We are all becoming aware that the nutritional value of the food we rely on day to day contains less vitamins and minerals than it did 50 years ago and that our modern, pressured lifestyles impact on our natural health balance(1). For most of us we look to capsules, tablets and drinks to supplement our intake. However, recently a number of research bodies have reminded us that ingesting these nutrients is not the only way of ensuring an adequate supply… and maybe there are more efficient ways.
Our digestive health has never been so poor. The human body requires hydrochloric acid in the stomach to break down our food sufficiently in order for it to absorb the essential nutrients within. Historically, as we age our production of hydrochloric acid reduces but this process is becoming evident earlier and earlier in our lives. When we are ill, production further reduces. Hospitals will provide intramuscular injections or intravenous drips rather than tablets for certain nutrients for this very reason. The key therefore is to get the nutrients or medication into the bloodstream as soon as possible, reducing opportunity for wastage.
A ground breaking study(2) by Dr Charles Heard of The Welsh School of Pharmacy investigated ways of reducing death from malaria. Victims often struggled with quinine tablets (an effective treatment) as vomiting and illness impeded their absorption. A simple quinine solution, sprayed under the tongue delivered the life-saving medication directly into the bloodstream. There’s no requirement for water or for a doctor to administer an injection. The mucous membrane around the cheek and under the tongue is an incredibly absorbent tissue and absorption is immediate. The concept works for other elements which either require the bloodstream to transport them to essential organs, such as vitamin D (essential for bone health and the immune system), or which struggle to be absorbed within the stomach such as vitamin B12 (a large molecule necessary for energy production).
The skin too should not be overlooked for its absorption qualities. We just have to look at the rapid rise of skin patches to see just how important the skin is. The body’s largest organ is a very hungry one and works hard to keep bad elements out of the body and absorb beneficial ones. A clinical trial this year(3) by Cardiff University showed how mineral salts such as magnesium are particularly well absorbed through the skin, whether sprayed on or absorbed in a bath, helping the body to normalise muscle function and absorb calcium. We all know how relaxing a mineral-rich spa pool can be for this very reason.
The lungs are a particularly interesting area. A very effective absorption membrane it benefits from an undulating surface area which, if laid flat would be the size of a tennis court. This is why smoking is such an additive activity. The benefits, of course, mean that people with respiratory difficulties can inhale muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatories. Specialising in support for athletes The Magnesium Therapy Centre(4) in Orthenstraat, Holland, has developed a method of exposing magnesium chloride solution to ultrasonic vibration within a steam room, allowing the magnesium to be breathed in so enhancing the lungs ability for oxygen uptake.
There will always be a requirement for ingested nutrients but we should not ignore the fact that the whole of the body has been designed for optimum absorption.
Written by Andrew Thomas from BetterYou
1. National Diet and Nutrition Survey. Dep. Of health 2008-2010.
2. Delivery of atovaquone and proguanil across sublingual membranes, in vitro. Eleri Wallace, Charlene M.Y. Ong and Charles M. Heard. Welsh School of Pharmacy, UK
3. In vitro transdermal delivery of magnesium. 25 Oct 2011. Dr Charles Heard, Cardiff University
4. Magnesium Therapy Centre, Holland