In an effort to avoid some hefty hospital or doctor’s office bills, you might look toward taking supplements to better improve your health at home. But do they really work? And can you take supplements for just anything?
While most of the time we think of supplements as potential remedies for things like dietary concerns, insomnia, or vitamins, certain supplements aim to improve even your nervous system. Nervecontrol911, for example, uses marshmallow and passion flower, which is believed to optimize the function of the central nervous system, and claims to help reduce inflammation, promote relaxation and tranquility, and reduce symptoms of anxiety, stress, and depression.
But is there any proof these supplements actually work? It’s a bit of a toss-up, but the overall consensus is: sometimes. It’s important to note the FDA does not approve dietary supplements but does have roles in regulating them, as listed below:
- Since companies can often introduce a dietary supplement to the market without notifying the FDA, the agency’s role in regulating supplements primarily begins after the product enters the marketplace.
- The FDA periodically inspects dietary supplement manufacturing facilities to verify companies are meeting applicable manufacturing and labeling requirements.
- The FDA also reviews product labels and other labeling information, including websites, to ensure products are appropriately labeled and that they do not include claims that may render the products drugs (e.g., claims to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent diseases).
- The FDA monitors adverse event reports submitted by dietary supplement companies, healthcare professionals, and consumers as well as other product complaints for valuable information about the safety of products once they are on the market.
- If a product is found to be unsafe or doesn’t otherwise comply with the law, the FDA can work with the company to bring the product into compliance, ask the company to voluntarily recall the product, or take action to remove a dangerous product from the market.
What Are the Typical Ingredients Of Supplements?
Depending on the supplement’s specific use case, the contents of its ingredients can vary greatly, though most are either herbs, oils, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, botanicals, or other natural ingredients. Some of the most common ingredients for common dietary supplements are:
- Fish oil
- Vitamin D
- Green tea
Vitamin D can strengthen bones. Fish oil can support heart health. Melatonin can help you sleep better. But just because these ingredients have been known to have these effects does not mean you’ll experience the same effects. It is illegal for companies to advertise their products as able to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent diseases.
Some supplements use other all-natural ingredients such as marshmallow root, prickly pear extract, California poppy seed, passion flower, or corydalis powder.
Research has sometimes indicated that marshmallow root, for example, helps relax the mind and body, can reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression, and supports healthy sleep cycles. It’s also believed to help reduce dermal inflammation to support clearer, smoother skin.
But research is conflicting, and while using these materials may provide you some relief, the reality is that there’s no guarantee that they’ll have any effect on you at all.
Is Taking Supplements Safe?
In most cases, taking supplements won’t add any major risk to your body. But it’s important to be mindful of what you put in your body in any case. You could be allergic to one or more ingredients in a new supplement, or the contents could react badly with medication you’re already taking.
There are common supplements recognized in the medical community that could pose certain risks depending on your medical situation, including:
- Vitamin K, which can reduce the effectiveness of blood thinners
- St. John’s wort, which can make some drugs, such as antidepressants and birth control, less effective
- Herbal supplements like comfrey and kava, can damage your liver
- Beta-carotene and vitamin A, can increase the risk of lung cancer in smokers
- Gingko, which can increase blood thinning
- Antioxidants, such as Vitamins C and E, might make some chemotherapy medicines less effective
It’s important to also consult your physician before taking any new supplements. Taking too many different supplements at once could produce adverse consequences and increase your risk of suffering unwanted side effects. Never take more than the dosage listed on the container, as taking too high a dose could result in a necessary call to U.S. poison control centers.
According to the American Cancer Society, dietary supplements, herbal preparations, and homeopathic treatments cause nearly 70,000 calls to U.S. poison control centers in 2019. Of those calls, more than 7,000 needed treatment in healthcare facilities, and more than 800 cases led to moderate to severe outcomes. Be transparent with your physician, stick to the dosage on the bottle, and understand the ingredients.
What Are Some Red Flags To Look Out For?
If you see a label that has a lot of hype, or strange phrases like “100% effective”, there’s probably something fishy going on. Remember, companies are not allowed to claim their products can treat, cure, diagnose, or prevent diseases. If something looks weird, it likely is. Also, just because a product says “natural”, it does not automatically mean it is safe.
Don’t take supplements as a substitute for prescribed medications, and be wary of products that claim they can do what prescription can do. If a product looks too good to be true, the general rule is, it likely is.
Conclusion — Is Taking Supplements A Good Idea?
Taking natural health supplements can be a very good idea if you’ve done your research, understand the ingredients of the products, consult your doctor for advice beforehand, and ensure the products won’t mess with any of your current medications. Taking supplements can be a bad idea if you take a sketchy product without understanding its contents, take too much of a given supplement, mix too many supplements, or have an already-compromising medical condition.
- Don’t go too high: Don’t take more than the designated dosage or misuse a supplement.
- Don’t go it alone: Consult your doctor and do research before implementing supplements into your daily life.
Don’t go in blind: Understand the ingredients of the supplement you’re considering. This can help eliminate the risk of side effects or a potential allergic reaction or overdose.