Archive for April 10, 2010

By Sylvia Anderson, IH Editor — Published: April 08, 2010

Any alternative or nutritional supplement, whether recommended by a medical professional or purchased over the counter, can be of great benefit to your health—but can also present risks. When beginning a new supplement regimen, make sure you take the following important steps to ensure your safety.

The benefits of most complementary supplements are usually clear, such as garlic’s antibiotic effects or chamomile’s stomach soothing properties. However, like most prescription medicines and some foods, alternative supplements may also produce side effects, such as upset stomach, drowsiness, or nausea. In some cases, the potential side effects are even more serious than that.

Luckily, there are steps you can take to lower your risk of having problems with your supplements:

Understand what the supplement is supposed to do and when you can expect results.

Carefully read the label and any materials inside or on the package.

Be sure you understand all directions. Do you know when, how often and how long to take the supplement? If the packaging doesn’t help you understand those things, consult with your healthcare provider.

Check the expiration date, and stop taking anything in your cabinet that is past its date of expiration.

Vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements may interact with over-the-counter and prescription medicines, so be sure to ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist any questions you have and what side effects to watch for. Make sure they know about any other supplements or medications (prescription and over-the-counter) that you are currently taking so you can help prevent unwanted drug interactions. Write up a list beforehand and take it with you so you don’t leave anything out.

Pay attention to any differences in how you feel. If you notice a new symptom, tell your doctor or healthcare provider when it started and how it’s different from previous symptoms. Occasionally, a symptom caused by your illness can be mistaken for a drug reaction.

Keep your supplements in a safe place. Most supplements are best stored out of direct light in a cool, dry location. Don’t keep them in a medicine cabinet above the sink, where moisture can potentially seep into packaging and alter effectiveness. Also, keep them out of the reach of children and pets.

Be safe with your supplements! By following the above tips, you can make sure you’re getting the most out of your daily supplements without compromising your health.

Get Strong! Stay Strong! (and Healthy)