By Oge Okafor
Do you take dietary supplements? Beware! From nausea to heart murmurs, cancer and death, these health boosters may cause more harm than you think.
Millions of people take dietary supplements (herbs) to get stronger bones, smoother skin, or glossier hair. It could be to ease joints, stem nausea or for one reason or the other. But too much of some of them can have devastating effects on health.
Let pill-poppers beware some of these capsules could have a devastating impact on your health.
And yet, they do not need NAFDAC approval. A dietary supplement can be sold without research on how well it works.
Vitamins and dietary supplements are among the fastest growing categories of products in consumer health as a whole. These products are widely available in health food stores, pharmacies, the Internet, by mail, in retail outlets including normal retail channels such as supermarkets, independent small grocers and open markets. There is also strong marketing and promotion by major players.
According to Wikipedia, dietary supplements are substances you eat or drink. They can be vitamins, minerals, herbs or other plants, amino acids (the individual building blocks of protein), or parts of these substances. They can be in pill, capsule, tablet, or liquid form. They supplement (add to) the diet and should not be considered a substitute for food.
People commonly take them for health-related reasons. Common dietary supplements include vitamins and minerals (such as vitamin C or a multivitamin), botanicals (herbs and plant products, such as St. John’s wort), and substances that come from a natural source (such as omega-3 fatty acids).
Makers of dietary supplements cannot legally say that dietary supplements can diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent disease. But they can say that they contribute to health maintenance and well-being.
Historically, people have used herbal medicines to prevent illness, cure infection, relieve fever, and heal wounds. Herbal medicines can also treat constipation, ease pain, or act as relaxants or stimulants. Research on some herbs and plant products has shown that they may have some of the same effects that conventional medicines do, while others may have no effect or may be harmful.
Researchers have studied some natural products and have found them to be useful. Omega-3 fatty acids, for example, may help lower triglyceride levels.
Researchers have found that some supplements do not help prevent or treat certain health problems. For example, beta-carotene and vitamin E do not lower risk of heart disease or heart attack.
People have used the active ingredients in dietary supplements for thousands of years to help health and to treat illness. Sometimes those supplements are the basis for some of today’s common medicines. For example, people have used willow bark tea for centuries to relieve fever. Pharmaceutical companies eventually identified the chemical in willow bark that relieved fever and used that knowledge to produce aspirin.
According to Daily Mail, an independent panel of doctors analyzed the products to assess their safety levels.
It depends on your well-being, any existing medical conditions, how much you take, and how long you were exposed to it.
The dangers include liver damage, nausea, heart problems, inflammation, or even death.
From vitamins and probiotics to weight loss and anti-anxiety boosters, these are the most dangerous products on the list.
In particular, there are some herbal products that you should avoid, according to a new study by Consumer Reports.
A teenage boy recently became headline news after fatally overdosing on caffeine powder. It is the raw substance found in drinks like coffee that give you a buzz. But it can be fatal.
WHAT IT’S MEANT TO DO: Improves attention, enhances athletic performance, weight loss
DANGERS: Seizures, heart arrhythmia, cardiac arrest, possible death; particularly dangerous when combined with other stimulants
GREEN TEA EXTRACT POWDER
There is no end to the gushing praise of green tea, and its slimming qualities. But this is the raw extract, which can poorly affect your health if taken in great quantities.
WHAT IT’S MEANT TO DO: Weight loss
DANGERS: Dizziness, ringing in the ears, reduced absorption of iron; exacerbates anemia and glaucoma; elevates blood pressure and heart rate; liver damage; possible death.
RED YEAST RICE
A substance extracted from rice, fermented with a particular kind of yeast.
It is also used as a food coloring. It can be taken in capsule form.
WHAT IT’S MEANT TO DO: Lowers LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol, prevents heart disease
DANGERS: Kidney and muscle problems, liver problems, hair loss; can magnify effect of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, increasing the risk of side effects
Are dietary supplements safe?
Not all herbs and supplements are safe. If you are unsure about the safety of a supplement or herb, talk to your doctor, pharmacist, or dietician.
Always tell your doctor if you are using a dietary supplement or if you are thinking about combining a dietary supplement with your conventional medical treatment. It may not be safe to forgo your conventional medical treatment and rely only on a dietary supplement. This is especially important for women who are pregnant or breast-feeding.
When using dietary supplements, keep in mind the following.
Like conventional medicines, dietary supplements may cause side effects, trigger allergic reactions, or interact with prescription and nonprescription medicines or other supplements you might be taking. A side effect or interaction with another medicine or supplement may make other health conditions worse.
The way dietary supplements are manufactured may not be standardized. Because of this, how well they work or any side effects they cause may differ among brands or even within different lots of the same brand. The form of supplement that you buy in health food or grocery stores may not be the same as the form used in research.
Other than for vitamins and minerals, the long-term effects of most dietary supplements are not known.
Breastfeeding: What you need to know
The 2016 World Breastfeeding Week themed Breastfeeding: A key to sustainable development which started from August 1 ends today August 7.
The theme underscores breastfeeding as a key element in getting us to think about how to value our wellbeing from the start of life, how to respect each other and care for the world we share.
This points to the importance of breastfeeding in humanity’s overall development right from the cradle.
According to UNICEF, breastfeeding is not only the cornerstone of a child’s healthy development, it’s also the foundation of a country’s development. It is a baby’s first vaccine.
A recent report released by the same organization indicates breastfeeding a newborn within an hour of birth and ensuring skin to skin contact between the mother and the infant, helps reduce the chances of infant mortality drastically. The UNICEF study has shown that around 77 million newborns worldwide are not breastfed within the first hour of their birth.
In India, as in the case of many other countries, newborns are sometimes fed cow milk or sugar water immediately after birth. Practices such as these deprive the newborn of essential antibodies and nutrients. Breastfeeding has myriad benefits for both the baby and the mother. Let’s take a look at these and remind ourselves of the benefits of breastfeeding.
■ Breast milk provides the ideal nutrition for infants. It has a nearly perfect mix of vitamins, protein and fat- everything your baby needs to grow. And it’s all provided in a form more easily digestible than infant formula.
Breast milk contains antibodies that help your baby fight off viruses and bacteria. It lowers your baby’s risk of having asthma or allergies. Babies who are breastfed exclusively for the first six months without any formula, have fewer ear infections, respiratory illnesses and bouts of diarrhea. They also have fewer hospitalizations and trips to the doctor.
■ Breastfeeding has been linked to higher IQ scores in later childhood in some studies. What’s more, the physical closeness, skin-to-skin contact and eye contact all help your baby bond with you and feel secure. Breastfed infants are more likely to gain the right amount of weight as they grow rather than become overweight. The AAP says breastfeeding also plays a role in the prevention of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). It’s been thought to lower the risk of diabetes, obesity and certain cancers as well, but more research is needed.
■ For the mother, breastfeeding burns extra calories, so it can help you lose pregnancy weight faster. It releases the hormone oxytocin, which helps your uterus return to its pre-pregnancy size and may reduce uterine bleeding after birth. Breastfeeding also lowers your risk of breast and ovarian cancer. It may lower your risk of osteoporosis too.
■ Since you don’t have to buy and measure formula, sterilize nipples or warm bottles, it saves you time and money. It also gives you regular time to relax quietly with your newborn as you bond.
Making the decision to breastfeed is a personal matter. It’s also one that’s likely to draw strong opinions from friends and family.
In few situations, breastfeeding could harm a baby. You should not breastfeed if:
You are HIV positive. You can pass the HIV virus to your infant through breast milk.
You have active, untreated tuberculosis.
You’re receiving chemotherapy for cancer.
You’re using an illegal drug, such as cocaine or marijuana.
Your baby has a rare condition called galactosemia and cannot tolerate the natural sugar, called galactose in breast milk.
You’re taking certain prescription medications such as some drugs for migraine headaches, Parkinson’s disease or arthritis.
Images of mothers breastfeeding their babies make it look simple, but most women need some help and coaching. It can come from a nurse, doctor, family member or friend and it helps mothers get over possible bumps in the road.
Reach out to friends, family and your doctor with any questions you have.