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Advice for Dietary Supplements Consumer

Many factors play a role in deciding if a dietary supplement is right for you, including possible drug interactions and side effects. Do not self-diagnose any health condition. Together, you and your healthcare team can make the best decision for optimal health.
  • Talk with a health care provider before using a dietary supplement. This is a good idea, especially for certain population groups. If you are pregnant, nursing a baby, or have a chronic medical condition such as diabetes or heart disease, be sure to consult your doctor or pharmacist before purchasing or taking any supplement.
  • Know that some supplements may interact with prescription and over-the-counter medicines. Taking a combination of supplements or using these products together with medications (whether prescription or OTC drugs) could produce adverse effects, some of which could be life-threatening. For example, Coumadin (a prescription medicine), ginkgo biloba (an herbal supplement), aspirin (an OTC drug), and vitamin E (a vitamin supplement) can each thin the blood, and taking any of these products together can increase the potential for internal bleeding.
  • Inform your doctor about all the supplements you use, especially before surgery. Some supplements can have unwanted effects during surgery. You may be asked to stop taking these products at least 2-3 weeks ahead of the procedure to avoid potentially dangerous interactions. These interactions could cause changes in heart rate or blood pressure, increased bleeding, or other problems that could adversely affect the outcome of your surgery.
  • Report adverse effects from the use of dietary supplements to MedWatch. If you think you have been harmed by a dietary supplement, contact your health provider and report it to FDA's MedWatch program by calling (800) FDA-1088, or visiting www.fda.gov/medwatch/how.htm


Examples of Supplements That Have Carried FDA Cautions About Safety

  • Ephedra
  • Kava
  • Some "dieter's teas"
  • L-tryptophan
  • PC SPES and SPES
  • Aristolochic acid
  • Comfrey
  • St. John's wort
  • GHB (gamma hydroxybutyric acid), GBL (gamma butyrolactone), and BD (1,4-butanediol)
  • Certain products, marketed for sexual enhancement and claimed to be "natural" versions of the drug Viagra, which were found to contain an unlabeled drug (sildenafil or tadalafil)

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