Do You Take Supplements? Are They Safe?

Do you know what’s in your supplements? At one time I was taking 12 supplements, after reading many stories of people who had dangerous side effects from a supplement, I quit taking them. The only supplements I take are Calcium, Vitamin D3, and sometimes a Probiotic.

Below is an example of supplements gone wrong, causing death.

Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich on Pexels.com

Kaiser Health News obtained documents of Congressman Tom McClintock’s wife who died from taking the supplement white mulberry tree. The 61-year-old died of dehydration due to gastroenteritis — an inflammation of the stomach and intestines — that was caused by “adverse effects of white mulberry leaf ingestion.”

The report states that a “partially intact” white mulberry leaf was found in her stomach.

The white mulberry tree, which is native to China, is often used in traditional medicine for ailments such as weight loss, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, according to WedMD and Healthline. It is typically taken in capsule, liquid or tea form.

White mulberry plants are generally considered safe — only two cases of people sickened by mulberry supplements have been reported to the FDA since 2004, according to KHN.

Dr. D’Michelle DuPre, a former medical examiner in South Carolina who reviewed the documents, told KHN that white mulberry leaf also “tend to cause dehydration, and part of the uses for that can be to help someone lose weight, mostly through fluid loss, which in this case was just kind of excessive.”

St. John’s Wort

Taking St. John’s wort may also reduce the effectiveness of other medications, including birth control pillschemotherapyHIV or AIDS medication, and medicine to prevent organ rejection after a transplant, according to the NIH. Before taking St. John’s wort, read up on potential drug interactions, and ask your doctor about the risks and benefits of this supplement, as well as how it compares to your other options.

A study found that 28 percent of the time St. John’s wort was prescribed between 1993 and 2010, it was administered in dangerous combinations with antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication, statins, the blood-thinning drug warfarin (Coumadin), or oral contraceptives. For example, combining St. John’s wort with an antidepressant can cause serious complications, including a life-threatening increase in the brain chemical serotonin, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

Fish Oil ( Chose Fish Oil Not Flax Seed)

The NIH said, currently, there’s not enough positive evidence for doctors to prescribe fish oil supplements to every patient, though. Aside from the mixed research results, omega-3 deficiency is very rare in the United States, according to the NIH. One important drug interaction with omega-3 supplements is coumadin (Warfarin).

Here’s a breakdown of the ways to get you Omega 3’s.

EPA and DHA

  • Fish and other seafood, especially cold-water fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines

DHA

  • Fortified foods, such as certain brands of eggs, yogurt, juices, milk, and soy beverages (may contain other forms of omega-3s, depending on the brand)

ALA

  • Nuts and seeds, such as flaxseedchia seeds, and walnuts
  • Plant oils, such as flaxseed oil, soybean oil, and canola oil

Kava: Overuse Can Harm Your Liver

Taking too much kava, or taking it for too long, has been linked to serious liver damage, including hepatitis, cirrhosis, and liver failure. As a result, according to the NIH, the FDA has warned that people, especially those with liver disease or liver problems, or those who are taking drugs that can affect the liver, should talk to their healthcare practitioner before using kava. In addition, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health reports that heavy consumption of kava has been associated with heart problems and eye irritation. 

Several drugs may interact with kava, from anticonvulsants to anti-anxiety medications, and any drug metabolized by the liver, notes Mount Sinai. What’s more, people taking kava need to avoid drinking alcohol due to potential liver harm, the hospital recommends.

Here’s a list of supplements considered dangerous.

Aconite

Bitter Orange

Chaparral

Colloidal Silver

Coltsfoot

Comfrey

Country Mallow

Germanium

Greater Celandine

Lobelia

Yohimbe

Rauwolfia Vomitoria

Tripterygium Wilfordii

Pueraria Mirifica

Here’s a short list of others to be cautious of.

Red Yeast Rice

Ginkgo

Beta Carotene

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Mushrooms

Alternative Medicine

Ayurvedic Supplements

Tip

Curious about what other herbal supplements may not live up to the marketing? Check out these NCCIH factsheets and talk to your doctor before trying any supplement to make sure it’s safe for you.

Should You Take Supplements?

It can feel like there’s a new pill, powder, or gummy popping up every day claiming to support your health. But should you even take supplements?

“There’s no population group that specifically needs supplements other than those with a documented vitamin or mineral deficiency who are ordered by their doctor to take supplements,” says Andrea Paul, MD, physician and medical advisor for Illuminate Labs.

“Certain supplements can be a good first-line solution to some health problems, as they tend to have fewer side effects than pharmaceutical drugs. But purity is much more of an issue with supplements than with prescribed drugs,” she says.

In short: Talk to your doctor before taking a supplement, and make sure it’s a good quality product.

These are just a few supplements that you need to know more about before taking. The other important test is to see if the pill dissolves. Put a little vinegar and water in a cup and let it set for several hours, if the supplement hasn’t dissolved, it won’t break down in your stomach. You wasted money on a supplement that only travels thru your body and out the other side. 

Tip

Curious about what other herbal supplements may not live up to the marketing? Check out these NCCIH factsheets and talk to your doctor before trying any supplement to make sure it’s safe for you.

How to Spot a False Promise

Per the NSF and Tufts University, here are some buzzwords to look out for that may indicate a supplement is making a far-fetched claim:

  • “Pharmaceutical strength:”​ There is no such thing as pharmaceutical-strength over-the-counter supplements.
  • “Promise” or “guarantee:” ​Many supplements swear they’ll help you become thinner, stronger, smarter or otherwise “improved” in some way. These promises are typically false.
  • “Quick fix:” ​This type of language takes advantage of wishful thinking by suggesting that a supplement is an easy cure for a problem.

Approval and regulation of dietary supplements is a tricky subject. No, the FDA does not have to approve supplements before they hit the market. That doesn’t mean, however, that the world of vitamins and supplements is a free-for-all. Still, you are smart to take precautions when it comes to picking the right supplement for you.

More Reading Material

FDA warns of dangerous drugs in weight loss supplements: Tainted …

The Most Common Food and Drug Interactions

Many Men Are Using Online Drugs For Bodybuilding, But They Aren’t Safe

Finding a supplement that is pure, dissolves and works is not an easy task. I get so frustrated when a pill does not dissolve, it’s a waste of money. I would like to see manufacturers provide a sample you can check out before buying, but I don’t see that happening. Once you find a brand that meets the requirements, stick with that brand. Be cautious of outrageous claims, chances are they aren’t true. I even check to see if my prescription medication dissolves. 

The best way to decide if you need to take a supplement is to be sure to do your research, and not from the manufacturer. The reading material above will provide some of the answers. 

Melinda

References:

CBS News

Eat This 

Review Scout

Live Strong

Legional Athletics

3 comments

  1. We got sucked into the try this supplement for that symptom with a bunch of BS from the makers about helping with Parkinson. She only takes a multivitamin, biotin for her concern with hair loss and Condroitin for her knees which are no longer bad because she has lost about 30-35 lbs. with her Parkinson. Her stomach no longer bothers her in the evening which was a regular thing. And her bowels are generally regular. There is no hard evidence but I threw all the extra crap away.

    Liked by 1 person

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