Antihistamines such as Benadryl, belong to a class of medications with anticholinergic effects. This means that they block the activity of a natural message-signaling substance (neurotransmitter) in the brain called acetylcholine.
Acetylcholine is involved in learning and memory, as well as muscle contraction.
In 2015, the prestigious journal JAMA Internal Medicine published a study that indicated that drugs with anticholinergic effects may increase the risk of dementia. Nearly 3,500 men and women aged 65 and older were included in the prospective cohort study and were tracked over an average of seven years. The researchers found that those who used medications with prominent anticholinergic effects were more likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s disease than those who didn’t, and that the greater the dose and duration, the greater the risk.
By addressing symptoms and conditions at their root cause, Functional Medicine can often reduce the need for medication. Rebalancing the immune system, reducing inflammation, and considering natural alternatives to antihistamines such as quercetin, are some straightforward ways to reduce dependence on over-the-counter antihistamines.
Other anticholinergic drugs are widely used, including as anti-arrhythmics, antiemetics, antiparkinson agents, antipsychotics, antidepressants and antispasmodics. For a comprehensive list of drugs with moderate to high anticholinergic activity click here.
You should only discontinue a prescribed medication under physician approval and supervision.