Dietary supplements for health are a major industry these days. One walk down the supplement aisle of a pharmacy or supermarket will display shelves filled with row upon row of all kinds of pills and powders all purporting to do one thing or another for your health. More than half of all older adults take dietary supplements, and for the most part these substances are not harmful, But there are still several things older adults should know and consider before taking any.
Supplements are largely unregulated, so there’s no real way to know what it is that you’re buying, and whether or not it is safe. Supplements are not tested by the US Food and Drug Administration, and many are manufactured in unregulated plants overseas.
Additionally, our bodies process substances in different ways as we grow older. It may take longer for any ingredients in supplements to be eliminated from our bodies, which could theoretically allow a toxic dosage to accumulate.
Even more worrisome, supplements may interact harmfully with prescription drugs. Some supplements may increase the effect of a prescription drug. Certain herbs, such as goldenseal or schisandra, can slow down the body processes that change drugs into inactive substances, which can lengthen their effects or cause the dosages to build up. Others may make drugs less effective, such as St. John’s Wort which can decrease the effectiveness of more than 70% of all prescription medicines.
Make sure that if you do take supplements, you discuss them with your health care providers. They can help you to avoid any harmful interactions or potentially detrimental effects.