Thursday, April 26, 2018
Doctors Perspective
Knowing the effects of dietary supplements

By Dr. Anthony Policastro
Popular dietary supplements change from time to time. The popularity of a dietary supplement often depends on what has the best information via word of mouth. With social media, that word can spread quickly. One never knows if the people spreading the information are also the ones selling it. If that is true, they will discuss the benefits but not necessarily the drawbacks. It is very important to make sure you include dietary supplements in the list of medications you take with you when you go to the doctors office. The physician will often need to know if there is an issue with side effects from what is being prescribed. There are several supplements that are currently popular. Butterbur, an herb, has been used as a remedy for chronic headaches. Migraine sufferers often use it for prevention of headaches. Some people use it to help hay fever symptoms. Unfortunately, hay fever sufferers are also at higher risk for allergic reactions to butterbur. While it has been touted to relieve skin inflammation, it does not really appear to do so. However, not all butterbur products are created equal. Some of them contain chemicals called pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs). PAs can damage the liver. For that reason, care must be taken to purchase only products labeled PA-free. Otherwise, most side effects are either abdominal or allergic in nature. St. Johns Wort has long been known to help patients with depression. The major drawback is its short length of action. There is no long acting preparation, therefore, it requires three times a day dosing. Melatonin is often used for sleep and is effective when used correctly. That means that it needs to be given about two hours before bedtime which allows it to coincide with our bodys natural release of melatonin. The real problem with melatonin is that we have not been using it that long. For that reason, we are not exactly sure of the maximum dose. Since people will develop a tolerance to it over time, they tend to increase the dose. We are not yet sure if there are long term side effects from high doses over a long period of time. Valerian is another medication that is used to help sleep. Its major drawback is that it has to be taken daily and it must build up in the system. It takes two to six weeks to see any effect. You cannot take it as a sleep aid for one night alone. Valerian can also cause withdrawal symptoms if stopped abruptly. Gingko is used to help with memory and concentration. While it does seem to help, the effects seem to be rather modest. Echinacea is used to treat or prevent colds. There is no scientific evidence that it does so. Magnesium is a mineral normally found in the body. Higher doses have been used to treat migraine headaches, however, these doses can also cause diarrhea. Many of us remember Milk of Magnesia. There is a relation. Zinc is also a mineral and it is sometimes used to try and shorten the common cold. There is some evidence to support that, however, it tastes bad and causes nausea. Zinc also interferes with sense of smell. Things like St. Johns Wort, echinacea, gingko and valerian can interfere with blood clotting, therefore, they need to be stopped before any type of surgery. The same thing is true for people taking ephedra, garlic and kava. While there are many other over the counter natural preparations, these are the most common. If you decide to use any of the others, be sure to look up the side effects ahead of time. Even more importantly make sure you check the drug interactions to avoid any surprises.

Alzheimers Programs Easter Seals, 22317 N. DuPont Blvd. in Georgetown, is hosting a series of educational programs presented by Jamie Magee, coordinator for the Alzheimers Association. The following free programs are being offered: Friday, May 18, 10 a.m. Noon - Memory Loss, Dementia and Alzheimers The Basics. Register by May 13. Wednesday, June 6, 10 a.m. Noon - Effective Communication Strategies. Register by June 2. Friday, June 8, 10 a.m. Noon - Understanding and Responding to Dementia Related Behaviors. Register by June 5. Friday, June 22, 10 a.m. Noon - Healthy Living for your Brain and Body. Register by June 15. To register, call 800-272-3900 or email Sharon Jarnette at

Affordable health screenings coming to Seaford Residents living in and around the Seaford can learn about their risk for cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, and other chronic, serious conditions with affordable screenings by Life Line Screening. Seaford Wesleyan Church will host this community event on May 9. The site is located at 26630 Sussex Hwy in Seaford. Screenings can check for:
  • The level of plaque buildup in your arteries, related to risk for heart disease, stroke and overall vascular health.
  • HDL and LDL Cholesterol levels
  • Diabetes risk
  • Bone density as a risk for possible osteoporosis
  • Kidney and thyroid function, and more
Screenings are affordable, convenient and accessible for wheelchairs and those with trouble walking. Free parking is also available. Packages start at $149, but consultants will work with you to create a package that is right for you based on your age and risk factors. Also ask about our Wellness Gold Membership Program with allows customers to get all the screenings they need now, but pay $19.95 a month. Call 1-877-237-1287 or visit our website at Pre-registration is required.

Squelching skin cancer: detection and prevention As summer is approaching, everyone needs to be aware of the dangers of the suns ultraviolet rays. On Friday, May 18 at 3 p.m., please join Lawrence Chang, MD, a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon and Dermatological Surgeon of Rehoboth Plastic and Dermatological Surgery to learn the importance of skin cancer vigilance. Dr. Chang will speak on detecting and identifying skin cancer, as well as methods to prevent skin cancer. This educational and informational program will be held in Tunnell Cancer Centers Conference Room on the ground floor of the Medical Arts Building. Moving With Melanoma will be on hand with information. Please register at 645-9150 in advance to reserve your spot in this free workshop. All programs offered at Cancer Support Community are offered free of charge to people affected by cancer and their loved ones. The Sussex facility is located at 18947 John J. Williams Hwy., Suite 312, Rehoboth The Cancer Support Community is part of a national nonprofit organization that provides support, education and hope to people with cancer and their loved ones. Through participation in professionally led support groups, educational workshops and mind/body classes, people affected by cancer learn vital skills that enable them to regain control, reduce isolation and restore hope regardless of the stage of disease. At the Cancer Support Community Delaware, all programs are free of charge. More information about the Cancer Support Community is available on their website at

Bariatric support groups Nanticoke Weight Loss & General Surgery hosts free bariatric support groups three times a month at the Nanticoke Training Center in Seaford. These support groups provide education and support to patients before and after their bariatric weight loss surgery and are open to the public. Support group meetings consist of guest speakers and presentations to provide information about nutrition, supplements, exercise and behavior modifications. Patients and their spouses, family members or friends are welcome to attend. Registration is not required. The general bariatric support group is open to all bariatric patients before and after their surgery and is held monthly on the first Monday from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. and the fourth Monday from 6 to 7 p.m. The post-op bariatric support group is designed for post-op bariatric patients and is held on the second Tuesday of each month from 6 to 7 p.m. For more info about these support groups or other services provided by Nanticoke Weight Loss & General Surgery, visit or call 536-5395.