Are Dietary and Herbal Supplements Safe? - A Comprehensive Guide

Chemicals are essential for life, but in high doses they can be toxic and even deadly. This is true for natural medicines, such as dietary and herbal supplements, which are composed of chemicals just like everything else. Manufacturers often add vitamins, minerals, and other supplement ingredients to the foods we eat, particularly breakfast cereals and drinks. As a result, we may be consuming more of these components than we realize, and more may not be better. Taking more than we need costs more money and may also increase the risk of side effects.

For instance, too much vitamin A can cause headaches and liver damage, reduce bone strength, and lead to birth defects. Too much iron causes nausea and vomiting and can damage the liver and other organs. Many supplements contain ingredients that can have powerful effects on the body. In addition, some supplements can interact with medications, interfere with laboratory tests, or have dangerous effects during surgery. It is important to consult a healthcare provider to decide which supplement, if any, is right for you.

Dietary supplements aren't always safe or harmless. Even natural supplements can be risky for people who take certain medications or have certain medical conditions, and some supplements have been found to be contaminated with medications or other chemicals. Doctors may not be aware of contamination or quality issues in the supplement industry, and may not realize that supplements pose an anti-doping risk for athletes. I recently contacted a friend of the family who had just started his own supplement company; he introduced me to his products and asked if I wanted to try them. When vitamins are taken as supplements, they are introduced into the body at levels that could never be achieved with the healthiest diet. If you think you've had an adverse reaction to a dietary supplement, tell your healthcare provider.

Research shows that a dietary component that has an effect on the body may not have the same effect when isolated and taken as a supplement. Popular supplements include vitamins D and B12; minerals such as calcium and iron; herbs such as echinacea and garlic; and products such as glucosamine, probiotics, and fish oils. Supplement companies are responsible for having proof that their products are safe, and the claims on the label must be truthful and not misleading. Dietary supplements are a special category of food regulated by the EU after being marketed. If you think you may be lacking certain vitamins and minerals, it might be best to consider changing your diet and lifestyle rather than resorting to supplements.

At the time, I was aware that using supplements always entailed a risk, but since they guaranteed that I wouldn't have any problems with their products, I thought it would be okay. The synthetic form (in a supplement or fortified food) is better absorbed by the body than folate from food sources. It can be hard to resist the promises of a quick cure or a solution to a serious health problem, but supplements that claim to reduce tumors, cure insomnia, treat impotence, cure Alzheimer's disease, or prevent serious memory loss haven't been proven to be effective.

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