Approximately 52% of older adults take dietary supplements with their prescribed medications.
Americans spend as much as $35 billion annually on dietary supplements, with minimal to no evidence supporting their use.
Although vitamins and herbs may seem harmless, they can be dangerous for older adults when combined with certain medications.
This post will review common vitamins and herbs, potential benefits, indications for use, and interaction with standard medications.
Vitamins are essential, and our body depends on them to function. The best way to nourish our bodies with vitamins is through the things that we eat. Most vitamins are safe; however, vitamins can interact with certain medicines. Sometimes, high levels of specific vitamins can cause unpleasant side effects. Continue reading to learn about the benefits, interactions, and side effects of some common vitamins.
Iron is an essential mineral that our body uses to make a proteins that carry oxygen from the lungs to the body. Meat, beans, certain nuts, and green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale contain iron.
Sometimes patients have medical conditions and are advised to take an iron supplement. However, people should only take iron supplements under the direction of a medical professional. Too much iron can cause constipation, nausea, vomiting, heartburn, black or dark-colored stools, temporary staining of the teeth, headaches, and unusual or unpleasant taste in the mouth.
Iron supplements may also cause some medicines to be less effective. Some of these medicines include certain antibiotics, medication taken for low thyroid, Parkinson's disease, and seizures.
Vitamin E and Omega 3s
Vitamin E helps to support hair, eyes, cholesterol level, and some essential chemicals (hormones) made by the body. Foods such as sunflower seeds, peanuts, spinach contain vitamin E. Omega-3's support heart and brain health. Fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, walnuts, and plant oils contain Omega-3 fatty acids. These vitamins have blood-thinning properties; too much of them can cause bruising and bleeding.
Vitamin E and Omega-3s supplements can increase bleeding risk when taken with warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications like aspirin and ibuprofen.
Vitamin B Complex
Vitamin B's are well known to help with energy. They also aid in digestion (the process by which our body breaks down food), forming blood cells, supporting memory, bone, vision, mood, heart, hair, and skin health. Older adults are at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency, leading to memory problems, neuropathy (pins and needle feeling in feet and hands), weakness, fatigue, dizziness, and vision changes. Meat, plant-based milk, cheese, eggs, fortified nutritional yeast, and certain mushrooms contain vitamin B12.
Other vitamin B's that are important for body function include: B-1 (thiamine), B-2 (riboflavin), B-3 (niacin), B-5 (pantothenic acid), B-6 (pyridoxine), B-7 (biotin), B-9 (folic acid). Most vitamin B's have similar functions.
When it comes to vitamin B12, health care professionals worry about low levels. Some medications can decrease the body's ability to take up vitamin B12, including, Metformin, Colchicine (Colcrys), certain antibiotics, seizure medicines, heartburn medicines. Some medications can interfere with vitamin B12 levels, possibly causing false results.
Side effects of too much vitamin B can include feeling nervous, restless, and irritated.
Medicine interactions with other vitamin Bs can include the following:
B-1 (Thiamine) interacts with certain antibiotics such as azithromycin.
Vitamin B-3 (Niacin) can interact with Allopurinol (Zyloprim), a common gout medication making the medicine less effective, possibly causing more gout flares. B3 can decrease the effects of Carbamazepine (Tegretol), a seizure medicine.
Vitamin B-6 (Pyridoxine) can interact with some seizure and Parkinson's medications.
Vitamin B-7 (Biotin) is not known to interact with any medicines but can interfere with particular blood tests.
B-9 (Folic Acid) can interfere with the effectiveness of some antibiotics, heartburn medicines, seizures medicines, and NSAID's, making them less effective.