Are you eating healthy whole foods with lots of vegetables and still feeling low in energy? Supplementing with multi-vitamins and other nutrients yet still symptomatic? If you are not feeling any healthier despite your efforts, the reason could be that nutrients aren’t being properly absorbed by your body. There are a few factors that can influence how well your body absorbs the vitamins and nutrients – from age and stress levels to the balance of gut flora in our digestive tract.
Digestion and absorption is a complex process that involves an interaction between motor (chewing, peristalsis), secretary (saliva and enzymes) and digestive processes and therefore there are many physiological factors which can influence our absorption of nutrients. Our microbiome also plays a vital role, as well as how you combine food and how much chronic stress you are under.
4 Ways to improve your absorption
- Improve your microbiome
While most of us have heard about probiotics and the microbes that live in our intestinal tract, I cannot stress enough as to how important they are to our overall health, not just in their ability to help us digest and absorb nutrients, but also in that they produce nutrients that are of benefit to us, increase our immunity and mental clarity. In a recent study on the effect of the microbiome on nutrient status of malnourished children the conclusion was: “These results provide evidence that microbiota immaturity is causally related to undernutrition”.
Improve your microbiome by:
Eating fermented foods such as sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, kefir, yogurt (not processed), and kombucha
take a good probiotic
reduce sugar and refined carbohydrates
- Eat raw foods
Raw foods are enzyme rich and enzymes are crucial for preventing rotting and putrefaction in the digestive tract, and a diet rich in raw or lightly-cooked fruits and vegetables promotes optimal enzyme levels and good digestion. Many people are low in digestive enzymes due to a diet of cooked, processed, and sugary foods, sometimes combined with overuse of pharmaceutical drugs such as antibiotics. Heating your food above 60 degrees C also renders most enzymes inactive for destroys them.
Some good sources of enzymes include:
Coconut flesh (not oil)
Yogurt (plain, unsweetened)
Shitake, Reishi, and Maitake mushrooms
- Slow down and chew your food
Digestion begins the moment you start chewing and saliva is released into your mouth. Your saliva contains enzymes that help break down food, making it easier for the body to digest and absorb. Take smaller bites and chew until your food has lost all texture, make time to eat. Chewing your food well also alkalizes it, due to bicarbonate ions present in saliva
- Reduce alcohol consumption
Alcohol affects nutrient absorption by reducing digestive enzymes and damaging the lining of the digestive tract making absorption difficult. Chronic consumption of alcohol reduces absorption of all nutrients
Proper nutrient absorption will maximize the impact of any vitamins, supplements and even medications you’re taking – which will improve your overall health and wellbeing as well as save you money!
You are unique and it’s key to reflect on your overall picture and begin making improvements where you see fit. By limiting your stress levels, taking excellent care of your system, maintaining a wholesome diet high in plant-based foods and supplementing with a high quality probiotic, you can improve your nutrient absorption and set your body on a path to optimal health and wellness. If you would like more information please contact Vitalise
Keller, J., & Layer, P. (2014). The Pathophysiology of Malabsorption. Viszeralmedizin, 30(3), 150–154. http://doi.org/10.1159/000364794
Thomas, L. V., Ockhuizen, T., & Suzuki, K. (2014). Exploring the influence of the gut microbiota and probiotics on health: a symposium report. The British Journal of Nutrition, 112(Suppl 1), S1–S18. http://doi.org/10.1017/S0007114514001275
Blanton, L. V., Charbonneau, M. R., Salih, T., Barratt, M. J., Venkatesh, S., Ilkaveya, O., . . . Gordon, J. I. (2016). Gut bacteria that prevent growth impairments transmitted by microbiota from malnourished children. Science, 351(6275).
Clugston, R. D., & Blaner, W. S. (2012). The Adverse Effects of Alcohol on Vitamin A Metabolism. Nutrients, 4(5), 356–371. http://doi.org/10.3390/nu4050356