Important tips for supplement users
For many health-conscious people, dietary supplements like gingko biloba or Vitamin B12 are a normal part of their routine. But don’t let that lull you into a false sense of security. Even though you can buy supplements over the counter in the drugstore or supermarket, it doesn’t mean that they pose no risks at all.
Want to make sure you’re a smart, safe supplement user? Consider these tips from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a branch of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Our favorites:
Research your supplements: Bear in mind that while prescription drugs have to go through a rigorous testing process, marketers of supplements don’t have to prove to the FDA that they’re safe — or even that they work! Find out what scientific evidence says about their effectiveness and safety before you use them.
Don’t assume “natural” means “safe”: Some natural products sound great, but can actually harm you. For example, NCCAM notes, herbs comfrey and kava can cause serious harm to the liver in some cases. Other standard herbals can be bad for developing fetuses. And St. John’s wort interacts with many medications in ways that can interfere with their intended effects, including antidepressants, birth control pills, antiretrovirals used to treat HIV infections.
Keep your doctor informed: Make sure you tell your doctor about every supplement you take, as well as whatever prescription drugs you may have in your regiment. To provide coordinated care, doctors need to know as much as possible about how you’re managing your care and what additional steps might be helpful.
To learn more about supplements, read this NCCAM article.