Our bodies absorb as many nutrients as possible from what we ingest, but it never takes or utilizes 100% of what the nutrients offer. This is entirely normal, but it can be somewhat challenging to get the right amount of nutrients our bodies need to perform optimally. The absorption and utilization of nutrients by the body are called bioavailability.
Bioavailability is vital for numerous reasons as it helps experts understand how different nutrients operate within the body and the creation of effective supplements. The body goes through multiple processes to break down nutrients which means some of it is lost along the way. If you're looking to supplement your diet, nutrients need to be able to make it to their target destination, and they're the most effective when they're highly bioavailable.
How Does It Work?
Essentially, bioavailability measures how much a nutrient or substance can reach circulation within the body and access the target area in need. A nutrient's bioavailability is dependent on a blend of absorption and secretion. Plenty of the nutrients we need daily can be found in many foods. A large portion of them is bound to be lost along the way of cooking, eating, and processing these nutrients.
Nutrients commonly vary in bioavailability, with some, such as fats and carbs being highly bioavailable and other macronutrients such as minerals and vitamins being harder to absorb. This is one main reason the supplement industry continues to boom: it allows people to stay on top of the nutrient levels they need.
If you're looking to supplement certain nutrients in the body, the number one factor you want to consider is the supplement's bioavailability. This factor will have a direct effect on the results in your body over time and determines whether it's effective or not. Interestingly, there are quite a few ways to help increase the bioavailability of a nutrient to ensure you're getting what you need for your health.
What Can Increase Bioavailability?
Every time you ingest food or a supplement, you're at the mercy of your body's internal processes. You can use these internal processes to your advantage, as some nutrients are better absorbed at particular times in the day, and others may perform better when taken with food. Others do better when taken without food, and you can even work with nutrients that support each other when ingested, making them more bioavailable to your body.
Even storing your supplements in a dry and cool place can ensure they work optimally within the body. Sunlight and improper storage can damage a supplement's ability to perform, so it's always important to store them to ensure the highest bioavailability. It's understood that our body breaks nutrients down in multiple stages, but some health disorders can break down nutrients even further, making it quite tricky to get the nutrients we require.
For example, certain gut disorders can't make it challenging for the body to absorb various nutrients. It's all about getting those nutrients to the bloodstream, and high bioavailability is required to achieve the result you're looking for. From an opposite perspective, just as you can help increase a nutrient's bioavailability, various lifestyle choices can make nutrients and supplements less bioavailable.
What Detracts Bioavailability?
Some very common lifestyle choices can have minor or significant adverse effects on the bioavailability of a nutrient or supplement. Alcohol consumption is something many everyday people partake in to varying degrees, but it can easily interfere with the absorption of vitamin A, vitamin D, and many others. Without this knowledge, people can have only minimal traces of the nutrients they're ingesting from their vitamins. Alcohol decreases bioavailability from multiple angles, such as accelerating nutrient loss and impairing utilization and storage capabilities, increasing the metabolic demand for more nutrients.
Caffeine is even more popular among most people, and it's sometimes ingested multiple times a day. Not only can it make the absorption of nutrients more complicated, but it's also known to increase the excretion of minerals and vitamins from the body. Caffeine and alcohol are lifestyle choices that can affect bioavailability, but other natural factors about our bodies can make getting the proper nutrients much more challenging.
Digestive issues are something people deal with from minor to chronic circumstances. Celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and other gut health complications can decrease nutrient bioavailability. Some of these bodily issues are to no fault of our own, but it's important to understand how bioavailability works to better your chances of absorption.
Even stress plays a factor, and although managing stress is easier said than done, it can cause a loss of nutrients as well as cause significant stress to the digestive system. It's also known that younger people are generally capable of a higher bioavailability, whereas older individuals may struggle more in this regard. This is primarily due to how gastric acid declines as we age, making it more challenging for the digestive system to break down what you ingest. However, you can work around this by getting your nutrients in liquid, capsule, or powder form.
Delivery Systems Can Affect Bioavailability
It doesn't matter how healthy or efficient your body is at processing nutrients; the delivery system in how they're administered can also affect its bioavailability. Ingesting nutrients and supplements in capsule form is one of the most common methods as the body can effortlessly break them down. This may be one of the most common delivery systems of supplemental nutrients, but other solutions may offer a higher bioavailability.
Soft gel capsules contain a liquid instead of a powder, which can aid permeability and solubility in membranes throughout the body. Soft gels are also known for their substantial shelf-life; the body quickly breaks down gelatin-based shells. Nutrients in powder form are one of the fastest delivery systems as they don't require the body to break a capsule's shell, making the nutrients available to the body immediately. Regardless of the delivery method, it's evident that there are numerous factors at play regarding the bioavailability of a specific nutrient.