Where’s much confusion about when to take herbal supplements, vitamins and medications. Do you take them on an empty stomach or with food?
No matter what you take, you should be drinking a full glass of water to make sure the pill doesn’t linger in your esophagus and cause irritation.
When a dietary supplement, enzyme or medication states the directive to “take with food,” it usually means to take while you’re eating or a few minutes beforehand. But since you have food in your gastrointestinal tract for a little while, it would be fine to take the item right after you eat.
Multivitamins: There are so many constituents in these supplements that it’s best to take them with food to minimize stomach upset and nausea.
Fish oil: Some people take fish oil to help with cholesterol, triglycerides, depression and/or joint health. Taking fish oil supplements (EPA, DHA or both) with food or fatty meals is ideal because it boosts the absorption.
Vitamin D: You can take this without regard to meals, according to the newest research. However most of the older scientific literature says to take it with food since it’s a fat-soluble vitamin.
CoQ10: Some people take this powerful antioxidant to support heart, pancreas, liver and/or brain health. CoQ10 (ubiquinone) should be taken with food — or a fatty meal — to speed absorption.
Selenium: Typically taken for thyroid, bone, prostate and/or immune support, this element should be ingested with food.
Magnesium: Some people take this supplement for depression, regularity, reduction of leg cramps and/or blood pressure support. Taking minerals like this one with a snack can minimize diarrhea and stomach discomfort.
Ashwagandha: This popular adaptogen should be thought of a little bit like food because it’s an herb. All herbs should be taken with a snack or a meal to amplify the benefits and reduce nausea.
Antacids: These help with heartburn or reflux. They should always be taken with food so they can neutralize the acid that’s secreted while you’re eating.
Amoxicillin: This popular antibiotic, often prescribed for children, should be given to toddlers and teens with food to help reduce indigestion, nausea and vomiting.
Corticosteroids: These are used for pain, allergic reactions, rashes and overactive immune systems and should always be taken with food or milk. Some examples include prednisone, hydrocortisone and dexamethasone.
Aspirin and ibuprofen: Take these pain relievers with food when possible to prevent upset stomach.
Metformin: Taken for diabetes, this medication is best taken around meal time to reduce blood sugar levels after eating.
Enzyme supplements/medications: Some people can’t digest food normally, so they take enzyme supplements, which break down the starch, fat and protein in a meal. Take these with meals. If a medication such as Creon is required to restore pancreatic function, it also must be taken with meals.
Suzy Cohen has been a licensed pharmacist for more than 25 years. Send questions to [email protected].