It has long been known that medications can interact with one another, but it is increasingly becoming important to be aware of medications that interact with supplements. There are so many vitamin, mineral, and herbal supplements on the market, and many people use these supplements to try and improve their health. However, what people need to be aware of is that the very supplements they are taking to improve their health may actually be causing harm if they are taking medications that interact with them. Yet, it is surprisingly easy to find out if a medication interacts with a supplement. The following is a list of common medications that interact with supplements that you should be aware of.
1. Thyroid Medications
Thyroid diseases such as hypothyroidism have become very common. To correct the hormonal imbalance that occurs when people have hypothyroidism, doctors will put patients on natural or synthetic thyroid hormones. These hormones work by increasing the thyroid hormones in the body to bring the patient out of a hypothyroid state. Taking calcium with thyroid medications can prevent the thyroid hormones from being absorbed. Obviously, this negates the desired effect of the thyroid medication. However, it is avoidable. Taking calcium at least 4 hours before or after taking thyroid medication will allow the hormones to have time to be absorbed into the bloodstream. Thyroid medications are just one of the medications that interact with supplements, there are many others.
2. Birth Control
Birth control pills work by preventing ovulation and maintaining sex hormones at a constant level. As simple as taking a birth control pill can be, there are supplements that can interfere with the effectiveness of the pill. St. John’s Wort is one supplement that you need to be careful of if you are taking birth control pills. Many people use St. John’s Wort as a natural treatment for anxiety and depression. However, St. John’s Wort stimulates enzymes that break down estrogen in estrogen-based contraceptives, resulting in decreased effectiveness of the pill.
Tetracyclines are a class of antibiotics that are prescribed for a variety of bacterial infections, including respiratory infections, skin infections, and urinary tract infections. Because they can treat such a wide range of bacterial infections, tetracyclines are known as broad spectrum antibiotics. When taking these antibiotics, you need to be aware that B-vitamins will inhibit their effectiveness. You need to wait at least 4 hours between taking the antibiotic and taking a supplement that has B–vitamins. Although B-vitamins do interfere with the effectiveness of tetracyclines, they are also depleted by antibiotics. This means taking a supplement might not be a bad idea. However, you either need to wait until you are finished taking the antibiotics, or you need to allow ample time between taking the antibiotics and taking the B–vitamins.
Zinc is one supplement that can affect a variety of antibiotics. Similarly to B–vitamins, zinc can decrease the effectiveness of antibiotics, especially antibiotics that belong to the quinolone and tetracycline classes. Zinc can also decrease the effectiveness of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication. On the flip side, blood pressure medications can decrease levels of zinc in the body, which means you may want to talk to your doctor about taking a zinc supplement if you are on blood pressure medications, specifically ACE inhibitors.
In just about any health food store and drug store you can find melatonin supplements to help you sleep. Melatonin is a hormone in the body that signals it is time to sleep, and supplementing with it can assist with falling asleep. However, people on antidepressants, blood pressure medications, and blood thinning medications need to be careful with taking melatonin. Melatonin can decrease the effectiveness of antidepressant medications and blood pressure medications. It can also increase the risk of bleeding for those on blood thinning medications. To be on the safe side, it is best to take melatonin with caution, and if you are on these medications, it is probably safest to avoid melatonin all together.
Echinacea is an herb that is used to stimulate the immune system. Often, people who have a cold will take Echinacea in an effort to get better faster. Enhancing the immune system seems like a harmless and even beneficial thing to do. However, for people who are on immunosuppressant medications, echinacea can be very problematic. People who have autoimmune diseases or have had organ transplants are prescribed immunosuppressant medications, and the last thing these people want to do is stimulate the immune system, which means those on immunosuppressant medications should avoid echinacea.
7. Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids that help the brain function properly and keep inflammation in check. Fish oil supplements and flax oil supplements are commonly taken for their omega 3 benefits. Yet, taking omega 3 fatty acids is not always advisable for people on blood thinning medication, since they further thin the blood and increase the risk of bleeding. Also, people taking medication to regulate blood sugar should know that omega 3 fats can actually raise fasting blood sugar, which is not desirable for those trying to control blood sugar. As healthy as omega 3 fatty acids are, they are not always helpful to people on these medications and need to be taken with caution.
As you can see, there are many medication and supplement interactions. If you take supplements, you need to inform your doctor so they can advise you if any of your medications can interact with your supplements. Also, you should research to see if there are any interactions. Doctors don’t always know of all the possible medication supplement interactions. Were you aware that medications and supplements can interact?