5 Reasons Supplements Can Be Dangerous

Robin Berzin, MD
January 10, 2016

I recently met a woman who was thinking about joining my holistic medical practice, Parsley to deal with hormone issues. She had read a lot on the internet about using different herbs and supplements to manage her hormones, and after self-medicating with over-the-counter products, had not seen any improvement, and actually her symptoms had gotten worse.

Moreover she had a family history of breast cancer, and yet was taking herbs that could increase estrogen levels. Dangerous behavior.

Her story got me thinking that this message hasn’t gotten out there clearly enough.

Here are the takeaways you need to know to use supplements safely.

1. Supplements Are Drugs

While the FDA does not classify them as such, the terms “dietary supplement,” “nutraceutical” and “drug” are legal definitions, not biological ones. At the end of the day herbs and supplements are powerful and have real biological effects on the body.

2. Over-the-Counter Supplements Are Not Safe

People always ask me if I like this product or that one. The truth is, thanks to a 1994 law, the supplement industry is self-regulated. This means that if it’s on the shelf at your local grocery story or supplement shop, they can say anything on the label. This means that many of these supplements are contaminated, not properly sourced or tested, and in many cases, are so low in the active ingredient they claim to contain that they are ineffective. (It’s like taking 1/4 of an antibiotic and wondering why your sinus infection doesn’t go away). It doesn’t mean there aren’t a handful of good direct-to-consumer brands out there, but we at Parsley only use supplements that are exclusively sold through licensed health care providers – they are tested, safe, and they work.

3. You Don’t Know What You’re Doing

Your day job is probably not to be a master herbalist, or a doctor who understands supplements, or a health coach trained in functional medicine. You also aren’t testing yourself pre-and post supplementation and knowing exactly what to look for. You could be playing with your body in ways you don’t understand, and that can be dangerous.

4. Sometimes You Need a Medication

There are times to use an herb or nutrient, or a homeopathic remedy. And there are times to take an antibiotic because there is literally no reason in 2016 for your UTI to turn into a kidney infection. Yes, the overuse of antibiotics, statins, and anti-depressants is a scam in this country, causing more damage than good in many cases. BUT modern medicine is also incredible and should be used both sparingly and wisely to avoid serious complications and to save lives.

5. So What Do You Do?

Supplements and herbs are powerful tools in helping the body both heal from disease and optimize functionality – from energy to metabolism to hormones. Work with them through a trusted provider who knows you and your life story, and who can do regular testing and assessments to be sure that the effects of these supplements are what you want and not what you don’t want.

At Parsley Health, we are that trusted voice that personalizes your care . We are your partner in safety and in health. We are your expert in how to employ supplements, drugs, procedures, and lifestyle change wisely for you as an individual – because what you read when you Google’d it probably doesn’t apply – at least not to you.

Robin Berzin, MD

Dr. Robin Berzin is the founder and CEO of Parsley Health. A Summa Cum Laude graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Robin completed medical school at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, and trained in Internal Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

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