Supplements can make common medication much less effective

Wednesday, May 9, 2018
How supplements can make common medication much less effective
Supplements can provide a healthful boost, but many supplements can affect the effectiveness of common medications.

It isn't unusual for most of us to be taking some type of supplement.

Vitamins, minerals and even herbs can offer some benefits. But as it turns out, many supplements can affect other common medications.

Dr. Michael Roizen, the chief wellness officer for the Cleveland Clinic, is glad people are trying supplements to boost their health, but he's concerned that many patients fail to disclose what they're taking.

"I have people who are really concerned with aging, and they'll come in with a bag full of bottles," Roizen said. "There are so many interactions in both decreasing the effectiveness of the pharmaceutical drug or increasing side effects, or not having enough of it."

Roizen points out if you're taking thyroid drugs and also take a supplement containing calcium or iron, the interaction will make your medication much less effective.

He offers a heads-up to women on estrogen who also take St. Johns Wort, a plant used to treat insomnia, depression and menopausal symptoms. "St. Johns Wort increases one of the enzymes that metabolizes estrogen, so much so, that people who were on birth control pills, they got pregnant," Roizen said.

But with some medications it's advantageous to add supplements, like if you take a protein pump inhibitor to fight acid reflux. "You will need to take some extra vitamin D," Roizen said.

He suggests statin patients add Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10 ) as it helps replenish energy and muscle fatigue.

Keep in mind, antibiotics tend to kill both good and bad bacteria in the gut. "And that means you will absorb things differently, so you probably should be taking a probiotic," Roizen said.

Due to all the interactions, Roizen says it's important to not only tell your doctor, but also your pharmacist. "Usually they're free and the most knowledgeable," Roizen said.

If they don't know about an interaction, their database is more inclusive than what consumers might find on an internet search.

Keeping your doctor in the loop, too, is also key. "We have electronic medical records now and they almost always have the interactions," Roizen said.

Some websites like VitaminPack, which Roizen is a consultant for, offers questionnaires to help consumers. They help people who take meds understand about certain supplements and when to take them, to get the most out of both.