SpectraCell Blog

Your Medication’s Side Effects Might Be a Drug-Induced Nutrient Deficiency

Posted by SpectraCell Laboratories, Inc. on Tue, Apr 24, 2018 @ 03:34 PM

rx drugs

Pharmaceutical medications help millions of Americans cope with clinical symptoms every day, but most are not without side effects.  In fact, the side effects of a medication are often worse than the original condition according to many patients.  One reason for this is that prescription drugs very often cause nutrient depletions, which manifest clinically in very significant ways.  A classic example is coenzyme Q10 deficiency caused by statin medications.  Statins block an enzyme that affects cholesterol production, but the same enzyme is needed to manufacture the important antioxidant coenzyme Q10, which is a key nutrient needed for cellular energy metabolism proper heart function.   So if you block this enzyme (called HMG-CoA reductase for hydroxyl-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A, which is why statins are known generically as HMG-CoA reductase inhbitors), you may lower cholesterol, but as a consequence you may cause a coenzyme Q10 deficiency, which can manifest as low energy and muscle pain. 

Why is this so common?  The reason is simple – the pharmaceutical approach is fundamentally different from the nutrient repletion approach in that medications alter or interrupt metabolic pathways to achieve a clinical result while nutrient repletion supports or helps maintain the optimal function of a metabolic pathway to achieve balance.  In general, medications are palliative in that they focus often on the relief of symptoms.  Conversely, nutrient repletion is curative and the goal is optimal cellular function of which a side effect is relief of symptoms. 

This is not to say that medications have no place in health, but they do have a role in nutrient depletion which can cause the unpleasant and dangerous side effects.  Especially in the age of polypharmacy – when people take more than one medication simultaneously (including over the counter meds) – nutrient depletions caused by drugs deserve a closer look.  Here are some examples of how medications can deplete micronutrients:

  • Meds can interrupt endogenous production of a nutrient (statins and CoQ10)
  • Meds impairs absorption in the gastrointestinal tract (antacids and B12)
  • Meds can create reactive oxygen species and thus “use up” antioxidants (NSAID and cysteine)
  • Meds can increase urinary excretion of nutrients (diuretics and minerals)
  • Meds can alter the gut microbiome (antibiotics and vitamin K)
  • Meds can impairs mitochondrial function and cellular respiration

Adding to the problem is that fact research on drug-induced nutrient depletions is comparatively sparse compared to the giant funding allotted to pharmaceutical development and testing. In addition, there is a lag time between the market introduction of a blockbuster drug and potential nutrient depletion-induced side effect data.  An example of this is research in the past decade that implicates antacids (proton-pump inhibitors) as a causative factor in cardiac events due to their tendency to deplete magnesium.  The strong link between PPI use and arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat) may be caused by magnesium depletion, which may also explain an increased risk in bone fractures for people on long-term PPI use according to the FDA.  Although research on PPI-induced magnesium deficiency emerged in the last few years,  PPIs have been widely used in the market since 1990.  In some cases, the research on drug-induced nutrient depletions may not emerge for many years after a drug is widely accepted into the market.

If you are taking a medication, have your micronutrient levels tested today.

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For more information on drug-induced nutrient depletions associated with statins and antacids, download our nutrient wheels! 

Statins Nutrient Wheel
Antacids Nutrient Wheel

Topics: statin, Intracellular Analysis, micronutrient deficiencies, Advanced Nutritional Testing, Effects of Statins on CoQ10, Drug-induced Nutrient Depletion, Functional Micronutrient Testing, Antacids, Functional Medicine

An Unhealthy Diet Programs Immune Cells to be "Hyperactive"

Posted by SpectraCell Laboratories, Inc. on Tue, Mar 06, 2018 @ 12:31 PM

diet.jpgEpigenetics – the study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression rather than alteration in the genetic code itself– has gained much attention in recent years.  Environmental factors including diet, smoking and stress have been shown to impact gene expression through epigenetic mechanisms.

In a recent experiment involving the collaboration of several medical institutions, an experiment was performed on mice to determine how their immunity responded to a typical Western diet.  When mice were fed a Western diet, systemic inflammation occurred which was entirely expected. However, what was particularly interesting was that the Western (inflammatory) diet fundamentally changed their immune system.  After eating high calorie, low nutrient food, not only did the mice exhibit more systemic inflammation (not surprising), but their white blood cells became programmed to remain hyper-sensitive to inflammatory triggers.  The cellular “memory” had changed.


Here is how it worked: a gene called NLRP3 (for Nucleotide binding domain Like Receptor Protein) makes a protein that is used by our immune cells to recognize harmful bacteria and viruses.  This protein made by the NLRP3 gene recognizes “bad” cell remnants.  These can be parts of bacterial cell membranes, or pieces of genetic material found in viruses, or even parts of a cell that are supposed to be contained but may leak out due to cellular trauma.  It is a fundamental way our immune cells recognize something is wrong – bacteria are present or acute tissue damage occurred, for example – and thus launch an inflammatory response to deal with the biological crisis and take care of it.

In this study, the immune cells in mice fed a typical Western diet of high-calorie, low nutrient foods launched the same inflammatory response as if an invading bacterial infection were present. Furthermore, the immune cells became hypersensitive so that they continued their inflammatory attack, even when the mice’s diet was returned to normal. In other words, the immune cells responded to a Western diet in the same way it responds to infections.  But instead of the infection clearing up, the Western diet seemed to reprogram the immune cells to stay in a perpetual hyperactive state. These results may help explain why chronic inflammation is behind so many lifestyle-related diseases such as heart disease, obesity and diabetes.

LINK to ABSTRACT Western Diet Triggers NLRP3-Dependent Innate Immune Reprogramming.

Topics: micronutrient testing, Nutrition, Epigenetics, micronutrient status, Healthy Diet, Nutritional Testing, Diet and Immune Response, Advanced Nutritional Testing