Safe supplementing part two: be smart about taking dietary supplements

Pharmacist and woman talking about supplements

With so many of us taking dietary supplements, it’s easy to start feeling complacent about their safety. Even though they are common and easily available, you should still be smart about taking them. With that in mind, following these few tips will also help to ensure that you get the desired health benefits.

●     Read the labels carefully. Look for an expiration date and make sure the product is well within that date. You don’t want to buy a 60-day supply, only to have the product expire in 40 days. If there is no expiration date on the label, don’t buy it.

●     Avoid supplements with chemical additives (excipients) unless no alternative is available. These may include talc, corn, wheat, dairy, artificial flavorings and colorings (dyes) and preservatives. These are unnecessary ingredients that can cause allergic reactions in some people. For example when it comes to fiber products, many contain a lot of fillers such as cellulose, methycellulose and polydextrose as well as artificial flavors and colors. This is why I often recommend Sunfiber, which contains just fiber. This particular product is tasteless and odorless, and mixes well with fluids, giving you all that you need in a fiber supplement without the stuff you don’t need.

●     Don’t stop taking a prescribed drug or substitute a supplement for a prescribed drug unless under the advice and supervision of your healthcare provider. Dietary supplements are not necessarily intended to take the place of prescription medications.

●     Take the supplements regularly. With some, such as multivitamins or fish oil, you may not notice a difference in how you feel, but they are working and need to be taken consistently for you to reap the benefits.

●     Stay within the recommended dosage. Don’t take a higher dosage of a product than is recommended on the label unless your healthcare provider advises you to do so.

Learn as much as you can about the supplement you are considering taking. Consult with your doctor, pharmacist or healthcare provider. Even if they are not familiar with the product, they can access and interpret scientific information about the product. Ask if there are any possible interactions with medications or side effects. This is particularly important if you are pregnant, nursing, have a chronic medical condition, or plan to have surgery.