Many people who take supplements assume that all the nutrients in them are absorbed directly into their system. But the truth is, just because supplements are good for you doesn’t mean they’re always working as intended. This is where bioavailability comes into play.
Bioavailability refers to how well a nutrient is absorbed into the bloodstream. After we finish a meal, our digestive systems break down food into its molecular form. The small intestine will absorb nutrients into the bloodstream, where blood cells transport them to various parts of the body. Once nutrients arrive at their destination, cells either consume them right away or store them for later use.
The level of bioavailability is different for each type of nutrient. Macronutrients such as fat, carbohydrates and proteins have a high rate of bioavailability. Your body likes to hold onto these nutrients, which is why losing weight is difficult for many people. Micronutrients like vitamins and minerals are harder to absorb yet essential for hundreds of bodily functions.
Why bioavailability is important
Bioavailability is an instinctual part of every person’s digestive system, regardless of your health condition or the types of food you eat. Without it, life on Earth wouldn’t be possible. A diet could provide all the nutrients you need, but if your body isn’t able to absorb them, consuming all that healthy food won’t do much good! Optimizing bioavailability will help you get the most out of your diet and supplements.
Many believe their job is done once they eat a healthy meal, but that’s only the beginning. Chances are, your body is expelling a large portion of those micronutrients before they reach the bloodstream. People who eat foods packed with micronutrients are often confused as to why they haven’t experienced any improvements in their overall health. The problem is often due to poor bioavailability.
The same is true for a lot of supplements. You might swallow a pill or liquid, but if your body can’t absorb the contents well, they won’t do much good. Therefore, it’s important not only to consume the proper amount of nutrients, but increase their chances of absorption, as well.
Factors that limit absorption
Bioavailability differs from one person to the next. Those living with gut disorders such as inflammation are less likely to absorb micronutrients from their diet.
Inflammation has been linked to folate deficiency, which requires a supplement for more effective absorption into the bloodstream. Additionally, inadequate production of gastric acid can negatively affect your ability to receive your daily servings of vitamin B12. These underlying health concerns must be addressed in order to improve bioavailability.
Another important thing to consider is that some micronutrients don’t play well with others. For instance, calcium has been known to inhibit the absorption of iron. Many health-conscious individuals will try to cram as many different nutrients into their food preparation as possible. However, this might do more harm than good. You’re better off separating calcium and iron into two different mealtimes to improve absorption.
Other micronutrients work in the opposite way. Nutrients like vitamin D are difficult to absorb on their own. For this reason, washing down supplements with just a glass of water isn’t a good idea. Vitamin D, in particular, is fat soluble and won’t absorb into the bloodstream unless it’s taken with food. Vitamin D also plays an essential role in helping the body absorb calcium, so you need both for proper intake.
How to increase bioavailability in your supplements
It can be difficult to know when your body is struggling with bioavailability. One of the best ways to maximize your nutrient intake is by choosing bioavailable supplements. These contain a lower concentration of micronutrients but are generally more effective because the nutrients are combined with other ingredients that improve bioavailability.
Micronutrients work best when they’re paired with the right foods. As mentioned earlier, vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient and absorbs better when you eat healthy fats alongside it. Curcumin, which is found in turmeric, is another one of those micronutrients that requires oil or fat to dissolve. If you’re cutting back on fatty foods, remember that some fat is still necessary as long as it’s consumed in moderation.
Consuming the appropriate nutrient levels is only the first step in giving your body what it needs. What matters even more is how well the digestive system absorbs those nutrients, and bioavailable supplements might just be the solution. When taken the right way, supplements can become an essential part of your healthy lifestyle.