I take vitamin and mineral supplement safety very seriously. I personally check out everything I recommend to patients and readers, and if I defend a nutritional supplement that’s under the gun, it is only after careful scrutiny and thorough research.
While there are common drug-nutritional supplement interactions that you must be careful to avoid, vitamin and mineral supplements are exceptionally safe and effective when used responsibly. Just follow these rules for how to take and store them.
Vitamin and Mineral Supplement Safety
Take nutritional supplements only as needed. Although I believe that everyone, regardless of age, needs to take a daily multivitamin and perhaps some “accessory” nutrients, you should take additional vitamin and mineral supplements only when you need them. This is particularly true of herbal supplements.
Take nutritional supplements as directed. If your multi says to take it with food, take it with food—you’re less likely to have stomach upset. And, unless you’re following the advice of a physician, take the recommended dose. At Whitaker Wellness, we use what many would consider to be “megadoses” of vitamins and mineral supplements; some of them are several orders of magnitude higher than the government’s recommended daily allowances (RDAs). Yet, I know from the scientific research and clinical experience that these levels are safe and therapeutic. Nevertheless, if you’re not 100 percent certain about dosage, take nutritional supplements exactly as directed.
Heed label warnings. This I cannot stress enough. Label warnings exist for your safety and should be taken seriously. If you’re unsure whether a nutritional supplement is safe for you, do further research, or ask a knowledgeable professional for guidance. When in doubt, don’t take the supplement.
Store vitamin and mineral supplements in a cool, dry place, with the caps tightly closed. Properly storing nutritional supplements helps retain the product’s potency. Supplements are often stashed in medicine cabinets, but this is not a good idea due to the warm, moist air common in bathrooms. A better place to keep nutritional supplements is in a kitchen cupboard, where you’ll be reminded to take them every day. A few supplements require refrigeration—namely liquid fish oil and some probiotics—so store them per label instructions.
Purge expired vitamin and mineral supplements. If you’re like me, you probably have a “graveyard” of half-used bottles. Go through them periodically and discard those that are past their expiration date. It’s not that old supplements will go bad and make you sick, but they may be less effective. (That said, a couple of months past the “use-by” date is probably fine.)
More Dr. Whitaker Advice on Nutritional Supplement Support