The use of supplements has seen a sharp increase in recent years. The dietary supplement industry has gone from being a side note to a major player in today’s health world, being valued at over 25billion a year and steadily going up. This is not something only seen in a certain age group or ethnicity; dietary supplement use has been increasing across the board. As health practitioners or facilitators, it is our responsibility to be aware of the effects of supplement use on the population we serve.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, supplement use has increased from 40% in 1988-1994 to almost half of the U.S. Population in 2003-2006. According to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, about 70% of individuals aged 71 or more used dietary supplements. The majority of supplements taken consist of vitamins or minerals, including sharp increases in calcium, vitamin D, and folic acid.
That can’ t be a bad thing, right? Well, that all depends. Calcium is good for bone health and may possibly help prevent cancer. Vitamin D is imperative in the body’s metabolism of calcium, as well as maintaining blood levels of phosphorous and may be involved in cancer prevention. Folic acid helps to keep your blood healthy. However, in the case of Calcium and Vitamin D, individuals who take too much can develop toxicities of these nutrients with negative side effects like hypercalcinemia, kidney stones, or calcium deposits.
Not all dietary supplements are as harmless as vitamins and minerals. Individuals are also increasing their intake of herbs, like St.John’s Wort or Garlic extract, and different combinations of holistic medications meant to treat obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and many other types of chronic diseases. There can be major problems with some of these supplements, particularly if these patients are also on a pharmacological treatment for their health issues. For example, St. John’s Wort can have a major impact on things like birth control pills or the cancer medication Camptosar, making them less effective.
Are you aware of how many of your clients employ a holistic regimen for their complaints? What do you find to be used most in your facilities? Do you yourself take part in the use of supplements?
Make sure to ask your clients, customers, and patients of any dietary supplements they are taking. These need to be evaluated for effectiveness and safety, especially when combined with pharmacological treatment of certain chronic diseases. It may also prove to be beneficial to monitor blood lab values of vitamins with known issues with toxicity. In the case of the supplement world, the more knowledge you possess, the better for you and your customers.