B2, B6, B9, B12, C, and E, magnesium, selenium, and zinc.5
Vitamin C is an essential dietary nutrient that helps in protein metabolism, collagen synthesis, and immunity building. Being an antioxidant, it also fights against free radical damage in the body.
Vitamin E is another potent antioxidant that protects the tissues from free radicals and plays a role in immune function, gene expression, and prevention of blood clotting inside blood vessels.
Selenium is a micronutrient needed to synthesize antioxidant enzymes and proteins needed for thyroid hormone metabolism and DNA function.
Zinc is an essential mineral required for enzyme function, immune function, protein synthesis, wound healing, DNA synthesis, cell division, and growth during pregnancy, childhood, and adolescence.
3. Proton Pump Inhibitors Hinder Vitamin B12 Absorption
Some drugs, like proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs), used to reduce acid reflux and heartburn may interfere with the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from dietary sources. PPIs prevent absorption of vitamin B12, which can cause confusion, muscle weakness, and lack of balance, leading to frequent falls.6
Studies in people with depression have shown low levels of B12 and folate circulating in the blood.7 Conversely, people with low blood folate and B12 are at a higher risk for developing depression.8 Vitamin B12 is another essential B vitamin that is crucial for methylation, an important process in the body and brain for optimal energy and nervous system function.
4. Arthritis Medicines Can Deplete Calcium
Prednisone is a medication used to treat arthritis, allergic reactions, asthma, and psoriasis. Prednisone has been proven to impair the body’s absorption of calcium.9 Calcium is necessary for bone development and strength and for stabilizing blood sugar. Calcium deficiency can increase the risk for osteoporosis. Symptoms of calcium deficiency include dizziness, confusion, muscle spasms, depression, and hallucinations.
5. Cholesterol Medicines Inhibit CoQ10 Production
Studies have also established that oxidative stress contributes to depression. Cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins inhibit the production of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), a molecule found in every cell of the body that is essential for the production of energy.10 Many psychiatric medications, including antidepressants and antipsychotics, also deplete CoQ10.
CoQ10 is also an antioxidant that protects the body and brain from free radical damage. Studies conducted on lab rats have shown that higher levels of CoQ10 have a significant antidepressant effect in rats due to its antioxidant effect.11
Common deficiency symptoms may include high blood pressure, muscle cramps, high blood sugar, shortness of breath, brain fog, mental fatigue, difficulty concentrating, memory lapses, depression, and irritability.
|↑1||Felípez, Lina, and Timothy A. Sentongo. “Drug-induced nutrient deficiencies.” Pediatric Clinics of North America 56, no. 5 (2009): 1211-1224.|
|↑2||Naghashpour, Mahshid, Reza Amani, R. Nutr, Sorur Nematpour, and Mohammad Hosein Haghighizadeh. “Riboflavin status and its association with serum hs-CRP levels among clinical nurses with depression.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition 30, no. 5 (2011): 340-347.|
|↑3||Jahnen-Dechent, Wilhelm, and Markus Ketteler. “Magnesium basics.” Clinical kidney journal 5, no. Suppl_1 (2012): i3-i14.|
|↑4||Hardeland, Rüdiger. “Neurobiology, pathophysiology, and treatment of melatonin deficiency and dysfunction.” The Scientific World Journal 2012 (2012).|
|↑5||Palmery, M., A. Saraceno, A. Vaiarelli, and G. Carlomagno. “Oral contraceptives and changes in nutritional requirements.” Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci 17, no. 13 (2013): 1804-13.|
|↑6||Are your medications causing nutrient deficiency? Harvard Medical School.|
|↑7||Carney, M. W. P., and B. F. Sheffield. “Serum folic acid and B12 in 272 psychiatric in-patients.” Psychological Medicine 8, no. 1 (1978): 139-144.|
|↑8||Gilbody, Simon, Tracy Lightfoot, and Trevor Sheldon. “Is low folate a risk factor for depression? A meta-analysis and exploration of heterogeneity.” Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health 61, no. 7 (2007): 631-637.|
|↑9||Bentzel, Carl J., Paul P. Carbone, Leon Rosenberg, and Millicent Bean. “The effect of prednisone on calcium metabolism and Ca47 kinetics in patients with multiple myeloma and hypercalcemia.” Journal of Clinical Investigation 43, no. 11 (1964): 2132.|
|↑10||Are your medications causing nutrient deficiency?. Harvard Medical School. 2016.|
|↑11||Aboul-Fotouh, Sawsan. “Coenzyme Q10 displays antidepressant-like activity with reduction of hippocampal oxidative/nitrosative DNA damage in chronically stressed rats.” Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior 104 (2013): 105-112.|