Don’t Make These Mistakes When Talking to Your Doctor about Vitamins and Supplements

Americans spend over $23 billion a year on these products. We often find the “natural” labeling reassuring. Many people swear that these products work wonders.

The vitamin and supplement industry is big business. Over the course of a lifetime, most of us will take many of these products to enhance our health, improve our well-being, or manage certain symptoms with a “natural” remedy. In fact, Americans spend over $23 billion a year on these products. We often find the “natural” labeling reassuring. Many people swear that these products work wonders.

And since vitamins and supplements are not regulated the same way drugs are regulated in this country and because anybody can purchase them from stores and online sources, it is easy to think that these are harmless products.

That’s not actually the case. So while it may be a good idea for you to take these drugs, you should tell your doctor (and pharmacist) what you are taking. Here are four reasons to tell your doctor or nurse about the supplements you take.

1. Even something as seemingly benign as a vitamin pill can have a toxic effect on the body when excessive amounts are taken. In fact, some vitamins in megadoses can cause serious side effects and even be lethal. Read labels and literature carefully. If you are taking vitamins, tell your doctor not just the kind, but also the dose.

2. Some commonly available supplements have definite side effects that consumers may not be aware of. For instance, colloidal silver (which is readily available) can cause the skin to turn blue—and it’s a permanent change that can only be fixed with expensive laser treatments. Why don’t more people know about this “blue skin” risk with colloidal silver, which is sold for immune support? The FDA issued a warning back in 2009, but how many of us are regular readers of the FDA website?

The product is not considered dangerous enough to ban. If you take supplements, tell your doctor, since he or she is likely more up-to-date with potentially risky supplements. (You may wonder why the FDA does not simply ban supplements like colloidal silver, but the fact is, it takes a lot of evidence, study, and expense to get a substance like that off the market. The FDA did get ephedra, a weight-loss supplement, off the market but it took thousands of adverse events to do so.)

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3. Some supplements can potentially interact with drugs you already take. In such cases, the supplement may be safe and the drug may be safe, but they do not work well together.

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Jo Ann LeQuang
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