Complementary medicine use going unreported
  • Tuesday, May 21, 2019
  • 85°

Complementary medicine use going unreported

Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email questions to

QUESTION: I’ve been taking blood pressure medication for two years, and at my last checkup I mentioned to my doctor that I also was taking potassium supplements to avoid cramping and using turmeric pills to ease joint pain. He pretty much read me the riot act for not saying something sooner.

I didn’t think those add-ons were such a big deal. Did he overreact? — Sam B., Columbus, Ohio

ANSWER: He did not overreact, and he may have prevented you from damaging your liver, kidneys and cardiovascular system.

Potassium in high doses can cause heart palpitations and high doses of turmeric can lower blood pressure — dangerously so, adding to the effect of the antihypertensive medication you are taking.

In addition, some turmeric pills from Asia have been found to have high doses of toxic metals, like lead and cadmium, as well as pesticide residues — and there’s no way to know which are safe.

You’re not alone in your oversight. A recent metastudy out of Sydney, Australia, found that about 1 out of 3 patients using what researchers called “complementary medicines” don’t tell their docs about everything they have decided to take. It seems most folks believe complementary meds, including supplements and herbal medicines, won’t interfere with conventional treatment. Patients also said they didn’t think it mattered because they weren’t taking complementary meds regularly, or they kept quiet because they’d previously had a negative response from other doctors.

Even the 67 percent of folks who said they knew they should tell their docs, reported they don’t always remember to.

Underreporting of meds is a problem worldwide, and with less face time being reported between docs and patients, it’s even more important that you be your own best health care advocate. So, to get the best care possible, discuss the complementary medicines you take or want to take with your doc. Talk with your pharmacist to learn about interactions between complementary and Food and Drug Administration-approved medications.

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