What Are Supplements?

Dietary and herbal supplements are the two most common types of supplements. People use these supplements to enrich the body with vitamins and nutrients or lose weight, enhance sexual performance, and increase energy. Many supplements come in tablet, powder, or liquid form and are taken orally.

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Can dietary or herbal supplements be harmful?

Supplements can be unsafe because the FDA does not test or approve every supplement before manufacturers sell these products. Sometimes, manufacturers may include ingredients that aren’t listed on the label or high levels of active ingredients that cause adverse reactions. Manufacturers are not always required to list negative side effects on the product label. Consumers should know that a negative reaction to a supplement may require immediate medical attention.

What are some common side effects of supplements?

Adverse reactions to supplements account for more than 20,000 emergency room visits each year. In 2019, nearly 70,000 people called a U.S. poison control center to report an adverse reaction to a supplement. People can experience negative side effects if the person takes a high dosage of the product or takes multiple supplements at once. Common supplement side effects include:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea

People should know that natural supplements are not always safer than laboratory made products. Plant-based supplements can contain harmful chemicals or cause an adverse reaction due to the plant’s genetic makeup. Supplements can also cause liver damage, blood thinning, and kidney stones.

How does a supplement cause nausea, constipation, or diarrhea?

Excess amounts of minerals in the body can lead to gastrointestinal issues. The gastrointestinal tract (GI) is responsible for digesting and absorbing foods. The body needs a certain amount of vitamins and minerals to function. Excessive doses of these vitamins can be toxic to the body and the GI tract will negatively respond through nausea, constipation, and diarrhea symptoms.

What should I do if I experience these symptoms?

The first thing a person experiencing GI tract issues should seek medical attention. The person can call a poison control center, visit an emergency room, or schedule an appointment with a physician. The physician will perform the proper tests to determine the cause of these issues. Physicians may also prescribe medications as needed.

Should I speak to a doctor before taking supplements?

Yes, patients should speak to a physician before starting any dietary or herbal supplement regimen. A doctor can test the patient to uncover any vitamin or nutrient deficiency. Then, the doctor can suggest supplements for the patient to take or dietary changes to make. Always consult a healthcare professional before adding a new supplement or medication.


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