The use of nutritional supplements has increased significantly over the last decade. But as more people take supplements, many are beginning to wonder if they’re taking them properly, absorbing them well, and getting the most out of them.
For women in particular, iron supplement use is fairly common. But how iron supplements are taken can have an impact on how much iron is actually absorbed. Follow these tips to get the most out of your iron supplement. Vitamin C can help improve the absorption of iron and is often recommended as a co-supplement when iron supplements are used. High fibre and tannins (such as those found in tea) are two of the food-based ingredients that may interfere with iron absorption. It’s best to avoid taking your iron with these. Calcium supplementation, particularly in doses of 500 mg or more, can decrease iron absorption from both food and supplements.
In addition to taking your calcium supplement separately from iron supplements, it should also be taken a couple of hours apart from several prescription medications. Calcium competes with many medications for absorption in the gut and can therefore affect the blood levels of these medicines and lower their effectiveness. Of particular concern are certain thyroid and antiseizure medications, antibiotics, and antacids that contain aluminum. If you’re taking any of these medications, and also taking calcium, space them two to four hours apart from one another.
When to take probiotics is one of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to taking these supplements. Part of the confusion is the variation in advice found on product labels, as well as the profusion of different types of probiotic products on the market. A few recent studies have provided some information that can help answer the question of when to take your probiotics, at least for specific strains. A study of Lactobacillus helveticus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Bifidobacterium longum, and Saccharomyces boulardii found that these species survived in higher numbers in the gastrointestinal tract when they were taken either with a meal or 30 minutes before a meal. The same study also found that fats may improve the survival of probiotics, so more of them reach the intestine. If you take a high enough dose of probiotics, the likelihood of a therapeutic dose getting to the intestine is pretty good. The point in offering probiotics a protective coating is to provide therapeutic effects at lower doses. A study of five probiotics, including both Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus species, was compared in traditional uncoated and microencapsulated forms. Although there was good evidence for survival of the probiotics in both cases, when people took the microencapsulated product, about five times the amount of probiotic bacteria survived the trip through their stomach and intestine.