Understanding the Relationship between Medications & Supplements
You most likely understand the interactions between prescribed and over-the-counter medications. However, were you aware that natural health products provide therapeutic results that can either mimic the action of some medications or interfere with them? We compiled a list of some common health products to outline how they may interact with prescribed medications. Antacids are the most commonly used OTC drugs and are also considered harmless. However, antacids may interact with other
medicines, causing degradation of your medications or decreased absorption. You should not combine natural heartburn supplements with antacids; the combined effect can cause health risks. Many women take the herbal product Black Cohosh to reduce symptoms of menopause or herbal combinations that contain this herb. Because Black Cohosh contains phytoestrogens and can mimic the effect of estrogen, it should not be taken in combination with prescribed medications for menopause and should be avoided if you have any liver disease, are pregnant or have an estrogen-dependent type of cancer. COQ10 is a popular supplement for reducing oxidative stress on the body and recommended most as an effective alternative for cardiovascular disease and cholesterol control. Most people tolerate COQ10 without any adverse reactions, but you must stop taking this supplement two weeks before or after any surgery. It should also be avoided or monitored if taking Warfarin (for blood thinning). Another herb you should be aware of is Ginkgo, which is often recommended to help slow age-related decline in mental functions, as well as vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. This herb can increase blood flow, which is why it should be avoided if you are taking Warfarin. Ginkgo should also be avoided in pregnancy and breastfeeding. Glucosamine and chondroitin, in combination, are used for joint health, arthritis, specifically osteoarthritis and is harmless for most people; however, it may worsen symptoms in some people with asthma. There are other supplements not listed here that may interfere with your prescribed medications. The take away is, you need to be aware that natural health products taken regularly have real therapeutic properties that can better your health but the relationship, when taken in combination with prescribed medications, needs to be understood.
Can Supplements Mimic the Action of Drugs?
If taken regularly, supplements may help reduce the need for prescription medications and in some cases, through the assistance of your healthcare provider, can complement the medications you are taking. Some supplements are so powerful they mimic the action of some drugs. Berberine is one such supplement. It is extremely effective at lowering blood sugar levels, including reducing the glucose production in the liver and improving insulin sensitivity. Studies now show that Berberine can be just as effective as the popular drug Metformin. Based on the action of Berberine, you
cannot take this supplement with prescribed medications for blood sugar unless you are monitoring your blood sugar medication or working with your healthcare provider. Berberine also effectively lowers LDL and blood pressure, so monitoring medications is required. Curcumin is a potent natural anti-inflammatory, blocking the inflammatory signals that cause inflammation. Due to the nature of this herb, it can be taken in combination with other anti-inflammatory medications but should not be used if taking blood thinners. Red Yeast Rice contains natural statins, which can lower cholesterol and inhibit the production of cholesterol in the liver. Red Yeast Rice cannot be taken with hepatotoxic medications or combined with prescription cholesterol-lowering medications. Garlic can reduce high blood pressure as well as lower cholesterol, but should not be taken with anticoagulant drugs, as it will increase the risk of bleeding.
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