Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Wisdom Wednesday: When to take Your Supplements

Supplements are just that, a supplement to the diet. To be utilized properly, their consumption must be coordinated with food. With herbal preparations, the time of day is often the key to creating the benefit desired.

I use a supplement schedule sheet in the office with headings for: upon awakening, breakfast, 10 AM, lunch, 3 PM, dinner, at bedtime. Despite these headings, patients frequently ask “when to I take these?” So here are some general guidelines.

Fats should be taken with meals and the meal should contain some fat as well. This includes fish oil, flax seed oil, black current seed oil, lecithin, Co Q10, and PS. Fats do not enter the blood stream through the digestive tract like other foods. Instead, they are absorbed into the lymphatic system or GALT (gut associated lymphatic tissue) then dumped into general circulation near the heart. This provides the heart with plenty of fat for fuel. However, if fatty supplements are taken without other fats, absorption is dramatically diminished.

Studies on the fatty herb Boswellia show the blood values are 500% higher when taken with other fats. This increased absorption is required for a therapeutic effect. When I first used Boswellia in my practice I saw no obvious benefit until I learned to recommend it with other fats. Today it is one of the most common anti-inflammatory products I utilize.

Most supplements should be taken with meals. This includes whole food supplements and many fractionalized supplements as well. The small multiple dosing keeps the blood values high in the same way that small frequent meals keep the macronutrients available. If in doubt, take the supplement with meals.

Probiotics should be taken immediately after meals, despite what the directions on the bottle may say. The harsh acidic environment of the stomach will kill most probiotics. However, when food is present, the pH of the stomach rises and the probiotic can ride the food bolus down through the digestive tract to the colon to propagate.

Chaste tree must be taken early in the day as it requires sunlight to stimulate melatonin production. I advise first thing in the morning, but any time prior to 10 AM should work.

If you are using proteolytic enzymes to reduce inflammation, they must be taken between meals on an empty stomach. Otherwise, they just work to break down the protein from the meal.

Calcium, or any combination of calcium and other minerals is best taken at bedtime. The calcium is a good sleep aid and it is better absorbed while sleeping. Magnesium absorption is dependent of the presence of calcium. I generally recommend that patients take 75% of their calcium supplement at bed time and the remainder in the morning. I have seen bone density studies improve markedly in older women when we did nothing more than change the time they were taking their calcium supplement.

Homeopathic supplements must be taken at least 15 minutes before or after a meal. They should be placed under the tongue for direct assimilation into the blood stream. Typically, they are recommended three times per day. Arnica, used for acute injuries should be taken as soon as possible after any injury.

I prefer to give any adrenal support first thing in the morning and again in the afternoon, about an hour prior to that afternoon slump so many patients with adrenal fatigue experience. Taking it later in the day can disrupt sleep patterns.

Just the reverse is true when treating blood sugar issues with Gymnema. Taking this herb at bedtime will help maintain proper glucose levels while sleeping. This keeps the cortisol from rising to quickly and disrupting sleep. Of course the dosage is higher for diabetics, but it works equally as well for hypoglycemia.

The Bottom Line:
Please take your supplements wisely. Taking the right supplement at the right time makes all the difference in the therapeutic benefit. Remember, supplements are an addition to a good diet, not a substitution.

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