Using nutrients (nutraceuticals) to complement drug treatments

This month naturopathic physicians in BC celebrate four years of having limited prescribing rights in this province.

Most of the 500 members have these prescribing rights by now, and every year we have to obtain continuing education in this area to maintain our licenses. As a profession we enjoy being able to prescribe low dose lithium, a mineral in these very low doses, not a drug for manic depression, but for chronic neurological conditions. We also can prescribe Low Dose Naltrexone for cancers and autoimmune disorders which helps to wake up the immune system. It is also used to treat Hepatitis C. We cannot prescribe narcotics nor medical marijuana, but we have other effective therapies to help treat chronic pain including omega 3 essential fatty acids, boswellia, MSM and glucosamine combinations.  We can also counsel patients on lowering the dosage or discontinuing their medications.

Pharmaceutical textbooks and databases warn against the use of certain herbs and foods that might interfere with the effect of the drug. Why don’t we say to patients instead as in the words of Dr. Robert Rountree: “Be cautious when taking pharmaceuticals because they can interfere with the beneficial effects of the foods or supplements you are taking”?

For example grapefruit juice slows the metabolism of some statin drugs in the body. Does this mean that grapefruit juice should be avoided or that the dosage of the statin could be lowered because it will stay in your system longer when you drink grapefruit juice? The same is true for red rice yeast extract: taken with grapefruit juice maximizes its efficacy.

Prescription medications may cause numerous nutrient deficiencies or some drugs work synergistically with nutrients. Here is short list to consider if you are taking  the following medications:

Diuretics: hydrochlorathiazide is particularly bad at depleting many nutrients including magnesium, potassium CoQ10 and zinc.

Magnesium is a very common deficiency in the North American diet contributing to symptoms like: headaches and migraine headaches, heart palpitations, anxiety, joint pains and an irritable bladder. It is also crucial for blood sugar metabolism and insulin sensitivity in Type- 2 Diabetics so it helps optimize the function of diabetic medication.

Statin drugs: are well known to deplete CoQ10 and there is mounting evidence that taking CoQ10 may help prevent some of the adverse effects of statins such as: cognitive decline, neuropathy, pancreatic and liver dysfunction and sexual dysfunction.

Mitochondria are the power houses of the different cells in the body (except red blood cells) and certain drugs are toxic to the mitochondria. These include acetominophine, NSAIDS, tobacco, cocaine, alcohol, minocycline, propranolol, L-dopa and statins. (There are many other non-drug poisons of mitochondria but for the purposes of this article I am referring to drugs only). Magnesium is stored within the mitochondria and is a crucial mineral to supplement when taking  these drugs, in addition to B complex. Other nutrients that I use regularly to support mitochondrial function are L-Carnitine and Lipoic acid which is in a combination formula. These same nutrients increase glutathione production in the cells which help with detoxification pathways in the body.

Folic acid makes most SSRI antidepressants work better. Up to one third of depressed individuals are folate-deficient. If the drug is restarted with poor results, folic acid makes the SSRI work better the second time around.

Nutraceuticals may exert a “drug-sparing effect that allows a person to lower doses of conventional medications” under the supervision of a naturopathic doctor. Isn’t that what you want, fewer drugs not more?

Dr. Ingrid Pincott, Naturopathic Physician, has been practicing since 1985 and can be reached at 250-286-3655 or




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