Updated: Apr 28
You may have heard it said that taking supplements just makes expensive urine…. that those nutrients haven’t been absorbed. But think about it: they must have been absorbed by your digestion or they couldn’t have passed through your kidneys into your urine! In other words, you may have taken in a little more than your body needed at that time, and some excess may have spilled out, but your body has absorbed that goodness and used as much as it needed at the time.
Tips to make supplements easier to swallow
Drops may be difficult to count when dripping directly into your mouth. Instead, drop them onto a clean spoon, especially when it is important to get just the right amount, as for Vitamin D.
Tablets taken with water are easier to swallow when you tip your head back. This way they fall or are flipped to the back of the throat, ready to descend.
Capsules, on the other hand, go down more easily if you tilt your chin down on swallowing. This is because capsules are light and float to the top of the water, which places them closer to the back of the throat when your head is tipped forward as you swallow.
Chewables may be the easiest option for people who cannot swallow pills. Do be aware that, to make them taste good, manufacturers add sweeteners and flavourings, as well as other chemicals to hold them together into a tablet or lozenge form. Gummies often are very low in active ingredients but high in sugars and other added chemicals that aren’t the best for you. The quality of such supplements does vary considerably, so check the label: not just for the vitamins and minerals, but for the other added ingredients as well.
Always brush your teeth after taking any chewable or gummy supplement.
Liquids and powders are preferable to a chewables for those who cannot swallow pills or capsules. Powders are made to mix into water, a smoothie, apple sauce or other food. However not all nutrients are available in these forms. Since liquids and powders often have added sugars, swish the mouth with plain water after taking them, to get rid of the sugary remnants.
Vitamin C in chewable form can be particularly hard on the teeth. Vitamin C is an acid, and acids erode things, including teeth. To compensate for the sharp taste of the acid, sugar is usually added, and that’s not good for the teeth either: a double-whammy!
Vitamin D needs sunlight for us to make it ourselves, so those of us who live far from the equator need to supplement more in winter than summer. Because it is fat soluble, the body stores it, so it is just as important not to take too much as it is to take enough.
B Complex is a mixture of many B vitamins, and is often recommended because the various B vitamins all work in concert. Most people will notice bright neon yellow urine for a few hours after taking B vitamins. This is perfectly normal, due to the riboflavin (B2) content, which has a natural brilliant yellow colour.
Vitamin B12 has a very complicated path to be absorbed. First, it needs to be hooked to a carrier molecule made in the stomach, called intrinsic factor. Problems in the stomach, including low stomach acid or the use of acid blocker medications, can interfere with this mechanism. Secondly, B12 needs to be carried to a specific part of the small intestine for absorption, which will be impaired if this area of the gut is inflamed.
Fortunately there is a big blood vessel under our tongues that allows us to absorb B12 sublingually. B12 can also be given by injection to bypass the gut completely. These may be better options for people with low B12.
Multi vitamin-mineral supplements, whether in pills, capsules or powder, usually contain a long list of ingredients. In a “multi” you are getting a little bit of many nutrients. This spectrum of support, for a wide range of your body’s systems, will help you keep your nutritional bases covered each day. However, there won’t be enough of any one single nutrient to be a healing amount for any condition, but that also means that there won’t be enough to trigger any problems by creating imbalance or excess of any one ingredient.
When is the best time to take vitamins and minerals?
Mother nature intended us to get vitamins and minerals from our food, so the body is designed to absorb nutrients when we eat. This is when digestive enzymes are active, so capsules and tablets will break down and the nutrients will be readily absorbed.
We recommend spreading out your daily supplements during multiple meals. For example, if you are taking two pills of vitamin C daily, you will actually absorb more of the total dose if you take those pills at breakfast and dinner, rather than two at once.
Despite a great diet, good sleep and exercise, we notice a difference if we don’t support our bodies with supplementation, especially through hectic or stressful times! There’s usually a lag between starting supplementation and realising you are consistently feeling and performing better. It takes a little time for the nutrients to replenish your tissues. This is good news, because missing a day or two is no problem, and you don’t need to take your supplements on holiday with you: you are bringing them along in the stores in your tissues! No extra baggage allowance required!!