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Most supplements are more effective when you take them with a meal rather than on an empty stomach. “A balanced meal that includes protein, carbohydrates, and fat stimulates optimal acid secretion in the stomach, which is critical for extracting nutrients from your supplements and absorbing them,” says Lauri Wright, PhD, an assistant professor of nutrition at the University of South Florida College of Public Health. What’s more, some vitamins and minerals work exceptionally well when paired together. Here, Wright shares three ideal combos:
1. Take iron with vitamin C.
The acid in foods that contain vitamin C (think berries, citrus, or even apple cider vinegar) make iron easier to digest.
2. Take calcium and magnesium with vitamin D.
Your body can’t absorb calcium or magnesium without sufficient vitamin D, which also enhances your kidneys’ ability to break down and recycle calcium that would otherwise be excreted.
3. Fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, and E) dissolve in fats and oils.
For better absorption, take them with foods that contain a small amount of healthful dietary fat, such as nuts, olive oil, or avocado.
3 Key Supplement Contraindications To Know
Some vitamins and herbs can compete with each other for absorption and interfere with certain medications, says holistic pharmacist Sherry Torkos. To avoid doing more harm than good, it’s crucial to talk to your health care provider about everything you’re taking. Keep these important contraindications in mind:
1. If you’re taking a blood thinner, avoid supplements that have an additional blood-thinning effect, such as vitamin E, high doses of omega-3 fatty acids, and Ginkgo biloba. It’s also smart to avoid vitamin K, which can affect how certain medications work.
2. If you’re planning on spending long periods of time in the sun, avoid St. John’s wort, niacin, and vitamin B3, which all increase photosensitivity and may cause sun-related skin reactions, such as rashes, says Torkos.
3. If you suffer from small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, avoid probiotics and prebiotics. They may overcrowd your gut with bacteria and make your gas problems worse, says Gerard Guillory, MD, an integrative physician who specializes in irritable bowel syndrome and leaky gut.