Heartburn drugs are among the most frequently prescribed medicines in the U.S. with sales exceeding $13 billion annually. In the year 2000 Prilosec was the worlds most frequently prescribed drug with sales topping $6 billion annually. Now Nexium, ‘the purple pill’ made by the same manufacturer has taken the lead. These drugs block production of stomach acid thereby providing symptomatic relief from heartburn. Symptomatic relief gained by the use of pharmaceutical drugs often incurs considerable additional costs to the consumer.
Stomach acid has many functions. It kills bacteria, viruses, molds and parasites before they cause bodily injury. Acid converts minerals into a form the body can absorb. Acid is essential for digesting proteins in preparation for absorption in the intestinal track. When acid production is blocked a person is at a significantly increased risk for antibiotic-resistant infections, pneumonia, bone fractures and possibly cancer.
People taking Fosamax for osteoporosis often experience the side effect of acid reflux. To address this they are given acid blockers such as Nexium. In the end any benefit from the Fosamax may be outweighed by the use of Nexium.
Stomach cells which produce acid also produce a molecule which binds to vitamin B12 for absorption. Stop the acid and slowly over time B12 deficiencies begin to show. From 10 to nearly 50% of elderly people tend to run low on B12. Add in acid blockers and B12 deficiency anemia and fatigue are nearly a sure bet.
To date there are only animal studies linking the use of acid blockers with stomach cancer. It is noteworthy that the tumors didn’t show until a third of the animal lifespan had passed. Acid blockers have not been on the market long enough to show if this will hold true with humans.
As many of my patient’s will attest, natural medicine offers excellent alternatives to the acid blockers. Avoiding food items which relax the sphincter going into the stomach is crucial to solving the acid problem: caffeine, coffee, chocolate, green tea, black tea, oatmeal, peppermint, chamomile, alcohol, citrus drinks, apple juice, and tomato products are some of the worst culprits. Healing demulcent herbs such as slippery elm, plantain and licorice are beneficial, along with ginger root to close the sphincter going into the stomach and prevent reflux.
Drug side effects are often the result of nutritional deficiencies caused by the medication. Below is a list of drugs and associated nutrient deficiencies to be aware of. Supplementation with a good quality multiple vitamin and mineral will generally offset any imbalance.
Drug Category, Examples & Nutrients Depleted
Examples: Pepcid, Tagamet, Zantac, Prevacid, Prilosec
Nutrients Depleted: B12, Folic acid, D, Calcium, Iron, Zinc
Examples: Penicillins, Tetracyclines, Cephalosporins, Neomycin, Streptomycin
Nutrients Depleted: B vitamins, Vitamin K, cClcium, Zinc, Magnesium, Iron, Friendly intestinal Bacteria
Examples: Micronase, Tolinase, Glucophage
Nutrients Depleted: Co-Q 10, B12, Folic acid
Examples: Adapin, Afventyl, Elavil, Tofranil, Pamelor, Sinequan, Norpramin
Nutrients Depleted: B12, Co-Q 10
Examples: Aspirin & Salicylates:
Nutrients Depleted: Folic Acid, Vitamin C, Potassium
Examples: Advil, Aleve, Anaprox, Dolobid, Feldene, Lodine, Motrin, Naprosyn, Relafen:
Nutrients Depleted: Folic Acid
Examples: Betamethasone, Cortisone, Dexamethasone, Hydrocortisone, Methylprednisolone, Prednisone:
Nutrients Depleted: Vitamins C, D, Folic Acid and minerals: Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, Selenium, Zinc
Nutrients Depleted: Vitamin B6, Co-Q 10
Examples: Catapres, Aldomet:
Nutrient Depleted: Co-Q 10
Examples: Corgard, Inderal, Lopressor, Betapace, Tenormin, Sectral, Blocadren:
Nutrients Depleted: Co-Q10, Melatonin
Examples: Lasis, Bumex, Edecrin:
Nutrients Depleted: B1, B6, Magnesium, Calcium, Potassium, Zinc, Sodium
Examples: Enduron, Diuril, Lozol, Zaroxolyn, Hygroton:
Nutrients Depleted: Magnesium, Potassium, Zinc, Co-Q10, Sodium
Cholesterol Lowering Drugs
Examples: Lescol, Lipitor, Mevacor, Zocor, Pravachol, Crestor: Nutrients Depleted: Co-Q 10
Examples: Colestid, Questran:
Nutrients Depleted: A, B12, D, E, K, Beta-carotene, Folic Acid, Iron
Examples: Tagamet, Pepcid, Zantac:
Nutrients Depleted: B12, D, Folic acid, Calcium. Iron, Zinc, Protein
Hormone Replacement & Oral contraceptives
Examples: Evista, Prempro, Premarin, Estratab, Norinyl, Ortho-Novum, Triphasil etc.:
Nutrients Depleted: B2, B3, B6, B12, C, Folic acid, Magnesiu, Zinc
I hope you have enjoyed this month’s newsletter. Feedback is welcome.
Jon Dunn, ND