Take them with foodUndrey/shutterstock
There are some secrets vitamin manufacturers don’t want you to know, but it’s no secret that you should always take your vitamins at mealtimes. “When you consume foods, it initiates a cascade of digestive processes that help absorb the nutrients from food, and this will also optimize the absorption of the vitamins and minerals,” explains Douglas “Duffy” MacKay, ND, senior vice president and scientific and regulatory affairs for the Council for Responsible Nutrition in Washington, DC. There’s another reason too. “Taking vitamins and minerals with food helps to prevent nausea which some people may experience from supplements.” Of course, there are exceptions to every rule—and in this case, it’s iron. Take it in the AM on an empty stomach for better absorption, advises Los Angeles sleep expert Michael J. Breus, PhD., author of several books on sleep and optimum scheduling, including The Power of When.
Learn how they work with your other medsDavidSmart/shutterstock
Of all the vitamin mistakes you may not realize you’re making, perhaps the most problematic is ignoring other pills you may be taking, because as MacKay warns, vitamins and minerals can interact with prescription and over-the-counter meds. In some cases, this will make one or the other less effective and in other cases, it could amplify their effects and put you at risk for an overdose. For example, calcium may interfere with the absorption of a commonly prescribed thyroid medication, and many women take both. “They compete for absorption in the blood stream and should be taken a few hours apart,” MacKay says. In some cases, supplements may help drugs work better, he says. Cholesterol-lowering statins may cause fewer muscle and joint aches if taken with supplements of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). CoQ10 plays a role in muscle cell energy production, which is why supplementing may reduce these statin side effects. CoQ10 has other benefits as well. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for guidance if you take medication and vitamins or minerals. And while you are at it, here are other super-important questions to ask before taking prescription meds.