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Are Dietary Supplements Safe for You?

Are Dietary Supplements Safe for You?

For all the talk lately about the lack of trust in government, people take it for granted that any product for sale in the U.S. is automatically safe to use – including supplements found in health stores, drug stores, and grocery stores.  After all, if they weren’t safe you’d either need a prescription or you couldn’t find them.  Right?

FDA’s Supplement Oversight Power

Believe it or not, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 states that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has no power to “pre-approve” dietary supplements. They law does give them the power to remove or ban the sale of any product that is suspected of containing illegal ingredients, such as animal parts. The problem is that  this aftermarket action is very complicated to enforce.

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  1. It is up to consumers and health care providers to notify the FDA that there is a potential problem with a given product.
  2. Manufacturers are required to submit a notice of new ingredients to the FDA but the definition of what constitutes “new” is vague and there is no way to ensure that a manufacturer is compliant with the law.
  3. Dietary supplement firms are known to change the name of the product without the knowledge of the FDA after the supplement is banned by name.
  4. There are too few agents to follow up on the more than 55,000 dietary supplements sold in stores across the U.S. and fewer still to monitor imported products sold online.

The FDA’s Office of Dietary Supplement Programs has recently put forth a revised guidance for the Notification of New Ingredients” that would empower the government to have the ability for the first time to identify unsafe ingredients before they hit the open market.  While this still wouldn’t prevent fraudulent supplements to be sold on the Internet, it would be a step forward in the protection of U.S. consumers.

The Importance of Supplement Safety

One of the most dangerous health issues related to dietary supplements is that ingredients are sometimes absent from the labeling, sometimes illegal in the U.S., and other times the name of an ingredient is changed when it has been outlawed.

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Ingredients that are hidden or not reported on the labels include items that are laced with molds and known poisons. Illegal ingredients are often not listed. For instance, one product known as Zi Xiu Tang Bee Pollen has been flagged as it contains undeclared sibutramine and/or phenolphthalein. Other illegal ingredients include animal parts such as oxen and bull penis, and bovine eyes since these typically are contaminated with molds, mildews, and/or fecal matter.

An example of the latter is the ingredient called Oxilofrine. In 2004, this ingredient was outlawed as extremely dangerous and having caused thousands of deaths in the U.S. At that time, it was called ephedra. Manufacturers gave it a change in name and a subtle tweaking of the chemical composition. If Oxilofrine had been reported under the “new ingredient” regulation, it would have been caught before more people suffered death and permanent injury.

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Oxilofrine is also marketed under the name Methylsynephrine, which many consumers believe is the same as Synephrine, which is a natural component of bitter oranges.  Unfortunately, there are many names on labels that are designed to deliberately mislead buyers.

Consumer Reports lists Lobelia and Green Tea Extract Powder among the top 15 ingredients to always avoid.  Both are known to potentially cause death while the other side effects are equally undesirable – some causing permanent health issues.

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The FDA and Consumer Reports as well as multiple medical research and health organizations are sending out alarms about supplements sold for the purpose of increasing energy, assisting in weight loss, increasing muscle mass, and normalizing erectile function.  Additionally, they warn against taking anything marked or marketed as “100% Natural” as if an ingredient that is natural, such as Lobelia, is not deadly. The best protection available at this time is “Buyer Beware”.

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Tanvir Zafar

Software Engineer at GCUF

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

1. Breathe

The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

  • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
  • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
  • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

2. Loosen up

After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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3. Chew slowly

Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

4. Let go

Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

It’s not. Promise.

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Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

5. Enjoy the journey

Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

6. Look at the big picture

The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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Will this matter to me…

  • Next week?
  • Next month?
  • Next year?
  • In 10 years?

Hint: No, it won’t.

I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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8. Practice patience every day

Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

  • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
  • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
  • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

Final thoughts

Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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