Situation: You’ve upped the amount of supplements you take over the years – and you’ve forgotten why you take each one.
You Think: No big deal. It’s hard to get too much of a good thing, right?
The Truth: Wrong. The problem with this approach: You can end up ingesting duplicates since pills often contain more than one vitamin or nutrient – and more isn’t necessarily better and can even be harmful. Taking too much of one nutrient can cause a deficiency of another, explains Dopart. For example, if you’re taking too much iron, you may be heading for a zinc deficiency since both minerals have similar binding sites in the body, according to Dopart. Talking to a dietitian or nutrition counselor in addition to your health-care provider can help you sort through potential dangers and pare down your supplements to the ones you actually need.
Situation: The only time you remember to take your vitamins is at night, right before you go to bed.
You Think: Timing doesn’t really matter, as long as I get them into my system at some point in the day.
The Truth: You might be lessening their effects by taking supplements without food. “Almost all supplements should be taken with food for optimal absorption because nutrients work in conjunction with each other,” says Blum. “What’s more, if you are taking any fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E or K, then you'll need to have some fat with the meal to enhance their absorption.” This is another reason why you should steer clear of fat-free diets since you don't absorb fat-soluble vitamins without some fat in your meals, notes Blum. Another reason to pair your supplements with a meal: “They’re less likely to cause stomach upset,” says Dr. Low Dog.
Situation: You’re on prescription medications and plan to start taking some supplements.
You Think: Vitamins and supplements are generally safe so there’s no need to talk to my doctor about it.
The Truth: Actually, a number of supplements can interact with both prescription and over-the-counter medications. For example, fish oil has the ability to thin your blood, so if you're taking a blood thinner such as coumadin or an aspirin regimen, you may want to avoid taking another product that will have the same effect, explains Bestervelt. Be sure to chat with your physician before you start taking a supplement – however harmless it may seem – to make sure it doesn’t interact with any of your medications.
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