There are those who believe everyone should take a multiple vitamin-mineral supplement and perhaps some fish oils or omega-3 fatty acids too. Others believe you can get all the nutrients you need from your diet. And still others believe no supplements of any kind are warranted for any reason.
What is to be believed? Who has the answers when you are standing in front of the supplements shelf at your local grocer?
When I first began looking into natural medicines in nursing school, I received a lot of mixed messages from my classmates. Although I believed in “medicine” at the time, I realized that something was missing from healing and sought answers outside of the medical field. The medical field has many wonders, and many people have received relief with using medical drugs and procedures. But I had learned, both professionally and personally, that medicine had its limits. Looking outside of the medical profession surely would give me insights that I sought.
And I found them in nature’s medicines, vitamins, minerals and homeopathy.
But I also found a whole new world of dangers that could easily befall the unsuspecting consumer. The idea that “Natural is Safe” no matter what and how much was not true.
The first Naturopathic Doctor I saw was one who believed everyone needed “supplement insurance,” taking a multiple vitamin-mineral supplement daily no matter what ails you (or doesn’t ail you). At first I had listened to her describe the nutrient-deficient foods on the market, even in fresh fruits and vegetables. She had said that without a supplement daily, no one could ever be healthy based on the poor quality of foods of the day. As time went on, I heard many more people with the same beliefs.
Then I went back to school myself—this time to become a Naturopathic Doctor. And I learned the dangers of just arbitrarily taking a supplement without needing it, and even more so if the person took medical drugs. Also, some supplements should not be taken with certain medical conditions, even if the person doesn’t take medical drugs for that condition.
In 2010, The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have estimated that 67% of Americans take at least one medical drug daily (with most taking 7 or more). It was also estimated that 72% of Americans take natural health supplements. Based on those figures, someone was taking both medical drugs and natural supplements at the same time.
How many medical drugs have interactions with natural health supplements: 100%! Every medical drug on the market!
Granted, not every drug interacts with every vitamin or mineral, but every drug on the market interacts with at least 1 vitamin, mineral or herbal supplement—and some of those interactions can seriously harm the consumer.
An example is vitamin E. Vitamin E has been in the news a lot because of its heart-health benefits. But anyone taking aspirin, warfarin (Coumadin®) or another anticoagulant drug (i.e. blood thinner) should not take vitamin E as it greatly increases the risk of bleeding. Also with these drugs, a person should not take garlic or vitamin C. Yet, of those who have heart concerns that causes them to take the anticoagulant drugs, most reach for garlic and vitamin E because they believe these supplements are good for their heart and that they are natural so they are safe.
When working on the Cardiac Floor of a local hospital, a man was admitted because he was bleeding. He had been on an anticoagulant drug AND was taking garlic and vitamin E. He had to be admitted because he couldn’t stop the bleeding from a minor cut on his chin from shaving. The anticoagulant effects of the vitamin E and the garlic intensified the anticoagulant effect of the warfarin (Coumadin®) leading to blood that would not clot.
Granted not all the reactions can be life-threatening if you combine natural supplements with medical drugs. But sometimes the reaction could be that the drug does not work as effectively, or that it does not get flushed from the body as fast as expected, leading to elevated drug levels, or it increases the risk of photosensitivity or skin rashes. Zaza Red 24Ct