Starting a new supplement routine can be overwhelming—first, there’s the formulating and carefully selecting what you need, but even once that’s figured out, how long does it take for vitamins to start working?
Often, early changes go undetected because they’re happening at such a micro level. Generally, it can take a couple of weeks for the body to start reaping the many benefits of your new routine and sometimes, up to three months(!) until we notice the more potent effects. When you start taking vitamins, various processes occur in your body as it absorbs and utilizes these essential nutrients. The specific effects and processes can vary depending on the type of supplement and its role in the body.
Here’s what happens in your body when you start taking vitamins:
- Digestion and Absorption: Once you ingest supplements, they go through the process of digestion. Digestive enzymes break down the supplemental components, releasing the nutrients. Water-soluble vitamins (like vitamin C and the B vitamins) and most other nutrients are absorbed directly into the bloodstream through the walls of your small intestine, while fat-soluble vitamins (such as vitamins A, D, E, and K) are absorbed along with dietary fat through specialized structures called micelles.
- Transport: Once absorbed into the bloodstream, nutrients are transported throughout the body via the circulatory system. They can travel to various tissues and organs, including the liver and adipose (fat) tissues.
- Utilization: Different nutrients in supplements serve various functions in the body. For example:
- Vitamins and Minerals play essential roles in metabolic processes, immune function, bone health, and more.
- Amino Acids are the building blocks of proteins, used for tissue repair and synthesis of enzymes and hormones.
- Herbal Extracts and Bioactive Compounds may have specific effects on various body systems, such as antioxidants or anti-inflammatory properties.
- Metabolism: Nutrients from supplements often act as cofactors or coenzymes, working with enzymes to facilitate biochemical reactions. For example, B vitamins help convert food into energy, while minerals like zinc are essential for enzyme function.
- Storage and Excretion: Depending on the nutrient, the body may store or excrete excess amounts. Water-soluble vitamins (e.g., vitamin C, B vitamins) are generally excreted in urine if consumed in excess. Fat-soluble vitamins (e.g., vitamins A, D, E, and K) can be stored in the body’s fat tissues and liver. Excessive intake of certain supplements can lead to toxicity and adverse effects.
Here’s what happens to your body when you start taking supplements:
Now that you know what’s going on beneath the surface, let’s chat about the fun part–the effects that you’ll start to see and feel. If you formulated by completing the quiz or built your stack with your supplement knowledge, you likely put together a blend to support something specific—energy, digestion, hormonal health, or maybe even a mix of everything to support your overall well-being. What’s neat about supplements is that since all body systems are interconnected, even if you’re supplementing for one goal, you may notice a trickle effect into other body systems. Let’s say you packed your supplement with probiotics to improve digestion—not only might your digestive system see relief, but you may also notice more energy, improved cognition, and even a stronger immune system. Some overall effects you may notice when you start taking supplements:
- More Energy
Whether this was one of your goals or not, depending on your current energy levels you may notice a boost or just more consistent energy. This is because the job of many vitamins is to convert food into energy.
- Better Mood
Again, whether you’ve selected this as a goal or not, it may be something you’ll notice. Vitamins and minerals can impact neurotransmitters, influencing mood. For example, If your formula contains B vitamins or magnesium, these can have an affect on mood. If your goal wasn’t mood, but you’re targeting the body system that needs support, whether it’s relief in the digestive tract, or your hormones are reaching a state of balance, you may see an improvement in your overall mood.
- Commitment to Health
It’s said that if you start your day with a healthy habit, you’re more likely to continue making healthy choices throughout the day. Supplements complement a healthy diet and lifestyle, so if you’ve made the step with supplements (or are thinking about it), it may help you to make healthier choices throughout the day.
A note on nausea, upset stomach and transient digestive troubles: it can happen! If you are new to taking vitamins, your body may be adjusting to higher nutrient levels. Depending on your capsule count, you can take half with breakfast and the remaining half with lunch. You should avoid taking vitamins on an empty stomach—it helps to take alongside food since some minerals can be hard on an empty stomach (it can also help with the bioavailability of fat-soluble nutrients). If you tend to skip breakfast, or if your breakfast is on the lighter side, you can also try taking your daily dose at lunch.
Tip: Since changes can be subtle, we like to keep a health diary to help track some of the changes we do feel. Occasionally, we forget how crummy we used to feel when we are on a healing journey, it’s our body’s way of protecting us. It can be nice to look back and see how far you’ve come.
When you start your supplement journey, it’s important to use supplements as directed and not exceed recommended dosages. It’s true what they say—you can indeed have too much of a good thing, and excessive intake of certain nutrients can lead to health issues and complications. Always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen, especially if you have underlying health conditions or take medications, to ensure safety and efficacy.