How to Avoid Interactions Between Prescriptions and Supplements

Two Parts:Staying Informed About InteractionsRecognizing Common Interactions

Natural supplements, herbs, and botanical medicines are frequently used to treat common health problems and improve overall health. This is because the substances in many herbs and botanical medicines often act like chemically synthesized medications. Because of this, natural supplements and prescription medications can cause harmful side effects or make the treatments ineffective.

Part 1
Staying Informed About Interactions

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    Consult with your doctor. Talk to all of your healthcare professionals before you begin taking any vitamins, minerals, or supplements. This is especially important if your doctor is prescribing a new medication. Your doctor is one of the most qualified people to advise you about possible interactions. Your doctor can also tell you if any problems you may be having are related to interactions.[1]
    • For example, if you are taking an antidepressant like citalopram and are also taking St John’s wort, there is an increased risk of side effects, including a dangerous condition known as serotonin syndrome. If you haven't told any of your physicians about taking St John’s wort, that lack of information could potentially delay a diagnosis.
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    Talk with your pharmacist. You could also tell your pharmacist all the medications and supplements you're taking and ask the pharmacist to check for interactions. Pharmacists are trained medication specialists who have lots of resources available. They can use these to determine your risk for significant interactions.[2]
    • Your pharmacist can also give you detailed instructions about how to take your medication, what side effects you can expect, and dosing information.
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    Discuss supplements with a naturopathic doctor. While most people don't need a multi-vitamin or multi-mineral, you might benefit from adding vitamins or minerals so long as you follow your naturopathic doctor or general practicioner's recommendations. Always follow the dosing instructions and don't be tempted to take more just because it's natural.[3]
    • Taking too many vitamins (like vitamin A, K, E, and D), mineral, or iron can cause toxic levels to be stored in your body.
    • If you work with a naturopathic physician, the doctor has been trained in prescription, herbal, and botanical medicines and supplements.
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    Research possible interactions. In addition to talking to your medical team, check online resources for interactions between prescriptions and supplements. Ask your doctor to recommend a reputable database or look for a government or scientifically-backed database like:
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    Track your prescriptions and supplements. Keep track of your prescriptions and all supplements you take. Keep this list on you at all times in case of an emergency. You should also pay attention to any new symptoms, especially when starting a new prescription or supplement.[4]
    • Remember to write down the dosage for each medication or supplement you take.
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    Watch for signs of interactions. Look for any health changes like changes in blood pressure, nausea, rashes, headaches, changes in blood sugar, and any symptoms that concern you. Refer back to written list of what prescriptions and supplements you were taking when symptoms first appeared.[5]
    • If you do experience any unusual symptoms or interactions, contact your physician right away.

Part 2
Recognizing Common Interactions

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    Check for garlic interactions. Garlic is often taken as a supplement to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk for heart disease. You may increase your risk for bleeding if you supplement with garlic while taking blood-thinning medications like warfarin and aspirin. You should also talk with your doctor if you're using:[6][7][8]
    • Antiplatelet medications like indomethacin, dipyridamole, and clopridogrel.
    • Protease inhibitors (treatment for HIV) like indinavir, ritinavir, and saquinavir.
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    Consider interactions from ginko biloba. Ginko is often used to improve memory, reduce general anxiety and improve the metabolism. There are many drugs that interact with ginko and could cause bleeding, changes in blood pressure and blood sugar, and seratonin syndrome. Talk with your doctor if you're taking:[9][10]
    • Anticonvulsant medications
    • Antidepressant medications
    • Antihypertensive medications
    • Blood-thinning medications (including aspirin)
    • Blood-thinning medications
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    Monitor interactions from ginseng. If you're getting cancer treatments, you may be using ginseng to fight fatigue. But, studies have shown that it can decrease the effectiveness of warfarin, a blood thinner that treats or prevents blood clots. You should also avoid taking ginseng with aspirin which is also a blood thinner.[11][12]
    • You should also avoid using ginseng while taking heart or psychiatric medications. Consider avoiding caffeine since ginseng and caffeine can overstimulate your nervous system.
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    Check for hawthorn (crataegus) interactions. Hawthorn is currently being studied as a way to complement cardiovascular disease treatments although it's been used for hundreds of years to treat heart and respiratory diseases. Using hawthorn while taking the following medications can make their effects stronger: [13][14]
    • Beta blockers: aenolol, nadolol, propranolol
    • Calcium channel blockers: diltiazem, nifedipine, verapamil
    • Digoxin: lanoxicaps, lanoxin
    • Phenylephrine
    • Medications for male sexual dysfunction
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    Consider interactions from St John's wort. St. John's wort is a popular supplement for treating depression, minor wounds, and menopausal and premenstrual symptoms. St. John's wort can reduce the effectiveness of calcium channel blockers, digoxin, warfarin, and statins. But, it can make the effects of other medications stronger (like anticonvulsants, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, insomnia medications, alcohol, and tricyclic antidepressants). It can also increase the risk of side effects for:[15][16]
    • Citalopram
    • Escitalopram
    • Fluvoxamine
    • Paroxetine
    • Fluoxetine
    • Sertraline
    • Tricyclics
    • MAOIs
    • Nefazodone

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Categories: Taking Pills and Medicine