Safety and Risk
Always be alert to the possibility of unexpected side effects, especially when taking a new product as many supplements contain active ingredients that can have strong effects in the body.
When people take supplements instead of prescribed medicines or when people take many supplements in combination, they are most likely to cause side effects or harm.
Dietary supplements can also interact with certain prescription drugs in ways that might cause problems. Here are a few examples:
•Vitamin K can reduce the ability of the blood thinner Coumadin® to prevent blood from clotting.
•St. John’s wort can speed the breakdown of many drugs (including antidepressants and birth control pills) and thereby reduce these drugs’ effectiveness.
•Antioxidant supplements, like vitamins C and E, might reduce the effectiveness of some types of cancer chemotherapy.
Keep in mind that some ingredients found in dietary supplements are added to a growing number of foods, including breakfast cereals and beverages. You may be getting more of these ingredients than you think.
Most dietary supplements have not been well tested for safety in pregnant women, nursing mothers, or children, so be cautious about taking dietary supplements if you are pregnant or nursing.
Be careful about giving dietary supplements (beyond a basic multivitamin/mineral product) to a child.
Don’t take dietary supplements to treat a health condition that you have diagnosed yourself.
Don’t take supplements in place of or in combination with prescribed medications without your health care provider’s approval.
If you are scheduled to have any type of surgical procedure, check with your health care provider about any supplements you take.
The term “natural” doesn’t always mean safe. A supplement’s safety depends on many things, such as its chemical makeup, how it is prepared, the dose used and how it works in the body.
Certain herbs (for example, comfrey and kava) can harm the liver.Before taking any dietary supplement, ask yourself these questions: ◦
What are the potential health benefits of this dietary supplement product?
What are its potential benefits for me?
Does this product have any safety risks?
What is the proper dose to take?
How, when, and for how long should I take it?
If you don’t know the answers to these questions, use the information sources listed in this brochure and talk to your health care providers. The FDA provides a useful form, ”My Medicine Recordexternal link disclaimer”, to record the medicines and dietary supplements that you take which you can share with your health care providers.
Talk with Your Health Care Provider
Let your health care providers (including doctors, pharmacists, and dietitians) know which dietary supplements you’re taking so that you can discuss what’s best for your overall health. Your health care provider can help you determine which supplements, if any, might be valuable for you.