What we put into our bodies defines how we feel, function and even think. But relatively few of us are conscious of the effects of the food we eat, or how diet affects our lifestyle. We all know that eating healthy is optimum, and not all of us manage that on a day-to-day basis, of course. However, if we understood the importance of nutrition on our overall health, we might start paying a little more attention. This is even more critical if we’re in ill health, or suffering from a chronic condition; our diet can either support or hinder our recovery. One of the most important concepts when it comes to nutrition is bioavailability. But what is bioavailability? And how does it relate to both regular food and dietary supplements?
When we consume both food and drink, the nutrients contained within are released upon digestion. They are absorbed into the bloodstream, while the less useful parts of the intake are processed as waste. The nutrients run through the blood, which transports them to the organs and tissues where they can be of most use. However, not all nutrients are created equal, nor indeed absorbed equally. Bioavailability is the term used to describe the absorption and utilisation of a particular nutrient. In other words, different nutrients have a varying bioavailability. Understanding these differences can optimise nutrition and help nutritionists and doctors in providing superior dietary advice to patients.
There are a number of factors that contribute to a particular nutrient’s bioavailability. Although the term itself is pretty broad, its application can be quite intricate and may vary wildly from one source to another. Bioavailability is governed by both internal and external factors; in other words, the nutrient will have inherent properties (through its physicochemical dietary matrix) that will affect the value, but digestive enzymes in the intestine will also play a role. Other broader factors like gender, age, nutrient status and overall condition also have a stake in proceedings, and altogether, these elements will determine the specific bioavailability of a particular nutrient when eaten by a particular person. Broadly, though, it’s possible to evaluate the bioavailability of a food source on a standalone basis.
So, what about supplements? Is bioavailability important when it comes to supplements? Undoubtedly the answer is yes. How to pick the best dietary supplements should be totally governed by how bioavailable they are. If they have a very low bioavailability, they will do nothing for your body, regardless of what they might claim. You may have heard the phrase ‘you are what you eat’ before. This is a bit of a misnomer. More specifically, the phrase should be ‘you are what you absorb from what you eat’ (though of course this doesn’t have quite the same ring to it!). Manufacturers can improve on the bioavailability of a particular supplement in a number of ways, but they can also ignore it or deplete it completely. Take vitamins and minerals as an example. In dietary supplements and food additives, the majority of vitamins are produced synthetically. What matters most is how the vitamin or mineral may be presented. For instance, in what chemical form (active or inactive), or the chemical complex in which it is contained (organic complexes such as citrate, aspartate or chloride or inorganic complexes such as carbonate or oxide). In most cases, minerals bound in organic complexes may be absorbed more efficiently.
To get the most out of your supplements, you should always look for the option with the highest quality and lowest amount of unnecessary additives such as colourants, parting agents or emulsifiers. Look at the form the supplement comes in and choose wholefood over synthetic. Also remember that supplements are intended to be just that. They supplement a healthy diet, and should not be eaten in place of one. Never try to replace your diet with supplements. This is especially true if you’re suffering from chronic illness and have been recommended to see a nutritionist. Supplements can help support chronic disease treatment in many cases. Make Well produces a line-up of all-natural products that are utilised with medical professionals to support treatment of chronic disorders such as Lyme disease. Supplements can be particularly useful when battling chronic Lyme, as they aim to reduce inflammation, a prominent long-term Lyme symptom.
It’s also worth noting that dietary supplements might be set to play a bigger part in everyone’s lives in the future. Recent studies have shown that soil depletion is affecting the overall nutrition level of our produce, and it shows no sign of slowing down. Basically, this means we are depleting the soil’s natural resources faster than it can replenish them. Availing of a full nutritional intake might soon require supplements, whether you suffer from chronic disease or not. Either way, appreciating the bioavailability of both foods and supplements can be an important step to a healthier lifestyle, and ultimately a more fulfilling existence.