Supplement Your Health

Posted on Saturday, October 25th, 2008
Written by: Angela, Nutritionist

Supplementing your diet is more important today than ever before. In today’s world, we are faced with foods that contain less nutrients than they did 100 years ago, increased stress and hectic schedules and constant access to convenient ‘non-food’ products. Many people suffer from digestive conditions that interfere with digestion and absorption of nutrients. All of these factors make it more difficult for us to eat, digest and absorb a balanced, healthy diet. In this article we’ll explore how vitamins and minerals are processed in the body, what factors negatively affect their absorption and which sources will best support a healthy body.

Your ability to absorb nutrients from the food you eat and supplements you ingest is affected by age, gut health, medication regimens, levels of stress, bowel health…you get the picture. Many factors affect your ability to digest and absorb.  When you can't completely digest your food or nutritional supplements, your body can't absorb the vitamins they contain. This ability decreases with age, due to reductions in stomach acid (even younger if you are taking acid reducers, either over the counter or prescribed) and reduction in digestive enzyme production. Though whole raw foods come naturally packaged with their own digestive enzymes these are destroyed by cooking.

Stomach acid is responsible for the activation of the specific enzymes needed for digestion as nutrients travels into the small intestine and colon. Low levels of stomach acid may allow undigested nutrients to travel farther along the digestive tract than the optimal distance for efficient absorption. These effects contribute to lowered levels of vitamins B2, B6, and B12, as well as decreased absorption of zinc from vegetables.

If you dislike swallowing pills and find that most multivitamin tablets disagree with you, you are not alone. Many vitamins and minerals have a naturally strong and objectionable taste and cause sour stomach symptoms. One may argue that this is a subjective consideration, but, in my experience, most people ‘fall off’ their supplement regimen due to taste or trouble swallowing these products. No matter how important it is to take multivitamins or how high the quality of the product, it is useless if you don’t take it consistently. Fortunately there are some great alternatives to tablets and capsules.

You can still have your multivitamins and enjoy all the benefits derivable from them in liquid form. Research evidence suggests that only 10-20% of vitamins and minerals in a pill form are absorbed by the body, compared to 98% for liquid vitamins. This is mostly because liquid vitamins bypass the digestive process and are absorbed directly into the blood stream and into the cell. Vitamins in capsule or tablet forms, therefore, have low bioavailability, hence have weaker therapeutic benefits. I do recommend capsules over tablets. But, I highly recommend liquids, overall.

Liquid multivitamins are much easier to swallow for children and seniors. Because these groups of individuals also have immature or attenuated digestive enzymes, it will be even more difficult to digest and assimilate vitamins in capsules or tablet forms because of the additional ingredients used to facilitate the production of these products. For children in particular, liquid vitamins offer an array of flavors that they can choose from.

Let’s take it a step further. One could argue that a good multivitamin is the foundation of health and nutrition. I would argue that we, as a society,  are missing out on more than vitamins and minerals. We are missing out on the phytonutrient and bioactive compounds, derived from plant based foods that were once the basis of our diet. Imagine if you will: if I hold an apple in my hand and extract Vitamin C and then put Vitamin C into pill form. I can take large doses of a Vitamin C pill, but what else am I missing out on? An apple contains over one hundred bioactive and phytonutrient compounds. These components work in a synergistic way in the body: all working together to improve health and help the body to function properly. For these reasons I recommend that my patients take liquid and powder (mix with liquid) nutritional formulations based on fruits and vegetables. These superfoods naturally provide vitamin and mineral content as well as deliver a potent phytonutrient and antioxidant base. I have also found that people are much more receptive to including supplements into their daily regimen, when offered in liquid and powdered form. If I could offer one ‘magic pill’ it would be consistency. In order to derive the best long term benefits to your health, find a greens and antioxidant fruit based drink and make it part of your daily routine.


Angela Pifer is a Certified Nutritionist, with a MS in nutrition from Bastyr University, in private practice, specializing in detox programs, food sensitivities, emotional eating, digestive conditions & weight loss. She founded Nutrition Northwest Co in 2005; the premier provider of sound nutrition and wellness advice in the Northwest with offices in Seattle and Kirkland. Angela has a unique approach to helping her patients create new healthier habits: offering customized nutrition programs that inspire & educate along with a high degree of support & accountability to help them become fit & fabulous from the inside out.

Categories: Supplements

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