Unlike drugs, natural micronutrients are essential for the optimal functioning of our cells. We could not survive without them. In contrast, drugs are usually synthetic substances that can cause many side effects and interactions in the body. On top of that, they are usually only able to mask or alleviate symptoms. So while many micronutrients are vital, quite a few drugs have life-damaging properties. Nevertheless, the fact that drugs always carry the risk of causing further diseases makes that inhumane business model all the more attractive for the pharmaceutical investment industry.
Is the quality of drugs determined by their side effects?
When we use the term “drugs,” we usually think of products developed in the laboratory for medical use. We associate this term with pharmaceutical products often available in pill form. These “conventional” drugs generate escalating costs and burden patients with a range of side effects. Some of them are feared, but many others go unnoticed, which by no means implies that they are harmless. Prospective pharmacologists are taught in their first year of study that medicinal products inevitably have undesirable side effects. Otherwise, it is argued, drugs would automatically be suspected of having no main effect. The skill of pharmacy would therefore be to develop and refine drugs with as few side effects as possible compared to the intended main effect.
Do diseases really arise because of a lack of medication?
Two things are quickly overlooked in this approach. First, our metabolism depends on numerous natural substances: vitamins, certain amino acids, minerals, trace elements, and various other micronutrients. If they are lacking, deficiency symptoms will set in sooner or later. Unlike shortness of breath, thirst, or hunger, however, we do not have a distinct sense of an impending micronutrient deficiency. Therefore, we won’t even notice that we are deficient in micronutrients until we become ill. This is reflected by the overwhelming number of so-called common or lifestyle diseases in the supposedly highly developed Western healthcare systems. However, instead of aiming at preventing deficiencies and resulting disease states, pharma-oriented “conventional medicine” is completely imbued with the dogma of wanting to treat chronic diseases with lagging intervention measures: cost-intensive repair instead of cause-related prevention.
Concerning risks and side effects…
On the other hand, the above approach deliberately omits the fact that medicines, in the vast majority of cases, only mask the symptoms of a disease. This may give patients the impression of being cured, however, the actual causes of the disease are not eliminated. An additional burden is that the stated drug effect(s) are associated with undesirable side effects – some more, others less frequently. Many patients tend to ignore the information on the package insert. Sometimes doctors even recommend not reading it to avoid “troubling oneself unnecessarily”. The fact is: the more medicines are used and the longer they are taken, the greater the risk of drug-related damage, which may even be fatal. This is because the active substances can influence each other. Thus, the risk of side effects and interactions increases disproportionately with each additional medication.
We speak of polypharmacy as soon as more than five medicines are taken at the same time. The group most affected by this practice are senior citizens. In Germany, 30 % of people over the age of 65 take more than five medicines, and 4.2 % of people of this age even take 9 or more drugs. However, the number of people affected by polypharmacy increases not only with age but also with each doctor who treats the patient. While polypharmacy affects about one-third of patients when two doctors are involved, almost 80 % of patients are affected by this problem when four doctors provide simultaneous treatment. Both factors do not leave a good impression of the healthcare system. In fact, they give it a poor mark.
Pharmaceuticals are micronutrient robbers
Drug scandals such as those involving Thalidomide, Baycol, Vioxx, the rampant opioid epidemic in the USA, or, more recently, the recall of Valsartan may stand out in the public consciousness. Unfortunately, the sobering truth is that virtually all drug therapies lead to more or less obvious damage by adversely affecting the body’s micronutrient balance. This is because pharmaceuticals do not participate in metabolic processes in a detached way but interact with complex processes inside and outside the cells.
(A) Drugs can already hinder or suppress the absorption of micronutrients, such as the aggressively marketed proton pump inhibitors (stomach acid blockers) do with vitamin B12, folic acid, zinc, iron, vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, vitamin C, and other micronutrients. Antibiotics, certain lipid and cholesterol-lowering drugs, various painkillers, or oral contraceptives are also worth mentioning in this context.
(B) Drugs can also block the conversion (or re-provision) of micronutrients into their active form(s). Prominent examples are, again, hormonal contraceptives, especially regarding the metabolism of B vitamins and the antiasthmatic drug Theophylline regarding vitamin B6. Statins can also be included on this list, as they inhibit not only the body’s own vitamin D synthesis but also the synthesis of coenzyme Q10, which is essential for energy production.
(C) In general, almost all drugs are associated with a disturbance of the mitochondrial respiratory chain, leading to a multitude of side effects. This is because all cells depend on the provision of sufficient bioenergy (i.e., the energy carrier ATP) from the cellular power plants. In addition to the already highly toxic cytostatics (“chemotherapy”), many other pharmaceutical agents have a damaging effect on the processes and structures in the mitochondria. These include the aforementioned statins, antiarrhythmics (Beta blockers, Ca-channel blockers), ACE inhibitors, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g., Diclofenac, Ibuprofen, or Paracetamol), antidepressants (e.g., Imipramine, Fluoxetine, Paroxetine), psychotropic drugs (e.g., Haloperidol), antiepileptic drugs (e.g., Valproic acid), antidiabetics (e.g., Metformin, the group of Glitazones), anticoagulants (e.g., Phenprocoumon), antibiotics (e.g., Anthracyclines, Tetracyclines, Sulfonamides), the group of ARVs, and others.
(D) Another mechanism of drug-induced micronutrient deprivation is the increased stress on natural vital substances in the course of detoxification processes in the liver or kidney – a path that almost all drugs take. A typical example is poisoning by Acetaminophen (Paracetamol).
(E) Finally, a number of medicines promote the excretion of vital micronutrients. These include the often-quoted diuretics (dehydration medication) and laxatives. Acetylsalicylic acid (ASA), whether taken as a painkiller, antipyretic, anti-inflammatory, or anticoagulant agent, is used by millions of people without a second thought. Since all of the above mechanisms of micronutrient deprivation can be linked to ASA, this carelessness in the use of this substance is in stark contrast to its undesirable side effects – irrespective of the fact that some vitamin C is now added to the long-established Aspirin. In fact, this measure seems like a mockery, as the amount of vitamin C is not even enough to compensate for the losses caused by the drug.
Read the second part of the article here