CBD oil, turmeric, probiotics – some of these trendy wellness items receive their own sections in grocery and health stores these days. They may seem harmless, but there are several reasons you should be careful with them and have a conversation with your provider before diving in.

When did this all begin?

If a practice or product is used together with conventional medicine, it is considered “complementary.” If it is used in place of conventional medicine, it is considered “alternative.” Complementary and alternative medicines have been around for thousands of years. For example, Ayurveda, which incorporates treatments of yoga, meditation, massage, diet and herbs, originated in India more than 5,000 years ago.

Today, more than 30 percent of U.S. adults use health care approaches that are not typically part of conventional medical care, according to the National Institutes of Health. Just like trends outside of health care, the popularity of products and approaches ebbs and flows.

What’s hot right now?

CBD oil is probably the most sought-after complementary product on the market right now. It is extracted from the flowers and buds of marijuana or hemp plants, but does not include tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the chemical that produces intoxication.

The alleged benefits of CBD oil are wide-ranging and include pain relief, reduced anxiety and lower blood pressure. However, doctors want people to proceed with caution.

“If something claims to treat everything, it probably doesn’t,” says SSM Health pain medicine physician Dr. Mandira N. Mehra. “In addition, the FDA has yet to step in to regulate CBD oil, which means products vary in quality. A 2017 study found that nearly 70-percent of CBD products didn’t contain the amount of marijuana extract promised on the label.”

Turmeric and probiotics are also receiving a lot of attention. But in these cases, research might be lagging behind public opinion. Turmeric has been billed as a dietary supplement that can help with inflammation. There is mixed data on this, and there are still questions about proper dosage levels.

Probiotics are live microorganisms that try to repopulate the “good” bacteria in your gut. Some people take supplements or eat yogurt for gastrointestinal issues, while others contend probiotics can help your entire body system.

“Probiotics are generally one of the safer complementary medicines,” says Dr. Mehra. “But we still don’t know exactly which probiotic is best, and how much is needed for someone to notice results.”

Why talk with your doctor?

You may have recently talked to a friend or relative and they told you one of these products worked wonders. That may be completely accurate, but it doesn’t mean you should rush to the store to stock up.

“We, as humans, are similar but very different,” contends Dr. Mehra. “What may work for someone may not for another because we are all wired differently, and you want to make sure you’re not doing something harmful to yourself.”

For example, a popular remedy for nausea is ginger. But it’s not for everyone because ginger has been known to interact with anticoagulants. If you’ve survived a stroke or heart attack, you may be on blood thinner medication. Thus, if you mix the medication with ginger, you could be putting yourself at risk.

The bottom line is start a conversation with your provider.

“Many of these trendy items are readily available and do not require a prescription,” concludes Dr. Mehra. “But that doesn’t underscore the importance of talking with your physician.”

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