Do I Need to Consult My Doctor Before Taking a Dietary Supplement?

Before starting any new supplement regimen it is essential to consult your healthcare provider for advice on which products are best for you based on your medical history and lifestyle.

Do I Need to Consult My Doctor Before Taking a Dietary Supplement?

Patients should always consult with their healthcare provider before beginning a new dietary regimen, including vitamins and supplements. This is because the primary care doctor is familiar with the individual's medical history and can suggest supplements that are beneficial or should be avoided. When considering taking vitamins, minerals, botanicals, or other dietary supplements, it is important to ask yourself if they are necessary in the first place. Currently, more than half of Americans take one or more dietary supplements on a regular basis.

These supplements are available without a prescription and usually come in pill, powder, or liquid form. However, not everyone needs to take supplements. Some can have side effects, especially when taken before surgery or with other medications. Additionally, the effects of many supplements have not been tested in children, pregnant women, and other groups.

Therefore, it is important to speak with a healthcare provider if you are considering taking dietary supplements. Dietary supplements are regulated by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as food, not as drugs.

The label may indicate certain health benefits; however, unlike medications, supplements cannot claim to cure, treat, or prevent a disease. Evidence suggests that some supplements may improve health in different ways. The most popular nutritional supplements are multivitamins, calcium, and vitamins B, C and D. Calcium contributes to bone health and vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium.

Vitamins C and E are antioxidant molecules that prevent cell damage and help maintain health. Women need iron during pregnancy and breastfed babies need vitamin D. Folic acid (400 micrograms daily), whether through supplements or fortified foods, is important for all women of child-bearing age. Vitamin B12 keeps nerves and blood cells healthy.

Research suggests that fish oil may promote heart health; however, more studies are needed on the health effects of some other common supplements such as glucosamine (for joint pain) and herbal supplements such as echinacea (immune health) and flaxseed oil (digestion). Many supplements have mild effects with few risks; however, some can be harmful if taken in excess or if they interact with other medications or supplements. For example, vitamin K will reduce the ability of anticoagulants to work and St. John's Wort can accelerate the breakdown of many medications and make them less effective.

Just because a supplement is promoted as “natural” doesn't necessarily mean it's safe; herbs such as comfrey and kava can seriously damage the liver. When taking dietary supplements it is important to check the percentage of the daily value (DV) of each nutrient to make sure you're not getting too much; too much of certain supplements can be harmful. It is also important to conduct clinical studies of supplements to confirm their effects since the FDA does not evaluate the quality of supplements or evaluate their effects on the body. Additionally, manufacturers are responsible for the purity of the product and must accurately list the ingredients and their quantities; however, there is no regulatory agency to ensure that the labels match what's on the bottles so there is a risk of consuming less or sometimes more of the ingredients listed than what is stated on the label.

The MyDS app provides the latest information on supplements and allows you to keep track of the vitamins, minerals, herbs and other products you take; you can even keep track of the supplements your parents, spouse, or children are taking. For more consumer health news and information visit health nih gov/National Institutes of Health 9000 Rockville Pike Bethesda Maryland 20892 USA Department of Health and Human Services The FDA recommends that consumers talk to their doctor, pharmacist, or other health professional before deciding to buy or use a dietary supplement as some may interact with medications or other supplements. It is also important for people of all ages to discuss supplements with their doctor before taking them; however this is even more essential for older adults as certain vitamins may have unexpected effects on them. If you're concerned about meeting your daily vitamin and mineral needs with food alone then it is best to speak with your doctor about it first before taking any dietary supplement.

Additionally it is important to tell your doctor everything you're taking before surgery as they may recommend that you stop taking a supplement that could be dangerous for you. Before starting any new supplement regimen it is essential to consult your healthcare provider for advice on which products are best for you based on your medical history and lifestyle.