We all want to do more to improve our health and feel our best. Sometimes, grabbing a handful of different supplements can seem like a great way to give your body an extra boost of vitality. We totally get it.
However, it’s important to remember that supplements taken together can also impact one another pretty substantially. You want to make sure the supplements you are taking complement each other and are able to work effectively when taken at once.
Understanding what ingredients you are putting in your body is essential to creating your personal supplement routine. You want to ensure that your body is absorbing the desired vitamins and minerals, rather than canceling each other out.
On the contrary, some supplements work better when taken together. For example, magnesium and vitamin D3 are a great combination because magnesium actually helps the body better absorb the vitamin.
Fat-soluble vitamins vs. water-soluble vitamins
There are water-soluble vitamins and also fat-soluble vitamins. It just takes a little bit of research to find out which of the two categories your dietary supplement falls into.
Water-soluble vitamins include ascorbic acid (vitamin C), thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folacin, vitamin B12, biotin, and pantothenic acid. In other words, vitamins C and B are your leaders in the water-soluble category.
Fat-soluble vitamins include vitamins A, D, E, and K. These vitamins are stored in your fatty tissue and liver. These are best taken with a portion of high-fat food, like avocado or salmon, for maximum absorption.
In order to get the most value from your supplements, there are a few basic combinations that should generally be avoided. We will go through a few of them in the list below.
Once ingested, these “conflicting” minerals essentially end up competing with one another for absorption, and both end up losing in the end. This is where the recommendation for taking supplements two or more hours apart comes in.
Why wait at least two hours between daily servings?
When taking any of the below minerals or herbs, it’s always best to wait at least two hours between doses to ensure that you’re receiving the maximum benefits from each supplement.
This gives the body time to absorb and digest one supplement before having to work on absorbing the other. It's not that the body can't absorb multiple vitamins and minerals at once, it's just that there are certain combinations that are better to ingest a couple of hours apart.
Not to mention, if you're taking multiple supplements on an empty stomach, you may end up feeling woozy or inciting an upset stomach.
Building your supplement routine
Habits are everything when it comes to supplements. Let's say you want to take vitamin D this winter to boost your mood. If you're not taking your supplement every day at the optimal time (with a healthy diet), then you likely won't see the benefits you're looking for.
Building habits can be harder than they seem. Taking vitamins or a mineral supplement may seem like a lot of work - AT FIRST! That's because it can take time to see results, and it can be easy to forget until your new habit is set firmly in place.
HERE ARE SOME SUPPLEMENT COMBOS THAT ARE USUALLY BEST TAKEN SEPARATELY
1. MELATONIN + OTHER SEDATIVE HERBS
It is possible to have too much of a good thing when it comes to sedative supplements, such as valerian root or kava.
When mixed, it can become pretty difficult to control the dosage of these herbs, potentially leaving you overly drowsy and dangerously affected by the sedative effect.
When looking for a calming sleep aid, it’s best to stick to just one and read the instructions carefully.
2. IRON + GREEN TEA
Iron is an essential nutrient that delivers oxygen to your cells and helps keep you feeling energized.
When taken with green or black tea, iron supplements lose some of their ability to be properly absorbed by your body.
Therefore, it’s always best for people supplementing with iron to allow a few hours to pass (approximately 2-4) before pouring a cup of this comforting, healthy beverage.
3. NIACIN + RED YEAST RICE
You may be familiar with red yeast rice or niacin if you’re one of the 35 million Americans struggling with high cholesterol.
These two popular supplements are often used as natural alternatives to cholesterol-lowering prescription medications, but when used at the same time, can place excessive strain on your liver. Doubling up on these supplements also likely won't offer double the benefits, as there can be too much of a good thing.
In order to avoid any potential health risks, it’s best not to mix these two supplements with each other, or with any prescribed cholesterol medications. When in doubt, it’s always best to consult with a medical professional.
4. MAGNESIUM + CALCIUM
Calcium is essential for maintaining strong bones and teeth, as well as preventing age-related joint degenerative disorders. Equally important is magnesium, a nutrient required for proper calcium absorption, along with a long list of other health benefits.
You may have heard that magnesium helps our body absorb calcium - which is correct! However, taking large amounts of calcium supplements and magnesium supplements can actually reduce absorption.
Some studies have found that without adequate amounts of magnesium, calcium deposits can collect within your soft tissue and have a negative impact on joint health.
One Consumer Labs report concluded that since these two can compete for absorption, it’s best to take them at separate times in the day to ensure that both supplements are fully utilized. Aim for taking them about two hours apart!
5. COPPER + ZINC
These two crucial nutrients are another pair that might compete for absorption when taken at the same time.
Zinc deficiency can lead to a number of health issues, including poor vision, and reduced immune health.
If you happen to be low in this nutrient, it’s important to remember that taking zinc supplements can potentially block copper absorption and increase copper deficiency.
6. CALCIUM + IRON
Like we've discussed, these are two prime examples of supplements that like to compete against each other. The truth of the matter is, they actually have quite an affinity for one another so they cling together and fight for the same receptors in our bodies.
If you're advised by your doctor to take both, just be sure to take them at least two hours apart so you can get the most bang for your buck.
7. FISH OIL + GINGKO BILOBA
Fish oil is a common supplement taken for stronger skin, hair, nails, and heart. Gingko Biloba is known to boost cognitive function and promote memory. Fish oil is far more popular, but some people may find themselves with a desire to take both.
Both supplements possess blood-thinning properties, so when taken together they can become harmful. The combination may lead to excess bleeding due to a lack of blood clotting.
8. VITAMIN E + VITAMIN K
Vitamin E is an important vitamin for vision, reproduction, and the health of your blood. That said, it is well known that vitamin E can lead to excessive bleeding in some people. Vitamin K, on the other hand, can be used to promote blood clotting. So, if you're taking both, you may be counteracting the desired effects.
9. VITAMIN C + B12
Vitamin C is packed with antioxidants and is best known for its ability to fight free radicals in the body that may cause oxidation. It's an essential nutrient for immune health.
Vitamin B-12 helps maintain your nervous system and plays an essential role in the formation of your red blood cells. When taken with together, it may reduce the amount of B-12 in your body. This is simply because large amounts of vitamin C can interfere with the absorption and metabolism of the B vitamin. Again, two hours apart is the rule of thumb here.
10. MELATONIN + ST. JOHN'S WORT
As stated earlier, melatonin mixed with other sedative supplements can be dangerous. St. John's Wort is one in particular.
Melatonin is used to help you get drowsy before bed. It is a common supplement taken for sleep aid. Unlike other sleep aids, it is completely natural and considered safe to take.
St. John's Wort has been used to help with feelings of depression and anxiety. It's an herbal remedy that has been used for centuries, however, some experts are finding that it interacts too dangerously with other supplements and medications.
St. John’s Wort has also been reported to enhance both the therapeutic and adverse effects of supplements with sedative properties when used simultaneously. Therefore, it's best to avoid this combination.
When in doubt, it's always best to consult with your healthcare provider when starting a new supplement regimen or adding new supplements to your existing routine. This is especially important for those with existing conditions or for anyone taking prescription medication.