The Tru Meaning of Bioavailability
Simply put, bioavailability is the extent to which a substance, like a nutrient, is digested, absorbed, and used by the body.
It’s easy to understand if we think about it in terms of food.
Let’s say you ate a handful of pumpkin seeds. They’re an excellent source of magnesium but this doesn’t mean all of that goodness will make its way across the wall of your intestines and into your bloodstream. Only 30-40% of the magnesium we consume is absorbed and used by the body.
In other words, the old adage “you are what you eat” is not really true. You are not what you eat, rather it’s more accurate to say that you are what you absorb. You are what is bioavailable to you.
And the exact same principle of bioavailability applies to the supplements you take to fill gaps in your nutrition. Just because a supplement contains a specific nutrient is not a guarantee that the nutrient will actually reach its target destination in your body. That’s why it’s important to check the formulations of the supplements you buy.
In general, supplements that are formulated to have high bioavailability tend to be more effective. For example, lycopene is a carotenoid found in the skin of tomatoes. When taken alone in supplement form, it can be difficult for the body to absorb. But if formulated with whey protein, it may be more easily digested.
The same goes for a supplement that uses a more bioavailable form of magnesium, such as magnesium lactate. This form ensures that the body can absorb an optimum amount of the mineral without requiring a large dose.
Another good example is zinc. Zinc sulfate is the most readily available and cheapest option, but it’s the form least easily absorbed by your body. Good alternatives include zinc citrate or zinc gluconate.
So if you want to repair the effects of stress and aging on the body and have more energy, or maintain a healthy, active lifestyle, or simply regain shiny hair and smooth skin, you have to make sure you’re thinking in terms of bioavailability when choosing supplements.
Believe it or not, there are many things you can do to increase the bioavailability of your supplements:
Time of Day: Some nutrients may have more benefits when taken at certain times of day. For instance, vitamin B12 should be taken in the morning since it can be energizing.
Take with Food: Iron is one example of a nutrient that should be taken with food, otherwise it may cause an upset stomach. It’s also a good idea to take fat-soluble vitamins with a meal that includes some kind of dietary fat, like avocado or olive oil.
Take Without Food: Certain water-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin C, should be taken on an empty stomach.
Supporting Nutrients: Some nutrients can increase the bioavailability of other nutrients. One example is vitamin C, which can enhance the bioavailability of iron from plant sources (called nonheme iron). Vitamin C binds to the nonheme iron from plants and stores it in a form that’s more easily absorbed by the body.
Proper Storage: To help ensure the efficacy of your supplements, store them in a cool, dry area away from direct sunlight. It’s smart to store fish oil and other liquid or liposomal products in the fridge. Make sure they’re tightly sealed to prevent moisture from getting in.
Just as there are ways you can enhance bioavailability, lifestyle choices and other factors can have an adverse effect:
Alcohol: Can interfere with the absorption of vitamins A, D, E, K, B and the minerals magnesium and zinc. Alcohol increases the metabolic demands for nutrients, accelerates loss from the body, and impairs storage and utilization.
Caffeine: The most popular stimulant in the world—its positive effects are undeniable. But on the flipside, at high doses it can reduce the absorption of nutrients and increase the excretion of important vitamins and minerals.
Digestive issues: Crohn’s, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), celiac disease, and other digestive problems can hinder the body’s ability to absorb and utilize nutrients.
Medications: Some over-the-counter and prescription drugs impair nutrient absorption and/or utilization. For example, the use of diuretics may cause loss of certain minerals like potassium and calcium.
Stress: Excessive stress can increase cortisol, your body’s primary stress hormone. Stress can deplete the body of nutrients and wreak havoc on the digestive system.
Age: There is a normal decline in gastric acid as we age, so younger individuals may have a higher bioavailability of micronutrients than older individuals. Vitamins are not only harder to swallow with age, but they become more difficult for the digestive system to break down. Capsules, powders, and liquids are easier to absorb.
How Delivery Systems Affect Bioavailability
Whether you prefer your nutrients in pill, powder, or liquid form, be aware that each type affects absorption. Today’s advanced delivery systems are exceptional in their ability to enhance bioavailability, but each have their pluses and minuses.
Capsules: Vegetarian capsules are the most common delivery style. Your body easily breaks down the outer shell, leaving the powdered nutrients to digest. Absorption may be compromised if you have an allergy or intolerance to certain excipients (inactive ingredients), so check your supplement’s ingredient list for the excipients used during production.
Softgels: Softgels are highly effective because the fill can contain liquid ingredients that help increase solubility or permeability across the membranes in the body. Their smooth contour can make them easier to swallow regardless of size. And their shelf life is great. The stomach is quick to break down the gelatin-based shell, freeing the nutrients so your body can start absorbing them. But be aware that softgels may be more expensive due to specialized manufacturing techniques.
Powders: Your body can quickly absorb powders compared to capsules or softgels because they do not contain casings or outer shells that need to be broken down. Their nutrients are available to the body for digestion immediately.
Liposomal: Easily confused with a regular liquid, but not the same at all, this is an excellent way for your body to rapidly ingest nutrients. Liposomes closely resemble the material of cell membranes, so they bond to these membranes first, supporting absorption of nutrients.
A Deeper Dive: Bioavailability and the Blood-Brain Barrier
Now that you know the bioavailability basics, let’s take a closer look and see how the right bioavailable nutrients, or lack thereof, can affect the more complex systems of the body. Specifically the blood-brain barrier and the immune system.
The blood-brain barrier (BBB) is the brain’s gatekeeper and is very difficult to bypass. But it also needs certain vitamins and minerals to prevent degradation. Absorption and reach (bioavailability) are critical.
When the BBB degrades, or leaks, it causes all sorts of problems—including inflammation in the brain, which can cause symptoms such as depression, brain fog, memory loss, and other brain-based disorders.
Strategies for repair are similar to fixing a leaky gut—balancing blood sugar, removing inflammatory chemicals from your diet and environment, and focusing on nutritious whole foods.
But beyond that, there are certain important nutritional compounds that create a strong, healthy BBB. One of them is curcumin and another is vitamin D.
Getting adequate vitamin D can help support many important brain functions, including cognition and mood. And curcumin has been used in Chinese and Ayurvedic therapies for thousands of years.
It’s easy to see why choosing the most bioavailable forms of both curcumin and vitamin D is so critical.
Bioavailability is Essential for Immunity
Immunity is a hot topic today, with everyone talking about how to support and balance their immune system. You don’t want your system to overreact, nor do you want it to be sluggish. The goal is a well-balanced system that responds appropriately when challenged. Research suggests that for optimal immune health, bioavailable vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc are the way to go.
Addressing Immune Health Imbalances
Several factors, such as chronic stress, vitamin deficiencies, lack of sleep, and exposure to toxins, can impair your immune system. Chronic stress also overstimulates immune cells, which may suppress other parts of the immune system.
Not getting enough vitamin D is also associated with abnormal immune responses.
Vitamin C is another powerhouse nutrient that contributes to immune defense by supporting various cellular functions of the immune system.
And in recent years, evidence increasingly validates the importance of zinc for all immune cells and for mounting an efficient and balanced immune response to various environmental stressors.
If you’re looking for a supplement full of proven immune boosters (from vitamins D, C, and zinc) in bioavailable forms, plus Theracurmin (the most bioavailable form of curcumin on the market), Tru Niagen Immune was made just for you. Learn more about it here.