I am taking medications (the blood thinner Coumadin® and an antidepressant) and several supplements (green tea extract, CoQ10, and St. John’s wort). Is it OK to take all of these together?
No, probably not. Some dietary supplements can cause problems if you take them with prescription or over-the-counter drugs. For example, St. John’s wort might interact with certain antidepressants leading to potentially life-threatening seizures, altered heart rate, and unstable blood pressure. Also, St. John’s wort, CoQ10, and green tea extract might make blood thinners such as Coumadin® (warfarin) less effective.
These are a few examples of interactions that can occur. If you take medications and also plan to take dietary supplements, talk to your health care provider first and be on the lookout for any side effects or problems.
The Office of Dietary Supplements has a free mobile app called My Dietary Supplements, or MyDS. It helps you keep track of the dietary supplements and medications you take so you can share this information with your health care provider. This can help decrease the potential for interactions between dietary supplements and medicines.
I am pregnant and my friend told me to make sure I get enough iodine. I’ve never thought about iodine before. How can I make sure I’m getting enough, but not too much?
Some pregnant women in the United States might not be getting quite enough iodine. Iodine has many important roles in the body, including proper bone and brain development. Talk with your health care provider about iodine as part of your prenatal care.
Iodine is found naturally in some foods, but amounts vary. Good sources include seaweed, fish, seafood, milk and other dairy products, grain products (like breads and cereals), fruits, and vegetables. Iodized salt is another good source of iodine and is readily available in grocery stores. But processed foods, like canned soups, almost never contain iodized salt.
The American Thyroid Association recommends that pregnant and breastfeeding women take dietary supplements containing iodine (150 mcg per day). Many standard multivitamin/mineral supplements contain iodine, but only about half of prenatal supplements contain iodine.
Keep in mind that it is possible to get too much iodine, and this can cause problems too. The safe upper limit for adults is 1,100 mcg per day, but for most people it is not a concern. For example, a 3-ounce serving of baked cod has about 100 mcg of iodine, and ¼ to ½ teaspoon of iodized salt contains about 90 mcg of iodine. Have more questions? See our fact sheet on iodine.
I am a 60-year-old woman and have been taking calcium supplements for many years. Recently I’ve heard that they might increase the risk of heart disease. Is that true?
Calcium supplements are commonly taken by women. As you know, it is important to get enough calcium (and vitamin D) for good bone health. And although it is always preferable to get vitamins and minerals from foods and beverages, some supplements can help you get enough of certain nutrients.
Whether calcium affects the risk of cardiovascular disease is not clear. Some studies show that it might protect people from heart disease and stroke. But other studies have found that some people who consume high amounts of calcium, particularly from supplements, might have an increased risk of heart disease.
Much of your risk depends on your diet, lifestyle, current health, and medical and family history. Talk with your health care provider about calcium, bone health, and heart disease to figure out what is right for you. Have more questions? See our fact sheet on calcium.