Tips for Using Supplements for Health and Fitness
Do I need to think about my total diet?
Yes. Dietary supplements are intended to supplement the diets of some people, but not to replace the balance of the variety of foods important to a healthy diet. While you need enough nutrients, too much of some nutrients can cause problems.
Should I check with my doctor or healthcare provider before using a supplement?
This is a good idea, especially for certain population groups. Dietary supplements may not be risk-free under certain circumstances. If you are pregnant, nursing a baby, or have a chronic medical condition, such as, diabetes, hypertension or heart disease, be sure to consult your doctor or pharmacist before purchasing or taking any supplement. While vitamin and mineral supplements are widely used and generally considered safe for children, you may wish to check with your doctor or pharmacist before giving these or any other dietary supplements to your child. If you plan to use a dietary supplement in place of drugs or in combination with any drug, tell your health care provider first. Many supplements contain active ingredients that have strong biological effects and their safety is not always assured in all users. If you have certain health conditions and take these products, you may be placing yourself at risk.
- Some supplements may interact with prescription and over-the-counter medicines.
Taking a combination of supplements or using these products together with medications (whether prescription or OTC drugs) could under certain circumstances produce adverse effects, some of which could be life-threatening. Be alert to advisories about these products, whether taken alone or in combination. For example: Coumadin (a prescription medicine), ginkgo biloba (an herbal supplement), aspirin (an OTC drug) and vitamin E (a vitamin supplement) can each thin the blood, and taking any of these products together can increase the potential for internal bleeding. Combining St. John's Wort with certain HIV drugs significantly reduces their effectiveness. St. John's Wort may also reduce the effectiveness of prescription drugs for heart disease, depression, seizures, certain cancers or oral contraceptives.
- Some supplements can have unwanted effects during surgery:
It is important to fully inform your doctor about the vitamins, minerals, herbals or any other supplements you are taking, especially before elective surgery. You may be asked to stop taking these products at least 2-3 weeks ahead of the procedure to avoid potentially dangerous supplement/drug interactions -- such as changes in heart rate, blood pressure and increased bleeding - that could adversely affect the outcome of your surgery.
- Adverse effects from the use of dietary supplements should be reported to MedWatch:
You, your health care provider, or anyone may report a serious adverse event or illness directly to FDA if you believe it is related to the use of any dietary supplement product, by calling FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088, by fax at 1-800-FDA-0178 or reporting on-line at: http://www.fda.gov/medwatch/how.htm. FDA would like to know whenever you think a product caused you a serious problem, even if you are not sure that the product was the causes and even if you do not visit a doctor or clinic. In addition to communicating with FDA on-line or by phone, you may use the MedWatch form available from the FDA Web site.
Who is responsible for ensuring the safety and efficacy of dietary supplements?
Under the law, manufacturers of dietary supplements are responsible for making sure their products are safe before they go to market. They are also responsible for determining that the claims on their labels are accurate and truthful. Dietary supplement products are not reviewed by the government before they are marketed, but FDA has the responsibility to take action against any unsafe dietary supplement product that reaches the market. If FDA can prove that claims on marketed dietary supplement products are false and misleading, the agency may take action also against products with such claims.