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Tip of the Week

Stolen Nutrients: Drugs, Side Effects, and Your Health

By Linda Mac Dougall, M.A., HHP, CMT

Your body is like your car. It is a machine that requires regular maintenance, quality fuel, repairs, and sometimes, spare parts. Many of us rely on medications to keep the body running, but for how long and at what price?  

Who actually reads the possible side effects of the medications they take? How many of that small number understand that often the side effects are caused by the drugs stealing nutrients from the body? If you understand this much, then you know that drugs often take from one area of your health to bolster another area. How sustainable is that?  How much time before other health problems surface due to that nutrient depletion?

Aspirin, a drug in most American medicine cabinets, interferes with folic acid use. This is one part of a multi-part B vitamin called folate that helps make healthy new cells. Some of us have variants in the MTHFR gene that also interfere with our ability to use folate well to begin with. Adding drugs that impede usage to a body that isn't fully capable of properly utilizing folate magnifies the problems already existing.

Low levels of folic acid can lower immunity, interfere with the gut flora, drain your energy, bring on abnormal brain function and depression, as well as cause blood cell production problems. Add to this that much of the folic acid in packaged foods is a synthetic form that many people can't absorb well or make use of well.

Aspirin also depletes potassium, vitamin C, and causes iron loss through blood loss with the damage done to the stomach and intestines over time with consistent use. No one is deficient in aspirin, but being deficient in vitamin C can be damaging to every cell in your body. We don't make this vitamin or store it. We need to take it in every day.
So what can you do?

  • Be your own advocate.  Ask questions of your doctor about the medications you take or are considering taking. What are the side effects?  What are the alternatives? What can you do to avoid taking the drug?  Know your options.

  • Be proactive.  Doctors know their field, but often not the more natural alternatives or the nutrients taken by the drugs. You will have to do your own research or find an alternative medicine practitioner. Bring your research to your doctor so you both understand your concerns.

  • Don't be intimidated.  If you have done your part. asked your questions, gotten your answers, and done your research, you could easily know what you want to do and why.  It is your health, your body, and your decision.           

    When I was forced to change doctors years ago, I took my chart with me and kept it by my side.  I interviewed the doctor. I let her know that I was not her usual patient. I wasn't going to automatically do what she wanted me to. We came to an understanding, and I gave her my chart. Had she not been open to being challenged, I would not have stayed with her.

  • Learn the best forms of the vitamins to take.  When you decide to replace a       nutrient, learn the better-absorbed forms so that you don't waste your money. Not all forms are created equally absorbent. For example, B12 vitamin formulas are often cyanocobalamin or methylcobalamin.  Methylcobalamin is the better form for reasons best left alone here. Cheaper vitamins will have the other form.  Those of us with the variant MTHFR gene may need a methyl folate, too.

Yes, health can be a deep subject, and it is changing every day.  What we now know about gene variants could have helped my mother.  She worked with what was known in her time just as I am working on my health with what is available information today.  

Linda Mac Dougall has a wide, varied background in disability and senior issues.  From caregiver to an administrator, to Federal advocate, she has seen the field through a wide lens.  Now as a specialized senior massage therapist, a holistic health practitioner, a speaker/trainer, an author, and a coach, she has added to her perspective.  To gain from her decades of experience, contact Linda or follow her on LinkedIn or on Facebook. Permission granted for use on

Tags: Behavior, Health, Tips
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