5 Steps to Evaluate Alternative Medications by Rosanne Gephart, MSN, NP, CNM

 

Adults in the United States spend more than $26 billion on dietary supplements each year. The number of families adding “supplements” to their diets is even higher in California. There are supplements for children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and even our pets! The internet is full of web pages, informational YouTube lectures, and people in white coats with stethoscopes around their necks all declaring their product to be safe and effective. If you consult a typical medical doctor you will get recommendations for the FDA approved medications, but often little else unless they have had specific training in diet therapy and the use of supplements.

What is the next step?

First, realize there are benefits and risks for all medications, herbal remedies, and supplements. The combination of all of these, including items in you diet, can be harmful even when they have worked well for your friends and family. Your body is unique. Knowing how you have responded to medications or supplements in the past is paramount, as is knowing what current medications you are on and how they may interact with each other.

Second, your body is designed to work with a variety of foods and liquids. Massive doses of any one food or supplement can overwhelm the usual mechanisms for the elimination of toxins and wastes. You kidneys and your liver work hard to achieve balance in your body. If you overwhelm these organs, the back up of the toxins in your system can cause non-repairable damage.

Third, if you want to try a specific remedy, research it first. Look at dose (strength and frequency), side effects (both short and long term). Ask yourself these questions:

**Has this been studied? By whom? Recently? Do I know of any professional health care provider who recommends this treatment?

**Do I have any health care conditions that might make this more dangerous to use?

**Can this remedy be purchased from a reputable source?

**What are the benefits and risks?

Lastly, let your physician, family and friends know when you start a complementary or alternative medication or remedy. They can help you monitor for side effects that you may have not been aware of.

By: Rosanne Gephart MSN, NP, CNM

Resources:

Consumer Lab (www.consumerlab.com) Provides independent test results and information to help consumers and health professionals identify the highest quality health and nutrition products.

Medline Plus: Herbals and Supplements (www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/herbal_all.html) Allows physicians and consumers to research dietary supplements and herbal remedies for effectiveness, dosage and interactions with medications.

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (http://nccam.nih.gov) Provides information on common alternative therapies, training and research resources.

National Institute of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements (http:dietary-supplements.info.nih.gov) Provides information about Health conditions and alternative therapies, including herbs and dietary supplements.

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