Should I Take Supplements on an Empty Stomach?

Q: I have always been puzzled about when to take supplements -- on an empty stomach, or a full stomach? Should I do what my system tolerates best, or is there some rule of thumb depending on what I'm taking?

Dr. Wright: The most important part of taking supplements is absorption. Anything that is not properly absorbed into your system is ultimately of no use to you.

It is generally considered best to take vitamins with a meal since the digestive juices you produce at mealtime enable you to absorb the maximum amount of the nutrient. Fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, D, E, and K require either animal or vegetable fat to be present in the stomach to be optimally absorbed. It is also a good practice to space your vitamins and supplements throughout the day, especially those that are water-soluble, such as the B-complex and vitamin C. If you are taking 3,000 milligrams a day of vitamin C, for example, you should take 1,000 at each of your three meals that day.

A few things to take note of: if you are taking both mineral supplements and a fiber supplement, consider taking them at different times of the day. The fiber makes it difficult for the minerals to be absorbed. Taking too much zinc at once can cause stomach cramps, so you might want to split your dose up, depending on how much you take. And if you are taking any essential fatty acid supplements, you should take your vitamin E at the same time.

Herbal remedies and probiotics, on the other hand, usually require an empty stomach for maximum effectiveness. This means 20-30 minutes before meals, or two hours after.

Of course, no one wants to spend all of their time worrying about when to take their supplements. Perhaps the best strategy is to consult your nutritionally oriented physician, or a compounding pharmacist about the particular mixture of supplements you take and get his or her help planning out your day according to your specific combination. Then stick with the same routine every day.

After all, the best plan is one that you can easily follow consistently.

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About the author


Jonathan V. Wright, M.D. has degrees from both Harvard University (cum laude) and the University of Michigan. More than any other doctor, he practically invented the modern science of applied nutritional biochemistry and he has advanced nutritional medicine for nearly three decades.

As of today, Dr. Wright has received over 35,000 patient visits at his now-famous Tahoma Clinic in Washington State.

To learn more about Dr. Wright, and to sign up for his free Health e-Tips eLetter, please visit


Anonymous's picture


I usually take them with a glass of milk, and that staves off the nasuea.

Anonymous's picture


Hello Dr. Wright, I would like to share that I am a 46 yr.old female and I started with severe eczema three yrs. ago. I was 70% covered with it. Against my better judgement I used topical prescription strength hydrocoritisone cream and prescription steriods at seperate times when my skin was weeping to the point my clothes were wet and or sticking to my skin and the itching interfered with sleeping and daily activities. I might add that I'm not wimpy when it comes to some types of pain as I've birthed eleven times with zero meds. and no pain reliever for after pains or sore nipples from nursing ect... The exciting thing I'd like to share if it could benefit others is that after much searching I found out about the systemic enzyme therapy and am now using my second bottle of them and already the itching is almost gone . I wish you could have seen the huge places on my lower legs that are/were the size of the palm of my hand. They would not heal for anthing! At present they are 50% better maybe 75%. Just a short while ago I would almost cry at the end of the day from the raw places which would burn burn and otherwise hurt. My legs and ankles would remain swollen also. That was odd for me as they don't swell during pegnancy. An additional note here is that I have extremely severe varicose veins. So of course that hasn't helped the eczema condition. One other symptom I have had more of since the eczema, is pea sized knots up and down my legs on my shins in particular. Those appear to be clearing up. Lastly I started using digestive enzymes with most of my meals. I hope to get a copy of your book. I just heard about it at the health food store today. Wishing you much success with your work ! P.S. I'm using Wobenzym N between meals 3 tablets, maybe once or twice a day sometimes once at night. I'm using a complete digestive enzyme. Digest More Plus I think it's called.

Anonymous's picture


aha! The real answer is: for digestion use it "during" or right after eating. You can open the cap and sprinkle it on. On an empty stomach it will instead enter the bloodstream. Which is not bad either since it will make processes there too like cleaning the blood! So you should take them both on an empty stomach and during eating. ; )

Anonymous's picture


Should I take amino acid Hgh releaser on empty stomach or full stomach?

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