1. Where you store pills matters - a lot
Don't let the name fool you: the medicine cabinet in your bathroom is a great place to stor toothpaste and moisturiser - but not medicine, including supplements. high humidity in the bathroom could damage supplements. Instead, store them in a cool, dry place. Also, don’t keep your daily supplements in the refrigerator unless the label says so. Removing them every day will allow condensation to build up inside the container.
If you buy supplements in bulk, keep three months’ supply available for daily use and store the rest in the refrigerator. When you’re ready to use the stored pills, remove them from the fridge and allow the container to reach room temperature before opening.
Keep supplements in their own bottles with the tops screwed on tightly to mai ntai n potency.
Bear in mi nd the expiry date represents the last day the manufacturer guarantees a product ’s potency. However, experts say that properly stored vitamins and other supplements can maintain their potency for another year past the expiry date.
If you take a supplement and later discover that it has expired, don't panic. Expired supplements are very unlikely to make you sick unless they're long past the use-by date, and even then it's low-risk.
Regardless of the expiry date, toss the supplement if:
- The colour has changed.
- The texture or consistency has changed – for example, tablets may start to crumble or crystallise.
- It has a strong odour – outdated aspirin, for instance, smells strongly of vinegar.
- You notice any other change in appearance, such as floating particles appearing in a liquid.
2. Substitutions may not work
It’s tempting to swap one supplement for another that appears to have similar ingredients, especially if the price is lower. However, sometimes a logical- sounding substitution just doesn’t work.
For example, both fish oil and flaxseed oi l have omega-3s but aren’t equally effective. Strict vegetarians may skip the f ish-oil version, as might people who don’t like the fishy aftertaste. But if you can, stick with the fish.
Fish oil’s benefits come from the specific omega-3 fatty acids called DHA and EPA, which protect the heart and brain by fighting inflammation, preventing blood clots, nourishing cell membranes, and more. Flax seeds contain omega-3s, too, but a different kind, called ALA. The body converts ALA to DHA and EPA, but not very efficiently. Some estimates suggest that less than 1% of the ALA you eat becomes EPA, and an even tinier portion – less than 0.1% – converts to DHA.
And if you’re tempted to make the fish oil-flaxseed swap because of potential mercury poisoning, don’t fret. Many manufacturers purify fish oil, which removes mercury as well as PCBs, dioxins and other contaminants.
To reduce fishy burps, try coated capsules, freeze your pills or take them with food.
3. Not all calcium tablets are created equal
If you’re taking calcium, the type of supplement you choose, when you take it, and what else you take may make a di fference. Here’s what you need to know.
When you pick up a bottle labelled “calcium supplement ”, it probably contains calcium carbonate. Some people find that this form of calcium causes gas, bloating, and constipation. The easily absorbed calcium citrate is an option for avoiding these issues, but it ’s also more expensive. You may be able to stick with calcium carbonate and avoid constipation if you divide your daily dose into two or three smaller doses of 500 milligrams or less, (the body absorbs it poorly when you take more).
Taking calcium carbonate with meals or snacks can help, too, because eating prompts your stomach to produce more acid for digestion. But it ’s better if that meal isn’t packed with fibre, which may interfere with how well the mineral is absorbed.
Never take your calcium supplement at the same time as a multivitamin or other mineral supplements. A large dose of calcium may block your body from absorbing other important minerals, such as iron, chromium, and manganese.
If you take calcium citrate, don’t use antacids containing aluminium (Mylanta, for example). Combining the two could increase the amount of aluminium in your blood to a level that could cause kidney damage. Also avoid consuming mineral oil (used to treat constipation) or stimulant laxatives, because they decrease calcium absorption.