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What Happens to Your Body If You Take Vitamins on an Empty Stomach

These are the side effects to expect, dietitians say.

Most healthy adults can get all the vitamins and minerals they need through a nutritious diet, meaning it may not be necessary to take vitamin supplements to meet your body's needs. However, that doesn't stop half of the U.S. population—and 70 percent of American seniors—from taking vitamins regularly, whether to combat known vitamin deficiencies or to ensure they're hitting their quotas. If you take vitamin supplements, you may be wondering how the particulars of your regimen could affect their efficacy and side effects. In particular, many people are unsure of whether it's OK to take vitamins on an empty stomach.

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Christa Brown, MS, RDN, LD, a diabetes dietitian in New Jersey, says that you're unlikely to cause any lasting damage by doing so. "There really is no harm in taking vitamins on an empty stomach," she tells Best Life.

However, there are some exceptions to the rule. Certain vitamin types—in particular, fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins A, D, E, and K—"can be particularly harsh on an empty stomach and may lead to gastrointestinal issues," the dietitian says. "It's generally recommended to take those types of vitamins with food to help mitigate these potential side effects and improve absorption."

Brown says that some people who take these types of vitamins before they've eaten experience nausea, stomach pain or cramps, or even vomiting. If you already suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease, ulcers, gastritis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or another digestive condition, taking vitamins on an empty stomach may cause a flareup of your condition, the Cleveland Clinic adds.

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Besides helping you avoid unpleasant side effects, taking those types of vitamins with food will also help improve their absorption. While water-soluble vitamins only need water to break down and be absorbed into the bloodstream, fat-soluble vitamins must be absorbed along with the dietary fats you eat.

Brown recommends eating a handful of nuts to help "prime your digestive system" and provide a buffer for the vitamins. "A slice of toast with some butter would also do the trick," she says.

Stacy Roberts-Davis, RD, a dietitian with over a decade of experience, recommends eating at least 30 minutes before taking any vitamins that could cause gastrointestinal distress. This will help to get your digestive system moving, which could further aid in absorption. She emphasizes that it's important to always read the label on your vitamins.

And of course, be sure to listen to your body any time you take vitamins, supplements, or medications. If something is causing distress or discomfort, be sure to discuss with your doctor what you're taking and in what doses.

Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research, and health agencies, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the medication you're taking or any other health questions you have, always consult your healthcare provider directly.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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