What Happens if You Take Zinc on an Empty Stomach?

If you grew up taking a multivitamin every morning, you might be surprised to find that some supplements don’t agree with your stomach.

Some supplements may leave you feeling downright sick.

For those hoping to get more zinc into their diets, timing is critical when taking this crucial mineral.

It’s not a good idea to take zinc on an empty stomach!


What’s In A Zinc Supplement?

While zinc is a commonly found mineral, much of what can be found in nature is not bio-available, not easily absorbed by the body.

If your doctor has encouraged you to find a zinc supplement, try to find a single tablet with the appropriate dose.

Healthy zinc supplementation levels vary depending on your sex. (1)

Adult males need 15 mg per day, and adult females need only 12 mg per day. However, pregnant and lactating women need between 15 and 19 mg per day.

Children from 3 to 10 shouldn’t take more than 10 mg per day, and children under the age of three need no more than 5 mg.

Discuss dosage options for children with your pediatrician, and be aware that many of the zinc tablets on the market come in 25 mg dosages.


Why Take Extra Zinc?

doctor’s hands holding pills

Zinc deficiency can be hard to measure, but if you are especially susceptible to viruses or if wounds or injuries take a long time to heal, consider asking your doctor about adding a zinc supplement to your daily routine.

Note that zinc deficiency is quite rare in the developed world.

In India, “Zinc deficiency is an important cause of morbidity among young children.”

According to a study published in the Journal of Health, Population and Nutrition 73.3 percent of the preschool children in Delhi is zinc-deficient.(2)

As a general rule, zinc deficiency is most common in third-world millions, where malnutrition is a constant threat. (3)

However, additional zinc can be beneficial to pregnant/breastfeeding women or anyone with a digestive disorder such as Crohn’s disease.

As Crohn’s makes it extremely difficult for the body to absorb nutrients as food passes through the gut successfully, a zinc supplement can aid both in getting enough of this crucial nutrient and boosting your body’s ability to heal.

Many users swear by zinc lozenges to fight off uncomplicated viral infections, such as colds.

In fact, according to a 2017 review published in the Open Forum Infectious Diseases, zinc acetate lozenges may help patients recover faster from the common cold. (4)

These tablets generally contain no more than 10 to 15 mg of zinc and are most effective if used within one day of noticing your cold symptoms.

These tablets can irritate the lining of your mouth, so avoid anything heavily salted or highly acidic, such as a beverage with lemon, if you notice any soreness of your gums or tongue.

This irritation will generally subside within 12 hours of a flare-up.

Dietary zinc is easy to ingest if you eat red meat and poultry, so vegetarians and vegans are particularly susceptible to zinc deficiency.

But, those with limited diets can boost their zinc intake by adding a fortified cereal to their daily routine or by increasing their intake of beans, nuts, and whole grains.


How Often Do I Take My Zinc Supplement?

You can take your zinc supplement daily, but consult your doctor first!

For best effect, take it one hour before eating (not on an empty stomach!) or two hours after. If this upsets your stomach, you can take this supplement with juice. Please don’t take it with milk.

It’s not a good idea to split your zinc supplements.

First of all, coat the tablets for easy absorption, so if you split the pill, you breach the coating and might cause stomach difficulties. In addition, this can alter the dosage or make it harder to measure.

If you struggle to swallow pills, note that you can take zinc supplements via tablets or drops.

This form of supplementation may lead to irritation of the lining of your mouth and impact your taste buds. Long-term use of zinc lozenges can lower your copper levels.

There are aerosol zinc applications available for those who can’t ingest this product in any other form. Be careful because some users have found that this can severely impact their sense of smell.


What If Zinc Upsets My Stomach?

woman doctor suffering from stomach ache

Zinc on an empty stomach can cause symptoms such as heartburn and nausea.

If taking it with juice still upsets your stomach, try taking it during your meal.

Take special care with your dosage!

Ingesting too much zinc can be toxic, so that the body will reject it!

If you’re taking the suggested dosage and still suffering, consider taking it with a 1/2 cup of plain applesauce to reduce hyper-acidity.

Another option is to take your zinc supplement with a hearty dose of protein or fat. Many supplements are easier to absorb if ingested with a high-fat product, such as peanut butter.

Try not to take your zinc supplement with a high fiber meal; your gut is working harder when digesting roughage, resulting in irritation.


What are the Signs and Symptoms of Zinc Overdose?

An overdose of Zinc supplements may have some negative side effects in addition to their positive advantages and the symptoms could be in the following form:

Diarrhea and Stomach Pain

Normally, nausea and vomiting are accompanied by stomach pain and diarrhea. Gut discomfort and gastrointestinal bleeding have also been observed, however, these are less prevalent. A patient who took an overdose of 220 mg of zinc sulfate twice daily for acne therapy developed intestinal hemorrhage in one research study.

Vomiting and Nausea

oisoning is frequently associated with nausea and vomiting. Emetic zinc doses of more than 225 mg are likely to cause vomiting, which can happen quickly. Acute nausea and vomiting started 30 minutes after a single zinc dose of 570 mg in one individual. Lower doses, on the other hand, can cause vomiting.

Taste Changes

Zinc is necessary for a healthy sense of taste. Actually, zinc deficiency causes hypogeusia, which is a loss of taste sensation. Zinc in excess of the allowed levels might affect your taste, leaving you with an unpleasant or rusty taste.

This symptom is commonly observed in research looking into the use of zinc capsules or liquid supplements to manage the cold.


Are There Risks To Taking Zinc?

Zinc shouldn’t be taken without consulting your physician to make sure this product won’t interact with something you’re already taking.

For example, women on a calcium supplement may interfere with the ability of their body to absorb the calcium by taking too high a dosage of zinc.

If you’re using zinc lozenges to fight a cold, be aware that too much zinc can cause a fever.

Extreme amounts of zinc can lower your ability to fight disease. Finally, pregnant women should carefully monitor their zinc intake; high doses of zinc can damage the growing fetus.


Zinc Formulation Combinations

Taking a zinc supplement can be a bit tricky; it’s not how much of it you take, but how much of it your body can absorb.

Zinc can be found in a multivitamin, in a separate tablet, in lozenges, or as a liquid drop. Zinc picolinate or zinc sulfate are lists of zinc tablets.

Zinc picolinate in tablet form is easier to absorb and will be easier on your digestive system.

When taken with meals, be aware that foods high in calcium can work against you. As noted previously, meals high in fiber and dairy products can block the ability of your body to absorb zinc.

Iron supplements can also impede your ability to absorb all the benefits of your zinc supplement, so take care not to accept these supplements together.

When taking a liquid zinc supplement, mix the proper dosage with juice or water.

Take this in combination with food, or follow up with food quickly.

Avoid taking your liquid zinc with milk.



Zinc is necessary for a healthy immune system, good taste and vision, and proper thyroid function.

When you need to supplement your zinc intake, zinc picolinate and zinc sulfate can help. Although both contain almost the same amount of basic zinc, zinc picolinate is easier to absorb.

If your diet or a physical condition, such as sickle cell, makes it hard for you to maintain a healthy zinc level, then a supplement is advisable.

If you have ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, it can be hard for you to absorb dietary zinc.

In addition, those who suffer from conditions such as cystic acne may need a higher than average zinc supplementation level to control the state.

When deciding to bump up your zinc intake, be sure to:

1) Check with your physician about any medication interactions

2) Start by taking your zinc 1 hour before meals or 2 hours after for best absorption

3) If you suffer stomach upset from this, take your zinc with meals

4) Avoid taking your zinc with dairy products

5) Avoid adding your zinc supplement to a high fiber meal

6) Do combine your zinc with a hearty protein

7) Be sure to take your zinc with a fatty food

8) If you are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant, avoid a high dosage of zinc


What are the foods that contain zinc?

Zinc can be found in a variety of foods, including:

  • Beef
  • Oysters from Poultry
  • Cereals with added nutrients
  • Grain (whole)
  • Nuts and beans



Boosting your zinc intake (within reason) is a good decision for most healthy people.

Take care when adding zinc supplementation to your routine so you don’t get too much as this mineral can be toxic in large doses.

Take it either one hour before meals or two hours after for maximum absorption, but if you suffer stomach upset, take it during your meal for increased comfort.