Medication and Recommended Dosage: Tips for Avoiding Serious Health Consequences

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH; Justin Lam, ABAAHP, FMNM

Recommended dosage for medicationsWhile pharmaceutical drugs, nutritional supplements, and even herbal supplements may be of great benefit to your health, there are important precautions to take when using them. It’s important to know and take the recommended dosage. Doing so can help increase the efficacy of the supplement or medicine in your body. Moreover, getting the dosage right also helps minimize any serious health risks. This is especially important if you are dealing with the compromised health of your adrenal glands because overdosing or underdosing can lead to Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS).

Medication Delivery Methods and Recommended Dosage

At some point, you have probably been prescribed medications for an illness. In addition, your physician, functional medicine specialist, or nutritionist may have recommended health supplements to ensure you get the right amount vitamins and minerals each day.

When it comes to medication, there are several routes or delivery systems that can be used to administer them to your body. Typically, most medication is given orally, and this is the one you are probably most familiar with since this is how you generally take prescribed medication at home. Medication can also be given in other ways depending on the type of drug.

On the skin, medication is topical if it just needs to be applied to your skin, or transdermal if a patch with the drug is placed on your skin. On the other hand, it can also be buccal if the medication is held in your cheek, or sublingual if it is held under your tongue.

There are four ways to administer injectable medication. Infused means injected into your vein with an IV line; intravenous means injected into your IV line; intramuscular means injected right into your muscle; and intrathecal means injection into your spine. Aside from these, medication can also be given through the ear, rectum, eyes or through a mask.

Finding the recommended dosageThe way medication is administered depends on the part of the body concerned, the way the drug works in the body, and the formula of the drug.

While it may be easy to ensure you only take the recommended dosage through some delivery methods, others may pose challenges. That is why guidelines have been put in place to help ensure that medications are only taken in the correct dosage as much as possible.

Typically, the correct recommended dosage for a particular medication or supplement is determined using a host of different factors. These include weight and age, especially in medicine for children.

To further serve as a guideline when prescribing medications and supplements, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also issued a maximum recommended dose (MRD) for drugs. This simply means that above the MRD, there is typically not enough data on either the efficacy or safety of the drug. Hence, prescribing or administering above this significantly increases the risk of harmful side effects. If this should happen, your adrenal glands can also suffer without you knowing it.

How Medication Dosage Can Affect Adrenal Health

Every time you take a prescribed medication or nutritional supplement, your adrenal glands can be affected to such an extent that their normal functions can be disrupted. In fact, there are even drugs that can inhibit your body’s ability to produce certain critical hormones when taken outside the recommended dosage.

Some medications can affect the way your adrenal glands function. A study conducted by the Tulane University School of Medicine found that overdoses of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, can put patients at significant risk for adrenal insufficiency.

Steroids, usually prescribed for asthma and certain allergies, have also been linked to adrenal gland malfunction, according to a study that was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. This is because of the body’s sudden inability to produce stress hormone cortisol. Hence, it is possible that overdosing on this type of medication could also compromise your adrenals ability to produce cortisol to deal with stress. Too low a dose of steroids can also cause problems. A study conducted by the Department of General Medicine of Modbury Hospital in Australia also found that decreasing the dosage of inhaled corticosteroids for asthma may trigger certain symptoms of adrenal insufficiency.

The FDA and the recommended dosageThe FDA has also issued a drug safety warning regarding opioid pain medicine. According to the administration, taking such drugs can lead to a condition wherein the adrenal glands are also unable to produce adequate amounts of cortisol. This may also occur if a patient takes more than the prescribed dosage of the drug.

Aside from this, statin medications used to manage heart disease and cholesterol may also be linked to adrenal fatigue. According to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, subjects who took certain doses of statin medications such as simvastatin and pravastatin experienced more fatigue and low energy levels.

Supplements, Paradoxical Reactions, and Adrenal Fatigue

However, medication is not the only thing linked to adrenal fatigue. Some nutritional or herbal supplements have also been known to compromise the overall health of the adrenal glands. Exaggerated responses or paradoxical reactions are also commonplace in adrenal fatigue.

For instance, the herb licorice root may be good at helping the body deal with stress while increasing energy and endurance. However, licorice root is rich in glycyrrhetinic acid, which can result in elevated cortisol levels, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. This risk is higher when you go beyond the recommended dose for licorice root. In early stages of adrenal fatigue, licorice root may help to give a boost of energy and endurance. However, those who are in advanced stages of AFS are particularly vulnerable to exaggerated responses. Licorice root can boost their energy levels to the point of feeling anxious, wired, and jittery. Even a small amount may be too much.

The Ayurvedic herb ashwagandha may also increase or decrease one’s cortisol levels depending on whether they are already too low or too high respectively. However, when body’s adrenal system is already weak, taking this herb as a supplement may lead to paradoxical reactions. It can make you feel more tired when it should strengthen you. Ashwagandha can also make you feel wired and anxious when it should be calming your body down. Adrenal crashes may be triggered, even if it is taken within the recommended dose for those who are very weak or sensitive. This can be worse if you have adrenal fatigue and take higher doses.

The Dangers of Underdosing

While overdosing on a prescription medication or supplement is certainly more dangerous, underdosing can also pose some serious problems for your adrenal health. Especially when it comes to nutritional supplements, when you take a dose that is lower than the recommended dosage, your adrenals end up getting deprived of the nutrients that it needs, resulting in retarded recovery.

Taking less than the optimal dose can also weaken your adrenals over time. As it does, you experience symptoms such as intolerance for temperature variations, low body temperature, cardiac arrhythmias, postural hypotension, and more. Weak adrenal glands can also compromise your body’s NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response system, especially when you are faced with continuous episodes of stress. This can lead to adrenal fatigue as your body fails to produce the amount of cortisol required to address the stress effectively.

Recommended dosage and AFSMeanwhile, if you are already suffering from AFS, this can also pose some significant problems since your adrenals need more nutrients to recover. There is also a possibility that your AFS symptoms can get worse over time if your body is not getting the proper nutritional support that it needs for relief.

However, taking lower than the recommended dose may be necessary for those who have liver congestion or slow metabolisms that can have cumulative metabolite overload. It’s also important to take things gently if you have a history of sensitivity, exaggerated responses, or paradoxical reactions. It’s best to talk to a doctor experienced with adrenal fatigue to find the recommended dosage that is correct for your body.

How to Make Sure You Always Get the Recommended Dosage

As you can see, using any medication or nutritional supplement inappropriately can result in harm to your adrenals and even lead to adrenal fatigue. In fact, taking any medicine or nutritional supplement without proper consultation with a health professional can pose significant risks. You may have an intolerance or sensitivity to certain drugs or supplements, or they may have interactions with other supplements you are taking or health conditions you have. Thus, it’s best to seek advice from your physician before you start taking anything.

That said, here are some tips that you can also follow to help make sure you always take the recommended dosage when it comes to your medication or nutritional supplements:

Read medication and supplement labels first.

Before you even open the bottle, be sure to read the label on your prescription medicine or health supplement carefully. In some cases, the recommended dose displayed is based on age or weight. Using this as a guide, determine the right dose for yourself. If you need assistance, you may want to call the physician to confirm that you have figured the correct dosage before taking anything.

Keep your medications in their original packaging.

The original packaging of any prescription drug or health supplement always displays the correct dosage recommendations. Hence, keeping them here can minimize the possibility of getting the dosage wrong when it’s time for you to take it.

Put yourself on a schedule and strictly follow it.

Whether you need to take prescribed medication or a vitamin and mineral supplement, it’s best to add this to your daily schedule so you don’t forget about it. It also helps to ensure you don’t end up overdosing on the medication or supplement by taking it more often than recommended. In addition, you may also want to consider writing your correct dosage on the schedule, so you don’t have to look at another reference. This can make your life so much easier in the middle of a busy day.

Create reminders for yourself.

You may also want to set reminders for yourself, so you don’t end up forgetting to take your medication when it’s time. You can do this by setting an alarm on your phone or watch with a note that tells you it’s time to take them. You may also want to include the correct dosage to be safe.

Organize your medication and supplements.

Medicine organizaion and recommended dosageYou can buy containers with compartments for the medication you take each day or at different times of the day. At the start of the week, dispense the medication and supplements you need for each day and put them in the container. This way, you won’t end up taking more than what you really need for the day, and you can see what you have already taken.

Finish your medication.

Sometimes, people fail to get the proper dosage for a prescription medicine simply because they stopped taking it before they had finished. This often happens when you start feeling well just a couple of days after taking the drug. The problem is that the efficacy of the drug in relieving your condition is compromised. You may be feeling better, but symptoms of the illness could return shortly after. Thus, make sure you finish the prescribed amount of any medication from your doctor.

See your doctor if you need to stop.

Ensure that you are always only taking the recommended dosage if you are taking prescribed medication or nutrition supplements. In case of any harmful side effects, stop taking the drug or supplement immediately and go to your physician. This might indicate that your dosage needs to be adjusted. This may also mean you need to change your medication.

© Copyright 2018 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam’s Key Question

Both prescription medicine and nutritional supplements both come with a recommended dosage to help ensure the efficacy of the drug or supplement. Staying within the recommended dose also helps ensure that you will not be at risk for certain harmful conditions, including adrenal fatigue.

Recommended dosage