Your Complete Guide To Maximising Supplement Absorption

How to make the most of your supplements according to a naturopath and nutritionist.

Image of supplements coming out of a tub.
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Supplements are all the rage these days. As we learn more and more about the dangers of antibiotic resistance, society is moving more towards supplementing with different herbs, vitamins, and blends in order to remedy a diverse range of health complaints. But, as with most things—all supplements are not created equal.

According to Jess Blair, naturopath, and nutritionist, the biggest supplement trends at the moment focus on increasing energy levels, boosting immunity and enhancing sleep. If this sounds like you, and you’re either taking or thinking about taking some supplements, you’ll want to be sure that you’re getting the most bang for your buck. We also spoke with Jess about how to maximise supplement absorption, and factors that can impact their effectiveness. Here’s what we learned:

Gut health is key

Ugh, we know. We’re a stuck record. Gut health this, gut health that—but we promise it’s for good reason. Jess explains that making sure you have good gut health is paramount in making sure your nutrients from foods and supplements are absorbed properly. By limiting processed food, eating a wholefoods diet that focuses on nutrient-dense meals and taking a quality probiotic, you are giving yourself the best chance of your supplements, vitamins and minerals being absorbed optimally.

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Taking certain supplements with other particular foods or supplements can also enhance their absorption. For example, taking an iron supplement with some vitamin C helps you reap maximum benefits, and likewise with vitamin D and calcium. Consuming them in powder or liquid form also work better for some people—although desirability of taste cannot be guaranteed!

What to look out for when buying supplements

Working with a functional medicine doctor or naturopath is a sure-fire way to ensure access to quality supplements; as many of the best brands are available only to practitioners. Jess’ advice is simply to go with a brand that you trust, and to remember that just because it has a number of different vitamins and minerals in one, it doesn’t make it the better option. As with most things, you get what you pay for—so if the price seems too good to be true, it more than likely is!

Absorption blockers

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news here, but there are a wealth of factors that can influence a supplement’s effectiveness; including poor gut health, inflammatory foods and also (we’re really sorry for this one), your coffee intake.

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Absorption of magnesium, B vitamins, iron, zinc and vitamin D have all been shown to decrease when taken around the same time that caffeine is consumed—which could mean it’s time to cut down on (or eliminate) your daily coffee habit.

Stress has also been shown to suppress the immune system and the body’s absorption of nutrients. When stressed, your fight or flight response is turned on, your adrenals are turned up and your digestion is halted; which dramatically compromises how your supplements get absorbed.

Supplement combining

If you’re suffering from compromised health, it’s unlikely that you’ll be taking just one supplement in order to treat the issue. Be aware that supplements can compete for absorption in your system, which—as mentioned, will depend on what you’re eating, drinking and what other medication you’re taking.

Working with a professional will ensure that your supps aren’t negatively interacting with each other, and you’ll be able to get advice on when the best time to take it is alongside the rest of your regimen.

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