Nearly 70 percent of Americans over 40 took at least one prescription drug in the past month — and 37 percent of them took at least five different pills, according to a recent CDC study. Since women tend to visit the doctor more often, we account for the majority of this group.
And while meds can help keep us healthy, they can also bring on symptoms like fatigue, joint pain, and brain fog. “Of course, the more drugs your doctor prescribes, the more likely you’ll experience side effects,” says Harry Oken, M.D., adjunct professor of medicine at the University of Maryland. And studies show that the risk of an adverse side effect increases by as much as 10 percent with each medication you take.
The good news: If you’re taking medications and aren’t feeling your best, there are easy, natural ways to reduce negative side effects. Read on for the simple fixes. Note: If you’re taking medications, Dr. Oken suggests checking with your physician prior to making any changes.
These widely prescribed medications lower cholesterol and reduce the risks of heart disease, stroke, and even dementia. But up to 40 percent of users experience muscle pain and fatigue, according to a study at the University of California, San Diego.
“That’s because statins can trigger as much as a 50 percent drop in the enzyme CoQ10, a major source of fuel for the muscles,” explains Michael Roizen, M.D., author of What to Eat When ($12.69, Amazon). Without the enzyme, the muscles can fatigue to the point of discomfort. Supplementing with CoQ10 replenishes levels and eases pain, and adding selenium boosts the benefits even more. Studies show that adults taking this combo daily had a 49 percent lower heart disease risk and a 52 percent reduction in muscle pain. For best results, look for a supplement that contains 200 mg. of CoQ10 and 200 mcg. of selenium (like Bio Schwartz CoQ10 Plus Selenium: $19.97, Amazon).
Proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) are widely recommended for patients with heartburn and acid reflux. Unfortunately, they change the acidity in the stomach so much that our ability to absorb nutrients can be compromised, says Dr. Oken. “This is an osteoporosis concern because it puts women at risk for developing low bone density.”
That’s why he cautions against taking PPIs for more than three weeks — although they’re commonly used for longer periods to control reflux symptoms. If your doctor recommends long-term use of PPIs, Dr. Roizen suggests upping your intake of vitamin D to enhance calcium absorption and promote bone health. To get the benefits, enjoy more fatty fish, eggs, and full-fat cheese or supplement with 2,000 IU of vitamin D-3 daily.
Blood Pressure Medication
ACE inhibitors are lifesaving drugs that lower blood pressure while protecting the heart and kidneys. But they can also compete with zinc to bind to receptors throughout the body — an effect that increases zinc excretion by 91 percent, causing a shortfall of the mineral, according to researchers from Spain.
“If you’re low on zinc, you’re at an increased risk for immune deficiency and body-wide inflammation,” asserts Dr. Roizen. The delicious way to sidestep the problem? Increase your intake of protein-rich foods, like beef, poultry, full-fat cheese, oysters, and other shellfish, which contain a form of zinc that is easier for the body to absorb.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.