The People's Perspective on Medicine

Should You Really Stop Taking Your Supplements?

Before you stop taking your supplements, check to make sure your medications are not interfering with nutrient absorption.

Vitamin and mineral pills are still controversial, despite years of study. Many doctors have decided that you should get all your nutrients from your food. No doubt you could, if you followed a thoughtful eating plan based on plenty of vegetables, legumes, fruits and nuts. But many Americans don’t eat like that, and others take medications that might interfere with nutrient absorption. Should you really stop taking your supplements?

Are You Taking Your Supplements?

Q. I just saw my doctor today and got a good health report. However, he told me to stop taking all supplements. He said there is little proof of benefit and supplements can actually be harmful. Is this true?

A. The only way you will know whether your nutritional needs are being met by diet alone would be to have comprehensive testing. Doctors are not always aware of the contributors to potential deficiencies.

Medicines That May Interfere with Nutrients:

People taking medications like lisinopril for hypertension can be low in zinc, for example. Metformin for diabetes can impact vitamin B1, folic acid and vitamin B12. Acid-suppressing medications such as esomeprazole (Nexium), lansoprazole (Prevacid) or omeprazole (Prilosec) can lead to lower levels of magnesium, selenium and iron as well as several B vitamins.

In addition, people taking medicines for psychological or psychiatric disorders are also at risk for nutritional deficits (Boullata, Current Nutrition Reports, June 2019).

To learn more about the pros and cons of nutritional supplements, you may wish to read Fortify Your Life by Dr. Tieraona Low Dog. You can also order it by mail. To do so, please send $16 plus $4 for postage and handling to: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy (Dept. FYL); PO Box 52027; Durham, NC, 27717-2027.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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Although we are often told to get our nutrients from a well-balanced diet, the drugs we take and the way we eat may mean we need supplements.

Show 1022: How to Pick Dietary Supplements That Make Sense for You
  • Boullata JI, "Drug-nutrition interactions and the brain: It's not all in your head." Current Nutrition Reports, June 2019. DOI: 10.1007/s13668-019-0273-2
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I was told that if you take a blood thinner or low dose aspirin, you can bleed easily! So I have stopped all OTC supplements! Really thought they were what I needed, but I guess not so much!!

Me stop all my Supplements? No way, not no how!! I don’t ask my doctors about if I should take them or not. I just do because I educate myself and know my diet isn’t always the best, so I supplement vitamins, minerals, Turmeric and other herbs. Doctors get very little education on the proper human diet.

I have been told that if you take a blood thinner/aspirin just about every o.t.c. supplement can cause blood clots or bleeding! So I stopped all of them but am really not happy about it. Ubiquinol is needed to defend my heart from the statin I am taking. So no matter what I do, it feels like I can’t win!

Just Sayin’,

Huge factory farms plant on 100,000,000 acres. (a guestimate)

They have three planting/production cycles a year.

They have done things this way for at least 75 years.

Plants with 90 vitamins and minerals from the soil.

The factory farm scientists know that they can replace half of the
90 vitamins and minerals by fertilizing and still have the produce
look and taste the same.

Following the money, why would they replace everything taken out of the soil
when they could pocket the difference without anyone noticing the new crops
were not as nutritious as the plantings thirty years ago?

That’s an easy one, “show me the money!”

Lets do the math – 100,000,000 X what $5 an acre = $500,000,000

So, after 360 planting/production cycles how much is left?

Doctors are going to say, “get your vitamins from the food you eat.”

As I see it, that is a good trick!

If the doctors keep you sickly they have more cash flow!

Why do young elite class athletes die at an early age?

Maybe they sweat out a lot of their vitamins and minerals and they
don’t supplement to replace what they have lost. They get to a point where
they are so low on required vitamins and minerals that organs shut down
and death occurs.

MDs know very little about nutrition and less about supplements. If we hadn’t poisoned our food chain and still had good soil, uncontaminated water, and all organic food, then we wouldn’t need supplements. It’s almost impossible to get all the nutrients we need from our over-processed and damaged food chain, no matter how healthy one tries to eat.

Be very mindful of supplement intake. Herbal and mineral, as well as vitamin supplement can conflict with many medications, as do some foods. More is not always better and can become toxic to our body’s systems. Each person’s physiology is different, as are life-style and dietary patterns so it is a very dicey subject area. In short, what works for me might prove harmful for other persons. Almost like playing Russian Roulette.

When I was in my mid 50s, I decided to go to an Alternative Med/Wellness Clinic. I had recently stopped taking statins due to the muscle pain, brain fog, liver enzyme increases and low back and joint pain they caused. I needed to lose about 10 lbs, and my fasting blood sugars had crept up to 100 while I was on the statins. Off the statins, my cholesterol level returned to 235 (LDL high, HDL low), and I was plagued by low energy. The doctors were very attentive and seemed to be extremely competent.

I was ‘prescribed’ quite a few expensive OTC vitamins (all were sold in an on-site ‘pharmacy’): a mega-multivitamin as well as a mega-B complex formula, Magnesium Glycinate, an Omega complex, vitamin D 3000 iu, and Curcumin. I was encouraged to exercise and follow a Mediterranean-style diet (plant-based supplemented with fish and a little cheese). For the first 5 years, I felt wonderful. My cholesterol dropped below 200 (HDL and LDL finally normal). I dropped the extra weight. My blood sugars returned to normal. My energy levels were fantastic. I was sleeping 7 to 8 hours at night.

So I decided I would continue to follow my alternative med doctor’s advice, including purchasing and taking the expensive vitamins for the rest of my life. However, during the past 5 years, I slowly began to develop some unusual symptoms: Anxiety, tingling in my arms and fingers, difficulty sleeping, my palms turned orange, and my cholesterol returned to its former levels. Shortly before I turned age 65 my husband and I moved to Arizona. I ran across an article warning seniors to avoid taking ‘mega-vitamins.’

I checked the labels of all my expensive supplements and realized that I was probably ‘overdosed’ on the B vitamins, vitamin A, and no longer needed the extra vitamin D. The formula for the B vitamins included Betaine that research had demonstrated raised cholesterol levels! I decided to wean myself off the supplements. Now, several months later, my anxiety, insomnia and tingling fingers have subsided. My palms have returned to their normal color, and my cholesterol has dropped below 200. So just a word of caution, especially for seniors…If you decide to take supplements, avoid those mega-formulas!

Is there a negating effect on Synthroid if taking Biotin?

I am puzzled by so many doctors apparently taking a personal affront about the use of supplements. I find it difficult to believe they have any real concern about the money spent.

I have taken vitamins all my life. I am 82 and am very healthy. I take no pills except one Benadryl for allergy at night. Many years ago before my marriage I dated a chiropractor who said that he had thought in the past that vitamins were a waste of money. He changed his mind over time.

Vitamins and supplements help us in various ways. I recommend trying a vitamin for a month to see if it has a bad or good effect on you. Keep a food diary. One vitamin that bothered me was E; it gave me terrible, smelly gas. I quit after several months. I am allergic to Vitamin C and many delicious fruits that contain it. It gives me acne. For instance, If I want to eat a tomato, I peel it and eat a slice or two once a week. The hardest thing is when prepared foods contain sulfites or citric acid that react badly on me; therefore I most often eat home-made foods.

Best thing is exercise daily and stay at a healthy weight, eat fresh foods, home-prepared.

Doctors don’t know everything. They are wrong about many things but, in my experience, are usually reluctant to admit when they are. This is especially true of diet & nutrition, including supplements & herbs. They seem to forget that pharmaceuticals began as a way to mass-produce chemical compounds in plants & foods that were known to be effective in treating illness & to enhance health. Of course today it’s gone way beyond that & often the medication has so many side effects as to be detrimental. I’ve personally benefited from the study & use of medicinal herbs & vitamins for over 40 years. As with anything, moderation is key in this area. At the age of 67 I am well & do not use any pharmaceutical meds at all.

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