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Dietary Supplement Use by Consumers Grows to All Time High

According to the February 2012 American Medical News, 53 percent of Americans now use dietary supplements to boost their overall health and wellness.

The Food and Drug Administration defines a dietary supplement as products taken by mouth that contain a dietary ingredient. Dietary ingredients range from vitamins, minerals, amino acids, herbs, botanicals to any substance used to enhance the diet.

Products to complement the diet come in various forms such as tablets, capsules, powders, energy bars and liquids. Consumers use such common dietary supplements as multivitamins, glucosamine, echinacea, multiminerals, flaxseed, fish oil, omega 3 and ginseng; through many other products exist on the market for purchase. Health food stores, drug stores and online websites supply consumers with multiple sources of supplements.

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With so many consumers using dietary supplements, the chance of a negative reaction with prescription medications increases exponentially. Health care providers advise patients to report use of both over-the-counter products and prescription medications at office visits.

The Joint Commission, an independent accreditation agency for health care agencies, advocates that all medications be reconciled at each outpatient visit to ensure safety for patients. The American Association of Family Practice recommends discussing all dietary supplements with your doctor.

Some dietary supplements appear to be harmless, but taken with a prescription drug could produce unwanted reactions. The experts at the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) advise consumers on the fact that a natural substance does not always mean safe. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine exists as a resource on dietary supplements.

The CAM Center describes untoward actions of many products. Cases of rashes, breathing problems and anaphylactic reactions occur in individuals with allergy to ragweed or asthma when ingesting Echinacea, a product purported to boost the immune system. St. John’s wort potentially interferes with coumadin, birth control pills and drugs to treat cancer.

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Vitamin A supplements may increase the risk of lung cancer in smokers. These interactions reflect just a few of the harmful effects. Other resourceful websites on dietary supplements include the Natural Medicine Comprehensive Database, FDA Overview of Dietary Supplements and the American Botanical Council.

Supplement manufactures and not the FDA maintain responsibility for accurate health claims and the safety of their products. The FDA only restricts use of a product if consumers file complaints and a follow-up investigation by FDA proves a supplement is unsafe.

With less stringent laws, these over-the-counter products fail to undergo the same FDA rigorous review as prescription medications. Consumers remain the main source of information for adverse effects. If individuals experience negative events from dietary supplements, a report to the FDA Dietary Supplements Adverse Event Reporting is advised.