Many of us, either by choice or by necessity, have dietary restrictions we follow. The steps we take to ensure that we don’t consume unwanted foods should include knowing what’s in our medication and dietary supplements.

For those restricting gluten, for example, there are many fillers or inactive ingredients that either definitely contain gluten or could possibly contain it. “Starch” or “maltodextran” can come from wheat, rice, corn, potatoes, or tapioca. The only way to know for sure which source is used is to call the manufacturer. Other ingredients that may or may not contain gluten are “dextrin,” “dextrate,” and caramel coloring. For a complete list of ingredients that do, or possibly, contain gluten, see the original article.

Ingredients with no gluten or gluten possibilities include: cornstarch, sugar (ingredients that end in “ose,” like dextrose, sucrose or fructose), honey, corn syrup, cellulose, carrageenan, xanthan gum, and others you’ll find listed in the original article.

These inactive ingredients are added for a variety of reasons. Some are “binders,” they hold the ingredients together and include: acacia (gum from the acacia tree), cellulose (from the stalks of plants), and polyvinylpyrrolidone (a “plasticizer”). Some ingredients are “disintegrants” which make sure the pill will break up in liquid, releasing the active ingredients quickly. A few types of disintegrants are citrate (citric acid), croscarmellose (from wood and cotton fibers), and silica (known as sand or quartz).

Aluminum Lake and carmine (which is derived from crushed beetles), are examples of ingredients used for color. Other coloring ingredients are FD & C dyes and iron oxide.

Other inactive ingredients are used for antimicrobials, preservatives, prebiotics, absorbents, lubricants, and anti-caking agents.

Among these inactive ingredients, unfortunately, are substances that can cause health problems. Besides those that may or may not contain gluten, are sorbitol (a sugar alcohol that can cause digestive problems) and methylparaben (a possible endocrine disruptor).

Because “inactive ingredients” aren’t necessarily as “inactive” as we’d like them to be, checking the ingredients in our medications and supplements is one more step we can take for good health.