FOLLOW THESE GUIDELINES IF TAKING DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS
More than one half of American adults take dietary supplements. Women are bigger users than men and the use of dietary supplements is steadily rising among those over age 60. If you are among the crowd that takes a daily multivitamin or any self-selected nutrient, herb or related product, there are some important guidelines you should follow.
First, you must remember that no matter how compelling the advertising for dietary supplements may be, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not require that the manufacturers prove the safety and effectiveness of their products before they are brought to market. That is left up to the consumer to decide. Do you have money to waste on products that don’t work or can do you harm?
The best way to know if you even need to take supplements is get a thorough dietary assessment from a registered dietitian to find out if there are nutrients missing from your usual diet. A dietitian can then help you decide whether they can be obtained by changes in what or how much you eat or if a supplement is recommended. Why take pills you don’t need?
If you are advised to take a supplement or are doing so on your own, follow these guidelines.
Guidelines for Dietary Supplement Users
- Bring a current list with you to every doctor’s appointment naming all of the nutritional supplements you take, including the brand, how much of each and how often you take them. Bring it to each of the specialists who treat you as well as to visits with your primary care physician. You may not see a connection between your supplements and your skin condition, but your dermatologist might.
- Provide a current list to your pharmacist of all of the supplements, over-the-counter drugs and prescription medications you take every time you get a new prescription filled. Ask for advice about potential interactions, side effects or contra-indications for their use.
- Make a copy of the label for any multivitamin-mineral supplement or other combinations containing herbal and botanical products so the exact amounts of each item in it can be viewed, and offer it to your healthcare professionals. Copies can often be printed from the website for the brand.
- Don’t assume more is better. Once you are consuming nutrients, herbs or botanicals in amounts that would not be possible if getting them by eating foods, they can be toxic.
- Beware of the compounding effect that can occur when taking individual vitamin or mineral supplements, plus multivitamins, plus highly fortified foods, like some breakfast cereals, or meal replacement shakes and bars.
- Don’t take all of your supplements and medications at one time and assume they can sort themselves out in your stomach. You may be canceling out the effectiveness of some and increasing the chance for complications with others.
- Read the literature that comes with each medication and dietary supplement you take to learn when is the best time to take each, what to take with them and what not to take with them. Make a chart to help keep track of that information.
Would you like to cut down on the numbers of pills you take each day?