How many prescription drugs do you take?

Our family doesn’t own a TV but we watch movies and shows on personal devices and sometimes through a projector. On those rare occasions of watching TV, I notice a lot of pharmaceutical commercials. You may not be aware, but the US and New Zealand are the Only countries that allow pharmaceutical companies to advertise prescription drugs directly to consumers. The scary truth is that these ads are submitted to the FDA only when they first appear in public, which means people may see inaccurate ads before the FDA has had time to review them and seek corrections. The ads works so well that many patients ask their doctors for drugs they saw on ads. Madhusree Singh, MD said “Anecdotally, I can tell you that if I got a dime for every time a patient asked for a drug by name, I would not need to go to work.” in the Journal of the Society of General Internal Medicine.   

I hope you are aware that Doctors and scientists have limited knowledge about how the human body as a whole reacts to a particular medicine. They know how a medicine metabolizes in the body. They are aware of side effects because clinical trial participants and/or patients experience and report them. For example, you might experience stomach pain after taking a pain medication for headache, but no one can explain how the brain, heart, lung, and other organs reacts to a single medication, in this case, a pain medication. What medication do you think might change an environment of a perfect gut flora? 

Many people might think “Antibiotics” is the only answer, and yes, it is well-known that antibiotics can alter the composition and diversity of gut microbes.  But there is more.  A study found that 18 common drug (which includes antibiotics) categories were associated with changes in the composition or function of the gut microbiome. For example, the gut microbiota of proton pump inhibitors (PPI) users showed a greater abundance of upper GI tract streptococcal bacteria and increased fatty acid biosynthesis, while metformin users had higher levels of potentially infective Escherichia coli. The frightening fact is that the majority of people use more than 2 prescription drugs, and who knows what those multiple medications do to your body.  

Moreover, there is another study (2019) done by UCLA biologists that found that antidepressants can have a major effect on the gut’s microbiota. This study was focused on serotonin, which is a small molecule that functions both as a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system and as a hormone in the blood.  Many of you may not know, but 95% of your serotonin is produced in your gastrointestinal tract. The study team knew from previous research (2015) that particular gut bacteria helps the gut produce serotonin.  So, in this 2019 study, the team discovered that the more of a certain bacteria, (Turicibacter sanguinis and Clostridia) in the gut, the more serotonin is produced in the gut and vice versa. Moreover, when antidepressants, like fluoxetine (Prozac) are administered, the bacterium grew to only low levels in mice, which leads to decrease serotonin level in the gut.  

After taking Prozac, antibiotics, and PPI, your gut might be badly messed up. Do you know what is going to happen after that? You will gain weight. There are so many research and articles that your gut microbiome can affect your weight. For example, your microbiome influences how food is digested and absorbed and how dietary fats are stored in your body. Your microbiome may also impact the production of hunger hormones, such as ghrelin, which control if you feel hungry or full. An unhealthy gut microbiome can increase inflammatory markers, which may lead to weight gain and metabolic disease. 

Medicine is necessary for some conditions and situations, but if you can avoid it and find alternative way to treat, I think that would be the wise choice 😊

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