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Are you getting the most from your vitamins and supplements?

April 20, 2018 GMT

How you take your vitamins can make a big difference in how well they are absorbed and how you feel after taking them.

Some vitamins and supplements should be taken with food or a meal for best absorption. Taking them on a full stomach also helps prevent them from causing nausea.

You may need to take others differently. For example, it’s better to take iron on an empty stomach.

Fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) are better absorbed when taken with fat (such as in a high-fat breakfast).

Water-soluble vitamins (B-complex vitamins and vitamin C) don’t need fat for absorption. Because of this, you don’t need to take them with meals.

Multivitamins contain a mix of fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins. You can get more benefits from them if you take them with a meal.

Wait about 15 minutes after you have had your morning coffee before taking your vitamins. It could interfere with their absorption. You usually can find information as to whether you should take a vitamin after a full meal or on an empty stomach on a vitamin bottle’s label. Read it and follow the directions.

Taking them at the same time every day can help you remember to take them, as it will become a habit.

Learn how they work with any medications you are taking as well.

Vitamins and minerals can interact with prescription and over-the-counter medications, which can make one or the other less effective. If your pharmacist is aware of all the vitamins and minerals you take, any possible interaction can be avoided by a variety of methods. Without this information, pharmacists can’t look for possible interactions.

For a list of medications known to interact with vitamins, visit https://www.drugs.com/drug-interactions/multivitamin,vitamins.html.

If you have questions about this, ask your doctor or pharmacist about any possible interactions.

Take some together

Some vitamins and minerals work especially well together. For example, vitamin C helps the body absorb a higher percentage of iron. Vitamins D and K2 help calcium absorption.

But don’t mix some things, however. If you are trying to increase your iron intake by taking an iron supplement, certain things in your diet could limit its absorption in your body. Dairy products and calcium, coffee, tea and cocoa, and fiber-rich foods all could do this. Take them at different times of the day.

What about multivitamins?

If a person eats a balanced diet, it should provide the vitamins and minerals needed. However, many people do not eat properly every day. Doctors recommend multivitamins to help people whose diets are low in nutrients. They call them an “inexpensive insurance policy.” That is why although there are mixed opinions about how beneficial they are in combating common conditions, many health experts recommend people take them.

In addition, if you take a supplement, take it in a natural form. Look for a D on the label. This indicates that it is natural. The letters DL indicate that it is a synthetic. Or, the label may simply say natural.


Human bodies are full of bacteria, both good and bad, and probiotics are good bacteria. They help keep the gut healthy.

“Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that aid digestion,” said Chris D’Adamo, Ph.D., assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and director of research at the Center for Integrative Medicine. “The best quality probiotics are shipped and stored cold in the refrigerator.”

Why should you take vitamins and supplements?

“All Americans, and older adults specifically, have a basic need for calcium and for vitamin D, as both are essential nutrients and are necessary for a host of critical functions in the body, including building strong bones,” said Andrea Wong, Ph.D., vice president, scientific and regulatory affairs, Council for Responsible Nutrition. “For older adults, we know that getting enough nutrients can be problematic, so dietary supplements become even more important — not as a replacement for food — but as an addition to a diet that should be rich in calcium-containing foods such as milk, cheese and spinach, for example.”