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The Nutritional Cost of Prescription Drugs

Written by Dr Arien van der Merwe MBChB FRSPH MISMA

Extracted from ‘Herbal Remedies’ by AvdM; Tafelberg Publishers

Except for the known side effects, many of the most frequently prescribed drugs can cause nutrient depletion. Many of the side effects of drugs can be prevented by using basic food supplements when you have to use prescription medication. Some of the following information has been known since 1976! A lot of research papers have since then been published in various mainstream medical and research journals. It is only recently that James La Valle, a pharmacist and naturopath, has scanned all the published data and wrote a book on the nutritional cost of prescription medication.

Here are some examples:

Table 1:


Potential Nutrient Deficiency with Possible problems or symptoms associated with the deficiency


1. Medicine prescribed for the treatment of high blood pressure

 i. Hydralazine
Vasodilators (cause widening of the arteries) that contain hydralazine hydrochloride e.g. Apresoline, Hyperphen, Rolazine
Vitamin B6 – Insomnia, fatigue, ECG (electrocardiogram that measures the electrical activity of the heart) abnormalities, lowered immunity with an increased tendency towards infections, nervous system disorders
Co-enzyme Q10 (Co-Q10) – Lowered energy levels, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, angina (pain over heart area during exertion), prolapse of the mitral valve in the heart, stroke, heart arhythmia (irregular heart beat), cardiomyopathy (disease of the heart muscle), inflammation of the oral mucosa, lowered immunity
ii. Loop diuretics (increase production of urine in the loop area of the kidney) e.g. Lasix, Unat, Puresis (all containing furosemide)  CalciumMuscle cramps, heart palpitations, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, tooth decay, insomnia.
MagnesiumMuscle cramps, muscle weakness, heart palpitations, lowered exercise tolerance, insomnia, poor appetite, nausea, vomiting, heart arhythmia
Vitamin B1 & B6Weight loss, oedema, changes in heart rhythm, enlarged heart
Vitamin CBleeding of the oral mucosa, discolouration and bruising of the skin, poor healing of fractures and wounds, joint pain, loose teeth and tooth decay
PotassiumMuscle weakness, nervous irritability, mental disorientation
ZincPoor healing of wounds, dermatitis, inability to taste food, night blindness (due to poor vitamin A and zinc interaction), loss of hair, lowered immunity
iii. Thiazide diuretics e.g. Urirex K, Dichlotride, Moduretic (all that contain hydrochlorthiazide) Magnesium, potassium, zinc, co-enzyme Q10 see above
iv. Potassium sparing diuretics e.g. Aldactone (all that contain spironolactone) Calcium – see above
Folic acidAnaemia, depression, spina bifida (tissue doesn’t close properly over spinal column) in babies of mothers with folic acid deficiency
Zinc – see above

2. Medicine prescribed for cardiovascular problems

i. Glycosides e.g. Lanoxin, that contain digoxin, for heart failure Calcium, magnesium – see above
PhosphorousOsteoporosis, muscle weakness, cardiomyopathy (disease of the heart muscle), dyspnoea (shortness of breath)
ii. Beta-blockers e.g. Lopressor, Inderal, Tenormin, Sectral, Dilatrend for high blood pressure Co-enzyme Q10 – see above
iii. Anti-arrythmic drugs e.g. Cordarone, Norpace to treat irregular heart beat Folic acid, Co-Q10, Magnesium – see above
iv. Calcium channel blockers e.g. Norvasc, Adalat, Isoptin, Dynacirc, Plendil Folic acid, Co-Q10, Magnesium – see above

3. Cholesterol lowering drugs

Statins or HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors e.g. Lipitor, Prava, Zocor Co Enzyme Q10 – One of the most important nutrients in the body. Protects against the side effects of prescription cholesterol drugs. Increases energy (the heart is the most energy demanding muscle in the body)Magnesium oxide – Maintains normal blood pressure. Vitamin B1, B5, B6 – Supports cardiovascular health and heart function. Assists in the metabolism of protein, fats and carbohydrates.


Source: Healthy Lifestyles – ‘Treatment drugs: Nutrient zappers’, by James LaValle, pharmacist, naturopath.


Table 2:


Potential Nutrient Deficiency

  Possible problems or symptoms associated with the deficiency


Vitamin B5 Involved in the metabolism of all carbohydrates, fats and proteins.
Calcium Develops and maintains healthy bones. Re-balances pH of the stomach.
Cholecalciferol (Vitamin D)  Promotes absorption of calcium and phosphorous (important for soft tissues and bone strength). 
Vitamin B12 Assists in the metabolism of protein, fat and carbohydrates.
Vitamin B6
Vitamin B1
Folic AcidIron Essential for healthy maturation and function of red blood cells. Assist in absorption of nutrients.
Zinc amino acid chelate  Enhances the body’s immune system functioning and encourages healing of mucosal lining in stomach.


Co Enzyme Q10 One of the most important nutrients in the body.Protects against side effects of prescription antidepressant drugs.Increases energy.Supports the nervous system.
Vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, B6   Essential for normal functioning nervous system. They’re all extremely important for nervous system function



Potential Nutrient Deficiency

Possible problems or symptoms associated with the deficiency


Oligofructose Promotes and supports normal intestinal flora.
Vitamin B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, biotin, inositol Supports the immune system and the nervous system to handle the stress of the infection.
Folic Acid Essential for the healthy maturation and function of red and white blood cells. Enhances immune function

Medication prescribed for arthritis and pain relief

Vitamin C Enhances the immune system.Encourages healing.Plays an important role in detoxification and antioxidant defense mechanisms in the body.
Zinc Gluconate 
Calcium Develops and maintains healthy bones.
Cholecalciferol (Vitamin D) Promotes the absorption of calcium.
Magnesium Ascorbate  Vital for healthy nervous and musculoskeletal tissue.
Potassium Ascorbate  Lack of potassium leads to muscle exhaustion and fatigue.
Folic Acid Important for optimal functioning musculoskeletal system.

Contraceptives (birth control pills)

Magnesium Ascorbate  Vital for the health of the female reproductive system and uterine tissue.
Vitamin B2 Supports female reproductive function and hormone synthesis.
  Helps protect the lining of the blood vessels. Important for nervous system function.Assists in the metabolism of proteins, fats and carbohydrates to provide energy for the female reproductive system.
Vitamin B6
Vitamin B12
Vitamin C Helps support the body’s immune system.Encourages healing .
Zinc Gluconate
Folic Acid Essential for the healthy functioning of the female reproductive system and red blood cells
Tyrosine Assists in balancing emotional states and other aspects of brain functioning. Also precursor of thyroid hormones that control metabolism
Calcium Develops and maintains healthy bones.

Estrogen replacement therapy prescribed for menopause

Vitamin B6 Helps protect the lining of the blood vessels.Assists with depression and sleep disturbances.
Magnesium Oxide  Vital for the health of nervous and muscular tissue throughout the body, as well as the female reproductive system.


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