Category Archives: Health Supplements

The Hidden Danger of Taking Supplements

herbal pills

Photo credit:  cjansuebsri / freedigitalphotos.net

My patients often ask me whether they can take herbal supplements to help their liver or kidneys. I must say that I am increasingly becoming skeptical of the quality of the supplements. A group of Canadian researchers had recently found that many herbal supplements do not contain any of the plants that they are supposed to.

Worse still, in some circumstances, some people develop severe liver failure requiring transplant. There has been a spike in reports of liver failure caused by supplements. Some of the cases were caused by high-dose green tea extracts for weight loss, and others from undeclared steroids in the supplements.

In Singapore, the Health Science Authority had banned a few supplements that damaged livers: kava-kava from Germany/Switzerland, OxyElite Pro from America, and black cohosh supplements.

Adulterated pills from ‘traditional medicine’ herbs had been found to be adulterated with corticosteroids resulting in Cushing’s Syndrome: weight gain, decreased immunity and other side effects. Indeed similar ingredients had been found with Malay traditional treatment as well (Pili Ajaib).

I would therefore advise staying away from most of these supplements until the regulations are changed to proactively monitor them.

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8 Causes of Dry Skin & Solutions

Hands

Photo credit:  photostock/freedigitalphotos.net

Amazingly, medical journals only look at skin diseases, but have always overlooked the humble dry skin. It is however an extremely common problem that patients have. I was so happy when I found this article written by Dr Anneke Andriessen, a Consultant at UMC, St Radboud Nijmegen, Netherlands at the British Journal of Nursing, published in January 2013. That is an extremely comprehensive article, unfortunately not for public assess. So here are the causes:

1. Dry weather.

2. Central heating and air-conditioning.

3. Tight clothing.

4. Detergents, deodorant, soaps (especially anti-bacterial ones) that strip away the lipids and water from the skin.

5. Sun exposure.

6. Aging.

7. Zinc, essential fatty acid and vitamin D deficiency.

8. Diseases such as hypothyroidism (low thyroid levels), kidney failure, diabetes, HIV, skin diseases and nerve problems that decrease sweating.

Here are the solutions:

1. Consider an air humidifier indoor.

2. Use gentle washers such as those that are suitable for babies.

3. Use moisturizers generously.

4. Take a healthy and balanced diet. Zinc is available in many food. Essential fatty acids are the omega-3 and omega-6 that are rich in fish, nuts and oil olive, amongst others. A study done last year found that low vitamin D levels is associated with dry skin, and using a moisturizer enriched with vitamin D improves the situation. Milk and salmon are rich sources of vitamin D, and we can also make our own under sunlight. However, lack of vitamin D is common, 90% in winter in Switzerland (expected), but is actually worse in Singapore, a country in the equator. Singaporeans mostly work indoor and avoid the hot sun whenever possible.

Problem of Slimming Drugs sold as “Supplements”

ImagePhoto Courtesy: Health Sciences Authority Singapore

If you are taking Oxylite Pro now, stop taking them immediately. The Health Sciences Authority of Singapore had issued an alert after Oxylite Pro had been found to cause liver injuries. An analysis of the ingredients found the potent chemicals 1,3-dimethylamylamine (DMAA) and yohimbine. Those chemicals have caused liver injuries.

Oxylite Pro is marketed as a magic weight loss supplement. Looking at the ingredient from its website, it probably works to some extent, as it contains DMAA and yohimbine which are stimulants and caffeine that increases the metabolic rate, and certain plant extracts that increases thyroid hormone which in turn increases the metabolic rate.

Mainstream Western medication can be toxic if taken inappropriately. That is why even paracetamol (Panadol) in overdoses can harm the liver. That is the reason only doctors can prescribe registered medication as we need to carefully weigh the potential pros and cons of any single medication. We must help, not harm patients.

A healthy diet (low in saturated fat and refined carbohydrates, high in good protein and fibre) and regular exercise is the best way of weight loss. Please discuss with your doctor before you want to take any of the over-the-counter supplements that promise quick fixes for weight loss.