Generic name drugs and things you should know about supplements

Lately, I’ve been talking to people about supplements. I don’t mean just friends or colleagues — I mean nutritionists and health care analysts. And there are probably some things you should know.

Things you should know about supplements


Are you taking iron supplements? Make sure you’re careful about when you’re taking it. One of the most important things I’m learning about supplements (from my nutritionist at my school and personal experiences) is that it really matters when you take them and what you take them with.

For instance, don’t take iron with calcium or tannins. Okay, well, what does that mean? Don’t take iron supplements or eat a bunch of spinach (which is high in iron) with milk, a calcium supplement, or tea! Tea has tannins which prevents the iron from being absorbed in your body. Also, the calcium and iron essentially fight each other so that you won’t absorb either. They cancel each other out.


You’ve probably heard that your body can only absorb certain amounts of nutrients at a time. According to my dietitian, a woman can only absorb ~400 mg of calcium at a given time. So you’re taking a pill that has 600 mg of calcium. What happens to the extra 200? It doesn’t get absorbed into your body. It just gets pushed out of the body! So when in doubt, it might be better to use supplements that have lower mg’s and mcg’s and just take them more than once during the day.

No, you can’t complain about having to take pills a few more times during the day. Buy a pretty pillbox and just be happy. Because you’re cutting corners by not eating the nourishing foods that provide the vitamins naturally, you need to be mindful about the supplements you’re taking. Apparently, the way we take in food (how it gets broken down in our mouths) determines how our bodies absorb the nutrients. You don’t break down supplements in your mouth; you completely bypass that process most of the time. So, let’s just be thankful we have the option to take supplements when we can’t get what we need through diet, shall we?

Based on some of my research, calcium supplements really don’t do as much as we would hope. They work on the density of the bones, but not the strength of said bones. How helpful is it to have bulky bones if they’re still liable to break easily? Also, it’s been said that our bodies don’t make calcium. But they do. With exercise. I say all this just so that you’ll consider other options before trying to push more pills.


Eighty percent of generic name drugs are imported from other countries.

Did you know that? Me neither. I learned it in one of my health care classes at the University of New Hampshire. Think about it. Is that such a bad thing? We import so many things from so many places…

Then think about the quality question. You look at something that says it’s made in China (because almost everything seems to come from China). What questions run through your head?

  • Was this made with toxic plastics/substances/foods?
  • Will my child die from playing with this or putting it in her mouth?
  • Was this made with caring human hands or hands that were subjected to awful laboring hours that never get paid enough?

The same can be said of your drugs. And you’re literally ingesting those. Those 80 percent imported drugs are subjected to foreign substances and ingredients that your body would never meet otherwise!

But they have the same chemical composition. They look the same. I want to save $.

Do they, though? And who doesn’t want to save money? Including the companies that make them…

The drugs that are imported go through multiple screenings and middle men before they ever reach our soil.

So by the time they get here, their potency is diluted. That’s only one difference.

Name brand drugs, on the other hand, like Advil, are said to be made in the USA. Think about it — the name brand costs more. American made things typically cost more because the jobs to make them aren’t outsourced to other countries for cheaper products. I can’t 100 percent certify this information because the information on the web can be so murky, but a health care analyst at UNH did say there is merit in trusting our name brand drugs.

STORY TIME: Driving the Point Home

One last point here, folks. A few years ago, the top Indian drug company called Ranbaxy was prescribed to Indians throughout their lives. It was the brand name drug to have when you fell ill, according to my professor, who grew up with it. Well, Ranbaxy also sent its medications to other countries.

The United States was its #1 customer.

Thankfully, a man who worked at Ranbaxy and who had left after noticing strange things about the company complained to the FDA while he resided in America. The FDA took something like eight years to go into the investigation. When they finally did, they found out what you may already guess: Ranbaxy wasn’t testing its drugs. And they were still being shipped to the U.S. And the man who started the entire investigation and helped the FDA get information? He became CEO for Ranbaxy to set the company straight.

So before you decide on the ibuprofen tablets instead of spending the extra dollar for Advil, ask yourself if you’re comfortable knowing how little you know.

What have your experiences with supplements been? Have you found any that have been more noticeably beneficial than others? I’d love to hear! 🙂 

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