Over the years we have had to answer numerous queries about the disintegration of tablets and thus the bio-availability of the ingredients that they contain. We have found recently that the number of questions relating to this subject has increased. It would appear that this is due to claims made about the disintegration of tablets by various companies and individuals on the internet.
So…what are they saying? (Now I know that it is possible that you may have heard this before, so please bear with me!)
1. Tablets will pass through your body intact. ‘Evidence’ supporting this can be found in the cities sewage systems. Therefore the tablets are of no value.
2. Liquid vitamins are much more bio-available than those in tablet form.
3. Capsules are more bio-available than tablets.
4. It makes no difference if ingredients are released in the stomach compared to the upper intestine, because all food is released in the stomach.
That is what ‘they’ are saying…but who are ‘they’? In a nutshell…marketers of liquid vitamins, supplements in capsule form and a mixture of well meaning (sometimes) but uninformed individuals, even including physicians marketing supplement capsules.
Is there any truth to the above four statements? The short answer is both yes and no…
Let me explain each point:
1. Substandard tablets could pass though the body intact. These are generally very cheap tablets with high percentages of inexpensive excipients and they are only produced by dishonest or incompetent manufacturers. In that respect there are parallels with supplements in capsule and liquid form where manufacturers substitute the active ingredients with cheap ineffective alternatives. Quality tablets 100% disintegrate within the guidelines that I will explain shortly.
2. Liquid vitamins are no more bio-available than a quality tablet that meets the disintegration guidelines. In fact, liquid supplements have serious limitations due to the fact that many ingredients cannot effectively be dissolved or suspended in water without losing efficacy. Also, they generally have artificial flavouring added to help mask the taste.
3. Once again capsules are no more bio-available than a correctly made tablet as the contents are released at the same time as a normal (non enteric coated) tablet.
4. For many ingredients in a supplement it does indeed make a big difference as to where they are released in the body. Let me give you a fairly detailed example using L-Glutathione which is extremely important for the health of your cells. This substance will be severely damaged if released in the stomach. This is well documented! It must be released in the upper intestine in order to be effective.
The amount of L-Glutathione we consume in food is very low and has little or no impact on the levels within our blood. This is because the L-Glutathione which is present in food is damaged by stomach acid. Because of this the body relies on the liver to synthesize L-Glutathione.
Whereas relying on the liver to produce this nutrient and others is fine when you are young and healthy, but it is a different story as you get older. Your organs are not as efficient and as a result the production of many essential nutrients is reduced, so it is easy to slowly develop deficiencies in many essential ingredients.
You will not even be aware of these developing deficiencies unless you have extensive blood testing. I am sure that you appreciate how critical it is that you don’t develop nutrient deficiencies, as they are the primary cause of most diseases.
If you want to do everything to help yourself avoid diseases then you must ‘top up’ with these key nutrients, and this is simply not possible using a conventional tablet or capsule. The nutrients need to bypass the stomach, and the only practical way to do this is with an enteric coated tablet which we use for Total Balance and our Neuro-Natural range. An alternative would be by intravenous drip, or suppositories, neither of which is practical for most people.
In summary on this point, those people who suggest that there is no point in enteric coating tablets unfortunately do not either understand bio-chemistry or are unaware of the importance of certain ingredients. Over the next few years as the nutritional supplement evolves and the ‘irresponsible’ manufacturers are ‘weeded’ out you will see more and more sophisticated products being released in an attempt to mimic Total Balance.
For your interest here are some of the other ingredients that we use in Total Balance and which are adversely affected by stomach acid.
* Dimethylaminoethanol Bitartrate (DMAE)
* Phosphatidyl Choline
* Betaine Hydrochloride
* Aloe Vera Polysaccharides
* Alpha Lipoic Acid
* Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP)
* N-Acetyl L-Cysteine
* Ribonucleic Acid (RNA)
How do you know if a tablet will disintegrate as it is supposed to?
It’s relatively easy to determine this for a conventional non enteric coated tablet. All you need to do is to make up a warm weak solution of water and vinegar and put the tablets in it and juggle it around and see how long it takes to start coming apart.
BUT…this method DOES NOT work for enteric coated tablets. In fact you could put these tablets through the washing machine and they would still be intact. As an example, we recently had a customer email us most concerned because he had left a couple of Total Balance tablets in his trouser pockets and they had been put through the laundry.
But, when he found them they will still as good as they were before his trousers went through the wash. Naturally he thought that if they were still intact after a good washing how would they disintegrate in his body? Simple answer is pH.
I’ll explain. As you know your stomach is acidic. If it wasn’t you would not be able to digest your food. After your food is digested it passes to your upper intestine which is slightly alkaline. If your intestines were not slightly alkaline you would soon die.
After you digest your food the nutrients pass through to your small intestine and the bulk of the nutrients that your body needs pass through the wall of the intestine into your blood stream to be distributed to your cells. This is why the small intestine is so important for releasing sensitive ingredients. Not only is it where the nutrients pass into the blood stream but it is also a much kinder environment for the nutrients.
So, how do you know if an enteric coated tablet is disintegrating as it should?
Unfortunately this takes more than the simple vinegar test at home. We have to use a special machine that juggles the tablets around firstly in an environment that simulates the stomach for two hours and then convert the liquid environment to simulate the upper intestine.
There is a very specific protocol for this test and the toughest one is one that is issued by the British Pharmacopeia. It is actually tougher than the US Pharmacopeia. It is the British Pharmacopeia protocol that we use for every batch of our enteric coated tablets.
You can have a look at that protocol by clicking here. You can also see the actual test results of a recent batch of Total Balance which we had tested at a New Zealand Government certified laboratory. For these results please click here.
Why can this be achieved with enteric coating? In simple terms the tablet is coated with an inert polymer coating which is acid resistant but upon exposure to the environment in the upper intestine it breaks away releasing the active ingredients which are absorbed though the intestinal wall whilst the polymer coating continues it journey and is excreted from the body.
Bottom line…don’t believe those companies or people who say that tablets are not as bio-available. If they are designed and manufactured correctly it is possible to deliver results which are impossible to do with either liquids or capsules. If this was not the case we would simply use capsules. It would be simpler and cheaper for us.
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