A balanced diet is usually enough to provide the nutrients our bodies need, but certain health conditions can cause deficiencies that require dietary supplements. Cancer, diabetes, chronic diarrhea, and other ailments that affect digestion and absorption of food are some of the health conditions that may require a dietary supplement. Women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or trying to conceive may also need to take a multivitamin. It's important to be aware of the potential risks when considering dietary supplements.
Supplements are not required to include possible side effects on their packages, and there are no rules on the maximum size of pills. This can be a risk for older people. Additionally, some supplements can interact with medications, interfere with laboratory tests, or have dangerous effects during surgery. The FDA oversees both supplements and drugs, but the regulations for dietary supplements are different from those for prescription or over-the-counter drugs.
A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that the adverse effects of supplements were responsible for an average of about 23,000 emergency department (ED) visits per year. Dietary supplement companies must report serious adverse events they receive from their dietary supplements to the FDA within 15 days. Forty percent of supplement labels warn people not to take them if they have a medical condition, but only a few mention an ailment such as a bleeding disorder; 36 percent warn of possible adverse reactions; but only 13 percent warn of possible interactions with a specific drug or type of drug. Vitamin C can improve iron absorption, so it's important to avoid high doses if you have hemochromatosis, a condition in which your body absorbs and stores too much iron. If you're considering taking a dietary supplement, it's important to consult with your doctor first. The Office of Dietary Supplements website has a useful form called My Dietary Supplement and Medicine Record which you can print and complete at home.
Additionally, consider seeking an integrative doctor who combines conventional health care with holistic, traditional methods.