SUPPLEMENTS & PRESCRIPTION
Dietary Supplements such as Vitamins, Herbs and Minerals aren’t without potential risks
Which supplement-prescription pairings can be risky?
6 popular supplements and their known effects on some common medications.
1. St. John’s wort
St. John’s wort is often taken to treat mild to moderate depression, or to reduce menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes. It has numerous drug interactions and can reduce the potency of birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy. It can also interfere with omeprazole (Prilosec), alprazolam (Xanax), certain statins and some antihistamines, Mayo Clinic reports.
It can render Pfizer’s new COVID-19 antiviral treatment, Paxlovid, useless.
Coenzyme Q10 is an antioxidant produced by our bodies to promote cell growth and maintenance; the levels of it in our body can decrease as we age. But CoQ10 can also interfere with the ability of blood thinners to do their job, which is to prevent blood clots from forming.
Turmeric has been shown to have many health benefits, from improving memory to lowering inflammation and even decreasing the risk of heart disease. It also has anticoagulant effects, which means you don’t want to mix turmeric supplements with a blood thinner or even, possibly, aspirin, due to the risk of internal bleeding,
Ginkgo biloba (an herb) and vitamin E are two other dietary supplements that can thin the blood, according to the Food and Drug Administration. So taking them with an anticoagulant can augment the effect.
Probiotics are full of beneficial bacteria, and are often taken to aid digestion and improve gut health. But don’t take one within two hours of taking an antibiotic, or you could reduce the effectiveness of the prescription medication.
5. Vitamin C
Vitamin C occurs naturally in many foods. It’s also consumed as a supplement for a myriad of reasons, ranging from warding off the common cold to preventing cancer.
But high-dose vitamin C supplements may reduce the effectiveness of some types of cancer chemotherapy. It can also interfere with niacin and statins and affect estrogen levels, according to Mayo Clinic.
6. Milk thistle
A flowering plant related to daisies, milk thistle is taken as a supplement to promote liver and heart health. It may also lower blood sugar, which could be a concern for someone who’s on diabetes medication.
However when combined with insulin, it can be “like taking a little bit too much” glucose-lowering medication.
Talk to your doctor
Patients should talk to their doctors about the supplements they are taking.
A study found that fewer than 50 percent of patients disclose the use of dietary supplements, and even among those who do, only about one-third of the supplements taken are mentioned to doctors.
Reason for this: Patients may not realize the over-the-counter herbs or extra vitamins they’re working into their daily pile of pills count as anything that needs to be discussed with a doctor.
To help avoid any health hazards that can arise from mixing supplements and medications, it’s important to ask your doctor about possible adverse reactions before starting any new medication or supplement.
The FDA suggests bringing a list of everything you take — over-the-counter medicines (pain pills, allergy relief, etc.), dietary supplements and prescription drugs — with you to your next routine appointment to make sure your information is up to date. And be sure to keep track of the dosages and how many times a day you take them.
Also, if you’re planning a surgery, don’t be surprised if your doctor asks you to stop taking dietary supplements two or three weeks before the procedure to avoid changes in heart rate, blood pressure or bleeding risk.
Interested in learning more?
The National Institutes of Health has a database where you can search for a supplement and find links to verified sources with information about the product and its interactions.
The Button below will take you directly to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Page.
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