Supplements warning: The ‘popular’ calming supplement linked to ‘serious liver damage’

Dr Zoe reveals which supplements to take

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Claims over the health benefits of supplements vary largely, but evidence that they protect against disease is scarce. Researchers have long stressed that supplements are beneficial to health when a diet fails to address all nutritional needs. But recent studies have thrown the safety of the tablets into question. One herbal supplement, which is touted for its ability to reduce anxiety, could lead to severe liver damage when taken at the incorrect dose.

Kava is a root native to the South Pacific islands that is traditionally served as a tea, but it can also be taken as a dietary supplement.

The effects of herbal remedies have been likened to those of alcohol, helping the brain feel calm, relaxed and happy.

In fact, a study published in the journal Trials suggested kava could be used as an alternative treatment to medication prescribed for people with generalised anxiety disorder.

Earlier research published in the journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology showed that taking kava significantly reduced symptoms of anxiety in people with the condition, compared to those taking a placebo.

READ MORE: How to sleep: The popular sleep supplement that may actually hinder sleep – surprising

Use of the supplement also extends to pain relief, seizure prevention and muscle relaxation.

Taking higher doses of kava for a prolonged period, however, has been linked to serious liver damage, explains Everyday Health.

In fact, both the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have previously issued a warning notifying consumers of the health risks.

The NIH states: “Kava-containing dietary supplements may be associated with severe liver injury.

“The FDA (has also) reported that kava-containing products have been associated with liver-related injuries.”

Most specifically, the herb has been linked to cirrhosis – liver scarring – hepatitis (liver irritations) and liver failure, which lead to death in a few patients.

The DFA has also previously received reports of healthy young women who required liver transplantation.

WebMD explains that confusion still exists around how much of the supplement is safe to take.

The health body explains: “If your doctor gives you the okay, use the smallest possible dose.

“Don’t take it for longer than three months, and avoid drinking alcohol while you’re using it.”

While the supplements are able to ease signs of anxiety, some research suggests that making certain lifestyle changes could be equally beneficial to reduce stress.

General anxiety disorder, which affects five percent of the UK population, typically causes tension, irritability, difficulty concentrating, heart palpitations and chest tightness.

Thanks to their high selenium content, brazil nuts could help reduce inflammation, which is often heightened in patients with the disorder.

Some fatty fish, such as salmon and mackerel, contain levels of omega-3 high enough to promote good mental health.

One small study showed that people eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids had lower levels of anxiety, compared to those who didn’t.

Finally, supplementation with vitamin D is famously associated with lower rates of anxiety and depression, but taking the supplement at the correct dose is imperative.

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