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Supplements: When to Take, When to Toss


Why isn’t Dr. Dan DiBacco a guest blogger you ask? Because, quite frankly, I have way too many questions for him to wait for the next free Friday, when I normally feature guest posts. So from here on out, you'll be hearing sporadically from Dr. DiBacco on all of the little things that run through my head that I'm betting most of you are thinking about too.

The last time Dr. DiBacco was on Girl on the Go he shared his insight on my supplement intake. As a follow-up to that subject matter, I emailed him the following questions because I was curious if just taking them was good enough. I wanted to know… am I storing them properly? Am I taking them at the right time of day? I also had a few questions about prescription and over the ounter drugs that I'm sure you've wondered about yourself at some point.

If you have questions you'd like to ask Dr. DiBacco, please write them in the comments below and we'll get back to you or use them in an upcoming post if any common themes emerge.

1. I take supplements and think it’s an amount that is healthy for my body but my question is: is there a good time of day to be taking my supplements? Should I take them with certain types of foods to help my body absorb them better? Is there anything I can do to make sure I'm receiving the most benefits from taking supplements?

Timing doesn’t really matter.  The only consideration would be when you can best remember.  Morning, noon, or night are all good.  For food, the only hard and fast rule is to have some food present in your stomach.  It helps to keep your stomach happy.

2. Currently I keep my supplements in the refrigerator. It this okay? Is there a better place for them?

Your refrigerator?  Perhaps cabinet space is at a premium in your Manhattan kitchen.  To my knowledge there’s no issue keeping your supplements chilled. However, like all drugs, the real culprits are heat and moisture so keep them out of the steamed up bathroom.

3. I travel a lot. What's the best way to remember to take my supplements while on the road? Any packing advice? 

I really struggle with this, too.  The best advice is to keep them in what a man would call a dopp kit.  Somewhere with your daily personal care products so you’ll see them each day.  You can keep them in the bathroom when traveling.  A little shower steam won’t do much damage over a long weekend trip. Alcohol and lack of sleep however will.

4. What do I do with left over antibiotics or prescriptions? Should I hold onto them for future use, just in case? 

I wouldn’t recommend keeping old antibiotics unless you use them regularly to treat a recurring infection, like a UTI.  Otherwise, see a doctor when you get sick.  Taking antibiotics unnecessarily doesn’t hurt you, but it’s a leading cause of the proliferation of antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

5.  What about expiration dates on medicine? Does it really matter? I had a friend over for dinner the other night and he broke out in hives either from a peanut allergy or shellfish (we aren't sure which one) and I offered him some Benedryl that had expired over a year ago. I assumed it was okay but maybe not?

The expiration date on medicine means one thing: the manufacturer guarantees potency up to that date.  After the expiration date the medicine may not be as strong as it should be.  That said, there’s no OTC products that “turn bad” after their expiration date.  In your situation, offering potentially less potent Benadryl is better than none at all.  Next time, consider asking if anyone has a peanut allergy before hosting “Renee’s Thai night.”

Signing Off Well Informed,
Renee & Dr. DiBacco

Dan DiBacco, PharmD, MBA, is a practicing pharmacist in Atlanta.  He specializes in nutrition and diet.  Follow his musings and advice at If you have questions you would like to pose to Dan regarding your supplement intake or other nutrition and diet related issues please ask them in the comment section below.


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