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Recently I was asked a question about bioavailable copper.

This post is a more scientific post – I’ve worked at simplifying many aspects to keep it readable, but please don’t fret if it flies above your understanding. There are other posts you can look at instead! 😉

Generally speaking, when I’m talking about copper that is “bioavailable” – it’s within in a protein such as the master antioxidant ceruloplasmin and the protein is in the ‘ferroxidase’ form. It may be in a handful of other copper based proteins too. These proteins, when active and fully functional can actively work in your body to reduce inflammation, oxidative stress and facilitate many metabolic processes – when the functional copper isn’t there the processes can’t happen, and we get symptoms.

Side note: those wanting the details on ceruloplasmin structure can learn more about the chemistry of ceruloplasmin from here.

You may have heard me mention bioavailable copper before and that retinol is important… but what makes it “bioavailable” in the body? What makes the copper from sources like whole food vitamin c, bee pollen and grassfed beef liver more “bioavailable” than other sources? What about other sources of foods that have copper?

These are sources of bioavailable copper, but it’s important to note that they also contain other components the body needs to activate it into a functional/usable form.

There are multiple ways for us to make sure the “bioavailable” copper is present and active – ‘fully formed’ retinol being present in the body is one, and tyrosinase from the centre of a whole food vitamin c molecule (NOT ascorbic acid) is another. 

Whole food vitamin c does not have retinol, but instead it has tyrosinase at the core as a part of the ‘bioflavanoids’ – it is important at carrying/activating the copper it contains. That is, in this case, the food has given us both the copper itself, but also the components needed by the body to use it.

One example is bee pollen – it has other enzymes with it which are said to help it to be activated and used even though there’s not so much copper volume in it (it gives a good ‘bang for your buck’ impact – not large quantities).

If we eat (say) lamb that is another good food source of copper… what happens to it in our body to make it functional? The body utilises the retinol from the fat the comes packaged up in lamb 🙂

Often ‘rich’ sources of bioavailable copper may be also be rich in other things which help to activate it from other food sources or that which we already have.

Often as a Root Cause Protocol Consultant, I will be asked if foods like nuts or avocados are a good source of copper and why they may not be listed in this “bioavailable copper” suggested list. Avocados especially are fine as a ‘sometimes’ food, but being touted as having lots of copper doesn’t mean that eating lots of them will make anything functional – we still need the bioflavonoids or retinol to assist with that. Nuts in moderation are a good source of many nutrients, but they too do not have the components needed to activate that copper per se… we get that from elsewhere in our diet. If we eat a lot of foods which do not have the important extras that help our bodies activate the copper into the ‘bioavailable’ form, we can end up with other imbalances and/or a body which can’t balance itself without some assistance from a change in diet.

It’s not to say that avocados or nuts don’t have copper, but the activation may or may not happen, so we are suggesting foods that have the best impact due to the overall inclusions.

The ancestral diet that the Root Cause Protocol suggests, has a myriad of food sources of copper, along side whole food vitamin c and retinol, so it gives us the best chance to utilise what is digested to the best of our bodies capacity.

Sometimes we are told that we are “copper toxic” – when you learn the biochemistry of that situation, and look at the full picture of where your retinol is at, your magnesium and other minerals, you find that you are out of balance, and your body is having a hard time because it doesn’t have the building blocks you need.

When you can harness the “excess” copper, and get it functioning, you’ll find your body can return itself to balance and many things which you’ve been chasing (eg low iron, particular symptoms or even just generally feeling like you are ‘off’) will improve.

If you would like to learn more about your own bioavailable copper situation, to understand where your mineral balance is at and get some personalised assistance, please don’t hesitate to get in touch or book in directly.

Until next time!


– Kristan.


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