Why Does Bioavailability Matter for Supplements?
The number of adults who have never had even a temporary prescription medication is few and far between. Maybe you’ve needed antibiotics for an infection; perhaps you’re on medicine for a chronic condition. Either way, when the doctor handed the prescription over, the odds are good they recommended that you take the meds with food. The answer they’ll give is that when you take your meds on a full stomach, your body will be able to absorb them easier and put them to better use.
While they may not go into the technical terms, your doctor is referencing a process called bioavailability. This extremely important concept is a direct measurement of your body’s ability to absorb nutrients. But what is bioavailability? How does it factor into our healthy lifestyle?
What Is Bioavailability?
Put simply, bioavailability is the measurement of your body’s ability to put valuable substances to their intended use.
Consider this: when you take a vitamin, supplement or medication, you’re almost certainly taking it orally. When you swallow your pill, it travels down your throat and into your stomach. Your stomach injects the medication with digestive juices and then sends it into your gastrointestinal tract.
It’s in the walls of your GI tract that the valuable minerals and nutrients are absorbed into your bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, these nutrients can be put to use by the body. It’s a long way between your mouth and the bloodstream. Your body’s ability to ensure that the benefits of a given supplement make it to the place it’s supposed to go is bioavailability.
If your body’s bioavailability is low, you might discover you have more difficulty directing and using the beneficial ingredients in vitamins, medications and supplements.
Influences on Bioavailability
You might not realize it, but the journey from your mouth to your GI tract is a long one. Along the way, anything that starts its journey in your mouth is exposed to a massive number of chemicals and bodily processes. As a result, there is an enormous number of factors that influence your body’s bioavailability.
- Sex: Your body’s bioavailability will depend on the prescription you’re taking or the supplement you’re ingesting. Different substances react differently in men and women.
- Age: As you get older, your body’s bioavailability falls. It’s a natural part of aging and one we don’t have any control over.
- Food: Eating food along with supplements can reduce the stress put on your stomach by the supplement alone and kickstart the nutrient absorption process, improving the odds of getting more of the supplement into your bloodstream.
- The Substance Itself: Whether you’re taking meds or vitamins, the same rules apply. The chemical makeup of the supplement, vitamin or medication may have an ordinarily low or high bioavailability depending on its chemical formula.
- Other Meds/Foods: Whenever you get medication, your medical expert will likely ask what other vitamins or supplements you’re taking because all of these chemicals interact with each other in a variety of different ways.
Those are just the heavy hitters. There are plenty of other factors that exert influence over your body’s bioavailability. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to improve your body’s bioavailability.
Millions of U.S. residents suffer from daily attacks of heartburn and acid reflux. When the top portion of your digestive tract is in turmoil, your bioavailability will suffer enormously. Even as your stomach acid rises out of your stomach and begins wearing away at your esophagus, it also robs food of vital nutrients and minerals required to function.
Take Care of Your Teeth
Your mouth is the first line of defense in bioavailability. Though no nutrients are extracted from your food in the mouth, the functions therein—chewing and swallowing—are a good indication of how the rest of the absorption process will go. When your teeth can adequately chew your food, it preps substances for use by the rest of your body. When you brush your teeth, it kills bacteria that can inhibit bioavailability and stimulates the creation of saliva that allows vitamins and minerals to enter the rest of the GI tract without issue.
Keep Your GI Tract Healthy
You can also go a long way toward improving your body’s bioavailability by making sure that your gastrointestinal tract is ready to do its job when the time comes. Think about taking a probiotic. Drink plenty of water. Get enough sleep. Keep an eye on stress. Each of these steps can go a long way toward improving your gastrointestinal tract's ability to work more efficiently.
Give Yourself a Leg Up
If you’re taking a supplement or a vitamin and you’re concerned that you’re not getting all the benefits that should go along with it, you could have issues with bioavailability. There is a massive number of vitamins and supplements that can help improve your bioavailability. You just have to look around.