Popping nutritional supplements became very popular and we use them for just about anything, from fatigue to weight loss. But, there is almost no control over their composition or quality, and every time we pop one we risk some potentially serious reaction. The latest research shows that dietary supplements can also interfere with our regular medicine with potentially catastrophic consequences, especially for our heart or nervous system.
Do we know what we are taking?
If something is labeled ‘natural’, ‘herbal’ or ‘supplement’, we immediately take it as harmless. But, it can be anything but. The researchers from the China Medical School in Taiwan found that the most dangerous are supplements that contain ginkgo, St. John’s Worth, iron, calcium and magnesium.
Regular pills are normally prescribed by our physician who knows all our health issues, and who knows exactly what dose is appropriate for us. Drugs are produced in controlled conditions after years of research and testing. But, dietary supplements do not require such control and are not checked by the FDA unless they show some dangerous consequences.
We keep forgetting that dietary supplements contain active ingredients which affect our system just like pills do. That is why we are taking them, after all. But, that same activity can interfere with other drugs we are taking. Potential consequences range from severe heart problems to chest and abdominal pain, headaches and a range of other problems. The bottom line is that we do not know what is happening because the composition of supplements is not studied enough.
The scientists investigated 509 prescribed drugs and 882 dietary supplements and looked for documented reaction between them. They found that drugs such as warfarin, aspirin, insulin, ticlopidine and digoxin had the biggest number of interactions with supplements. The supplements changed how the drugs worked in our system, how the system is distributing, breaking them down and eliminating them. About 26 of these interactions were considered major.
What is very interesting is that the scientists found that botanical and herbal supplements were more likely than vitamins or minerals to show dangerous interactions with drugs and to be contraindicated for use with drugs.
If you would like to try any herbal or ‘natural’ dietary supplement, whether to help with your regular medicine, or just to help you feel better, talk to your doctor first. He or she knows what you are taking already and can advise you if there is a potential for a clash between your regular pills and supplements. Doctors are also better informed about potential problems and dangers of some supplements that are not advertised by the manufacturers.