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Supplements: What you need to know

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- The use of supplements often comes with the promise of providing health benefits, but these can also bring additional side effects.  It is important Airmen know the risks of supplements before taking them.

It can be difficult to know what is safe to use when it comes to supplements. Steven Burns, 28th Bomb Wing Drug Testing Program administrative manager, said there are no approved supplements or herb lists that the Department of Defense uses.

"Always consult your primary care provider to ensure the products you are using are safe and legal," Burns said. 

Burns added that Airmen should always research the supplements before they decide to invest in them. 

"The supplement and herb market is not regulated or controlled as tightly as other food and drug markets," Burns said.

Some supplements and herbs can also have adverse effects on an Airmen's health due to side effects like allergies or interacting with prescription drugs in ways that might cause future problems.

Burns noted that, under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Airmen are required to be conscious of what they put in their bodies. Some substances found in supplements are banned for military members and could damage an Airman's career if detected during a random urinalysis test.

Maj. Eric Jorczak, 28th Medical Operations Squadron flight commander, said most supplements have disclaimers written on the products for a reason. 

"Ever thought about what this disclaimer means to you?" Jorczak said.  "The disclaimer is defined as a statement refusing to accept responsibility for something, e.g. a denial of legal liability for any injury associated with a product. And you [do not] want to subject yourself to the possibilities."

Many supplements can also interfere or have adverse effects to medications issued by medical providers.

"Additionally, for the safety of our warfighters, it is essential they notify providers what they are taking and whether it will interfere with any of their prescription medications," Jorczak said.  "These interactions can have significant impacts on the warfighters' condition or the development of new conditions." 

Jorczak added that many Airmen take supplements at the recommendation of their peers. 

"Ultimately the advice to ingest some of these chemicals is at the recommendations of your peers and not clinical trials with supportive evidence," the major said.

For more information or to check to see if a supplement has a banned ingredient in it, Airmen can schedule an appointment with their primary care provider or contact the Health and Wellness Center at (605) 385-6250.

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