Whether you’re taking ashwagandha to fight stress or iron to address bloodwork deficiencies, it can be hard to gauge the exact timeframe when vitamins and supplements will start working. This is due to a number of factors, including your unique body chemistry and why you’re taking the supplement.
If you’re deficient, it can take a few months to recover your levels back up to optimal.
When it comes to the effectiveness of vitamins and supplements, regularity is key. It can take up to a few months of consistent supplementation for most vitamins to begin working, and the speed at which they work depends on a number of factors. The type of vitamin and the deficiency it addresses are two crucial factors, as is your body’s current level of nutrient intake.
Vitamins fall into two categories – fat-soluble and water-soluble. Water-soluble vitamins dissolve in water and are not stored in the body, meaning they need to be regularly replenished. They include the B complex (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, vitamin B-6 and folate) and vitamin C.
Water-soluble vitamins are easily absorbed in the digestive tract and circulate throughout the body where they serve their many functions. These include providing energy, supporting immune function, acting as antioxidants, and creating various hormones.
These vitamins are found in a wide variety of foods, including a well-balanced diet and fortified foods. They are also available as dietary supplements. A deficiency of water-soluble vitamins is rare in North America, but can occur in alcoholics, those on limited-calorie diets and the elderly, as well as people with malabsorption syndromes or who follow a strict vegan diet.
Water-soluble vitamin deficiency typically causes low energy levels and other symptoms, such as nausea, numbness in the extremities, headaches and tingling, muscle weakness, depression and more. A severe deficiency can also cause neurological problems such as tingling in the hands and feet, muscle tremors, numbness in the legs and arms, memory impairment and apathy.
The time it takes for these vitamins to begin working is often reliant on the severity of the deficiency and your body’s current level of nutrients. However, for the most part, you can expect to feel a difference in your energy levels within a few days of starting supplementation.
Getting a good supply of fat-soluble vitamins is essential for healthy skin and eyes, but these nutrients can take longer to work than water-soluble ones. This is because fat-soluble vitamins must be absorbed with dietary fat, like in a meal, to be metabolized and used in the body. Fortunately, you can get these essential nutrients from the foods you eat, particularly animal fats, egg yolks, dairy, fish and fish oils, raw nuts and seeds and avocado oil.
When you’re supplementing with these nutrients, you may notice a vitamin-specific effect within a few weeks of consistent use. This is especially true for supplements meant to treat vitamin deficiencies, such as B12 and D. For example, those with vitamin D deficiency typically notice boosted energy levels and improved concentration after about six weeks of consistent vitamin D supplementation.
However, it can be a challenge to know how well your vitamins are working and whether you’re getting the results you want. The best way to assess vitamin efficacy is through a blood test, which will show the level of a specific vitamin in your body. Often, your doctor will conduct a blood test before and after you’ve been taking vitamins to determine whether or not the vitamins are having an impact.
Another factor that influences how long it takes for supplements to work is the form of vitamin you’re taking. Liquid multivitamins tend to be more effective than pills, which may contain binders and fillers that slow down absorption. You’ll also want to make sure that any supplemental nutrients you’re taking don’t interact with any medications you’re currently taking.
Finally, you’ll also want to be sure that your supplements are of the highest quality. When shopping for vitamin supplements, look for seals of approval from third parties that ensure your product is being made by a trusted manufacturer. You should also always read the ingredients label to make sure the vitamin you’re purchasing contains the most bioavailable form of the nutrient, which will help ensure that your body can absorb it and raise its circulating, active levels in the body.
Minerals are life-sustaining compounds found in soil and water. They are also essential for overall health, as they support functions like bone health and heart function. Our bodies can’t produce minerals (except for the fat-soluble vitamin D), so we need to consume them through food. We can get the majority of our minerals from a diet that includes meat, fish and dairy products as well as leafy greens, nuts and whole grains.
Our body needs 13 different minerals, including calcium, magnesium, sodium, iron and potassium. These are called major minerals and they are crucial to a healthy lifestyle, supporting functions like blood circulation, heart health, immunity and muscle movement. The other minerals, referred to as trace elements, are important too, but they’re needed in much smaller amounts. These include iodine, fluoride, zinc, selenium, copper and manganese.
Unlike vitamins, minerals are inorganic and don’t easily break down. This makes it harder for them to be shuttled from food into your body. For this reason, it’s recommended that people who have a deficiency in vitamin D or iron supplement alongside making dietary changes to ensure the nutrients are properly absorbed and used.
If you’re consuming minerals from supplements, it’s important to take them with food, since this can improve absorption and help avoid side effects like upset stomach. Additionally, it’s best to take multiple minerals separately, as they can impact each other’s absorption. It’s a good idea to use an inexpensive pill splitter (commission-earning link) to safely and reliably cut your supplements in half, especially if you’re taking more than one at a time.
The most common mineral supplements are multi-vitamin/minerals (MVMs) and single-mineral supplements. The latter are typically used for specific health concerns, such as iodine deficiency, iron deficiency or calcium deficiencies.
If you have a vitamin or mineral deficiency, it will take time for the supplement to start working. The exact amount of time will vary, but it’s usually a minimum of 3-6 months before retesting to see the results. This will depend on the vitamin/mineral, your baseline level and how much you need to increase your intake.
Herbs are used to treat a variety of conditions. They are different to pharmaceutical drugs because they act more holistically on the body and therefore take a little longer to start working as they build up in your system. They can also have a different effect, they can balance your emotions and bring calmness for example.
They can also be more beneficial as they do not have the side effects of drugs. However, you need to be cautious about the quality of herbs you purchase as they can vary greatly. It is important to seek advice from a qualified herbalist about the brand, strength and purity level of the herb you are taking. Some herbal products may be mislabeled or contain additives and contaminants. You also need to be aware that some herbal medicines can interact with some medications and can have adverse reactions if taken at high doses.
There are many different forms of herbs available at your local health food shop or drugstore. These include teas, syrups, oils, tinctures and dry extracts (pills or capsules). Teas are made by boiling the herb in water and then straining it. Syrups are a concentrated liquid that contains the active ingredient dissolved in a solution, such as alcohol or glycerol. Tinctures are a concentrated form of an herb, with one part of the herb dissolved in five or ten parts of the liquid. Oils are poured over the skin to treat a variety of conditions such as acne, dandruff and athlete’s foot. Dry extracts are the most concentrated form of herb and come in tablet, capsule and lozenge form.
Generally, it takes two to four weeks before you will notice the effects of a supplement. However, some supplements take a little longer to work, such as probiotics and magnesium. This is because it can take time for your gut to absorb these nutrients and because they need to build up in your system before they have an impact.
The speed at which you will notice the effects of vitamins and minerals will depend on the severity of the deficiency and what type of vitamin or mineral it is that you are deficient in. The best way to ensure that you are getting the most out of your supplements is to visit a naturopathic physician who can give you a tailored and specific recommendation.