an assortment of brightly colored pills

What’s in Your Supplement?

Multivitamins, herbs and other natural nutrition boosters are popular options for people seeking to enhance their daily diets. But it is important to know the facts before you start a supplement regimen.

“Some of these products are very expensive and may not be as vital to your health as regular prescription medications that your doctor may prescribe,” says Shaun Kretzschmar, D.O., family medicine physician with Aledo Family Medicine, a Texas Health Physicians Group practice. “Before buying supplements over the counter, discuss the benefits and possible risks with your doctor.”

Who Should Take Supplements?

If you eat a balanced diet containing lots of fruits, vegetables, proteins and whole grains, you may not need to take a supplemental vitamin. But, according to Dietary Guidelines for Americans, if you fall into the categories below, adding supplements may be beneficial:

  • Adults 50 years of age or older — Vitamin B-12 supplements may help a variety of functions in the body, including absorption, circulation, elimination and temperature regulation.
  • Women who are pregnant — A folic acid supplement is recommended.
  • Women who are trying to become pregnant — A prenatal vitamin containing iron should be considered.

“Supplements can be good for almost everyone, so it’s a good idea to talk with your doctor about options that might be right for you,” Dr. Kretzschmar says. “By reviewing family history and conducting lab work, we can determine what you will and will not need.”

Supplement Safely

Many over-the-counter dietary supplements have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and may be harmful if taken in large doses. Be mindful when you are taking a supplement, and check the FDA website whenever you add something new to your medicine cabinet. The organization lists supplements that are under regulatory review.

Also, talk with your doctor about any negative side effects you may experience, such as constipation, heartburn or nausea. You may need to adjust the amount of the supplement you are taking or discontinue it completely. It is also critical to consult with your doctor to ensure that your supplements do not interact with other medications.

“Even if they are herbal, supplements are drugs,” Dr. Kretzschmar says. “They can cause additional health issues if taken inappropriately.”

To find a family practice physician with Texas Health Physicians Group, visit THPG.org.

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