Tag Archives: dietary supplements

Vitamin B12 Under The Microscope

As part of our Dietary Supplements Under the Microscope feature, we wanted to take a closer look at vitamin B12 to examine the pros, cons and potential dangers. Vitamin B12 is a term referring to various subtypes of B12 nutrients. B12 plays many roles to play in keeping the body healthy such as aiding in proper brain function, DNA synthesis and development of nerves and blood cells. Some people are Vitamin B12 deficient. These people may have trouble metabolizing the naturally occurring form and may require vitamin B12 shots or dietary supplements. While it is important to have adequate Vitamin B levels, too much of the vitamin can be very dangerous, especially for people with certain pre-existing health conditions or those taking certain medications.

Medical Uses of Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 has illustrated such medicinal benefits as:

  • Treating and preventing pernicious anemia
  • Helping some forms of chronic fatigue
  • Helping cognitive function in those with such conditions as amnesia or Alzheimer’s.
  • Working to help facilitate fertility
  • Strengthening the immune system in those with immunocompromising conditions such as AIDS
  • Helping control certain skin conditions such as psoriasis
  • Aiding symptoms of depression

Forms of Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 in its natural form is found in such foods as dairy products, meats and fish. Its laboratory simulated form can be taken orally, topically (rubbed onto the skin) for certain skin health conditions, or it can be given as an injection, typically for people with serious deficiencies that have trouble absorbing the nutrient through ingestion.

Can Vitamin B12 Supplements Be Dangerous?

Vitamin B12 supplementation can be quite hazardous for people who fall into certain health categories. It is important for people to know about these conflicts so they do not exacerbate their condition by unknowingly taking vitamin B12. Some of these conflicting conditions include:

  1. Gout – in some people with a history of gout who taking vitamin B12 for megaloblastic anemia, it has caused gout attacks.
  2. Leber’s disease – vitamin B12 may adversely effect the optic nerve which could lead to blindness in people with this hereditary eye disease.
  3. Cobalt or Cobalamin allergy – some people experience a serious allergic reaction to vitamin B12 shots, namely people with cobalt or cobalamin sensitivities.
  4. Post-stent patients – a combination of B12, B6 and folate can result in narrowing of the arteries which can be very dangerous for people who have had stent surgery or have certain other cardiovascular issues.
  5. Insomniacs – clinical insomniacs should avoid taking vitamin B12 (unless instructed to by their doctor) as it has stimulating effects on the system and some insomniacs have reported extra sleeplessness when taking the supplement.

Does Vitamin B12 Interact With Any Other Medications?

According to the Mayo Clinic, vitamin B12 interacts with many medications and supplements including: bone loss medications, cancer treatments, colchicine (gout medication), some stomach medications such as H2 blockers and PPIs, blood pressure medications, antibiotics, anti-seizure drugs, some other NSAIDS (particularly aspirin), birth control pills, some heart medications, chloramphenicol, metformin, nicotine, nitrous oxide, aminosalicylic acid and stimulants. It may also react with certain other dietary supplements including vitamin C.

Should People Be Reticent About Vitamin B12?

As long as most healthy people do not exceed the recommended amount of Vitamin B12 and take the correct type indicated by their doctor, they should be fine and may even see some health benefits such as increased energy. It is imperative to talk to your doctor (or one of our highly qualified DocChat physicians) before starting vitamin a B12 (or any other) supplement to ensure it will be beneficial and not counterproductive for your particular health situation.

That concludes Vitamin B12 under the microscope, thanks for visiting DocChat! We hope you stop by again soon.


Vitamin D – Should You Think Twice?

We decided to investigate the pros and cons of certain vitamin and mineral supplements so we recently started a feature called Dietary Supplements Under The Microscope and first on our list is Vitamin D. Vitamin D boasts support from many medical professionals and homeopathic practitioners for a variety of conditions such as asthma, osteoporosis, cardiovascular and skin issues. However, the supplement should not be taken blindly or overused, as there could be serious repercussions and complications for some people.

Why Do We Need Vitamin D And How Do We Get It?

Vitamin D occurs naturally in some foods such as fish. It is integral for good bone, skin and lung health, and has many other health benefits as well. We get most of our required Vitamin D from solar absorption but many food items like dairy have been fortified with Vitamin D to help supplement intake. There have also been countless Vitamin D dietary supplements produced for those who are deficient, or have been instructed to get more vitamin D due to certain health conditions.

Potential Benefits of Vitamin D

As aforementioned, the healing benefits of vitamin D are vast. Medical and naturopathic professionals often suggest Vitamin D supplements for such health concerns as:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Asthma and COPD
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Dysmenorrhea
  • Weak teeth and bones
  • Obesity

Potential Dangers of Vitamin D Supplements

Aside from the fact that dietary supplements are not closely regulated by the FDA the same as medications are (and therefor may include unwanted filler ingredients), the following conditions may be made worse by taking extra vitamin D:

  1. Kidney disease
  2. Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
  3. Lymphoma
  4. Tuberculosis
  5. Sarcoidosis
  6. Hyperthyroidism
  7. Histoplasmosis
  8. Vitamin D can potentially be dangerous for pregnant or breastfeeding women in high doses

If you have any of these health conditions, speak to your doctor before taking vitamin D supplements to see make sure it shouldn’t worsen your condition.

Vitamin D Toxicity

Vitamin D toxicity, also known as hypervitaminosis D, is one of the biggest concerns with taking too much vitamin D (generally greater than 4000 units daily for extended periods of time). Symptoms of toxicity range from unpleasant to serious and can include fatigue, dehydration, high blood pressure, disorientation, muscle weakness, arrhythmias and vomiting. Those who have pre-existing kidney or liver problems are most vulnerable to developing vitamin D toxicity.

Possible Medication Interactions

There are certain medication and supplement interactions that may occur with vitamin D, including a possible adverse reaction with water pills or certain antacids that contain aluminum. Vitamin D may also effect certain heart medications and heparins. Never start any supplements before speaking to your doctor first (or one of our highly qualified DocChat physicians).

Conclusion? Draw The One That’s Right For You!

It is important to weigh out the potential pros and cons with a medical professional before starting any new medication or supplement to ensure the benefits outweigh the risks. When taken under the right circumstances and in the proper dosages, vitamin D can be beneficial to your overall health, however, it depends on many factors. We suggest to be your own advocate, do your research and cover all the basis before starting anything new. And again, be sure to discuss your decision with your doctor (or one of ours)!

Thanks for visiting DocChat today! We hope you’ll return again soon.

Dietary Supplements – Under The Microscope

Over half of Americans take some kind of vitamin or mineral supplement daily. While vitamin supplements can be a puzzle piece to a healthy lifestyle especially if someone has a deficiency, they can also cause significant complications when taken in excess, in combination with other supplements or medications, or in the presence of certain conditions. Not only that, but dietary supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA the same as medications, so some of them contain unwanted filler ingredients that aren’t even required to be listed on the bottle.

What Are Dietary Supplements?

Dietary supplements are natural or synthetic reproductions of dietary components such as vitamins, minerals, herbs, or amino acids in pill form. They are intended to supplement micronutrients in your diet. Many supplements have extra “inactive” ingredients and make label claims to help or “cure” certain health conditions.

Potential Health Perks of Vitamin and Mineral Supplements

Micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) are essential to sustain good health, but you can generally gather the variety and amounts you need from eating a healthy, diverse diet. Unfortunately, too many Americans have poor diets, consuming ‘junk food’ or empty calories in place of vitamin and mineral rich foods like fresh produce. In these cases, supplements may help somewhat with diet-related micronutrient shortfalls, but won’t take the place of consuming them organically through diet.

Who Can Best Benefit From Supplements?

Some people have micronutrient deficiencies such as low iron or low magnesium. In these cases, the person may have trouble metabolizing the deficient vitamin or mineral through diet and may need the right dietary supplement to help replenish the deficit. Others who may benefit by (doctor-guided) consumption of supplements would be pregnant women (some take folic acid, or need extra iron or calcium) or senior citizens who may not get all their required nutrients from diet or may have deficiencies.

Supplements Come With Potential Risks

According to the FDA of the risks of dietary supplements include:

  • Overdosing: taking too much of a vitamin or mineral you don’t need (already have plenty of) can cause toxicity, causing problems with the kidneys or stomach, just to name a couple. It can be quite dangerous in some cases.
  • Drug interactions: many supplements can interact adversely with certain medications to cause illness. For example John’s Wort can interfere with the effectiveness of anti-depressants, blood pressure medication and birth control.
  • Combining unsafe supplements: similarly to interacting with medications, supplements can also interact with other supplements to cause adverse effects.
  • Substituting supplements for actual medications: Supplements are not It is dangerous to stop taking doctor prescribed medications and start self-medicating with supplements. This can lead to illness, progression of your illness or even death. It is important to consult a doctor before making any changes to your medical treatment.

aside from iron, the FDA doesn’t require supplements to harbour warnings about interactions or potential health risks like medications have to. So unless you actually show your doctor the bottle you’ve purchased, you can’t be sure what it contains.

Supplements Aren’t Well Regulated

According to Consumer Reports between 2009-2012 there were reports of 115 deaths and over 2100 hospitalizations linked to the use of dietary supplements. This is largely due to the fact that supplements aren’t as closely regulated as medications are. Supplement producers don’t have as stringent label restrictions and regulations either. Some more dangerous supplements out there actually contain drugs such as Viagra or synthetic steroids, despite the fact they market “herbal” or “dietary” products. This is dangerous because many patients have conditions or are taking medications that may react with these added drug ingredients.

Do Your Research!

  1. Is the supplement safe and effective?
  2. Is it good quality? Does it contain extra, potentially unwanted or problematic ingredients?
  3. Is the dosage appropriate for your circumstances?
  4. Be sure to ask a doctor before starting any supplements as they can interact with medications.

Thanks for visiting DocChat! Check out our posts on: Vitamin DVitamin B12 and Magnesium, and keep an eye out for more to come!