Top tips to maximise your supplement absorption

Author: Angela Fleming   Date Posted:11 May 2017 

Are you taking your supplements correctly? Try these top tips to enhance absorption.

Prescription medications: it is important to avoid taking supplements with prescription medications, in order to prevent potential interactions from occurring. Types of interactions include;

  • Interactions that increase the toxicity of existing medications in the system.
  • Interactions that decrease the therapeutic benefit of existing medicines in the system.
  • Interactions that enhance, stimulate or impede the existing disease process.

Always speak with your General Practitioner or pharmacist prior to consuming supplements in order to avoid potential interactions. 

Storage of supplements: supplements are best stored according to the directions on the product label. Temperature, moisture, humidity and direct sunlight may have an unfavourable effect on the efficacy and lifespan of your supplements.

Out of date supplements: Here at Australian Naturalcare we do not recommend consuming out of date supplements. We test and perform stability on our products to ensure our products meet label requirements up until the date of expiry. After this date, no further testing is done and we cannot guarantee adequacy of the product.    

Did you know certain minerals compete with each other for absorption?

Calcium and Magnesium: many of the absorption pathways utilising calcium are reliant on magnesium. Intracellular calcium levels increase with magnesium deficiency. Research suggests individuals with low serum-magnesium concentrations with an existing calcium deficiency do not react to calcium supplementation until magnesium deficiency has been rectified (Erdman et al 2012).

Calcium and Iron: research suggests that foods high in calcium can inhibit the absorption of non- heme sources of iron by at least half (Shils et al 1999). A study conducted in 2014 (Walczyk et al 2014) investigated the effects of calcium fortified meals and iron fortified milk. The results revealed that calcium does inhibit iron absorption from iron fortified foods. Inhibition of iron absorption by calcium may involve competition with the transport of iron via the intestinal mucosa.

Zinc and iron: zinc and iron have a similar physiochemical characteristics, which compete for common pathways. Research suggests that iron given as a supplement can greatly affect the absorption zinc due to having mutual affinity for carrier proteins. 

Foods that enhance and inhibit absorption: there are certain nutrients that may enhance the absorption of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C and iron. Vitamin C has been shown to increase the absorption of iron by promoting the utilisation of haem iron, which enhances incorporation of iron into its storage from ferritin. Vitamin C also facilitates iron absorption by forming soluble complexes, rendering the mineral more bioavailable.

Foods naturally high in the corresponding supplement e.g calcium and yoghurt; red meat and iron; or probiotics and fermented foods such as yoghurt will help improve the overall absorption of the nutrient.

Certain food combinations will also help enhance the absorption of supplements. Try consuming vitamin C rich foods such as capsicum, carrots and dark leafy greens with red meat to enhance the absorption of iron.

Traditionally, circulatory stimulants such as ginger, rosemary, cinnamon, pepper, turmeric and chilli were used to increase the absorption of other nutrients. This practice is still beneficial today, as circulatory stimulants improve blood flow to the peripheral body tissues, which in turn delivers nutrients to desired areas effectively. 

Fat soluble vitamins such as A, E, K and D and digestive enzymes and CoQ10 are best accompanied with a healthy fat such as avocado, olive oil or dairy product such as Greek yoghurt. This enhances bioavailability of the vitamin improving absorption.

Tea and coffee: Tea and coffee have a high tannin content. Tannins act as an astringent. An astringent is a substance that causes constriction of mucus membranes by precipitating proteins. This produces a barrier on the surface of the mucus membranes which can inhibit the absorption of other nutrients, supplements and medications reducing efficacy. It is best to consume your supplements roughly 2 hours away from tea and coffee in order to avoid tannin interference. 

Fiber, phytates and oxalates from fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes can interfere with nutrient absorption. Try soaking your grains or legumes over night before consumption. Also try steaming your greens to neutralise dietary oxalates and phytates.

Top tip; try taking your supplements away from green juices or green smoothies, as they contain phytates and oxalates.

coq10 one a day

Does the time of day make a difference?

It sure can! However this is dependable on the reasoning for supplemental intake. For example, B complex vitamins are responsible for generating energy in the body. It is recommended to take B vitamins in the morning as they may interfere with sleep. This goes for CoQ10 as well.

Magnesium is beneficial for supporting the nervous system in times of stress and promoting relaxation. Magnesium can be taken at any time of day, however consumption before bed may prove beneficial in improving sleep and nervous tension.

Digestive enzymes are best taken half an hour before main meals in order to stimulate digestion and prepare the gastrointestinal tract for food coming in.

As everyone has individual needs, it would be best to check with your healthcare practitioner for the best time to take your supplements.

Should I take my supplements with food?

Yes, generally all supplements are best taken with food, although there are some exceptions to the rule. Food provides that much needed buffer in order to prevent nausea. Probiotics in particular are best taken with food so the stomach acid does not potentially kill off the good bacteria coming in.

Should I worry about interactions?

When it comes to prescriptive medications it is always important to discuss your supplemental regime with your Doctor regardless of their personal views. If you are looking for a doctor that is open to and uses supplements, seek out your local holistic or integrative medical practitioner. 

Seeking the advice of a qualified healthcare practitioner in regards to your supplemental regime is always beneficial to your health, and the upside to this is, you can continue taking beneficial nutrients without a worry.

Nutrient interactions can seem somewhat confusing and slightly overwhelming. It does seem convenient to take all of our supplements together, once or twice daily. Separating minerals to avoid them from competing with one another may be unrealistic to some. However, research suggests that separating minerals when a deficiency exists is the preferred option. 

If your supplemental regime doesn't allow you to separate certain minerals in order to avoid competitive absorption, still take them, they are better inside the body rather than on the shelf!

If you require assistance with regards to your supplements or are confused in anyway, please talk to your local naturopath or call us on 1300 365 020. 

Written by Angela Fleming
Angela Fleming

Angela (BHSc Naturopathy) is a qualified naturopath who strongly believes in living a healthy and happy lifestyle. Angela believes being active, taking time out for yourself on a regular basis and consuming a balanced healthy diet (with the odd sneaky treat included now and then) is the fundamental key to keeping our minds and bodies in good health.

Angela loves to pass on her knowledge of healthy and happy living to her two young children, who love to experiment in the kitchen with her and train alongside her in Karate.


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