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Risks and side effects of dietary supplements

Dietary supplements, like medicines, have dangers and adverse effects. However, vendors are not obligated to conduct human studies to establish that a dietary supplement is safe. And, unlike medicines, the majority of dietary supplements are self-prescribed, with no involvement from medical professionals such as physicians, nurses, or pharmacists. There’s a lot of misinformation floating around. Even for individuals who consider themselves to be well-informed, finding trustworthy information on the safe use and potential dangers of dietary supplements may be difficult.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) keeps track of reports of sickness, damage, or reactions to supplements as part of its role in ensuring supplement safety. Supplement manufacturers are also obligated to notify the FDA of any significant adverse effects. The FDA’s website has preliminary figures. According to recent FDA data, the number of reports has continued to rise each calendar year:

2010: 1,009 reports of dietary supplement adverse events
2011: 2,047 reports of dietary supplement adverse events
2012: 2,844 reports of dietary supplement adverse events

The majority of persons who have unanticipated side effects, diseases, or drug interactions as a result of dietary supplements do not contact a poison control center or the supplement company. As a result, the figures we have are most likely low approximations of actual incidents. Certain nutritional supplements, when used correctly, can help lower the risk of certain diseases, alleviate the discomfort caused by certain medicines or conditions, or just make you feel better (improve your quality of life). And, as long as specific dose recommendations are followed, most people may safely utilize nutritional supplements. However, using dietary supplements might be dangerous, particularly for cancer patients.

Special problems for people getting cancer treatment.

Supplements can cause issues for patients who are undergoing cancer therapy in a variety of ways. When consumed during radiation therapy, for example, several nutritional supplements might induce skin irritation and severe responses. Before taking any supplement, those receiving radiation treatments should consult their physicians.If you’re receiving chemotherapy, you’re more likely to have medication interactions if you take nutritional supplements. Antioxidants may potentially interfere with cancer cell-killing therapies, which is a worry. Patients should avoid dietary supplements until their cancer treatment is completed, according to cancer experts. However, if you do decide to take supplements, make sure you tell your doctor what you’re taking.

Are there any risks in taking supplements?

Yes. Many supplements include active substances with potent biological effects. This might put them in danger in some scenarios, as well as harm or complicate your health. The following actions, for example, could have harmful – even life-threatening – consequences.

Combining supplements

Using supplements with medicines (whether prescription or over-the-counter)

Substituting supplements for prescription medicines

Taking too much of some supplements, such as vitamin A, vitamin D, or iron

Some supplements can also have unwanted effects before, during, and after surgery. So, be sure to inform your healthcare provider, including your pharmacist about any supplements you are taking.

Some Common Dietary Supplements

  • Calcium
  • Echinacea
  • Fish Oil
  • Ginseng
  • Glucosamine and/or
  • Chondroitin Sulphate
  • Garlic
  • Vitamin D
  • St. John’s Wort
  • Saw Palmetto
  • Ginkgo

Who is responsible for the safety of dietary supplements?

Before dietary supplement items are introduced, the FDA is not permitted to examine them for safety and efficacy.

Dietary supplement producers and distributors are responsible for ensuring that their products are safe before they are released to the public.

If a dietary supplement contains a NEW ingredient, the manufacturer must notify the FDA before marketing it. However, the FDA will only review the notification (it will not be approved) for safety, not effectiveness. Dietary supplement manufacturers must guarantee that their products are of high quality, free of contaminants or impurities, and correctly labeled in accordance with current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) and labeling standards.

If a significant problem with a dietary supplement arises, it must be reported to the FDA as an adverse event. If dietary supplements are shown to be dangerous or if product claims are incorrect or misleading, the FDA has the authority to remove them from the market.

Report Problems to FDA

Notify FDA if the use of a dietary supplement caused you or a family member to have a serious reaction or illness (even if you are not certain that the product was was the cause or you did not visit a doctor or clinic).

Follow these steps:

  1. Stop using the product.

2. Contact your healthcare provider to find out how to take care of the problem.

3. Report problems to FDA in either of these ways:

4. Contact the Consumer Complaint Coordinator in your area.


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