Save Your Money -- Again (May 28, 2019)
As I was proofreading my most recent newsletter (tragically, after I had already sent it out to you all), I realized that I had casually tossed out a piece of information therein that is so mind-blowing and yet so little-known, something so simple but – dare I say it – PROFOUND, that it merited a nice short holiday-weekend newsletter all to itself. So I’m going to make you read that paragraph again, and then riff on it. Thus:
That’s one thing that needs to be understood about almost any nutrient, by the way. No matter what form you take something in, your body doesn’t usually absorb it like that. It breaks it down as far as it can in your stomach and gut before it is permitted to enter the bloodstream, because that’s what your stomach and gut are FOR. Large (or even largeish) molecules are NOT absorbed in the form you take them in unless you are really messed up. Collagen (since it is just a protein after all) very likely is one of those substances.
A little background here. Your digestive system is a long muscular tube with openings to the outside at both ends, and anything you swallow is technically outside your body until it is actually absorbed. (Think about THAT for a moment. Way cool, huh?) The thing is, it doesn't absorb everything you eat. Your body is very, VERY picky about what it absorbs. It assumes that you're going to eat everything you can get down and that ITS job is to pick through all that stuff and just absorb the parts that are worth keeping.
If you eat something objectionable enough, it will make you puke it up immediately. If it’s not as bad as all that but still somewhat dubious, it will encourage it out the other end as rapidly as possible. But it's not done there. It repeats its evaluation again later on a molecular level.
Also, “digestion” does not mean that when you successfully keep down a McDonald's McNugget, it is broken down into millions of tiny McNuggets. It means that anything you swallow is, by a truly remarkable combination of muscular contractions, stomach acid and no end of different digestive enzymes, broken down into molecules that your body can recognize and -- should it so choose -- absorb. Everything remaining then goes out with the wash.
What you are eating, then, is NOT what you are actually absorbing. You aren’t absorbing beef, raspberries, or tacos as such. You’re absorbing a very rarified portion of the molecular slurry that your digestive system has managed to produce from whatever you ate. So what? Well, when we’re talking about food, it’s not all that crucial. But when we are talking about pricey supplements, it could be a very big deal.
This is one of the herd of elephants present in the room of ANY new supplement. The head elephant is whether the thing can even do what it’s supposed to. But the elephant right after it in line is that all too often, by the time something enters your bloodstream, it's lost its cachet - and its price tag.
Collagen is an important structural protein. But just because you eat it doesn’t mean that your skin and bones acquire more collagen. Placenta isn’t the same thing as stem cells. Glucosamine sulfate is found in cartilage, but that doesn’t mean it will actually IMPROVE your cartilage. And the list goes on and on.
Your digestive system knows enough to be able to take a hamburger, a Chick-fil-A, or a $5-for-12-ounces collagen water completely apart. But by the time it’s done doing its job, each of those things is a porridge of very small and simple molecules that don’t bear the slightest resemblance to the original item.
For this reason, many, many pricey supplements end up in your small intestine in a form where your body really can’t tell them from a Walmart $10-for-a-year’s-worth multivitamin.
This isn’t an issue with your run of the mill everyday supplements like vitamin C. But with the latest and greatest moneymakers, like collagen and chondroitin sulfate for example, you may very possibly be wasting your money.
So in the end, that is just one more reason why NOT to run out and immediately pay big bucks for expensive bottles of things. Not until they have been researched long enough and well enough to know precisely what they do and in what form they need to be presented to your body to do it.
--dr. diane holmes
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