- The USDA doesn’t regulate supplements as rigorously as prescription medicines and other foods.
- Some supplements may interact with your current medications and cause harmful health effects.
- Consulting a doctor before taking any supplements is crucial.
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate supplements in the same way it does for prescription medicines and conventional foods. Wendy Kaplan, MS, RDN, a dietitian in Long Island, New York, warns that supplements may contain inaccurate dosing information and contaminated ingredients, causing adverse health effects. That is why medical experts recommend consulting a doctor or pharmacist before taking one.
Here are more reasons to consult your doctor before you take supplements.
You may need to undergo a blood test
A supplement provides the vitamin or mineral you might be deficient in, and only your doctor can recommend a blood test to confirm it.
You want to learn all the benefits you can get
According to William Li, MD, author of Eat to Beat Disease, certain supplements have health benefits, including reducing the risk of age-related vision loss, lowering risk factors for heart disease, and improving gut health to prevent chronic disease. If you have specific health concerns, discuss it with your doctor so he can prescribe the appropriate supplement for you.
Supplements may have unproven claims
According to Marilyn Schorin, Ph.D., RDN, a dietitian in Louisville, Kentucky, some supplements claim health benefits that are vague or are not clinically proven.
A health professional, in particular a registered dietitian, has a vast knowledge of supplements, so make sure to talk to one before popping a pill.
Your doctor may want to know your family history
Melissa Altman-Traub, MS, RDN, a dietitian in Jamison, Pennsylvania, stresses telling your doctor about your hereditary conditions to prevent organ damage that may result from taking the wrong supplement.
Certain supplement ingredients and fillers may cause harm
Some supplements list harmful compounds like DMAA, DMBA, and DEPEA, as botanical extracts, to make them sound safer and natural. According to the FDA, DMAA is an amphetamine that can cause serious health problems like a heart attack.
According to Nicole Avena, Ph.D., assistant professor of neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, some supplements may also contain added fillers, sugars, or other ingredients that may interact with your other medications or underlying conditions.
You may end up overdosing
Supplements such as vitamin A may seem like a good idea, but your body stores these fat-solubles, and it may reach a toxic level when you take them daily, says Allie Hosmer, MS, RDN, a dietitian in Washington, D.C.
You must take precautions before surgery
Some ingredients, like ginkgo Biloba, milk thistle, and turmeric, may cause more bleeding during surgery, and you might need to stop taking these supplements for some time before undergoing surgery.
Supplements may interact with your meds
Taking dietary supplements may put you at risk of medication interactions. For example, if you’re taking Warfarin, a blood thinner, your doctor may advise you not to take vitamin A, vitamin E, or garlic supplements, to avoid bleeding. Taking magnesium supplements, together with anti-hypertensive meds, may also cause lightheadedness, dizziness, or fainting.
Some supplements may also decrease the effectiveness of some crucial medicines, like birth control pills and blood thinners.
You could land in the emergency room
According to a study by the New England Journal of Medicine, over 23,000 patients visit the emergency room due to the adverse effects of taking supplements.
Source: The Healthy