Need-to-Know Facts About Supplements

Karen Lee Richards Health Guide
  • As people become more dissatisfied with the medical care they are receiving, they are turning more and more to complementary and alternative treatments like dietary supplements.  I'm a big believer in supplements and take several myself.  But if you take, or are considering taking supplements, there are a few important facts you need to to be aware of:

    • Supplements take time to work.  As a general rule, when we take a medication, we expect it to work fairly quickly – particularly pain relievers.  But vitamins and herbs don't work that way.  They're not quick fixes that we can take and feel better in 30 minutes.  Instead they act more like food in our bodies, nourishing us and gradually restoring good health.  Usually supplements take from one to three months to achieve maximum effectiveness – provided you take the appropriate dose consistently.     
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    • Supplements may have side effects.  We tend to think of supplements as harmless because they are natural.  However, like medications, supplements can have side effects.  While the most commonly used supplements probably have fewer potential side effects than most medications, there are some supplements that can have quite serious side effects.  So it's a good idea to do a little research on any supplement you're considering before taking it.
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    • It is possible to overdose on vitamins and herbs.  Just because they're natural and nutritious doesn't mean you can take unlimited amounts.  Don't take more than the amount recommended on the label unless your doctor instructs you to do so.
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    • Supplements can interact with medications.  When it comes to potential interactions with medications you are taking, you need to think of a supplement as another medication.  This is one of the reasons it's so important to tell your doctor about any vitamins or herbs you may be taking.  Better yet, talk to your doctor before you take it.  You can also use the Drug Interaction Checker to find out if there are any potential interactions between medications and supplements you may be taking.  http://www.drugs.com/drug_interactions.php
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    • It is important to take supplements as directed.  Some supplements wash out of your system each day and need to be replenished regularly.  Some need to be taken with food in order to be broken down and absorbed properly by your body.  Be sure to read and follow the instructions on the label carefully in order to get the best results.

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Published On: January 31, 2011