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Drugs, Vitamins, and Supplements: Adverse Interactions

Updated on June 6, 2016
Meds and supplements should be discussed with both doctors and pharmacists.
Meds and supplements should be discussed with both doctors and pharmacists. | Source

Prescriptions, OTC Drugs, Vitamins, Minerals, Supplements, Herbal Remedies: Danger Zones!

Are we taking responsibility to double check the side effects of common medicines for ourselves and our families?

Something comes up, we make an appointment, then a doctor gives us a new prescription. A quick run to the pharmacy, read and follow the directions, and we are on your way to solving a health problem. We live in amazing times! What could be simpler?

Well, it may not be quite as simple as we think. Tragic reports of failure to monitor our dosing of prescriptions and OTC products are at an all-time high. A not-so-simple pain relief product can have unintended consequences.

An important first question to ask ourselves is whether we have taken the responsibility to discuss all the medications as well as the supplements that we take with our doctor(s). Both the fast-paced changes in medical care and a desire to reduce the amount medications we take are good reasons to do so.

The importance can seem obvious once we think about it, but too many of us do not go to the trouble, and some doctors make the neglect an easy task. Even when we try to remember this important rule, if we are taking very many supplements we might forget one.

Risks related to the side effects of modern medications continue to present problems for both patients (particularly the elderly, children and teens) and their doctors. We need a plan, a method that we have put in place before our need to know about adverse interactions between drugs, vitamins, and other supplements comes up.

Questioning Adverse Interactions Between Drugs, Vitamins, and Supplements:

How important is it to be sure that our doctor or pharmacist compares our prescriptions with our supplements in order to check for adverse interactions?

The answer: it is extremely important.

However, even if we are careful to keep an updated list and take it to both our doctor and pharmacist when we get sick, we also need to remember that this is not a fool proof method for preventing problems, nor does it help us recognize them if they come up.

We need to take more responsibility in the matter. If we Google "drugs nutritional supplements vitamins herbal interactions side effects" we can begin the research we need to do on the products we take. We can stay alert to the potential problems and be aware of what's happening should they occur.

A New Tool to Help with Prescriptions

Some great vitamin companies offer information on their sites that can help you check out side-effects caused by prescriptions and supplements not playing well together. These sites offer important information that our doctor may not be thinking about when we are given a prescription.

Many even have lists of commonly prescribed medications to make our search as easy as possible so we can be prepared to ask our doctor the right questions. Here are some examples to get you thinking about your needs and to help you determine how much research you should do on your prescriptions.

You will be told not to take aspirin products if you are going to have certain medical tests or surgery, but did you know that taking bromelain or papaya enzymes can create the same problems that aspirin creates for those tests and surgery?

Are you aware that drinking grapefruit juice with many medications can cause a wide variety of side effects and that some of those side effects are very serious ones?

Do you know that consuming caffeine products while taking some asthma medications can increase the chance of a toxic side-effect?

Do you know that extra fiber in your diet reduces the effects of some pain-relieving drugs as well as some drugs used for heart and thyroid conditions?

Are you aware of how important is it for you to know that you absolutely should not take garlic supplements if you are using NSAIDs for pain or taking medication for tuberculosis, birth control pills, or HIV/AIDS?

Checking on how medications and supplements, as well as the foods we commonly eat, may benefit or harm us as they interact is an essential part of taking care of ourselves.

Check your meds seasonally and you'll stay on track with safety.
Check your meds seasonally and you'll stay on track with safety. | Source

The Big Question: Will We take Responsibility to Check Possible Adverse Interactions Between the Drugs, Vitamins, and Supplements We Take?

There are some important questions we should ask before we take both prescription and over-the-counter drugs, as well as dietary supplements, herbs, minerals, and vitamins. It takes a little time, but it may save our health and even our life.

It isn't too difficult to check out even the little known side effects of commonly prescribed medications. How Stuff Works and the Food and Drug Administration have interesting articles to get you started.

A great guide for thinking through the issues and gaining an understanding of what questions we should ask comes from Angela Townsend's A Prescription for Health: Discuss Your Medications with Your Doctor.

Think twice, do the research, and get answers from medical professionals. Take responsibility for your own health and life when it comes to making important decisions about the medications and supplements that are so common in today's world.

Laughter is the Best Medicine:

Grover Calls the Pharmacist

Don't Forget to Check on Side Effects of Prescription Interaction with Foods!

Checking on how combinations of medications and supplements, as well as the foods we commonly eat, may benefit or harm us as they interact is an essential part of taking care of ourselves. The information needed to make the right decision is available to us if we will read it.

A good rule of thumb is to do this check with each seasonal change. Once a year is not enough, every six months may not be enough for some people. If you celebrate keeping yourself and your family safe with each change of season and you will find that the job is actually easy.

Keep in mind that some foods can help relieve specific symptoms, so a little research on how to reduce the amount of medication you take through proper eating and exercising can provide both our bodies and our pocketbooks with a good dose of health.

An important note: Always check with your doctor when making changes in your lifestyle that relate to your medical well-being.

Do We Understand the Damage of Prescription Drugs?

Have you ever had an adverse reaction caused by prescriptions interacting with OTC products?

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    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

      Woody Marx:

      Thanks very much for letting me know how helpful this was to you. It's important to discuss this with family and friends once in a while because the risks are always present.

    • Woody Marx profile image

      Woody Marx 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Of the many interesting facts in this Hub is the one about papaya enzymes which I frequently find useful, but of which I should be wary at the same time. Thanks for all these important tips.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey


      I'm so glad this information on the potential for drugs, supplements, and vitamins to interact harmfully was a help to you personally and in your volunteer work. Thanks for letting me know!

    • Maralexa profile image

      Marilyn Alexander 5 years ago from Vancouver, Canada and San Jose del Cabo, Mexico

      Thanks for an important reminder,RTalloni! You have given me a new idea about how to assist my friends at the seniors complex where I volunteer. This is so important. I have this info available for my doctor but, surprisingly, not my pharmacist. I will follow some of your leads for researching further.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 7 years ago from the short journey

      Thanks mulberry1, both for taking the time to read this hub and for leaving a comment! We forget the need to pay attention to this need too often and I am realizing that we need to help the aging make it a firm habit.

    • mulberry1 profile image

      mulberry1 7 years ago

      This is very good information. I agree completely, we need to take responsibility for our own well being and put some time into researching the things we put into our bodies.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 7 years ago from the short journey

      gracenotes, Thank you for stopping by and for leaving the info on your experience. We "take stuff" to feel better, but we need knowledge to be wise, don't we?!

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 7 years ago from the short journey

      Pamela99, Thanks so much--I'll bet you could offer some interesting stories to back up the need to take responsibility for what meds we take!

    • gracenotes profile image

      gracenotes 7 years ago from North Texas

      Good information here. I am definitely aware of possible problems prior to surgery with proteolytic enzymes, which contain papain and bromeliad. Also, prior to surgery, my doctor wanted to know all the herbal stuff I was taking, and I stopped taking the astragalus on his order.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

      This is a very good hub. I am a nurse, so I knew most of that but many people don't and I think your hub will be very helpful to many people.