Q: Dear Healthier Talk,
I have always been puzzled about when to take supplements — on an empty stomach, or a full stomach?
Should I do what my system tolerates best, or is there some rule of thumb depending on what I’m taking?
Puzzled Over Pills, Amarillo, Texas
A: Dear Puzzled,
All of us have probably wondered at one time or another, “When should I take supplements?”
The most important part of taking supplements is absorption. Anything that’s not properly absorbed into your system is ultimately of no use to you.
It’ is generally considered best to take vitamins with a meal since the digestive juices you produce at mealtime enable you to absorb the maximum amount of the nutrient.
Fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, D, E, and K require either animal or vegetable fat to be present in the stomach to be optimally absorbed.
It’s also a good practice to space your vitamins and supplements out throughout the day. This is especially true for those that are water-soluble, such as the B-complex and vitamin C. If you are taking 3,000 milligrams a day of vitamin C, for example, you should take 1,000 at each of your three meals that day.
Don’t take your mineral supplements with your fiber
If you’re taking both mineral supplements and a fiber supplement, consider taking them at different times of the day. The fiber makes it difficult for the minerals to be absorbed.
Taking too much zinc at once can cause stomach cramps, so you might want to split your dose up, depending on how much you take.
And if you are taking any essential fatty acid supplements, you should take your vitamin E at the same time.
Herbal remedies and probiotics, on the other hand, usually require an empty stomach for maximum effectiveness. This means 20-30 minutes before meals, or two hours after.
Of course, no one wants to spend all of their time worrying about when to take their supplements. So the best strategy may be to consult a nutritionally oriented physician, or a compounding pharmacist, about the specific mixture of supplements you take and get his help creating an easy to follow supplement plan.
Then stick with the same routine every day. After all, the best plan is one that you can easily follow consistently.