Dietary Supplements

Risks to Your Health

Culture & Health

If a dietary supplement helps you lose weight, feel better, or improve your endurance, then should you assume that more of it will be better? Definitely not!

The importance of following recommended dosages and safe use instructions is critical. Let's say that again: Do not exceed recommended dosages.

While some of the pharmacological properties of dietary supplements can be beneficial, if taken in excess, their ingredients could produce toxic levels in your system and do more harm than good.

The gray area lies in the fact that dietary supplements have bypassed the rigid screening of the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for their effectiveness and safety. You are the only person who can regulate your own intake of these substances.

Learn everything you can about dietary supplements before you take them. Read up on their individual ingredients and their possible side effects and health risks. In doing this, you'll be well versed in what to expect before you begin taking them.

Get smart to what your body tells you and if you experience anything out of the ordinary, consult your doctor immediately.

When the Health Risks Are too Great
Some people should not take dietary supplements at all. Others should not take supplements at a particular time of their lives. The following list includes the most common reasons to proceed with caution or to forego dietary supplements altogether. If any of these conditions describe you, stop and check with a physician. In no case are we stating or claiming that the use of dietary supplements is safe for you.

Medication, Illness & Surgery: Remember to tell any health care provider about the supplements you've been taking if you're prescribed antibiotics or medications during an illness or before surgery. It is VITAL they know this, as a mixture of anesthetics, blood thinners, medications, and supplements could pose a severe health risk. Conversely, if you're taking any medicines, check with the prescribing physician before taking supplements.

Blood Thinners: Some people take medication or other substances to thin the blood. This decreases the likelihood of blood clots, but prolongs bleeding. Do not take ginkgo biloba and other substances that will further prolong bleeding.

Use of Other Drugs: As well as the usual health warnings behind the use of alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and other mood altering drugs, it should be said that they could be especially harmful when mixed with dietary supplements as well as preventing the supplement from having its desired effect.

Pregnancy & Nursing: If you become pregnant while taking any supplement, discontinue its use until you've consulted with your doctor. Your physician will need to know how long you were taking the supplement prior to conception. Also, since the ingredients in supplements can be passed on to a nursing infant, don't take any supplements that could potentially put your child at risk. Check with your pediatrician first.

Your Age: Children should be eating a diet rich in nutrients and should not normally require any supplementation. Dosages on dietary supplement packaging are meant for adult consumption. Do not attempt to give these to small children, and supervise teenagers carefully. If in doubt, check with a professional.

Gallstones: Ginger and other supplements may cause problems if you have a history of gallstones. Check with your doctor first.

High Blood Pressure: Even when you're not taking medication, if you're controlling hypertension with exercise and diet, some supplements may be contraindicated. Ginseng and hawthorne berries, for example, are NOT recommended for people with high blood pressure.

Driving and Operating Machinery: Some supplements, like valera and chamomile, have a relaxing effect that promotes sleepiness. Do not drive or operate machinery if taking supplements that make you sleepy. You could put your life or the life of others at risk.

Enhancement: If you're taking any weight loss supplements, diet pills or medications for a particular condition do not use supplements to enhance their effect. For example, if your doctor has prescribed a diuretic, don't take a supplement that has a diuretic effect. Speeding up effects or increasing dosages are risky practices.

Supplements and Photosensitivity
Some supplements cause sensitivity to the sun. Read labels carefully and stay out of the sun, as you can get a severe burn even from short exposure.

Medicine & Biology