Taking medicines and vitamins together is likely to cause interactions. These may be beneficial or harmful, depending on the supplements in question. Medications are usually prescribed to replace something which is lacking, to block a symptom or to fight disease. When additional drugs, vitamins or herbs are taken as well, there may be an interaction which can be either good or bad.
For example, certain medications as a side effect cause the body to lose important nutrients such as calcium or folic acid. Boosting those lacking nutrients with a natural vitamin supplement would be a good thing, to avoid the health complications of a calcium or folate deficiency.
Positive Interactions Between Medications and Vitamins
Some vitamins and drugs work even more effectively when they are combined. One example is that people taking Prozac will find that also taking folic acid increases the drug’s effectiveness. In the vitamin world our bodies find it hard to absorb calcium supplements, but if taken with vitamin D the absorption rate of the calcium is greatly increased. This same principle can apply to certain other medications and vitamins, so interaction is by no means always a negative thing.
Those taking a diuretic such as furosemide will find that the drug depletes the body of some essential vitamins and minerals, particularly potassium and magnesium, causing cramps, fatigue and other symptoms. Taking a liquid mineral supplement can counter these unpleasant side effects of the medication. In other cases, taking certain herbs can help to lessen the unpleasant side effects from drugs.
The correct combinations of medicines and/or vitamins can sometimes make medications work better, so you should always speak with your doctor or search online for more information about each drug and vitamin you take to check for interactions.
Negative Interactions Between Medications and Vitamins
On the other hand, some vitamins or herbal supplements may reduce the absorption of certain drugs into the body, thereby reducing the drug’s ability to do its job effectively. This can often be overcome by taking the medication and vitamins at different times of day, so one does not interfere with the efficacy of the other.
Those taking digoxin, for example, should not take the herb St Johns Wort (used to lift the symptoms of depression) as it may limit the absorption of the drug, reducing the effectiveness of the digoxin and making it a complete waste of money and effort as one cancels out the other.
Often the interaction is not obvious to the patient and it may take a blood test to evaluate whether certain nutrients levels are low. At other times a bad interaction can give unpleasant side effects or, at worst, stop the medication from doing its job.
The short and safe answer to combining medicines and vitamins is to make a list of them all and ask your doctor or pharmacist each time you want to consider adding a new supplement or medication to your diet.