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How the Immune System is Affected by Drug-Induced Nutrient Depletion

Lipitor, Atenolol, Lisinopril…if you are over 60 years old there is a very good chance that you are currently taking, or have taken one of these medications. You could also be taking aspirin, Propranolol, Metoprolol, Hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ); Spironolactone, Zocor, Prevacid, Fosamax, Lasix, antibiotics, be on estrogen replacement therapy or one of the many other options. As of 2010, nine out of ten Americans over the age of 60 were on at least one prescription drug. Even more startling is that in the same year 40% of elderly Americans had taken at least five different prescription drugs in the last month.

With the myriad of prescription drugs that are being taken, especially in combination, there is a definite impact on the overall function of the body. With the many systemic side-effects that are present, I would like to focus on the specific effect on the immune system. It is well documented that certain medications deplete very specific nutrients within the body. This depletion is not without consequence, as our body needs the nutrients in adequate levels to effectively operate our body systems. As we age, infection and the ability of our body to have an appropriate immune response to potential pathogens is of the utmost importance. In 2010, septicemia (blood infection) was the eighth leading cause of death in adults over the age of 65. Could this statistic be changed with a healthy immune response?

Once adults pass the age of 60, nine out of ten will be on at least one medication and four out of ten will be on at least five! It is important to understand how this affects the immune system and how to support its optimal function.

The main nutrients that are affected by the most common prescription medications in the elderly include: COQ1O,vitamin E, zinc, vitamin C and probiotics” The medications affect the levels of one or several of the nutrients and each of the nutrients has a very specific function in the support of the immune system.

CoQ10 is depleted by statin medications, such as Lipitor or Zocor and other medications such as Hydrochlorothiazide, Propranolol and Metoprolol. Adequate CoQ10 has been shown to decrease the levels of TNF- and IL-2, both of which are pro-inflammatory cytokines shown to depress healthy immune response. Statin medications also have been shown to decrease the levels of vitamin E. Vitamin E has been shown to enhance the proliferation of T-cells and decrease the production of PGE(2), which happens to suppress the formation of T-cells. Blood pressure medications such as Lisinopril, Lasix, or HCTZ are associated with the depletion of zinc, a nutrient that is associated with a healthy immune system. Zinc can also be depleted by antibiotics and when women are receiving estrogen replacement therapy. Aspirin has been shown to decrease levels of vitamin C and is taken daily as a preventative measure by many elderly patients; vitamin C supports neutrophil activity. Probiotics in the digestive tract have been shown in many studies to be very effective at supporting immune health. Antibiotics wipe out infection as well as healthy bacteria. It would be best to replace the healthy probiotic bacteria following a course of antibiotics.

Healthy and appropriate levels of all of these nutrients, and many others, are what support a healthy and appropriate immune reaction. If your are taking any of the previously mentioned medications, or any medication, be sure to look at the possibility of nutrient depletions and how they may be affecting not only their immune system, but your body’s optimal function as a whole. And make sure that next time you go to your doctor; discuss these issues with him or her.

By Christopher Oswald, D.C., C.N.S.

Tags: immune System, drug-induced nutrient depletion, Lipitor, Atenolol, Lisinopril, aspirin, Propranolol, Metoprolol, Hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ); Spironolactone, Zocor, Prevacid, Fosamax, Lasix, antibiotics, estrogen replacement therapy, CoQ10, statin medications, Zocor, Hydrochlorothiazide, Propranolol, Metoprolol, Vitamin E, Vitamin C,