How Long Does It Take Vitamins to Work?
Have you ever eaten a meal when you’re feeling particularly tired and haven’t eaten all day, or taken your multivitamin, and wondered how long it actually took those vitamins to get to work? The question “how long does it take vitamins to work?” is one that becomes far more common when you start taking a daily supplement.
We can often feel the effects of vitamin deficiencies – if only on a minor scale, such as poor skin and hair, tiredness, depression, irritability, and a weak immune system. Serious deficiencies can even land us in the hospital, so it’s definitely something we should be paying attention to.
Eating a diet rich in nutritious food helps provide most of our daily requirements and a high quality multivitamin supplement will ensure that we’re getting all the vitamins we need. But once you’ve started getting your recommended daily vitamin intake, how long might it take to feel the benefits?
How Long Does it Take Vitamins to Work?
The short answer is… it depends.
There are two kinds of vitamins, water-soluble and fat-soluble. This refers to how they are utilised by the body, as water-soluble require water to “dissolve” to be used in the body, while fat-soluble require (you guessed it!) fat.
Water-soluble vitamins can be absorbed more quickly than fat-soluble, so water-soluble vitamins work faster than fat-soluble. Absorption by the body takes place 3-6 hours after eating, and water-soluble vitamins are used every day whereas fat-soluble are taken from stores in the body. Everyone’s biochemistry is different, and it really depends on what your body needs those vitamins for in the moment.
If you’ve been eating well and topping up with a multivitamin daily, your body won’t “need” the vitamins in the same way as it would if you fasted for three days. Or, conversely, if you only ate crisps for two days.
Generally, a good rule of thumb is 3-6 hours.
Even if you don’t notice a physical difference you can be reassured that vitamins and minerals are quietly going about their business and supporting hundreds of important processes.
How are Vitamins Processed by the Body?
After we eat something the food is broken down in the stomach and then goes on to the small intestine, where nutrients are processed. Water-soluble vitamins like vitamin C are picked up by special molecules known as “active transports” which carry the vitamin molecules through the walls of the intestine and into the body, where they can be taken into the bloodstream and taken where the body needs it.
B-vitamins are also water-soluble, but they bind to carrier proteins in the saliva and stomach. They are broken down further along the small intestine and absorbed into the body in the same way. These vitamins cannot be stored in the body, which takes what it needs and then excretes the rest.
Fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A, D, E and K, are easily absorbed through the intestinal tract with the help of fat molecules and are stored in the liver and fatty tissue to be used by the body.
What Factors Affect the Way Vitamins are Used by the Body?
There are a few things that will have an influence on the time it takes to see the benefits of the vitamins your body gets:
Deficiency: If you have a serious deficiency of a particular vitamin it will actually take longer to supply your body’s needs to achieve normal function. The body can only use so much every day to repair itself. It is not advisable to take more than the Recommended Daily Amounts of most vitamins. At best they will just go through the body unused, and some vitamins can even cause problems if you take significantly more than the recommended daily amount.
Quality: Not all food or multivitamins contain the same quality, dosage, or balance of ingredients, so the quality of the vitamins you take to supplement a healthy diet affects how they work. For example, eating food that’s past it’s sell-by date, even if it’s otherwise “fine”, probably won’t contain the same nutritional content. If you boil your veggies for too long, you may also essentially cook-out your water-soluble vitamins.
Other Vitamins and Minerals: Some vitamins work better together and have benefits for minerals in the body too, so if you’re consuming your daily recommended intake of your macro and micronutrients (everything from protein to minerals), they may be more effective more quickly.
Stress: Stress is another factor that affects the efficiency of digestion so try to manage your stress as much as possible, especially if you know you are someone who “holds” their stress in their stomach, and can be prone to stress-related digestive issues.
Alcohol: Alcohol can reduce digestive enzymes and other chemicals needed for healthy absorption of nutrients, so it’s worth sticking to a single glass or less.
Can You Speed Up the Process?
In the same way that physical exercise promotes the well-being of our whole body and mind, we can concentrate on nurturing the healthy function of our internal organs. This will help boost the efficiency of our digestive system and get the maximum absorption of nutrients from our food in the shortest time – thus speeding up the process as much as naturally possible.
Eating a broad, well-balanced, healthy diet with few processed foods and low sugar will help maintain a healthy digestive system. This isn’t just about eating salads and roasted vegetables, try incorporating other health foods like flax seeds, nuts, and plenty of legumes into your diet. If you have dietary restrictions, ensure you take a balanced multivitamin to support you where your diet cannot.
Consider adding foods with natural digestive enzymes such as pineapple, papaya, bananas, avocado and ginger to your diet, as these promote better digestion and gut-health.
Another essential tip is to ensure you drink plenty of water during your day. Keeping hydrated is essential for the blood to be able to carry nutrients around the body.
Having the right vitamins and nutrients in your diet is essential for the best possible physical health, mental health, outward appearance, and resistance to infections. And who doesn’t want that?
This is all easily obtained through a balanced intake of vitamins and minerals. If you’re worried you won’t get this all through your meals, a multivitamin is the ideal way to support your body and ensure you aren’t lacking in vital nutrients.
We don’t always have the time to eat as we should at every meal, and a good multivitamin will ensure that your body always gets what it needs. The problem is most multivitamins use poor quality ingredients and in low quantities.