Why Your Doctor Needs to Know What Vitamins and Supplements You Take

Be sure to tell your doc about over-the-counter pills and powders
taking vitamins and supplements

Q: Do I need to tell my doctor what vitamins and supplements I’m taking?

A: Long story short, yes! Every time you head to the doctor’s office, it’s the same question: “What medications are you taking?” You may know exactly which prescription medications you take every day — but even the most diligent patient may not realize how important it is to tell your healthcare provider about the over-the-counter medications and supplements you take, too.

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If you’re taking multiple medications, your doctor will want to be on the lookout for possible drug interactions. Before writing you a new prescription, your provider will take a look at your chart to see what else you already take — but just as prescription medications can interact with one another, so too can they interact with over-the-counter painkillers and allergy medications, herbal supplements and even your daily vitamins.

Let’s say, for example, that you have an infection, and your doctor puts you on an antibiotic. Calcium and iron supplements can bind to certain antibiotics, making it harder for your body to absorb them — which ultimately makes that medication less impactful on your infection. That’s just one of many examples that drives home why it’s so vital that your doctor knows exactly what you take in order for them to make an informed decision about your care. 

I recommend that you keep an updated list of everything you take, whether it’s written on a piece of paper that you keep in your wallet or stored in an app on your phone. That way, when the doctor’s office asks you, “What medications are you taking?” you’ll be able to simply show them the list.

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–Family medicine specialist Matthew Goldman, MD

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