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Is it Harmful to Chew Vitamins?

by
author image Sandi Busch
Sandi Busch received a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, then pursued training in nursing and nutrition. She taught families to plan and prepare special diets, worked as a therapeutic support specialist, and now writes about her favorite topics – nutrition, food, families and parenting – for hospitals and trade magazines.
Is it Harmful to Chew Vitamins?
It's safe to chew most types of vitamins, but there are some exceptions. Photo Credit fotyma/iStock/Getty Images

Chewing most vitamins won’t cause any harm, but it may affect the absorption of nutrients. Some types of vitamins, such as enteric-coated brands, should never be chewed. The biggest downside is likely to be the unpleasant taste experience of chomping on a vitamin that wasn’t meant to be chewable.

Chewing Regular Vitamins

Read the directions on the label before deciding whether to chew a regular vitamin. If the instructions say to swallow it whole, or if your physician told you to take it whole, then don't chew the vitamin.

As long as the directions don’t tell you otherwise, you can feel free to chew most vitamins. They may also be cut in half or crushed and mixed with food, advises Nature Made.

In addition to making it easier to swallow, chewing or crushing the vitamin has another benefit: The smaller pieces allow it to be absorbed more quickly.

Enteric-Coated, Time-Release and Dissolvable Vitamins

Never chew enteric-coated vitamins, time-release tablets or supplements meant to be dissolved in your mouth. Dissolvable supplements are designed to be absorbed in the mucous membranes of your mouth, which boosts absorption of some vitamins, such as vitamin B-12. If you chew dissolvable tablets, or those with a time-release coating, fewer nutrients will be absorbed.

Enteric coating is used to protect nutrients that would be damaged by stomach acid. The coating stays intact through the stomach, dissolving only after the vitamin reaches the small intestine, where it can be absorbed. If you chew this type of supplement, you'll ruin the effect of the enteric coating.

Vitamin C Considerations

Vitamin C is a natural organic acid called ascorbic acid. If you chew vitamin C supplements instead of swallowing them whole, the acid has the potential to erode tooth enamel. If your stomach is sensitive, it may also cause heartburn or an upset stomach.

This may only be a problem if you take large doses, but if the acid bothers you, don’t chew vitamin C tablets. You might also consider getting buffered vitamin C supplements that neutralize the acidity, such as calcium ascorbate or magnesium ascorbate, suggests Orthomolecular Medicine.

Vitamin Options

If you have a hard time swallowing tablets, try buying caplets, capsules and softgels, which are easier to swallow than dry tablets. If you struggle to get them down, you can always chew or crush all three types. Obviously, liquid supplements are the easiest to swallow, but powders are a less expensive option, reports All Star Health.

Chewable vitamins are an obvious option, but they have a few disadvantages, such as sugar and artificial flavoring and coloring. Some chewables contain 2 to 3 grams of sugar in a dose. By comparison, 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar has 4 grams of sugar.

Tips for Swallowing

A new technique for swallowing pills may help. A study in the Annals of Family Medicine in November 2014 reported that people had a much easier time taking pills when they used a soda bottle filled with water. The trick is to put the pill on your tongue, keep your lips tight around the bottle, then use a sucking motion to swallow the water and pill.

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