Timing Your Dietary Supplement is Important for Your Other Medications

Clock and Pill Bottle, concept for Healthcare And Medicine
Dietary supplements are common in medicine cabinets and daily health regimes.

But has anyone ever told you that calcium supplements, zinc, and magnesium interfere with the absorption of some pretty important medicines that you may take to treat ailments that include seizures, reflux, and even infections?

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, up to 60% of U.S. adults with chronic disease regularly use dietary supplements with at least 25% of patients taking prescription medications using a dietary supplement “concurrently” or at the same time.

These dietary supplements range from the mineral calcium for the common goal of bone and joint health, and magnesium to assist with gut health and muscle function, to melatonin used to assist with sleep, and zinc to boost one’s immune system–just to name a few. The widespread use of dietary supplements, such as these and many more herbal and alternative options, generate a $165.71 industry, which speaks to the extremely widespread use of these over-the-counter compounds.

So, how do these interfere with the absorption of other medications and why should I time these separately from certain prescriptions?

Medications, supplements, vitamins, and herbal compounds are absorbed into the bloodstream after being ingested and broken down. When taken with medications, there may be competition for cellular sites for absorption–a change in the actual metabolism of the prescription due to a change in the stomach’s acidity or alkalinity–for example, or even the interference with excretion of medications.

When this competition for absorption sites at the cellular level occurs or a change in the absorption, the Federal Drug Administration warns, this may “affect the potency of your medication, which means you may get either too much or too little of the medication you need.”

The FDA notes, for example, “drugs for HIV/AIDS, heart disease, depression, treatments for organ transplants, and birth control pills are less effective when taken with St. John’s wort, an herbal supplement” used to treat depression and mood. Another cited example by the FDA is the action of four different compounds which slow blood clotting, hence, cause bleeding. Warfarin, ginkgo biloba, aspirin, and vitamin E all impact the viscosity of the blood and clotting time. Only one of these four is a prescription medication, yet all may be in one’s possession in the belief of a health benefit.

For women and seniors, calcium is a very common mineral supplement as we age for the purpose of bone strength and health. The Mayo Clinic recommends taking your calcium supplement with meals to facilitate metabolism and absorption but to time that at least one hour after other medications such as blood pressure medications, calcium channel blockers used in heart ailments, antibiotics, certain hormones, as well as seizure medications, and other prescription drugs for osteoporosis or bone loss. The lesson is simply that if it’s over the counter or listed as “natural” or a dietary supplement, there is still pharmacokinetic activity or actions that need to be considered for your best health. Live healthy!