Follow these tips before buying a dietary supplement:
- Quick and effective "cure-all."
- Can treat or cure disease.
- "Totally safe," "all natural," and has "definitely no side effects."
- Limited availability, "no-risk, money-back guarantees," or requires advance payment.
Think about the following statements adapted from the Nutrition Screening Initiative to talk to your health care provider about your nutritional status and whether taking a dietary supplement(s) is right for you.
- What is this product for?
- What are its intended benefits?
- How, when, and for how long should I take it?
- I currently take a dietary supplement(s).
- I eat fewer than 2 meals a day.
- My diet is restricted (e.g., don't eat dairy, meat, and/or fewer than 5 servings of fruits and vegetables).
- I eat alone most of the time.
- Without wanting to, I have lost or gained more than 10 pounds in the last 6 months.
- I take 3 or more prescription or OTC medicines a day.
- I have 3 or more drinks of alcohol a day.
- Is taking a dietary supplement important to my total diet?
- Are there any precautions or warnings I should know about (e.g., is there an amount or "upper limit" that I should not go above)? Are there any known side effects (e.g., loss of appetite, nausea, headaches, etc.)?
- Are there any dietary supplements I should avoid while taking certain medicines (prescription or OTC) or other supplements?
- If I'm scheduled for elective surgery, should I discontinue use of dietary supplements? If so, when?
Medication and Dietary Supplement DiaryPlease provide information to your health care provider about all of the prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications that you frequently take or are currently taking (e.g., aspirin, pain reliever, cold medicine, stool softener, etc.).
To have an accurate record for your health care provider, also list all the supplements you take (e.g., multiple, single, or combination vitamins, minerals, or any botanical supplements) and how often. If you are unsure if a product is a dietary supplement, check to see if there is a Supplement Facts Label on the package.
It is very important that you consider your combined intake from all supplements (including multivitamins, single supplements, and combination products) plus fortified foods, like some cereals and drinks. Excess intakes of some supplements may cause health problems.
Provide this information to your health care provider so he or she can update your records and better respond to your questions.
The Bottom Line
Source: What Dietary Supplements Are You Taking?, Office of Dietary Supplements, NIH