How do you figure out when to take all your different supplements – especially when some of them need to be consumed on an empty stomach? And what do you do if some of your supplements are not compatible with each other? Read on for some guidelines, tips, and a real-life example.
Here are some tips to help you figure out your supplement schedule:
- Take the supplements that are absorbed the fastest, first.
- If a substance does not specify that it needs to be consumed on an empty stomach, then it’s probably okay to take it together with other substances.
- If a herb is recommended to be taken on an empty stomach, is it because the empty stomach is a pre-requisite for adequate absorption – because food interferes with its absorption? Or, is it because it’s a substance that needs to have a clear surface to apply it’s healing properties? Supplements like slippery elm, aloe vera juice, and marshmallow root fit into the latter category and therefore can easily be taken together – since they’re all trying to accomplish the same thing.
- When a supplement says “take on an empty stomach”, that means 20 minutes before food, or 2 hours after food.
Now that you know the basic guidelines, sometimes you still need to experiment a bit to find the best schedule to achieve maximum potency and effectiveness from your supplements. Let’s take a look at an example, so you can see how this plays out in real life.
Supplements for Colitis
Krista suffers from colitis, so she needs to take the following products to repopulate her gut with good bacteria, relieve gas, bloating and diarrhea, eliminate heartburn, and heal the mucosal lining of her intestines:
- Probiotics (beneficial bacteria for the GI tract – empty stomach for the powders – 3x/day)
- Psyllium husk powder (for diarrhea control 2x/day)
- Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice (DGL) – before or after a meal for heartburn relief
- L-Glutamine (empty stomach for diarrhea control – 3x/day)
- N-Acetyl Glucosamine (NAG) – empty stomach for intestinal repair – 3x/day
- Slippery Elm (empty stomach for healing mucosal lining of intestines 3x/day)
- Aloe vera juice (empty stomach for healing intestinal mucosal lining)
- Multimineral & Multivitamin (3x/day for whole-body health and replace nutrients lost through malabsorption and fecal loss)
Krista’s problem is that she doesn’t know which ones she can take together, how far apart they need to be taken from each other, or how to fit them all in around mealtimes. Since she’s taking a lot of supplements – and many of them three times a day – you can easily see why she’s so confused.
She’s especially confused since the probiotics state on the bottle that any herbs should be taken at least 2 hours apart from the probiotics – since many herbs have antibacterial action and thus will kill the good bacteria in the probiotics.
Experimenting With Your Supplement Schedule
First of all, Krista needs to keep in mind that even our food can contain natural antibacterials (like garlic, onions, etc.) and Natren has had to set a time limit that applies to a wide variety of substances at all strengths/potencies. For example, if you’re taking Wild Oregano Oil or Olive Leaf extract, then you definitely cannot consume the probiotics sooner than 2 hours, as you’d be wasting your money. However, other supplements (and foods) are far less potent against bacteria. Therefore, she may be okay to implement one of the following supplement schedules.
The main difference between the two schedules below is whether she wants to take her probiotics before every meal, or whether she would like to take just one large dose before bed. This is where the experimentation comes in. Her body will definitely prefer, and do better on, one or the other. She will have to test each of them for a week at a time and see which schedule benefits her body the most.
Before a meal:
- take the Probiotics in powder form
- wait 20 minutes, then take the NAG, L-Glutamine, Slippery elm and Psyllium (these supplements can be taken together because, although they all require an empty stomach, they are compatible with each other), then eat, and take the Multivitamin/Multimineral with your food
- after the meal take the DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice)
- take the Probiotics in powder form
- wait 20 minutes, then take the Aloe vera juice
Before each meal:
- take the NAG, L-Glutamine, Aloe vera juice, Slippery elm and Psyllium (these supplements can be taken together because, although they all require an empty stomach, they are compatible with each other)
- wait 15 minutes, then eat, and take the Multivitamin/Multimineral with your food
- after the meal take the DGL (or in this case, you can also take it before the meal, if you prefer, since you’re not consuming the probiotics at this time)
- Take 1 – 2 teaspoons of each Probiotic powder
Krista will need to experiment with both schedules and see which one gives her better results. The probiotics may work better for her in multiple doses and may not be affected much by the other substances, or, they may work better taken on their own in a large dose. Again, the only way to find out is to test and experiment.
The reason people need to experiment with their supplements is because everyone’s body and condition (or pathology) are different. Some people are highly sensitive and responsive to certain herbal medicines and not to others. And some people need aggressive supplementation no matter which herb it is, whilst others are highly sensitive to all supplements.
When you’re dealing with a supplement like high-potency probiotics, for example, some people’s bodies respond most favorably when they’re taken in powder form on an empty stomach. And other bodies prefer controlled-release capsule probiotics taken with food. Again, the only way to find out is to experiment.
You’ll also get a ‘gut feeling’ as to which supplements you should take and when. Our own body wisdom trumps any manufacturer’s instruction sheet, so definitely follow your intuition first. If you’re skilled at listening to your gut, or following your intuition, you can ask your body directly when and how it wants the supplement. Either place your hand over your gut, whilst holding the herb in your other hand, and ask. Or, place the palm of your hand above the herb and wait for guidance. This is how some medicine women/men receive plant wisdom. They simply hold their hand above the plant and the knowledge flows into them about how to prepare the plant, which parts to use and how to take it.
If you’re not quite at that level of fluency with your body wisdom, then in the meantime, follow the supplement scheduling tips above, combine it with your own intuition, and experiment.