When we eat, our food contains a varied mix of nutrients that our bodies attempt to absorb and use for a wide range of functions. These nutrients interact with each other in complex ways with some combinations working together and some inhibiting absorption. When you take a supplement, these interactions are important to understand to make sure you get the benefits you expect from what you are ingesting. Multivitamins are especially tricky. They contain a wide range of useful things but may not have the proper balance or nutrients to allow your body to absorb them properly.
Please consult with a health professional to understand what your body needs and lacks. Directly eating a proper diet to support your unique system is preferable to taking multivitamins or supplements. There are several vitamins and minerals that just do not play well together and therefore can be taken hours apart from one another, but not best to be taken at the same time. A few examples include vitamins C and B12, calcium and magnesium, and vitamin K with other vitamins like C and E.
Some vitamins complement each other such as vitamin C and iron, vitamin K and calcium and D, and different B vitamins. Choosing supplements from providers that understand these interactions and make sure to package complementary vitamins and minerals is critical to getting benefits.
Unfortunately, not all companies take the time and effort to understand these interactions and provide you with the best products. Many companies are not of high integrity and offer poor ingredients that can sometimes do more harm than good. Further, finding products and companies that produce supplements made from real food ingredients is best. Your body will recognize these supplements and will be able to use them properly. Some companies extract specific ingredients and process them so much that your body has a hard time recognizing and absorbing the nutrients it needs.
Many vitamins are either water-soluble or fat-soluble. Meaning, that if you do not take them with either water or fats, your body will not be able to use them, and that supplement will be wasted. Some key fat-soluble vitamins are A, E, K, and D. These should be taken with food that contains fats such as nuts, seeds, healthy oils, avocados, ground flax seeds, or certain meats. Taking a pile of these vitamins first thing in the morning with only a glass of water will lead to some interesting brightly colored urine but may not deliver the positive health effect you expect.
Many common supplements need other nutrients to aid in absorption. Magnesium is a popular supplement and a critical mineral for many of your body’s processes. Yet, because of how it interacts with other nutrients such as calcium, iron, and zinc (commonly included in multivitamins), your body will likely ignore the magnesium. Taking magnesium by itself greatly increases absorption, making it a great supplement to take before bed. Also, something important to know about magnesium is that there are many different types. Knowing what type is best for you will help get you your desired results.
Lastly, knowing the best time of day to take your supplements can help them work properly. For example, taking B vitamins in the morning is great, but avoid taking them past one in the afternoon. The reason is it can help with energy production, and you do not want it to disrupt your sleep. Another example is when taking iron, you will want to wait about two hours after taking caffeine. The most important takeaway is to be consistent when taking supplements and ask your healthcare provider what is best for you.