You’d think some of the most popular allergy and insomnia medications on the market would be safe, but a new study outlines some alarming health risks. The latest evidence? The drug – related dementia include common anticholinergic drugs now .

This class of anticholinergic drugs includes popular drugs such as Benadryl, Dramamine, Advil PM, and Unison, among others. (1) The antidepressant drug Paxil and the pain drug Demerol also have anticholinergic effects (2).

Evidence of drugs linked to dementia

This is not the first time researchers have found a connection between anticholinergic drugs and cognitive decline . This latest study published in JAMA Neurology is unique, however.

This is because researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine actually used brain imaging to detect how anticholinergic drugs affect the brain.

Using magnetic resonance imaging and positron emission tomography (PET), the researchers showed how people taking anticholinergic drugs experienced lower brain metabolism and greater brain atrophy; they also scored lower on memory tests. (3)

In 2015, scientists at the University of Washington also found that chronic use of certain anticoagulants for sleep and hay fever medications increased a person’s risk of dementia .

The study only found the association in people taking these drugs for 3 or more years. (More research is needed to determine whether continuous or intermittent use during that period of time carries an increased risk of dementia.) (4)

Other medications with anticholinergic action include some medications that contain tiotropium used to treat respiratory ailments such as COPD and asthma (Atrovent) (Spiriva).

Other anticholinergic medications include Paxil (to treat depression) and medications that contain solifenacin such as Vesicare for overactive bladder problems .

Natural remedies for allergies and insomnia

If your doctor directed you to take medications with anticholinergic effects , you should consult with a medical professional before suddenly stopping. Still, it is often possible to treat illnesses such as allergies and insomnia without resorting to prescription and over-the-counter medications. Here are some remedies to try:

Remedies for allergies

Learn how to use essential oils for allergies. A 2010 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology suggests that peppermint oil acts as a relaxant and exhibits antispasmodic activity, inhibiting contractions that cause coughing. (5) (Not recommended for children under 30 months).

If you have a ragweed allergy, avoid melons, bananas, cucumbers, sunflower seeds, echinacea, and chamomile, as they can trigger an allergic reaction in your body.

Chicken, beef, or lamb bone broth helps relieve respiratory problems. It also helps reduce inflammation in the body and increases the immune system.

Insomnia remedies

Try valerian root as a sleep remedy with a low risk of side effects. Set your temperature between 15 and 21 degrees Celsius. This lowers your body’s internal thermometer, initiating drowsiness.

Eat foods rich in melatonin and sleep aid like bananas, cherries, ginger, or radishes as a bedtime snack.

Final Thoughts on Over-the-Counter Medications and Dementia Risk

While you shouldn’t stop taking your medication without consulting your doctor, it’s worth talking to see if your mediations include dementia-related anticholinergic medications. If they are, ask about possible alternative options with fewer serious side effects, including natural remedies.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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