As with healthy eating, consistency is key for getting the most out of our supplements. This means we need to establish good habits around taking supplements. Good habits help us get better results but their true power lies in the ways that they can change our beliefs about ourselves. When we practice habits of self care, like nutritious eating, sleep hygiene and taking supplements daily, these habits not only help us “get things done” efficiently, overtime they become evidence to ourselves about what we value. In other words, they can transform (and reinforce) our identity, that is, we believe that our health is valuable. Our identity then impacts decisions we make in ALL areas of our lives, having even greater health effects.

Author James Clear says “The goal is not to learn an instrument, it’s to become a musician.” The goal of these supplement tips is not simply to remember to take our pills everyday, it’s to help reinforce our values about our health.

Being consistent can be a challenge. When my routine changes like on weekends or holidays, that’s when I would forget to take my supplements. Supplements can be hard to remember as there often isn’t immediate feedback from taking it (or not taking it) which makes it harder to reinforce the habit. Lastly if there’s confusion about the directions or the role that the supplements play in the overall goal, it is harder to take them regularly.

Co-Plan with your Practitioner
Incorporate into your routine

Use visual and other reminders
Make it simpler to take
Link to a current habit
Make it satisfying

These tips can apply to taking most supplements (vitamins, medical foods, tinctures, remedies) and medications (prescriptions and over the counter medications).

Co-Plan with your Practitioner

Most importantly discuss the role the supplements and medications serve in the overall plan

Understand what to monitor for (improvements, side effects, etc) so you can report back
Understand how long you may need to take the supplements for
Find out the ideal way to take the supplement

Morning, night, at bedtime
With or without food?
With a “clean mouth”, on an “empty stomach”? (And what exactly do these mean?)
With or away from other supplements or medications?
Discuss YOUR preferences to make it easier for you

Form of supplement: ie. Capsules over liquids?
Number of doses: ie. Prefer taking all doses at home and none at work? Prefer to take all supplements at once instead of spreaded out over 3 doses?
Can you use a product that combines nutrients so you can reduce the number of pills/bottles? ie. a high potency multivitamin

Now incorporate your supplements into your routine to help you automate the process, with any of these tips:

Use reminders (mostly visual) make the supplement visible depending on when you need to take them

If taking supplements with food

Keep them in the room or area of the room where you normally eat ie. kitchen/dining table

If multiple bottles, keep on a “special tray” to make them more visible (and easier to clean under)
Keep supplement bottles beside the dishes you use regularly

ie. Drinking coffee/tea every morning? Put the bottles beside your mugs where you will see them
If taking supplements away from food
Keep bottles in areas where you’re NOT eating ie. work desk, night stand/bedroom, reading chair, bathroom counter by your toothbrush and keep glass of water in that area
Taking multiple doses per day
Fill a small dish (I use a soy sauce dish) with your daily supplements, take the first dose and leave the rest in the dish on the table for the next meal. This serves as a second visual cue that something needs to be done and reminds us to empty it by the end of the day
Turn bottle upside down after taking the day’s dose to avoid wondering “Did I take my pills?”
Set an alarm on your phone or calendar

When need to take dose at a busier time of the day
When need to take the supplement at certain time of week or month ie. 1 week prior to period
Make it Simpler:

Reduce the number of steps required to take your supplements. On one day of the week, for example Sunday, fill in the supplements and medications for the entire week; there are pill boxes that have sections for different times of days too.
This is a great strategy that makes it simple and gives you a visible reminder as well
Link to a Current Habit

Connect the action of taking supplement(s) to a habit you’re already doing
ie. brush, floss, then take supplements – use a sticky note ie. on the bathroom mirror as a reminder in the beginning
ie.  take supplement(s) before reading in bed – put supplement bottle on top of book on night stand
Make it Satisfying

Often we take supplements as part of a larger, longer term plan to increase energy, improve weight,etc. But we’re more motivated by immediate rewards so immediately after taking the supplements, treat yourself with something (that’s attractive and healthy).
For example, add fruits, spices, natural sweeteners to make your supplemented smoothie delicious AND healthy; after taking your supplements for the day, eat a little piece of dark chocolate or drink a small cup of juice. If you like to check things off on a list, mark an X on that day of the calendar (also serves as a good record the supplements/medications were taken for that day).

Although taking supplements isn’t the most exciting part of our day, making it a consistent daily practice helps us get the most out of the supplements and helps to regularly reinforce the values most important to us.

If there was a tip here that resonated with you today, apply that this week. I would love to hear your tips for taking supplements consistently. If you know someone who could benefit from these tips, please share this information with them.

In health,
Dr. Carin