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Ask a Doc: Are Multivitamins Bad for Me?

April 16, 2019

Q: I take a multivitamin every day, but my neighbor says that vitamins can be bad for you. How can I know what kinds of vitamins or supplements to avoid and what is actually good for me?

 

A: Not all doctors agree about the benefit of vitamins and supplements, but there’s one thing we can all agree on: If you are taking any kind of vitamin or supplement, you need to tell your primary care doctor, as well as any other doctors involved in your care.

More than half of all American adults take some kind of vitamin, but most don’t think they need to tell their doctor. All vitamins, minerals, supplements, detox regimens—you name it—are medically important.

Unfortunately, just like wit prescription medications, the wrong combinations of vitamins can mean more harm than help. Some pre-existing health conditions don’t mix well with certain supplements, and some vitamins and counteract or react with prescription medications—such as birth control, blood thinners, heart medication, and even antibiotics. Taking the wrong doses of vitamins, combining vitamins, or mixing supplements and alcohol could have negative effects on your health.

 

Ask first

It’s always best to talk with your doctor before you start taking a supplement, especially if you already take medications, have health concerns, or are pregnant. People who take more than one medication or supplement are at high risk for a potentially negative interaction, some of which can take weeks to develop.

If you’re a caregiver who manages medications for a family member or a loved one, be sure to keep a list of every medication your loved one takes. This includes prescription and nonprescription drugs, as well as nutritional supplements and vitamins.

Be sure to have a doctor or a pharmacist review that list at least once a year to look for possible drug interactions.

 

Take extra care

Be aware of common supplements that can interaction with medications. Here are just a few:

  • St. John’s wort
  • Feverfew
  • Vitamin E
  • Garlic
  • Coenzyme Q10
  • Fish oil
  • Vitamin D

 

Kali Hollingsworth, DO, is a family medicine physician with Kettering Health Network.

 

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Family Caregiver Alliance; Nutrition.gov; U.S. Food and Drug Administration