I have been sick. I have one of those nasty, traveling colds that started in my nose, moved south to my chest and is heading back up north again to my nose. Just about everyone has it or has had it.

I don’t like to take medications beyond the antidepressants and mood stabilizer I take daily. But the tightness in my chest and hacking cough was driving me nuts so I decided to take some cough medicine. The non-alcoholic, sugar-free, gluten-free, dye-free, non-drowsy, can’t-make-a-meth-lab of over-the-counter kind of cough medicine.

I’m a dutiful little label reader but dang, is the print getting smaller on the bottle or is it me? I got out my microscope but skipped over the warnings about breast-feeding and pregnancy and went straight to the dosage recommendations because I just wanted to get the medicine in me as fast as possible. (After nearly 14 years of sobriety, this recovered alcoholic has finally learned that an extra shot of anything – tequila or cough medicine – is not necessarily good for you. So I actually follow the dosage recommendations.)

I gulped it down, then decided to read the rest of the label: Do not use if you are now taking a prescription monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) (certain drugs for depression, psychiatric or emotional conditions or Parkinson’s disease) or for two weeks after stopping the MAOI drug. If you do not know if your prescription drug contains an MAOI, ask a doctor or pharmacist before taking this product.

Then I said a bad word. Out loud.

I freaked out and couldn’t remember if my antidepressants were MAOIs or SSRIs! I went online and checked them out. Luckily they are SSRIs, cue an inexcusable Homer moment – D’oh! I felt extra stupid because  lately I have been glued to a book called Drug Muggers – Which Medications are Robbing Your Body of Essential Nutrients and Natural Ways to Restore Them by Suzy Cohen, a pharmacist. She writes a syndicated column “Dear Pharmacist” and has been featured on The View and The Dr. Oz Show.

I understand the concept of drug interactions but I never really considered how my medications interact with the nutrients in my body. Cohen explains the phenomenon like this:

Certain drugs require specific nutrients in order to work; they might need to bind to a protein, for example, or perhaps the require a specific nutrient in order to be detoxified in your liver. So just by virtue of taking a certain drug, you may need more of a particular nutrient…Drugs can alter your body’s ability to absorb, digest, transport, break down, or eliminate toxic compounds that you encounter every day, just by their ability to steal vital nutrients from you. The cascading effect affects your quality of life and may remain undiscovered for years as you get on a medication merry-go-round.

In 2008, 64 percent of Americans took three or more drugs and about 37 percent took five or more. That’s a lot of drugs and a lot of potential for them to interact with what we eat. Here are some of Cohen’s recommendations.

Depression, osteoporosis and irregular heartbeat can be caused by a deficiency in the mineral magnesium. Common drug-muggers of magnesium include female hormones, diuretics, anti-inflammatories and aspirin

Some antidepressants of the MAO inhibitor variety can interact with tyramine, an amino acid commonly found in foods that are aged, dried, fermented, salted, smoked or pickled. The interaction causes a rise in blood pressure and can be fatal. Watch out especially for pepperoni, salami and liverwurst.

For those of us on SSRIs, we should steer clear of certain supplements, such as St. John’s Wort and 5-HTP, which increase serotonin levels. According to Cohen, SSRIs combined with 5-HTP or St. John’s Work can result in too much serotonin, which can result in a dangerous condition called serotonin syndrome.

Mixing Zoloft and grapefruit elevates that drug level, which can increase side effects such as anxiety, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Tricyclic Antidepressants, such as Elavil, Sinequan and Pamelor are drug-muggers of Coenzyme Q10, a powerful antioxidant that assists in hundreds of enzymatic reactions in the body. Trycyclics are also drug muggers of glutathione, another powerful antioxidant which helps your liver do its job of detoxifying your body.

Finally, a few words about my favorite vitamin – B12 – which is important for energy, sleep and your nervous system. Take it, Cohen recommends. But take the right kind. Most of the B12 on the shelves at your grocery store is cyanocobalamin, which is not natural. According to Cohen, methylcobalamin is the best form of the supplement. Methyl b12 is the only form of the supplement that can help you produce an important antidepressant and pain-relieving chemical called SAMe. Of course, methyl B12 is more expensive but Cohen says it is worth the money “because your liver has to spin cartwheels in order to process the cyano type of B12.

Of course, I could go on and on but I won’t. I don’t know if I would have found this book so fascinating in the early days of my diagnosis and treatment for depression. But the longer I am on my antidepressants and mood stabilizers the more I want to know and protect my body from their long-term side-effects.

My antidepressants and mood stabilizer have changed my life like I could never have imagined. I want to do everything I can to make sure I am able to take them for as long as I need them. I’ve been told that could be a very long time.