Many of us experience an uncomfortable side effect when popping vitamins or supplements — you know, that unsettling feeling in our stomach. Yet more than four out of five Americans currently take them, according to a January 2019 report from the American Osteopathic Association.
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So should you skip your daily supp to help spare your stomach?
Why Supplements Can Cause an Upset Stomach
People with sensitive stomachs may be more prone to abdominal discomfort when taking dietary supplements.
After all, between 60 to 70 million Americans are affected by all types of digestive diseases such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), per the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
"The severity of an upset stomach can vary from mild nausea to severe cramping, and this can occur within minutes of ingesting the supplement," Nicole Avena, PhD, assistant professor of neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and visiting professor of health psychology at Princeton University, tells LIVESTRONG.com.
In many instances, Avena says, the difficult-to-digest vitamins and minerals include:
- vitamin C
- vitamin D
People living with gastrointestinal (GI) issues or people who cannot tolerate taking vitamins and minerals in supplement form face an ongoing dilemma: Their sensitive GI system might be preventing them from properly absorbing dietary supplements, yet not taking supplements (such as a multivitamin) could lead to possible long-term nutrient deficiencies, Avena says.
To counteract this reaction, first, make sure you're taking the supplement as directed on the label — most vitamins should not be taken on an empty stomach. Also, talk to your doctor to figure out if nausea is your body's way of signaling that your system is overloaded with one (or more) of the three common culprits (iron, vitamin C and/or vitamin D).
Yet if you're searching for a new brand or formula, there are other supplements on the market that are likely to be more stomach-soothing.
How We Chose
Unlike prescription medications, the FDA doesn't regulate supplement safety and efficacy. But they do establish Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMPs) for supplements, including requirements for preparation and storage.
We spoke to registered dietitians and included quality products that adhere to CGMP or have verification from independent quality control organizations such as:
"Taste can contribute to nausea, so opt for a gummy, which comes in different fruit flavors and is easy to take," Avena says. Just keep in mind that gummies often contain added sugar.
Avena advises finding a vitamin or mineral supplement that dissolves on the tongue, which is also called a sublingual supplement.
EZ Melts Multivitamins are designed to melt in your mouth (no water necessary) as the active ingredients are absorbed into the system right away — even before making their way to the digestive tract. These supplements are GMO-free, as well as free of dyes, gluten and sugar.
You can also choose a food-based tablet. Rainbow Light Women's One Multivitamin states that its food-based supplement is formulated to be gentle on the stomach and digestive system. One reason: It contains 25 million CFU (colony-forming units), which are live gut-beneficial probiotics that can decrease the number of "bad" bacteria in the intestines while replacing them with "good" bacteria.
Also, this supplement is free of dairy, sugar, soy, nuts, yeast and fish, along with the fact that it can be taken with or between meals.
Drinking your daily dose of essential vitamins and minerals instead of gagging on a pill might put nausea to rest.
For example, Garden of Life Vitamin Code's liquid multivitamin is made from vitamins and minerals derived from 46 nutrient-dense foods like quinoa and chia seed sprouts. It's also free of dairy, gluten, artificial flavors, sweeteners, colors and preservatives.