Before you reach for over the counter dietary supplements, you might want to do a little more research into what exactly they are, what they’re being used for, and potential side effects that may come along with using them. Studies are showing that supplements, most notably green-tea extract and bodybuilding pills, present a risk of harm to the liver.

What Does My Liver Do?

Your liver is one of the largest organs in the body, found in the upper right abdomen. The liver serves as a gatekeeper of sorts for your body. It processes nutrients from your diet and produces and stores substances for your body to use. Additionally, it also converts toxic substances to ones that are not harmful, passing them either through your blood system or through the bowel to be eliminated. It also serves to aid in metabolism, breaking down fats and producing energy. It stands to reason that it’s quite important for you take care of your liver. It serves a very useful purpose in keeping you healthy, processing foods, and keeping your metabolism in check.

There are a few indicators that show your liver might not be doing its job properly, due to liver disease. These signs include abdominal pain, usually on the right side of the body, flu-like symptoms, abnormal stool, loss of appetite, and swelling in the abdomen and legs. Other more specific symptoms include bleeding and bruising more easily, jaundice, dark urine, or difficulty concentrating and confusion.

What Is A Dietary Supplement?

Dietary supplements range greatly and can include vitamins, herbal products, minerals, and amino acids, among others. They are typically sold as powders or capsules, energy bars, or drinks. While most people take them to fill a need that might not be met by their current diet, like extra folic acid for pregnant women, or vitamin D to help keep your bones strong, they shouldn’t serve as your only source of these missing nutrients. It’s important to derive as much of these nutrients as possible from your daily diet.

The FDA has established good manufacturing practices (GMPs) for dietary supplements, which makes sure that they are free of contaminants or impurities, but that doesn’t mean they are necessarily promoting them as being healthy and backing up any claims made by the supplement manufacturer.

What’s The Harm In Taking A Supplement?

Not all dietary supplements are going to cause harm, but they’re also not all going to provide exactly what you might be aiming for. Since they’re regulated differently than other drugs, side effects aren’t always understood. Additionally, combining them with other supplements or with prescription drugs could prove harmful.

Some of the worst offenders in the supplement categories, as identified in this study, include green tea extracts and bodybuilding supplements. The study found that green tea extract could even cause a hepatitis-like injury. The bulk of the cases analyzed in the study also indicated that a blend of multi-ingredient nutritional supplements that caused harm to the liver were difficult to analyze due to the number of ingredients.

Before taking any supplements, it’s important to understand your current health. If you’re thinking of taking a dietary supplement, or already are, consider making an appointment with your doctor to discuss specific needs you may have and safe solutions for those needs. If you are showing any sign of liver damage, make an appointment at Carolina Digestive Health Associates.