- You can take vitamins daily but your body may not be absorbing them due to a number of issues, some you can be totally in control of.
- Your gut health, food, and medication that you pair your supplements with can also impact the absorption rate.
- The form in which you take supplements can affect your absorption. We will break down the differences between tablets, capsules, liquids, liposomes and micelles.
- Liposomes and micelles are somewhat new ways to take supplements but according to research they are very effective for absorption and bioavailability.
Taking vitamins and supplements seems pretty straight forward. However, there are actually multiple things you may be doing that could be hurting your absorption of vitamins and supplements. Perhaps you haven’t been pairing them with the right foods or taking them in a form that promotes absorption. You could even be taking them at the wrong time of day. There’s a learning curve for everything, even taking vitamins.
Here are some ways to ensure you are absorbing your vitamins better.
The basics of vitamin absorption
Let’s start by looking at how your body absorbs vitamins. How your body absorbs vitamins depends on the type of vitamin:
- Lipid-soluble vitamins: Dissolve in fat and include vitamins A, D, E and K.
- Water-soluble vitamins: Dissolve in water and include vitamins C and B.
Water-soluble vitamins are more easily absorbed as they are absorbed directly into your bloodstream when you ingest them but this also means they exit the body as urine so these levels need to be replenished.
Lipid-soluble vitamins are fat-based which means fat-based vitamins have to attach to proteins before they can be absorbed into the blood. They can be stored in the liver or fat cells of your body.
Better vitamin absorption depends on what factors?
There are certain things you can do to have more efficient bioavailability. Bioavailability is the term for the amount of a nutrient that is absorbed by the body. So even if you take a vitamin or supplement, there is not a total guarantee that you will absorb all the nutrients. And if you aren’t absorbing the vitamin, then you are missing out on their benefits.
Some factors that could weaken absorption include:
Gut health: You have heard it talked about a lot but what does it mean in terms of absorbing vitamins? Imbalanced digestive components including stomach acid levels, digestive enzymes, and bile can impact absorption negatively. Plus, if you have gut pathogens (aka unhealthy parasites), they also can definitely hurt absorption. Gastrointestinal issues including celiac disease, pancreatitis and Crohn’s can also be bad for absorption. So, work with your health care practitioner to make sure you manage any gut health issues that may need to be addressed.
Medications: Certain medications you take can also impact absorbency, especially acid reflux, medication, blood thinners or metformin. Check with your pharmacist if you are taking any of these medications for the best time to take your supplements to help get the most out of both, while managing any potential contraindications. Supplements including Vitamin K, Zinc and Omega-3s can also interact with common over-the-counter medications and prescriptions.
Foods: Certain foods can also block the absorption of some nutrients. For example, in some cases milk and caffeine have been shown to prevent absorption of different antioxidants and nutrients. That is one of the reasons you may have heard the saying don’t take your vitamins with your morning coffee.
The form you take a supplement in makes a big difference
Vitamins come in many shapes and forms and depending on the person a certain format may work better for them than others. According to a Harris poll, 40% of the population has a hard time swallowing pills. And people who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, hiatal hernias, diverticulitis, or have had bariatric surgery struggle with pills and capsules. Fortunately, vitamins and supplements can be taken in many forms, such as:
Tablets and Powders
Tablets are the most common form of pills, including vitamins. They are made by compressing one or more powdered ingredients together that produces a solid, smooth coated pill that breaks down and is absorbed into the bloodstream. For people who have challenges with tablets and capsules, powders can be much easier to take, but not necessarily any more effective or absorbable.
Capsules can come in either hard shell or softshell form. In a hard shell capsule, the shell contains the medication in powder or pellet form. More than one drug can be held in a capsule.
Soft-gel capsules also known as liquid gels look a bit different than hard shell capsules which hold the medicine in a gel-like substance. Once digested the medicine is released and then absorbed into the bloodstream.
Tablets and capsules are quite common, but what you may not be as familiar with for taking supplements is liposomes and micelles.
Studies show that if a gummy vitamin and a vitamin pill have the same amount of a vitamin, they are equally absorbed into the bloodstream. However, the concern is that many gummies have sugar, fillers and non-nutritional elements that make them taste good, but are not beneficial to health. The taste also can lead to people taking more than the appropriate dose, leading to a potential overdose of the vitamins which can have side effects or negative health impact.
Another form that has become more familiar over time for supplements includes liquids. For those that struggle taking pills or capsules, have a difficult time absorbing nutrients and for children, liquids are an easy alternative. They also make dosing flexible. However, some nutrients should be absorbed more slowly than others, making them less desirable in a liquid format. They also have shorter shelf lives typically and frequently need to be kept refrigerated. Most liquids are for injections however a large number of under the tongue and spray formulas are making their way into the market.
Liposomes are advanced drug delivery vehicles that due to their structure, made up of a lipid bilayer that encapsulates medicine in its aqueous compartment (if water soluble) or its lipid bilayer (if fat soluble), can help the drug successfully get to its target. They are able to mimic the human bilayer lipid cell membranes which gives the drug more time to reach its destination and can help minimize side effects because they can solubilize drug molecules. They are especially effective for drug delivery for cancer, antibacterial infections. They can also help carry vaccines.
However, though liposomes used to only be used for targeted drug delivery, now a handful of companies are using them for oral delivery of supplements and vitamins and they are finding them to be very effective. Liposomes can easily encapsulate vitamins and supplements and keep them protected as they navigate the harsh and acidic gut environment. Because of their biological mimicry abilities, liposomes allow the nutrients to get to the targeted tissue and body areas at a more effective rate.
Liposomes are most effective when they are small (less than 150 nm) and due to liposomal nanotechnology they can achieve 10 times more bioavailability than standard oral supplements.
Micelles are similar to liposomes in that they are both excellent for drug delivery and now supplement delivery, but the main difference is that micelles have a single layer membrane, and liposomes have a bilayer. Micelles also have the mimicking quality and act and look like an intestinal cell which helps protect the supplement inside and then helps it to be absorbed by cells better.
There are some great advantages with micelles and liposomes over other forms of supplement intake including:
- Higher bioavailability and absorption rates
- Cost effective because you can take a lower dose and get the same effect
- Presents a tablet alternative for people who have trouble swallowing pills
- Can provide controlled releases
Some liposomal and micelles you may want to try include Quicksilver’s NAD+ Gold 50 ml which helps with replenishment of intracellular NAD+, the body’s celebrated age management molecule, as well as their Glutathione for a powerful antioxidant that supports the detox functions of the body.
IVs and Injections
IV’s (intravenous delivery) is a very powerful delivery system, especially for people with gut issues or who are unwell. This delivers nutrients directly into the blood stream. However, most people do not need to take their nutrients like this and nor is it a practical method for daily vitamin intake. Injections are frequently used to give someone a larger dose of a nutrient while bypassing the digestive system, such as B12. Injections are commonly given more frequently and may even be self-performed, however, they do are not practical for daily supplementation usage.
The bottom line on liposomes and micelles
If you are looking to fully reap the benefits of the supplements you take, liposomes and micelles are the way to do it. A liposomal supplement can be absorbed directly to anywhere in the body it comes in contact with and can be great for people looking to maximize their dosage, or deal with swallowing or digestive issues.