Nutritional Supplements: How To Avoid Potential Harm

Melanie Thomassian Health Pro
  • You may have turned to using nutritional supplements for some perfectly good reasons. 


    When you've been diagnosed with a condition, such as heart disease, it's normal to want to do all you can to ease your symptoms.


    Sometimes you may even feel medical science doesn't have the answers you need, so supplements seem like a very viable solution


    There is certainly research to suggest that supplements can be helpful.  For example, probiotics to relieve intestinal problems,  ginger to ease nausea, and coenzyme Q10 to lower blood pressure. 


    However, you need to be aware that supplements lack many of the safeguards in place for prescription drugs. That is why you need to take care to avoid potential health risks. 

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    A simple internet search for "nutritional supplements" will return a whole host of products available to purchase, so you can easily find yourself totally confused.


    However, with a few hints and tips, you will be able to make informed choices.


    Choosing Nutritional Supplements


    Here are three ways to find nutritional supplements that will be beneficial to you, and also how to protect yourself from those that may cause harm.


    1. Be Cautious

    There are some dietary supplements, which are potentially so dangerous that experts say they should not even be sold.


    Other supplements can be dangerous for certain people, such as those who are pregnant. Others are are dangerous when taken in large doses, or when combined with certain prescription drugs. 


    On the other hand, some supplements don't do very much at all. So, you are basically wasting your money by taking them.


    It's important to realize that the FDA do not ask that dietary supplements are proved safe and effective before they go on sale, and there is very little overseeing of them once they are on sale. 


    So, don't assume that just because a supplement is on sale, that it has been through some kind of stringent testing. It may not have been, and you could be putting your health in danger as a result.


    Much of what you read on the internet, and even what you are told by sales clerks in health food stores, is inaccurate information. So do be careful.


    For information on how safe dietary supplements are, here are some website you may find useful:


    2. Go With Your Gut

    I often find that my immediate reaction to a supplement is pretty accurate.


    Labels which sound too good to be true, probably are! I'm thinking of statements like, "rapid weight loss," or "cancer cure." 


    However, you should also be wary of more plausible statements, such as "supports the immune system," for example. It may sound good, but what does that actually mean in real life?


    A manufacturer can make a claim without proof, provided that the label doesn't make claims on how the product prevents or treats a particular disease. 


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    Also, if a manufacturer does have a supporting study, it may be from a preliminary trial, rather than rigorous studies required for perscription drugs. 


    Basically what I'm saying is, choose your supplements based on your research, not on what manufacturers claim on their label.


    3. Watch Out For Interactions

    Dietary supplements can interfere with some prescription drugs. 


    One example of this is St John's Wort, which actually reduces the effectiveness of warfarin.


    This could be potentially very serious, and you can see why it is so important to know exactly what you are taking, and if there are any potential side-effects.


    As a precaution, if you have a chronic disease, or take prescription drugs, and you are thinking about trying a nutritional supplement, do talk to your doctor first to check the suitability. 


    Melanie Thomassian is a registered dietitian, health writer, busy wife, and mum. Her goal is to promote good health and better lifestyles in the online community. Follow her on

Published On: November 03, 2011