How To Make Nutritional Supplements Work For You

You've no doubt noticed the myriad of nutritional supplements lining the shelves at supermarkets, drugstores, pharmacies and health food stores. Among these supplements you'll find every imaginable vitamin and mineral from A to zinc as well as other lesser-known supplements supposedly to make us healthier and live longer.

Of course, we also see supplements specifically targeted at specific individuals such as weight loss watchers, bodybuilders, children, post-menopausal women, pregnant mothers and others. No matter the types and objectives of these nutritional supplements, however, the ways in which they work in the body are very similar.

Supplements in the Body

Just like our normal food, nutritional supplements pass through our digestive system to be absorbed in the bloodstream. Once there, the nutrients are transported throughout the body to add the necessary vitamins and minerals that may have been absent from the diet.

In a bit more detail, the nutritional supplements introduce their active ingredients to the stomach, and are then passed through the small intestines where they may be finally absorbed into the bloodstream. It is vital that the ingredients are able to survive the harsh, acidic environment of the stomach so that the small intestines can receive those nutrients and pass them on to the cells.

This is what happens in theory, but researchers discovered that many of the ingredients of nutritional supplements do not survive, and based on that discovery the concept of bioavailability was born.

What is Bioavailability?

To adapt a well-known phrase, not all nutritional supplements are made equal -- especially in terms of bioavailability. In simple terms, bioavailability aims to measure how much of the nutrients in a supplement is available for absorption into the body. Absorption refers to the body's capacity to pass those nutrients into the bloodstream and deliver them to the tissues and cells where they can be used.

The bioavailability of certain ways of preparing supplements can be viewed as follows:

  • Tablets are the lowest in bioavailability. No more than 25 percent. This is because the active ingredients do not survive the acidic environment of the stomach, and, in addition, they contain many binders and fillers. In the end, all the body gets are mostly starches and sugars.

  • Liquid supplements do better. They have a bioavailability rate of up to 60 percent. Even so, this bioavailability can be reduced because of flavorings that are used to cover up the unpleasant taste of certain herbs and oils which are in those supplements.

  • Capsules, especially those with enteric coatings, perform best. Their bioavailability can be up to 90 percent. Why? Because the coatings provide protection from the acid in the stomach, allowing most of the active ingredients to be available in the small intestine.

In summary, when you are choosing from among the many nutritional supplements available, take time to read the labels and make certain that the ingredients meet your needs, choose a reliable manufacturer and to use coated capsules when you want top effectiveness. And now you know how to make sure that your nutritional supplements work for you!

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