I’m often asked which supplements are best for specific wellness goals, when to take them, and what supplements to take together. With so much information out there it can often get confusing, so I thought I’d break it down by sharing FAQs and tips for how to take a proactive approach to your health.
For me, I see taking natural supplements as such a worthwhile investment in our health - for now and the future. When it comes down to it, if we’re making the effort to take them, we want to make sure we’re getting the best out of our supplements and vitamins.
It pays to be proactive about our health because we only get one body – it’s not like a car that we can trade in for a newer model in better condition – well, not yet anyway. Fortunately, we have excellent tools at our disposal - a wholefood diet, regular exercise, stress management and natural supplements.
In this guide we explore:
- 5 handy tips for taking supplements
- Supplements: with food or without food?
- When’s the best time to take your supplements?
- What supplements are better together?
- What supplements shouldn’t be taken together?
5 handy tips for taking supplements
1. Avoid taking supplements with your coffee
It's an easy habit to form, but caffeine can impede the absorption of vitamins and minerals, like Calcium, Magnesium, Iron and B Vitamins. So, coffee and tea lovers - make sure you separate your supplements from caffeine containing drinks by one hour. For more coffee info check out Coffee: how much is too much? Making a conscious effort to consume less caffeine? Try our growing range of nourishing drinks.
Tip: After one morning coffee I switch to my favourite herbal tea. It’s lovely to sip on during the day (hot or cold) and grounds me when I need it most.
2. Liposomals all the way
If I’m choosing between products and there’s a liposomal version available, I’ll always choose this option, whether it’s Liposomal Vitamin C or another nutrient or plant extract. Liposomals offer higher bioavailability, so the supplement ingredients are more easily absorbed and more available to our cells. They’re also buffered, so are suitable for people with sensitive digestion. The phospholipid formula, made with tiny lipid transport spheres, also offers choline - the nerve nutrient, an added bonus to support mental clarity. They’re often liquids too, which adds some variety if you usually take capsules or if you’re not a fan of capsules.
Tip: Right now, I’m taking a Liposomal Vitamin C to support my immune system. The liposomal formula allows me to achieve higher levels of vitamin C for longer.
3. Trouble swallowing capsules?
If you wish you were better at taking capsules, here are two tricks:
- The frozen pea trick - practice swallowing a frozen or thawed pea to help you become more comfortable with swallowing small things. Once you feel more confident start trying small capsules, before graduating to larger capsules, tablets and pills.
- With food – viscous foods like yoghurt or nut butters can help disguise the feel of capsules in your mouth when swallowing them.
Tip: If you’re still not keen on swallowing capsules or tablets, we also have powders, liquids, chewables and gummies available.
4. Opt for Omega 3s with cold food/drink
If you’re taking Omega 3 Fish Oil capsules, heat breaks down the softgel capsule faster, meaning the contents will be released too soon, so choosing a cold meal or drink is the ultimate way to minimise this, especially if you're concerned about ‘fishy burps’. Also Plant-Based Omega 3 fatty acids, (like Hemp Seed Oil and Flaxseed Oil capsules or liquids) are best unheated, as heat can damage the healthy oils, so if you’re mixing them with food, cold or room temperature is best.
Should supplements be taken with food or without?
My naturopath colleague Liz and I are often asked this question. The guidance on supplement packaging is a valuable tool here, always follow this. In the absence of ‘with food’ or ‘without food’ instructions, I tend to take the product with food, as there’s not a lot of scientific evidence in this area, plus it’s convenient. There are a few things that are better with or without food (examples below) but most will still be absorbed either way.
It can get complicated taking different things - at different times of the day - with food – or without food. I often find people (including me) can sometimes miss the lunchtime or ‘without food’ doses because we get busy, or it slips our minds. Ultimately, the main consideration is actually taking all the doses - better all at once than missing some. Do what works for you.
Full disclosure: I take my supplements in the morning with breakfast, that way I never miss out.
Best taken with food
Digestive enzymes – this one is not negotiable, digestive enzymes support the breakdown of food so they’re best with meals, taking them without food is not recommended.
Multivitamins – some nutrients, for example Zinc, are best with food as some people can feel queasy if taking on an empty stomach. The fat-soluble vitamins, vitamins A, E, D and K are best absorbed with fats, so make sure you’re including healthy fats with your meals, like avocado, nuts and seeds.
Best absorbed without food
Studies show iron supplements are better absorbed on an empty stomach, but keep in mind if you have a sensitive stomach, it might be better with food - so do what works for you.
When is the best time to take supplements?
Ever wondered about the best time to take vitamins? While we lack conclusive studies on this, here are some anecdotal guidelines that people find helpful.
Best in the morning
- Energy support - If you’re taking energy supplements to for daytime energy, it makes sense to take them in the morning. Anecdotally, people who are easily stimulated report wakefulness at bedtime if they take B Complex vitamins and herbs like Ginseng later in the day, so it pays to keep these to the morning.
- Guarana - Also used for energy support, Guarana (Paullinia cupana), contains guaranine, a caffeine derivative that’s 2-3 times stronger than in coffee, so to avoid unwanted wakefulness at nighttime, make it a morning thing.
- Vitex - If you’re taking Vitex, also known as Chaste tree (Vitux agnus castus), for PMS Support, (like stable mood, calmness, breast and tummy comfort) it’s believed to be ideal taken in the morning when prolactin levels are highest, or at least at the same time each day.
Best at night
Sleep supplements - Generally Sleep Supplements are ideally taken at night, sleep support herbs nutrients like Passion flower, Kava, Hops, Valerian, 5HTP and Tart Chery are recommended to be taken around one hour before your desired sleep time.
What supplements are better together?
Products that pair well together
Some nutrients can be synergistic, working together in co-operation. They're optimised when intentionally paired together and have supportive properties that complement each other. You can combine two supplements to get the best results and better yet, they are often found combined in special formulations.
Collagen and Omega-3
Collagen supplements and Omega-3 fatty acids complement each other. Whether your goals are around skin appearance or joint comfort, adding an Omega-3 is an excellent way to optimise your collagen supplement. Collagen powder or capsules support healthy skin firmness as well as joint integrity, and Omega-3 can complement both of these supportive properties. Omega-3 supports skin moisture for healthy and plump, softening the appearance of skin ageing. Omega-3 also supports balanced pathways for a healthy and appropriate immune response, which is key for joint comfort.
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Calcium and Magnesium
These two essential minerals are synergistic, they optimise the absorption and transport of one another inside the body, so ideally they are taken together. Whether you’re after Calcium supplements for healthy bone density or Magnesium tablets for healthy sleep, calmness and muscle relaxation, it makes sense to take them together. They’re often found together in formulas for this reason, or you can easily pair them together.
You can find them both in BioBalance Calcium Magnesium & Vitamin D along with Vitamin D which is synergistic with calcium for bone health.
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Prebiotics and Probiotics
Our beneficial probiotic bacteria are both friendly and alive, and they feed on prebiotic fiber. So, if you’re taking Probiotics to support digestion, mood, skin, or an appropriate immune response, taking prebiotics is a way to help the probiotic goodies to flourish. I liken probiotics being the seed and prebiotics being fertile soil – the probiotics will thrive and multiply in the right conditions.
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B complex vitamins
The B Complex vitamin family of B1 Thiamine, B2 Riboflavin, B3 Niacin, B5 Pantothenic acid, B6 Pyrixodine, B9 Folic Acid, and B12 Cobalamin, work together in our bodies. They depend on the presence of one another in order to do their jobs in the body, like supporting healthy energy production, and mood health. This is the reason the whole B family is often found in a B complex formula. And they’re not as complex as you think! In this article I break down B Complex Vitamins for adrenal and stress support.
Zinc & Quercetin
Zinc is the immune mineral and the bioflavonoid Quercetin has been shown to optimise its bioavailability. Scientists call quercetin a zinc ionophore, because it aids the transport of zinc into cells. So, adding quercetin is a great way to get the best out of your zinc supplement. Studies show that quercetin also supports a balanced immune response. So, that makes two great reasons to pair them.
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Iron & Vitamin C
You’ll find this synergistic combo in BioBalance Iron Absorb plus C, it’s gentle on the stomach and contains 100% of the RDI for iron and vitamin C.
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What supplements shouldn’t be taken together
Most supplement ingredients tend to be fine taken together. There isn’t research showing adverse effects from combining different ingredients, so we don’t have a specific list of ‘no-nos’.
Separate the fiber
Fiber supplements should be taken away from other supplements and also medications. Fiber is very absorbent and it can impede absorption of other things. So, if you’re taking Psyllium Husk, or Ground Flaxseed, try your best to separate this from anything else by two hours.
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