Natural Health Products

What are natural health products?

Natural health products are naturally occurring substances that people use in the hope that they will become healthier.

However, not all natural health products can make people healthier. Some do not work the way people think they do. Some lead to serious side effects.

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What do people call natural health products?

  • Nutritional supplements
  • Natural supplements
  • Dietary supplements
  • Complementary medicines
  • Alternative medicines (including traditional medicines)
  • Herbal remedies or medicines

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What are the different types of natural health products?

By contents:

  • Vitamins (multivitamins; vitamins A, B, C, D, E, K, and folate)
  • Minerals (iron, calcium, magnesium etc.)
  • Herbs (echinacea, garlic etc.)
  • Amino acids
  • Enzymes
  • Others (glucosamine, probiotics, fish oils etc.)

By format:

  • Taken by mouth (tablets, capsules, powders, drinks, energy bars etc.)
  • Used on the body and NOT swallowed (toothpastes, antiperspirants, shampoos, facial products, mouthwashes etc.)

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Do natural health products actually work?

  • The best way to get all your nutrients is to eat a balanced diet.
  • Research has shown that some products are good for people’s health and can manage some health conditions:
    • Calcium and vitamin D help keep bones strong.
    • Folic acid help pregnant women avoid having babies with certain birth defects.
    • Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oils can help some people with heart disease.
  • However, not all natural health products work the way people think they do.
    • Many “weight loss products” cannot help people lose weight. For example, there is no proof that green tea extracts can help with weight loss. In fact, there is no such thing as a “diet pill”.
    • Some products contain things that are not supposed to be in there (as in the cases of contamination or incorrect ingredients).
    • Some products have too much or too little of the ingredients.
    • Some products labels show wrong information, so people are not able to make the right choice.

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Can natural health products make you sick?

Unfortunately, Yes. Just because a product is “natural” does not mean it is safe for you to use. For example, CBC’s Marketplace found over 60 cases where liver failures happened in people who took green tea supplements.

Other possible side effects include:

  • Too much vitamin A can cause headaches and liver damage, reduce bone strength, and cause birth defects.
  • Too much iron cause nausea and vomiting and may damage the liver and other organs.
  • Herbs like combrey and kava can harm the liver.
  • Some supplements can increase risk of bleeding.
  • Some supplements can affect how people react to anesthesia for surgery.

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Can natural health products affect how my medications work?

Unfortunately, Yes. Here are some examples:

  • Vitamin K can reduce the ability of blood thinner Coumadin® (Warfarin) to prevent blood from clotting.
  • St. John’s wort can speed the breakdown of many drugs (including antidepressants and birth control pills) and thereby reduce these drugs’ effectiveness.
  • Vitamins C and E can reduce the effectiveness of some types of cancer chemotherapy.

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How can I use natural health products safely?

  • Before you start using such a product, talk to your doctor to see if you should use it.
  • Don’t use a natural health product to replace prescribed medications.
  • Don’t use a natural health product together with prescribed medications unless your doctor gives you approval to do it.
  • Whenever you have an appointment at the Dalglish Clinic, please bring all your medications, including natural health products and all types of supplements. Thank you.

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Where can I get more information?

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