Many in the Hemp/CBD business would lead you to believe that Absorption Bioavailability Utilization Are not the Synonomous. They definetley are NOT. When it comes to taking a drug or supplement, there are several factors that are extremely important to understand when taking and administering the product. Let’s review and differentiate some of these key components:
ABSORPTION – refers to the movement or transfer of the substance through the GI tract that enters the bloodstream
BIOAVAILABILITY – refers to the proportion of the nutrient that is available for utilization and/or storage (typically we’re referring to the amount of the nutrient that is circulating in the blood stream)
UTILIZATION – refers to the ability of the substance to act upon the site of action; the proportion of the nutrient that is ultimately used after its digestion, absorption, and distribution
First thing is first, the nutrient must be absorbed in order to become bioavailable to the body for use at the targeted tissue site. After all, the end goal we are after is to have an actual effect on a specific tissue for some desired result whether it be lower blood pressure or cholesterol or improve ECS or thyroid function. We will never get the desired outcome if the nutrients we ingest aren’t even absorbed … so this is a big piece to be considered when choosing products for your health.
There are quite a few barriers that exist within us that prevent us from getting full use of what we take. In many cases that is a good thing. In some ways, it can make supplementation more difficult.
Let’s touch on some of the factors that affect absorption and bioavailability of nutrients.
- the formulation of the substance (tablet, capsule, liquid, etc)
- the route of administration (sublingual, oral, topical, inhaled, etc)
- dosage of nutrient
- the rate of metabolism and gastric emptying
- food present in the GI tract or co-ingested compounds
- presence of biochemicals necessary in digestion (enzymes, hydrochloric acid, bile, etc)
- function of the gastrointestinal tract
- pH differences
- first pass metabolism
- CYP450 liver enzymes
- genetic variations
- pregnancy / lactation
I must admit that I have used the terms of absorption and bioavailability synonymously, but fortunately not utilization. There is definitely a difference.
Most hemp oil products on the market today are exactly that … oil. That doesn’t make them “bad” … there are all sorts of oils that are good for us. The issue we are seeing is that the already low rate of absorption of CBD and other phytocannabinoids is further hindered by this “oil factor”. It requires adequate levels of bile acids to assist in the proper breakdown of the oil for absorption, and it will typically encompass all the other gastrointestinal barriers listed above, from the impact of food in the stomach to proper GI function. If you put it in a capsule, the absorption tends to decrease even further than liquid alone.
I’d like to elaborate further on bile acids for a moment because I feel it is important and frequently overlooked. Bile acids are made in the liver and then stored in the gall bladder for when they are needed. Bile acids are essential for absorption of all fat-soluble nutrients like Vitamins A, D, E, and K and also the cannabinoids from hemp oil. Without adequate bile acid levels, your ability to absorb these vital nutrients diminishes. Another great reason to take good care of your liver and keep your gall bladder! The removal of gall bladders is so common and treated like it’s no big deal but we’re talking about removing a major organ involved in digestion – it is a big deal!
Good news for all on this one though …
Restore products have been specially formulated to bypass this process! Whether you have a gall bladder or not, this product’s absorption is not dependent on the health of your gut or status of your gall bladder function because it is absorbed through the thin tissues in your mouth and is able to directly enter the bloodstream. The technology utilized allows for almost all of the product to be absorbed and is almost immediately available for the body’s use (which is what we defined as BIOAVAILABLE).
A defining difference of Restore products verses the mass marketed “CBD” products on the market is the formulation and technology utilized that bypass many of the barriers for absorption and bioavailability. Whether you have eaten or not isn’t a concern, if your pH or biochemical make-up of your gut is imbalanced, it won’t impact absorption. We bypass the First Pass Metabolism.
Now we are beginning to see that it appears that there are situations in which a nutrient or substance can be ingested, can be absorbed, and is made bioavailable to the body … but for whatever reasons, the body doesn’t actually seem to USE the nutrient or it is metabolized too fast.
There is a new area of research that is really booming right now and that is in the field of genetics. Studies have shown that single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) can have significant effects on blood concentrations of many nutrients. This means that genetic polymorphisms (or mutations) can significantly affect the bioavailability of fat-soluble nutrients. (https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/full/10.1146/annurev-nutr-082117-051628)
This is a fairly complicated area that we are still uncovering but essentially when there are minor differences in the structure of certain genes, it can impact the compatibility of your body with specific nutrients. There are lots and lots of genes that are linked with lots and lots of nutrients. They can impact many different areas from how well something is absorbed (like cholesterol), to how well it is transported, to how it is metabolized and even eliminated. Nutrients undergo a series of pathways and highways in our body and a change to one of the proteins, or genes, that helps it along the pathway can change its fate for sure.
There has been quite a bit of research in this area as it applies to cannabinoids and the enzyme FAAH (that breaks down our endogenous cannabinoid, anandamide). One study found that one variation of a gene linked with FAAH modulates how we respond to stress. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5748341/) The researchers concluded with …
“These findings point to the endocannabinoid pathway as a promising target for future anti-stress therapeutics.”
While we are on the topic of genetics, let’s connect genetics back to the CYP450 enzymes that were on the list above. Genetics strongly influence the expression of this very special enzyme group.
Here’s what you need to know to lock in that Absorption Bioavailability and Utilization are not the synonimous.
They are a group of enzymes in the liver that are responsible for metabolizing hormones and oxidizing fatty acids, steroids, and xenobiotics. They are also heavily involved in the metabolism of many medications. There are more than 50 enzymes in this class of liver enzymes but 6 of them are responsible for metabolizing the majority of drugs.
These same enzymes break down CBD. One research study suggests that CBD is also an inhibitor of these enzymes which would mean if you are taking medications with CBD, the break down of the drugs may be reduced and therefore, the medication can remain in your system longer or at a higher dose than before.
Now for full disclosure, there are also food sources that inhibit these enzymes, too. Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, etc). Black tea. Grapefruit juice. Tumeric. Garlic. Maybe even black pepper …
Should you stop consuming all of these things and avoid CBD because they might be bad?
Here’s my two cents. I think that the synthetic form of CBD that is now available as a pharmaceutical drug, does not act the same way upon our body (just like synethetic hormones). Do I think that high doses of a pharmaceutical isolate of CBD could cause more problems in the body than we currently think … I do. Do I think that the whole plant form of hemp like we use here at Restore Health 101 should be lumped into this same risk class … I do not.
If you are on medications, do your own research to learn more about them. I strongly suggest running all of your medications through a free, online drug interactor program that will first and foremost be sure that you aren’t taking a deadly concoction. You’d be surprised how many times I’ve check it for a patient and there were several drug-drug interactions that came back. With how many meds there are available and how busy doctors are these days, you have to advocate for yourself and be educated.
When you start something new or change something in your regime, it might be best to have things re-evaluated … and preferably by someone that is open to different approaches to restoring health that can properly monitor your medications and will lower dosages or remove medications at the appropriate time.
So on top of everything else that makes our specific story unique, the drugs you take, the foods you eat, the thoughts you think, and how certain enzymes and genetics play out in your life are going to vary from your spouse and your neighbor. Listening to the innate guidance within you and honoring what your body tells you is a big piece that is missing from the American model of “health care” that anybody can access at anytime.
I think all of this truly speaks to the complexity of the human body and humbles me to admit we don’t have everything figured out but the more we dig and ask and search, the more we discover. That’s exactly what I intend to keep doing so we can find the best solutions to help you and your family.
Get to know Dr Lauren Benakovich DC, ICAK
I was born and raised in my family’s health food store (Georgetown Market) in Indianapolis, IN. The seeds for optimal health were planted early on. As a child I was also raised with the hands-on healing art of chiropractic that blended beautifully into my roots. I continued growing into the field and became a chiropractor in 2007 (thank you Logan College of Chiropractic).
Throughout the years I have taken a special interest in holistic care for young families … beginning my own family in 2013 with a fairly rough start launched me into the field of functional medicine to heal my son. I am now blessed with the opportunity to facilitate the growth of four children (Noah, Hunter, Kylie and Clara) with the help of many … especially my husband, Isaiah.
I chose a long time ago to pursue a path where I could serve and inspire others in living a better life through safe and natural ways. I am humble enough to know that I do not have all the answers, but also have a passion for learning. As we continue to discover more about the endocannabinoid system, my hope is that our world can awaken to the amazing healing power and potential this will bring to all of us.