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Can I Take My Vitamins & Supplements with Prescription Medications?

Can I Take My Vitamins & Supplements with Prescription Medications?

The ample availability and accessibility of nutritional and herbal supplements has changed our world and improved our access to better health in recent decades. These products are readily available over-the-counter across America. Their ease of use have made them indispensable to tens of millions of U.S. households, eagerly used by adults, young and old, to complement what you eat at mealtime and to help plug any gaps in proper nutrition.

That said, let’s slow down a bit and think about proceeding with caution. As easy as it is to get your hands on dozens of different kinds of vitamins and supplements, it is important to know what exactly is in each of these products and if any of it conflicts (or makes for a bad mix or interaction) with any prescription medicine(s) you might be taking.

This is not an anything-goes world, and if you haven’t already, it’s time to have that discussion with your personal physician or another healthcare professional to go over your medications and compare them to any vitamins and supplements you are taking. This is to make sure there are no dangers of interactions between your prescriptions and the supplement products you're hoping to stock in your cupboard or medicine cabinet for the additional nutritional support.

Does ‘All Natural’ Mean a Product is A-OK?

First, it’s important to note that the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is not as stringent in applying effectiveness and safety studies to herbals and dietary supplements as it is with prescription medicines, per drugs.com. That puts more of an onus on consumers to be fully aware of what’s in the supplemental products you buy and to perform due diligence with the help of that healthcare professional.

A label that says “natural” is no guarantee of the veracity of that claim, as the FDA has the power to seize and remove products from the market that are deemed tainted, contaminated, or unsafe. Such has been the case, for instance, with alleged “all natural” alternatives for erectile dysfunction that were discovered to contain actual prescription medications. “Many supplements, including herbal remedies, vitamins, and minerals, can cause dangerous side effects when combined with drugs,” says Dr. Marvin M. Lipman, chief medical adviser of Consumer Reports, quoted at consumerreports.org.

Experts at National Institutes of Health (NIH) acknowledge that research has shown some dietary supplements “carry the same dangers as other pharmacologically active compounds.” On the flip side, though, NIH points out that some concerns about herb-drug interaction are not often based on rigorous research and many herb-drug interactions that have been identified are merely hypothetical. Still, it’s best to check them out for yourself. You should assume nothing.

Possible Conflicts Mixing Supplements with Prescriptions

Two herbal remedies often mentioned as needing caution when you are on prescribed medicines are St. John’s wort and Ginkgo biloba. The former, often used to improve mood, can produce side effects such as fever, tremors, and heart problems when combined with some antidepressants, per consumerreports.org. Gingko biloba, likewise, marketed as a memory aid, runs a risk of increased bleeding if taken in conjunction with prescription blood thinners.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are several other examples of risky interactions of common dietary supplements taken with prescription medicines, per consumerreports.org. Remember – talk these over with your physician or other healthcare professional:

Supplement: Fish oil
Rx’s: Cancer drugs, antihypertensives, blood thinners

Supplement: Ginger
Rx’s: Antihypertensives (calcium channel blockers), blood thinners, diabetes drugs, immunosuppressants

Supplement: Melatonin
Rx’s: Antihypertensives, anticonvulsants, blood thinners, diabetes drugs, insomnia drugs

Supplement: Valerian
Rx’s: Anti-anxiety drugs

Supplement: Co-Q10
Rx’s: Antihypertensives, blood thinners, cancer drugs

Supplement: Calcium
Rx’s: Antihypertensives, antibiotics, osteoporosis drugs, thyroid drugs, heart drugs

Supplement: DHEA
Rx’s: Cancer drugs, antihypertensives, blood thinners

Supplement: Garlic
Rx’s: Birth-control pills, HIV/AIDs drugs, antihypertensives, blood thinners, etc.

* Statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. WonderLabs always recommends reviewing any nutritional supplement changes with your primary medical provider.

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