Where Vitamins are Absorbed and How to Maximize Their Bioavailability

Vitamins are essential for normal cellular functions, growth and development, and their deficiency can lead to a variety of clinical abnormalities. All vitamin absorption occurs in the small intestine, where water-soluble vitamins are found in the watery portions of the food you eat. They are directly absorbed into the bloodstream as food is broken down during digestion or when a supplement dissolves. The body absorbs useful nutrients for use by cells or stores the excess, but not everything can be used.

Nutrients that are not bioavailable are destroyed or excreted. Absorption is important and there are quite a few things that can affect vitamin absorption. The best way to absorb vitamins when taking supplements is to learn the best practices for maximizing absorption of each type and to work with your healthcare provider to determine the best form for your condition. Within the body, adipose tissues and the liver act as the main retention points for these vitamins and release them as needed. This source can contribute to the total vitamin nutrition of the body, and especially to cellular nutrition and the health of local colonocytes. The bioavailability of vitamins is something that many people don't consider when adding vitamins or supplements to their diet.

However, if you're sensitive to acids, taking it at mealtime may ease any stomach side effects, or you can try a buffered vitamin C, which is more gentle on the stomach. Most vitamin C supplements are composed of synthetic ascorbic acid, which has a bioavailability similar to that of the natural ascorbic acid found in foods such as fresh oranges and cooked broccoli. Many vitamins and minerals, as well as herbal supplements, have side effects that range from a rash to an upset stomach. Humans (and other primates, such as the guinea pig) cannot synthesize vitamins because they lack the enzyme L-gulonolactone oxidase; rather, they obtain them from dietary sources through intestinal absorption. Pantothenic acid (vitamin B) is necessary for the synthesis of coenzyme A and the acyl transporter protein, which are involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins.

Thiamin (vitamin B) is the first member of the family of water-soluble vitamins to be described, and it appeared in Chinese medical literature about 4000 years ago. Both dietary sources and supplements seem to contribute to the body's need for vitamins, although the exact level of contribution has not been defined. Niacin (vitamin B) is a precursor to the coenzymes NAD and NADP, which participate in metabolic reactions that maintain the cell's redox state, including glycolysis and the derivation of pentose phosphate. When a vitamin C or E molecule makes this sacrifice, it can allow a crucial protein, gene, or cell membrane to escape damage. To maximize vitamin absorption and bioavailability, it's important to understand how each type works within your body. Taking supplements at mealtime may ease any stomach side effects due to acids sensitivity.

Buffered vitamin C is also more gentle on your stomach than synthetic ascorbic acid. Additionally, it's important to be aware of any potential side effects from vitamins or herbal supplements.

Ben Liebhardt
Ben Liebhardt

Amateur travel fanatic. General web buff. Certified travel junkie. Twitter nerd. Infuriatingly humble web practitioner. Certified beer nerd.

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