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The Best Time of Day to take Supplements (and a few bonus facts!)

There is so much more that goes into health than simply popping pills. I never like to focus on supplements, because supplements are simply things to add alongside something else (hint, a healthy diet), in order to enhance it. In fact, in clinic they are the very last thing I prescribe with patients, often not getting to them for a few sessions because there is so much that can be done with diet alone. In any case, we must always ask ourselves why we need to supplement… Is our intake of food/nutrients not enough? Our absorption compromised? Do we have something else going on that is influencing this particular nutrient? And have we had pathology testing to confirm our deficiency or requirement for a top up?

There is actually quite a bit that needs to be considered when taking supplements for both safety and efficacy There is the form, the dosage, interactions with drugs, other supplements and food, and the time of day to yield optimal results. The form and dosage is very condition/symptom specific and should definitely be discussed with a qualified natural health profession. However the time of day, is something I can provide you with more general guidance on (of course, still checking in with your healthcare practitioner to ensure you aren’t on a specifically timed protocol). For the first year of practice, I was constantly having to refresh myself on these, amongst many things! As well as educate my patients. So I thought I would shed some light on some of the most common oral supplements, to ensure you get the most from those sometimes necessary little pills.

 

B Vitamins (including B12, B complex and multivitamins)

B vitamins are best taken in the morning, as they tend to provide energy. Whilst they’re well-absorbed on an empty stomach, you’ll likely need to take them with a meal due to potential nausea. Try them with breakfast and see how you go. Note, if you take a multi or prenatal with B’s in it, and are taking additional B’s, best to separate the dose i.e. one with breakfast, one with morning tea or lunch (before 12:30pm ideally), as B’s are water-soluble and only so much can be absorbed at once. If using a multivitamin for Bs, try to move your coffee or caffeinated tea away from supplementation (an hour before or two hours after), as caffeine can interfere with most minerals included in your multi.

 

Vitamin C

Vitamin C can really be taken at any time of day, or throughout the day. As it is also a water-soluble vitamin, splitting the doses here is quite important if supplementing a large amount (1,000 milligrams +). High doses all at once can definitely cause gastrointestinal symptoms. Try to take it away from B12 if possible, as it interferes with absorption. Whilst many people encourage you to take it with iron supplements for increased absorption of iron, be cautious if you suffer from inflammatory conditions e.g. gastrointestinal or autoimmune. Whilst it improves iron absorption, it also enhances the oxidative effects of iron (iron is a pro-oxitant, opposite of an antioxidant) which can be destructive in the presence of inflammation.

 

Iron

Iron is best taken on an empty stomach, preferable first thing in the morning. Fasting for over 24 hours decreases hepcidin three fold (key iron regulator), which naturally rises around 11am. It comes back down in the evening. The lower hepcidin, the better iron absorption. Therefore iron should never be taken in the middle of the day. The role of hepcidin is particularly important in women, as testosterone in men has a suppressive effect on natural hepcidin elevation! Some research shows that taking iron every other day further lowers hepcidin and thus iron uptake. Do not exceed 40mg at a time, as it won’t be absorbed (discuss with practitioner). 

If you notice stomach sensitivity/nausea when taking iron on an empty stomach, try it with a light breakfast or move it to the evening when hepcidin lowers again and there is a bit more food in your belly. Avoid coffee, dairy and calcium supplementation an hour before and 2 hours after supplementation.

As mentioned above, whilst vitamin C is helpful to increase iron absorption, it can also increase toxicity in cases where inflammation is rampant. Therefore these types of considerations need to be made by a professional who knows your full case and is up-to-date with the research.

 

Zinc

Research shows that zinc is best taken on an empty stomach, but I am yet to meet anyone who can tolerate it (nausea). Therefore, I recommend taking it at the end of the day, perhaps before bed. This way it is away from food (2 hours or so) but your stomach is well-lined. See how you go and adjust accordingly. Ensure you take away from iron and calcium supplementation.

 

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin and is therefore best taken with a meal that contains healthy fats. This is also why for natural vitamin D from the sun, it is best to expose our “fatty bits” (bum, chest, belly), where uptake is better. Avoid supplementing at night as it may disrupt the body’s production of melatonin which interferes with sleep. Try it before 4pm, with a handful of nuts as a snack or alongside your lunch salad if it has avocado, olives, seeds or olive oil. Note, many vitamin D’s are made from lanolin (sheep-sweat-derived) so source a vegan spray (usually mushroom-derived, sounds better right?!).

 

Magnesium

Our nighttime mineral! Magnesium promotes calmness, sound sleep and recovery. I recommend taking it about 30 mins prior to bedtime. Take away from calcium supplementation. If taking very high doses, you might split it up for maximum absorption and to avoid loose bowel movements (you’ll know if you’ve taken too much!). In this case, taking a serving morning and again at night, so long as it doesn’t make you feel drowsy during the day (can change the form perhaps for morning dose if this is the case. Again, you will need to discuss with your healthcare professional).

 

Probiotics

It depends on the probiotic, but for the most part, much of the evidence suggests probiotics be taken WITH food. This is very controversial, as we once thought probiotics needed to be taken away from food. Research now shows improved probiotic bacterial survival when taken with a decent-sized meal (especially including starch), due to favourable changes in stomach acidity in the presence of food, as well as the availability of food for the bacteria to feed on. Think about it logically, all wild animals eating food from the earth, are naturally consuming bacteria simultaneously (from the dirt, where we used to get it from before cleanliness became a priority). Throughout time, primates have eaten probiotics with their meals! Take them with any main meal.

 

Psyllium husk

An excellent fibre source and constipation-remedy/preventative, psyllium is ideally taken two hours after a meal with a full glass of water. High-dose fibre may inhibit your body’s absorption of fat and specific minerals, therefore it is best taken away from food and supplementation. The water is very important for effectiveness.

 

DIY: KOMBUCHA

Hi guys!

I thought I would share with you how I make my Kombucha at home. I’m always snap-chatting it away as I brew a new batch (showing you my many SCOBY’s), and have received a few questions regarding my process. What’s interesting about my DIY Buch is that I actually grew my SCOBY myself 🙂 But let’s backtrack for a min, because I am sure some of you are looking at me through the screen like “SCOBY?” “KOMBUCHA?!”…. so first things first….

Kombucha is made from sweetened fermented tea and has a well-known and impressive list of health benefits. Most of these are centered around it’s probiotic effect on gut health. Probiotics (meaning “for life”) promote the growth of friendly bacteria in your gut, critical for good digestion, nutrient absorption, disease prevention and even mood stability. You can take actual probiotic capsules daily, however it is also of benefit to consume probiotic-rich foods. These are generally fermented e.g. kombucha, kefir, saurkraut, kim chi, miso etc.

Ok, so now let’s clear up some misconceptions about Kombucha that might have people red-flagging it:

THE SUGAR:

If you have followed me for a while now, you know that I’m virtually sugar-free, particularly I avoid refined sugar. However the sugar that kombucha calls for is actually consumed by the SCOBY during fermentation. Yes… it needs food too! Unfortunately, there is no sugar-free way around this, so save your stevia/xylitol for baking and just accept that you are not actually consuming 1 cup of pure sugar! I have found that raw sugar tastes the best, but white, brown, cane and apparently coconut sugar also work. The taste will vary.

THE CAFFEINE:

You do need to use a tea that contains some caffeine, hence why herbal teas won’t work. But don’t worry, as with the sugar, the caffeine is, for the most part, transformed during the fermentation process.

THE SCOBY: (look at the tea-toweled covered jar in my pic- See that thing floating toward the middle? There it is!)

I get it, a “Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast” sounds and looks less than desirable, but you need to understand that this is where all the goodness comes from. I’m not asking you to slice it all up and toss it in a salad, which some people do by the way, but just know that it serves a purpose and don’t let it scare you off the good stuff. The SCOBY also multiplies pretty much every time you brew a new batch! So you will have a clean new one each week or so, and you can either let it layer upon layer, or throw out a few of the old ones as you go.

THE ALCOHOL:

Kombucha does contain a little alcohol, due to the fermentation process, it is uslaly less than 1%.

THE FIZZ:

During fermentation, kombucha becomes naturally carbonated, giving it a little fizz. You can take this a step further with a second ferment, which I explain below. Note, it is unlikely going to taste as fizzy as the store-bought varieties, as some of them actually do carbonate their bottles of ‘buch.

THE FLOATIES:

It’s OK to consume the “floaties” in your brew!! These are little bits of the SCOBY floating around, offering you the healthful benefits that comes with Kombucha. I admit, big ones are a bit of a shock, but for the most part, you don’t even notice the little guys 🙂

 

I first fell in love with Kombucha in the USA, where they had a fabulous, low-sugar brand called GT’ Kombucha. It proved really hard for me to find a brand I liked back home in Australia, which motivated me to start researching how to DIY it.

I first tried using the SCOBY from a friend, which was a baby one from the original SCOBY she received from another friend. You see, SCOBY’s are either passed down between kombucha lovers, or sold online (BUT! I have a better way, see below). Anyway, that first batch wasn’t my cup of tea 😉 so I almost gave up. When I finally found a brand in Sydney that I liked (Tonicka, for all you Sydney-siders wondering), I decided to try to grow my own from it. Let me explain how!

What you’ll need:

Step 1 – Create the SCOBY

Tools & Ingredients:

  • 1 cup store-bought ORIGINAL Kombucha (best if organic, best if you have tried it and liked the taste, and will not work if flavoured);
  • 1 medium jar
  • 1 tea towel
  • 1 elastic band

Method:

Simply consume the kombucha, leaving just 1 cup liquid. Place that cup of liquid into a jar, cover it with a tea towel and secure with elastic band, and leave in a shaded part of your kitchen for approximately one month.

By the one month mark, the “floaties” all band together, feed off the kombucha and form a unified thin “film” at the top of the jar. This is your SCOBY!

Step 2 – Brew

Tools & Ingredients:

  • Your SCOBY
  • Kettle
  • 1 LARGE bowl
  • 1 LARGE jar (3-4L)
  • Plastic (not metal) tongs, the SCOBY doesn’t like metal
  • Tea towel
  • Elastic band
  • 8 organic tea bags – I prefer Green Tea
  • 1 cup organic sugar – I prefer raw sugar
  • 1 cup store-bought ORIGINAL Kombucha 

Method:

Boil the kettle with around 3-3.5L of water, depending on how much your kettle holds. I do two batches of 1.7L, making the total 3.4L.

Place the sugar and tea bags in your large bowl.

Pour boiling water over the tea and sugar and allow the bowl to stand overnight or for at least several hours, until cooled to room temperature.

Remove tea bags.

Pour sweetened tea into your large jar.

Use tongs to place your newly formed SCOBY into the jar, and 1 cup of store-bought kombucha.

Cover with a tea towel, secure with an elastic band, and let it sit on you kitchen bench out of direct sunlight for 7-10 days (I taste-test to determine this length, for me I like the 8-9 day mark).

Step 3 – Second ferment:

Tools & Ingredients:

  • Plastic (not metal) tongs, the SCOBY doesn’t like metal
  • 3 Glass “milk” bottles
  • Funnel
  • Flavour additions – lemon, ginger, turmeric, berries, mint

Method:

Remove the SCOBY with the plastic tongs and place it into a ceramic bowl (note, NO metal).

Place the funnel into one of the milk bottles, and pour the brew into the milk bottle until about 3/4 full. Seal with the milk bottle lid, and set aside.

Repeat process until almost all the brew is gone and your bottles are ¾ full each. Note, leave at least 1 cup of brew for your next batch.

This is the step you could add some flavour, and then strain/remove the flavours before putting in the fridge.

Repeat Step 2 and brew a second batch with 1 cup from previous batch, tea and sugar, allowing to cool before transferring to the SCOBY jar, where it ferments for the next week etc. etc.

Keep your milk bottles on the kitchen batch for a further 2-3 days for the second ferment.

Place in the fridge when ready, and consume as you like.

I hope this was helpful and it has inspired you to make your own buch! If your SCOBY starts to look a little funky, it might mean the environment around it has changed. Bare in mind that changes can often be fine, so I would just google it and see if someone has experienced a similar situation. Also, if you are new, I would start slow- no need to go drinking a full bottle daily! I like to have it in my fridge regularly for a sweet alternative to soda and a refreshing alternative to tea. I have a few sips here and there, and go through phases of having 1 cup every other day.

Brew & enjoy!

Sami xx

 

 

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