When to Take Supplements

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Filed Under: Nutritional Support, Q&As
Last Reviewed 04/03/2014

Learn When to Take Supplements

Q: When should I take my supplements?

A: Many of my patients have questions about when to take their supplements. Unless otherwise directed, take your supplements in divided doses with a glass of water at meal time. Doing this will help—

  • Prevent nausea. This side effect is sometimes experienced when taking supplements, especially potent multivitamins, on an empty stomach.

  • Improve absorption. Hydrochloric acid is required for optimal absorption of calcium, B12, and other nutrients, and the consumption of fat improves the uptake of fat-soluble nutrients such as vitamins D, E, A and K.

  • Maintain consistent nutrient levels in your body. Because water-soluble nutrients are lost in the urine, they need to be replenished regularly—which is why I suggest dividing your supplements into two or three doses and taking them several hours apart.

When Not to Take Supplements with Meals

  • Amino acids. When you take L-glutamine, L-arginine, L-carnitine, N-acetylcysteine, SAMe and 5-HTP along with a meal containing protein, they have to compete for absorption with the amino acids in the protein. Avoid this by taking them on an empty stomach instead.

  • Enzymes. Digestive enzymes should be taken shortly before or during meals. However, if you’re using an enzyme like bromelain to relieve pain and inflammation, take it between meals. Otherwise, it will go to work breaking down food and you’ll get no anti-inflammatory benefits.

  • Probiotics. Take probiotics on an empty stomach to ensure that they aren’t destroyed by hydrochloric acid as they pass through your upper GI tract.

An empty stomach is defined as a half-hour before eating or two hours after eating.

Another consideration for when to take supplements has to do with drug-supplement interactions. Calcium, for example, can inhibit the absorption of antibiotics, and fiber supplements may interfere with the efficacy of some drugs. If you are on medication, wait a few hours before taking your supplements, just to be on the safe side.

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