Gut instinct: How to fortify your body

In keeping well through the Covid crisis and beyond, Martina Gallivan on the importance of fortifying your body in the battle between medication vs nutrients.

Last month I spoke about the importance of nutritional supplements to support the immune system.

This month, I’m following on from that article with advice on how certain medication can deplete the body of nutrients, and what steps you can take to support your system in the process.

“Ensuring you accelerate your consumption of foods loaded with Vitamin C is worth doing”

An example would be Vitamin C. Otherwise known as Ascorbic Acid. An extreme depletion of this nutrient can lead to scurvy as well as fatigue and tiredness and in addition, can also affect mood. The good news is that Vitamin C is abundant in many fruits and vegetables so it’s rare that anyone would be deficient in this vitamin.

However, there are certain medications which can rob the body of Vitamin C. Namely some acid blockers such as Nexium, Tagamet and Ranitidine (Zantac). Also, antacids such as Maalox and Milk of Magnesia. Certain anti-inflammatory drugs like Ibuprofen and Diclofenac. Blood Pressure medication such as Furosemide and Amiloride. H

Hormone Replacement drugs, in particular Estradiol and Climara. Drugs used for breast cancer such as Tamoxifen. And of course, alcohol and tobacco deplete the body of Vitamin C. There are also many more medications which strip the body of this key nutrient, but what steps can you take to prevent this?

Eat your greens

Firstly, ensuring you accelerate your consumption of foods loaded with Vitamin C is worth doing. Green and Red Peppers, Kiwis, Strawberries, Oranges, Tomatoes, Raspberries, Blueberries, Carrots, raw Celery, Broccoli and Cauliflower, Kale, Sweet Potato and would you believe Nettles are all loaded with Vitamin C.

You could also take a good quality Vitamin C supplement. Expectant mothers need to be mindful of the amount of Vitamin C they consume as over 1000mg daily could be a risk factor for preeclampsia.

Vitamin D has been championed in the media lately due to its ability to enhance the immune system. In particular this vitamin is immensely important because without it we’re more likely to develop Coronary Artery Disease, Pneumonia, Cancer, Dementia, as well as food allergies and asthma. It also lowers our risk of developing type 2 diabetes because it improves insulin sensitivity.

Types of medications which strip the body of nutrients once again include acid blockers such as Tagamet, antacids such as Maalox and Alka-Seltzer, certain antibiotics, Anticonvulsants like Zarontin. Antifungals for example Nizoral, and also certain Cholesterol medication, an example would be Lipitor, Atorvastatin and Crestor.

However once again excess alcohol, lack of sunlight, and those of us who have certain autoimmune conditions like for example Crohn’s or Coeliac disease are all susceptible to a depletion of this nutrient.

Boost your food sources

Boosting your food sources of Vitamin D is easy. Salmon, Halibut, Mackerel and wild tinned Salmon (good quality) are excellent sources. As are the yolks of eggs and some cereals which are already fortified with Vitamin D.

I always advise clients to actually take advantage of sunlight when you can. So, 15 minutes without sunscreen early morning or late afternoon when the sun isn’t at its strongest are good times. However, anything over 30 minutes without sun protection is not advisable. In winter, I always make sure to take a Vitamin D3 supplement to ensure adequate levels.

I had mentioned the importance of Zinc in last month’s article and its advantageous effect on the immune system.

Medications which invade the body of zinc include Omeprazole, Pantoprazole and Ranitidine, all acid blockers. Losartan and Furosemide, both of these are blood pressure medications. And some Hormone replacement medications, for example Estradiol and Climara.

Plus, all caffeine related beverages, coffee, tea, cola and other caffeinated fizzy drinks. Also smoking will strip the body of zinc due to the toxins and heavy metals in tobacco. Rich food sources of zinc are nuts and seeds, chicken, peas, broccoli, spinach, mushrooms, asparagus, cheese and wholegrains.

This also works both ways because there are also foods which have the ability to interfere with certain medication. Take Grapefruit, for example. You’ll be well aware of your GP’s instructions warning you about Grapefruit and its interaction with certain drugs. Grapefruit can have a dramatic effect of the anticoagulant drug Warfarin which is quite a common drug. The effect of grapefruit whilst taking this drug can lead to excessive thinning of the blood.

Certain blood pressure medications if taken alongside grapefruit can lead to fainting and low blood pressure. Various statins paired with grapefruit consumption can lead to headaches, leg cramps and in the extreme, kidney and liver damage. Always check the leaflet for interactions.

The bottom line is to be aware of the potential for a drug to interact negatively with your body. It’s not a serious issue but it’s no harm for you to be informed. Sometimes a drug can interfere with your internal system say for example by changing the pH levels in your gastro intestinal tract. Or interfering with certain enzymes in the body which renders a nutrient inactive.

Always ensure you eat as well as you can and if you are prescribed medication by your doctor, check with a qualified nutritional health care professional who will be able to advise you of the necessary steps to take.

Martina Gallivan is a nutritionist and director of RK Cardiology Healthy Living Ltd. If you are interested in learning more about health and lifestyle medicine for you or your family contact her at martina@roseville.ie or follow @rvkelly

Published: 13 April 2021