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Are You Overdosing on Nutritional Supplements?

Are You Overdosing on Nutritional Supplements?

by Dr. Tina Marcantel, NMD, Contributor to Naturopathy on Allthingshealing.com

Editor’s Note from Rebecca Snowden: It’s great to see patients and consumers taking charge of their health; however, all too often their efforts to supplement their diets are in vain, which could result in side effects, interactions and wasted money.  Dr. Marcantel offers us some perspective on a few of the issues that can present in cases like these.

I recently had a new patient who came to see me with complaints that included headaches, nervousness, and irritability–even her co-workers were beginning to make comments about her short temper. As “Alice” and I talked I learned that she had seen another naturopathic doctor some time before who had recommended certain dietary food supplements for her. She also had done some online research on her own and was buying supplements from a couple of different Internet websites. I asked her to bring in everything she was taking so we could get a better idea of her daily dietary intake.

On her next visit, Alice walked in carrying a grocery bag filled with bottles of all shapes and sizes. She had literally hundreds of dollars worth of vitamins and food supplements that she had purchased and was consuming on a regular basis. Together she and I went through and discussed the products while also reviewing proper food consumption and her specific medical condition. By the end of the visit, Alice was down to a few targeted supplements on a daily basis.

As we monitored Alice’s progress over the next several weeks, she was pleasantly surprised to find that the irritability she had been experiencing for months had almost completely disappeared. She and I agreed that her improved condition was directly related to the decreased number of supplements she was taking. As an added benefit, she had simplified her life and was saving quite a bit of money by taking only those supplements she truly needed for optimal health.

Alice’s story is not unusual. In fact, I see a similar scenario with new patients on a regular basis. Most people who seek out the services of a naturopathic doctor are already motivated to look for “natural” (as opposed to “pharmaceutical”) answers to their health issues. Their intentions are certainly good, but they often make the same mistake Alice did: they assume that because something is natural and healthful that the more they take of it, the better their health will be. There really can be, however, “too much of a good thing.”

One fact that is sometimes overlooked is that water-soluble vitamins (for instance, B and C vitamins) can only be absorbed in certain amounts and over a certain length of time. After that, all those unabsorbed vitamins simply pass from the body in urine and solid waste. In other words, you are quite literally flushing many of those expensive products down the toilet! In order to get the most benefit from vitamins, I suggest taking the recommended daily dose two to three times a day in smaller increments to allow for more complete absorption.

On the other hand, fat-soluble vitamins and supplements (such as A, D, and E vitamins) can build up in the body’s tissues and actually become toxic, leading to various adverse physical effects that can include (as in Alice’s case) headaches, irritability, and sleeplessness.

Another problem is that many food supplements can interact with prescription medicines or with other supplements the patient may be taking. In some cases this may mean that a particular supplement reduces the effectiveness of the intended medication; in more dangerous circumstances, the interaction may actually lead to harmful mixtures of chemicals in the body. See my article “Herbal Remedies: What Every Consumer Should Know” for more specific information on this.

So how much is really enough? The truth is that there’s no “one size fits all” answer to which vitamins or food supplements you should be taking. I do usually suggest a good multi-vitamin for my patients to ensure they are getting a full range of their necessary daily intake of vitamins. After that, it’s important to tailor the use of supplements to the individual needs of patients.

A proper, healthful diet is the most important and effective way to get the vitamins and minerals you need. Dietary supplements are supposed to be exactly what their name implies: they should be used to give you a boost with specific nutrients your body needs that a good diet alone isn’t providing for you.

Read more: Alternative Therapies, Conscious Consumer, Diet & Nutrition, Health, Natural Remedies, , , , , , , , ,

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Dr. Neala Peake, selected from AllThingsHealing.com

All Things Healing (allthingshealing.com) is an online portal and community dedicated to informing and educating people across the globe about alternative healing of mind, body, spirit and the planet at large. We are committed to bringing together a worldwide community of individuals and organizations who are working to heal themselves, each other, and the world. We offer 39 healing categories, 80 plus editors who are experts in their fields, a forum for each category, and an extensive "Find Practitioners" listing. Our Costa Rica Learning Center and Spiritual Retreat is coming soon. Join us!

36 comments

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7:05PM PDT on Jul 20, 2012

...and supplements of vitamin B12 are good for vegetarians/vegans who don't eat animal products (unless they eat good amounts of Marmite, in which it's added...)

(My heart goes out to Elle B...LOVE&LIGHT)

7:00PM PDT on Jul 20, 2012

Yes... and in general, not used continually over long periods, accept in certain cases perhaps, such as Elle B.'s...

7:43AM PDT on Nov 5, 2011

interesting read! I just bought some vitamins myself - but I'm not taking that many :)

4:13PM PDT on Sep 11, 2011

thanks

9:23PM PDT on Jul 21, 2011

thanks, just starting taking supplements .a great reminder.

1:13PM PDT on Jul 21, 2011

great article, i myself take a multi And 2 or 3 things, i know people that have grocery bags full

11:40AM PDT on Jul 14, 2011

Good article. Healthy food = essential. Availability varies greatly by income - geographical area. No space or time for the story. Just want to say GIGA supplements saved my life. Have mod/sev TBI (brain injury), collapsed lung, 11 ruptured spine/neck discs, ruptured intestines, torn rotator cuffs, sprains and broken bones from head-on auto wreck--now bionic--held together w/teflon and steel :) Add life threatening respiratory disease from breathing "toxic chemical sludge waste"-- my life form came to a slow crawl. Over two dozen prescriptions were were causing additional issues. Insurance/doctors wouldn't do natural remedies--so I did it myself. It took intense research w/major patience--especially w/ malfunctioning brain and budget restraints. But it works period. If you're healthy a little dab'l do ya. If you're fading fast GIGA works. My recommendation for most-- integrated and functional medicine one step at a time. Well meaning medical professionals told me I had to accept it would be baby steps the rest of my life. Still do some easy does its-- but I have now hiked above the clouds and I plan to get up to the glaciers before I'm done! Thanks to tenacity and GIGA doses of supplements! [My banged-up human form soaks them up and cries for more! Zero prescription meds now-- only the super-supps!] :) PS. Incorrect/inadequate physical therapy added insult to injuries. Looked 'til I found "exceptional" physical therapist!

11:37AM PDT on Jul 14, 2011

Good article. Healthy food = essential. Availability varies greatly by income - geographical area. No space or time for the story. Just want to say GIGA supplements saved my life. Have mod/sev TBI (brain injury), collapsed lung, 11 ruptured spine/neck discs, ruptured intestines, torn rotator cuffs, sprains and broken bones from head-on auto wreck--now bionic--held together w/teflon and steel :) Add life threatening respiratory disease from breathing "toxic sludge waste"-- my life form came to a slow crawl. Over two dozen prescriptions were were causing additional issues. Insurance/doctors wouldn't do natural remedies--so I did it myself. It took intense research w/major patience--especially w/ malfunctioning brain and budget restraints. But it works period. If you're healthy a little dab'l do ya. If you're fading fast GIGA works. My recommendation for most-- integrated and functional medicine one step at a time. Well meaning medical professionals told me I had to accept it would be baby steps the rest of my life. Still do some easy does its-- but I have now hiked above the clouds and I plan to get up to the glaciers before I'm done! Thanks to tenacity and GIGA doses of supplements! [My banged-up human form soaks them up and cries for more! Zero prescription meds now-- only the super-supps!] :) PS. Incorrect/inadequate physical therapy added insult to injuries. Looked 'til I found "exceptional" physical therapist!

7:35PM PDT on Jul 11, 2011

Thanks for this article.

2:23AM PDT on Jul 11, 2011

I don't like to pop pills. So, if I can avoid them, I will. But on the other hand, I'd rather go natural rather than prescription, if possible, and I will always run it past my doctor just to get a heads up.

I take calcium + D + minerals, because my iron is a little low, and I'm lactose intolerant (I don't drink milk). I don't take a multivitamin supplement, so this is a good one.

I'm also very vitamin D low, so my doctor recommended I take a D supplement.

So anyway, with all I take, I feel I take too much, but, it's all cleared through my doctor, so he knows what I'm on.

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