Playing It Safe With Dietary Supplements

Do you take, or are you thinking about taking dietary supplements? Most people are under the impression that supplements are completely safe and natural because they’re ‘vitamins and minerals’ and are sold over-the-counter. This false sense of security and a desire to be fit has caused many people unnecessary grief and health problems.

Sports

If you’re an athlete and into some serious sports, you have to be aware that not all over-the-counter supplements are legal in organized sports. There are supplements that contain substances that are banned by sports officials. Finding even trace amounts in urine or blood tests can get you disqualified from an event or league. To keep yourself from unnecessary troubles, always look for products labeled NSF Certified for Sports.

Drug Interactions

You may not realize this, but certain supplements can interact with other medications that you are taking. St. John's Wort can interfere with the effectiveness of birth control pills. Certain cancer drugs can interact with Magnesium. Coumadin, a blood thinner, does not react well with vitamin K supplements. There are certain interactions that can be the source of discomfort, such as nausea and fatigue, while other combinations can threaten your health with more serious conditions and even result in death.

Always disclose to your doctor and pharmacist any over-the-counter supplements you take when you’re getting prescription medications.

Overdose

Believe it or not, you can overdose on vitamin and mineral supplements. Just as not getting enough nutrients can do harm to your body, getting too much of any nutrient can have adverse effects. Too much vitamin D can result in kidney stones. While folic acid is usually necessary for the healthy development of the fetus in pregnant women, too much can result in birth defects. People like to load up on vitamin C to combat the common cold, but too much of it can result in urinary tract infections.

Before you even take any supplements, you should have a blood test done to see what your normal levels are—for all you know, you may already be getting all you need of certain nutrients. For example, some people absorb potassium much more than the average person—if that is the case for you, then even just taking a multivitamin supplement with potassium could be putting you over your daily recommended requirements. That way you can discuss with your doctor which supplements might be necessary, and in what size dose.

Don’t take unnecessary risks with your health or your sports; educate yourself and talk to your health care provider before taking any supplements.

Photo: Pexels

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