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Talking with Your Doctor About Vitamin Supplements

Current research indicates that few people speak with their doctors about vitamins or inform their doctors that they are currently on a vitamin supplement. This is alarming considering the health implications that supplementation can have. For some people, this means a health benefit, and your doctor will want to track this benefit. However, for others, there could be negative consequences of using a particular vitamin supplement without first consulting a physician.

Why Doctor Consults Are Important

The biggest reason for a doctor consult about your vitamin needs and use is that vitamin dosing can be tricky. Many Americans get ample amounts of vitamins in the food they eat each day, especially those who consume fruits, vegetables, and fortified foods. You may not realize it, but many of our everyday food choices are fortified. In these cases, you may be taking a supplement you don't need, causing too much of that nutrient in your system and triggering negative side effects like fatigue, nausea, malaise, or abnormal organ function. Your doctor can help you plan a vitamin regimen, and ensure proper dosing.

Secondly, supplements can impact the medications you're taking. Just because they are vitamins doesn't mean that they have no impact on other medications you are on. It is important that your doctor knows what you're taking and ensures that there are no negative interactions between the two.

Doctor and Patient Discussion Points

There are some key discussion points that should be addressed before starting a vitamin supplement regimen. A proper evaluation will help you to get the most benefit from your supplements, and eliminate the possibility of negative side effects or interactions. Below are some key questions and discussion points.

  • Why are you interested in starting a vitamin supplement?
  • Are you on any medication currently?
  • Do your vitamins interfere with these medications?
  • Are you on a restricted diet (vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, lactose intolerant)?
  • Are you currently on any medications (over-the-counter or prescription)?
  • Do you consume at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day?
  • Do you often eat on the run?
  • Do you cook at home?
  • Have you ever experience side effects or allergies to a vitamin supplement before?
  • Do you get ample sun exposure? How much?
  • Do you qualify as one of the at-risk groups recommended for specific supplement intake?

Why Following Up Is Important

While few patients consult their primary care physician regarding a new vitamin supplement, even fewer actually get back in for a follow-up appointment regarding this new supplement regimen. Be sure that you schedule an appointment with your primary care provider to discuss your health, mood, and any side effects that you may be experiencing.

Additionally, remember that if your doctor approves a specific vitamin dosage, it doesn't mean you'll need to continue it long-term. A follow-up appointment provides the opportunity to retest your vitamin levels and re-evaluate your need for that particular vitamin, review its safety for you, and change dosing as needed.

Last Updated: December 07, 2015