Confused about when to take all your supplements? With food, without food, 15 minutes before a meal, it's all hard to keep straight. Here are some of the most common supplements and how to take them to ensure optimal absorption to get you the most out of your treatment plan.
Vitamin B Complex: These can often be hard on sensitive stomachs, so taking them with food is best. If you’re still finding them to be troublesome, try activated vitamin Bs, which I find are the most gentle B-complex and contains all your necessary B vitamins in their most bioavailable forms. Take your B vitamins no later than 3-4pm as they can be stimulating. Splitting your dose into two (breakfast and lunch) is also a good idea as this increases absorption (B vitamins are water-soluble and you will likely pee out anything that you don’t absorb).
Vitamin D: Depends on the form of Vitamin D. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin (along with vitamins A, E and K), so it is best absorbed with FAT. That said, many vitamin D supplements are now in an oil emulsion form. If your vitamin D is taken as a drop, it is probably in a fat base – thus, you can take this at any time of the day, with or without food, and it will be well absorbed. If you are taking vitamin D tablets or pills, taking them with a high fat or your largest meal is probably best.
Calcium: Depends on the form so double check your supplement label. Calcium carbonate should be taken with food to enhance absorption. Calcium citrate can be taken with or without food. DO NOT take calcium with an iron supplement or multivitamin that contains iron as calcium will inhibit the absorption of iron. This is why many people recommend taking calcium before bed, as it will not impact any iron absorption from food or meals. (To enhance your iron absorption take it with vitamin C!)
Fish Oils: Best to take just after a meal. This will decrease the chance of “fishy burps” and will increase absorption. Taking them with high fat meal will also increase absorption of the fish oils.
Probiotics: If you have ever searched this online you will likely read conflicting opinions. The pH of your stomach when it is empty is very acidic, and this can quickly kill the probiotics (which are living bacteria) before they pass into your intestines. The pH of your stomach after eating tends to be much less acidic, as the acid is buffered by the food. This allows for the probiotics to survive through the stomach and have the beneficial effects on the digestive system. In my experience, taking probiotics with food has been most effective. That being said, many professional brands are now enteric coated - which means that no matter when you take them the active bacteria will be protected from your stomach acid.
Adaptogens: These are typically combination supplements that contain a number of stress fighting and immune boosting vitamins, minerals, and botanicals. They are best taken at 10am and 2pm, as this is typically the time of the day when our energy is at it’s lowest. Do not take past 3-4pm as adaptogens can be stimulating and can impact your sleep if taken later in the day.
Botanical or Herbal Supplements/Tinctures: Take on an empty stomach or at least 15 minutes before a meal for maximal absorption. If your tincture upsets your stomach, talk to your ND about adding an herb that will settle the digestion system.
I hope this helps clarify not only when and how to take your supplements, but why it is important. If you're like me and are constantly forgetting to take your supplements, write up a handy "reminder" schedule that you can post on the fridge or cupboard door.