Amazing Wellness - - CONTENTS - By Lisa Turner

Know­ing when to take your sup­ple­ments is just as im­por­tant as know­ing what to take.

You may have a near-per­fect bat­tery of sup­ple­ments to strengthen bones, build blood, pro­tect your heart, and pre­vent can­cer. But when and how you take your vi­ta­mins, fish oil, and pro­bi­otics may be as im­por­tant as what you’re tak­ing. Get the most out of these seven com­mon sup­ple­ments, with this com­pre­hen­sive guide to times, com­bos, and amounts.


In doses higher than 250 mg, cal­cium and mag­ne­sium tend to com­pete for ab­sorp­tion. But both are crit­i­cal for bone health, and the ex­tra con­ve­nience of tak­ing them in a com­bined sup­ple­ment may out­weigh the rel­a­tively small per­cent­age of each that may not get ab­sorbed. Stud­ies sug­gest that too much cal­cium with too lit­tle mag­ne­sium may con­trib­ute to cal­ci­fi­ca­tion of the ar­ter­ies, in­creas­ing the risk of heart dis­ease. A 1:1 to 1:2 ra­tio of cal­cium and mag­ne­sium is best. Best way to take cal­cium: Take cal­cium with food to boost ab­sorp­tion and re­duce the risk of kid­ney stones, and in split doses—the body ab­sorbs smaller doses bet­ter than large ones. Avoid cal­cium car­bon­ate, the hard­est-to-ab­sorb form of the min­eral. And if you can, take cal­cium at a dif­fer­ent time of day than zinc and iron.


Be­cause it can in­hibit the ab­sorp­tion of other min­er­als, don’t take iron with mag­ne­sium, cal­cium, or zinc. Vi­ta­min E and iron also block each other’s ab­sorp­tion, so don’t take iron with vi­ta­min E or a multi that con­tains E. As for food, it’s best to take iron on an empty stom­ach for max­i­mum ab­sorp­tion; un­less you have a sen­si­tive stom­ach, take it first thing in the morn­ing. Wash it down with or­ange juice, not cof­fee or milk: caf­feine and the cal­cium in dairy can in­ter­fere with the body’s abil­ity to take in iron, while vi­ta­min C can en­hance iron ab­sorp­tion from sup­ple­ments. To pre­vent con­sti­pa­tion, avoid fer­rous sul­fate, the form that’s most likely to cause con­sti­pa­tion; look for a non­con­sti­pat­ing for­mula, and be sure to drink plenty of wa­ter and eat am­ple fiber.

Best way to take iron: 60 to 120 mg be­fore break­fast, with or­ange juice, two hours be­fore tak­ing vi­ta­min E or a mul­tivi­ta­min.


Like other fat-sol­u­ble vi­ta­mins (A, E, and K), D is bet­ter ab­sorbed if taken with a meal that con­tains fat; one study found tak­ing vi­ta­min D with din­ner—usu­ally the heav­i­est meal—in­creased blood lev­els of vi­ta­min D by 50 per­cent. But don’t take it at din­ner if you eat late, since vi­ta­min D also in­ter­rupts the body’s pro­duc­tion of mela­tonin and can dis­rupt sleep. If you’re a late diner, lunch may be the best op­tion; add healthy fats like avo­cado, olives, salmon, or nut but­ter to your mid­day meal to im­prove ab­sorp­tion. Best way to take vi­ta­min D: up to 4,000 IU with lunch or early din­ner that con­tain healthy fats.


B com­plex vi­ta­mins are wa­ter­sol­u­ble, so the body can only ab­sorb so much at a given time (un­like ex­cess fat-sol­u­ble vi­ta­mins, which are stored un­til they’re needed). Split­ting the dose can en­sure steady blood lev­els. Tak­ing a B com­plex that com­bines all the Bs is more con­ve­nient; just be sure not to overdo it on the B6, since high doses over a long pe­riod of time can cause nerve dam­age. B vi­ta­mins tend to boost en­ergy, so take them in the morn­ing; at night, they can lead to rest­less­ness and in­som­nia. They’re best ab­sorbed on an empty stom­ach, but if you have a sen­si­tive tummy, take them with a lit­tle food. Best way to take Bs: in the morn­ing and af­ter­noon, be­fore break­fast and lunch, on an empty stom­ach if pos­si­ble, and in a com­bi­na­tion for­mula that con­tains well un­der 100 mg of B6, the rec­om­mended up­per limit.


Like B vi­ta­mins, vi­ta­min C is wa­ter-sol­u­ble and doesn’t re­quire di­etary fat to be ef­fec­tive. Split­ting the dosage im­proves ab­sorp­tion, keeps blood lev­els el­e­vated all day, and pre­vents the gas­troin­testi­nal dis­tress some peo­ple ex­pe­ri­ence with large doses (1,000 mg or more). Vi­ta­min C en­hances cal­cium ab­sorp­tion, but may in­ter­fere with the ab­sorp­tion of B12, so take them sep­a­rately if pos­si­ble. Buf­fered forms of vi­ta­min C are best if you have a sen­si­tive stom­ach. Best way to take C: 250 mg twice a day, with break­fast and lunch.


Fish oil can cause sig­nif­i­cant gas­tric dis­tress (like nau­sea and in­di­ges­tion) so it should al­ways be taken with food; the fat in a meal will also help its ab­sorp­tion. Be­cause it can be hard to digest, take fish oil in di­vided doses, and never right be­fore phys­i­cal ex­er­cise or right be­fore bed; the in­creased ac­tiv­ity or prone po­si­tion can in­ter­fere with di­ges­tion and cause heart­burn or re­flux. If you re­ally strug­gle with di­gest­ing fish oil sup­ple­ments, try an emul­si­fied ver­sion, which may be eas­ier to digest and ab­sorb. And while fish oil mixes well with most other sup­ple­ments, don’t take it with ginkgo biloba or other blood-thin­ning herbs; it can cause ex­ces­sive bleed­ing. Best way to take fish oil: 500 to 600 mg, twice a day, with break­fast and lunch, or with lunch and an early din­ner.


Harsh stom­ach acids may de­stroy pro­bi­otics, so they’re best taken when di­ges­tive en­zymes, bile salts, and stom­ach acids are low—in other words, on an empty stom­ach. Some stud­ies sug­gest pro­bi­otics sur­vive in the largest num­bers when taken 30 min­utes be­fore a meal that con­tains some fat (which buf­fers stom­ach acids and helps pro­bi­otics sur­vive to reach the in­testines). How­ever, some ev­i­dence also ex­ists that food buf­fers stom­ach acid, so tak­ing pro­bi­otics with a meal may of­fer in­creased pro­tec­tion for the micro­organ­isms—and it’s hard to ar­gue with the fact that pro­bi­otics were tra­di­tion­ally taken via cul­tured foods like yo­gurt or sauer­kraut, which were eaten with meals. Ad­di­tion­ally, dif­fer­ent strains may have var­i­ous tol­er­ances to stom­ach acids. The jury’s still out, so you could ex­per­i­ment: try tak­ing some of your daily pro­bi­otics be­fore meals, and some with meals, and see what works best for you. But don’t take them post-meal: sev­eral stud­ies show pro­bi­otic sur­vival tends to be low­est when taken 30 min­utes af­ter eat­ing. And choose a pro­bi­otic with a va­ri­ety of strains for max­i­mum ef­fec­tive­ness; be sure yours con­tains L. aci­dophilus, B. Longum, B. bi­fidum, L. rham­no­sus, and L. fer­men­tum at a min­i­mum. Best way to take pro­bi­otics: 5 to 25 bil­lion CFUs of a broad-spec­trum for­mula, half an hour be­fore or with break­fast, lunch, or din­ner.

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