Since vitamins and supplements are natural, you may not have thought much about taking them together with medication. There are some important considerations to keep in mind, both positive and negative, when combining supplements with prescriptions.

woman taking medication

An estimated 70% of Americans take at least one prescription medication, and even more, about 75%, are taking a daily dietary supplement. While they share goals of health and wellness, there are important drug-nutrient interactions, or DNIs, to consider when taking supplements and medications together. There can be negative side effects from taking certain combinations of supplements and medications, but the right supplements can also help to fill nutrient gaps caused by a medication depleting your body of nutrients it needs.

The important thing is to understand how everything you're putting into your body interacts. Having that knowledge can not only help put your mind at ease but will support your overall health goals as well.

Talk to the Experts

Being open with your healthcare providers is key. Your doctor or pharmacist can best help manage interactions between your meds and supplements if they have the full scope of your medical needs. There are also tools like Persona’s free online assessment, which cross-references supplement recommendations with nearly 1000 different prescription medications.

How do supplements interact with your medications? Here are 5 things to keep in mind.

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  • 1. Do they have similar effects?

    Certain supplements and medications affect your body in similar ways. Taking them together can lead to negative side effects. For example, taking anti-depressants that increase serotonin levels with supplements that have a similar effect, such as L-Tryptophan or 5-HTP, can cause Serotonin Syndrome.

  • 2. Do they work against each other?

    Some supplements can reduce the absorption or effectiveness of a medication, when taken in combination, by changing the way the body absorbs, metabolizes, distributes, or excretes the medication. For this reason, iron supplements and certain blood pressure medications should be taken separately.

  • 3. Do they support each other?

    Believe it or not, there are good interactions too. When taken at the same time, some supplements can actually enhance absorption of each other. For instance, taking iron at the same time as vitamin C can significantly increase absorption to give you the most benefit.

  • 4. Do they reduce side effects?

    Some supplements can be helpful by reducing side effects of medications. For example, combining milk thistle and selenium can reduce the unwanted side effects of Procarbazine, a medication commonly used to treat cancer.

  • 5. Do they replenish nutrients?

    Medication sometimes depletes your body of important nutrients, but don’t worry. You can add these nutrients back to your body. Are you taking a statin for high cholesterol? Statins can deplete CoQ10 in your body but taking a CoQ10 supplement can help to replenish it.

What does the doctor say?

"Nutrient deficiencies and diagnosed health conditions often require the use of vitamins with prescription medications, but they can interact," says Michael Roizen, M.D., chief wellness officer, Cleveland Clinic. "It is critical that users understand potential interactions."

Dr. Roizen suggests speaking with your healthcare providers about what you’re currently taking. He also believes in using a tool like the PersonaNutrition.com assessment that cross-references prescription medications before recommending supplements based on your health, lifestyle, fitness goals, and prescription meds.

The Persona Nutrition assessment algorithm even takes into account potential interactions between the supplements themselves. That means you’ll only be recommended supplements that work with each other and with your prescription medications. Plus, when you purchase supplements from Persona, they are separated into packs by time of day for the best absorption based on how your supplements interact with each other.

The free online assessment is an easy way to see what you should and shouldn’t be taking, so you can rest assured.

WebMD does not endorse any specific product, service, or treatment.

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