You are what you eat, right? Well actually, maybe not, especially if you aren’t absorbing the essential nutrients from your foods properly. If you have a healthy diet, full of a variety of foods containing a variety of nutrients, but you are still suffering from deficiencies or illness on a regular basis, there are a few things that could be causing this.
Why Your Body May Not Be Properly Absorbing All the Goodness From Food
Let’s look at these 4 key reasons you may not be properly absorbing all the goodness from your foods and some ways you can begin to reverse this and solve it.
1. Low Digestive Enzymes
Why are they important?
Primarily produced in the pancreas and small intestine (as well as in the saliva glands when we chew food thoroughly), these are responsible for turning the food you eat into its nutrient pieces. Essentially, they transform fruits, vegetables, and meats into amino acids, fatty acids, and simple sugars, as well as minerals and vitamins. With a lack of these enzymes, we might be eating just fine, but our body doesn’t absorb whole foods, and as such the nutrients within these foods go unabsorbed.
What can you do?
Drinking too much water during your mealtime actually dilutes digestive enzymes making them less effective, so you should drink water half an hour before you start eating to avoid this issue.
Another solution is to drink bitter teas around 15 minutes before you eat. Bitter beverages such as heavily brewed chamomile tea, stimulate the secretion of digestive enzymes in the body, meaning you’ll digest that meal more effectively.
Additionally, switching to a diet low in grains and legumes means you eliminate enzyme inhibitors within these foods and you can begin to fix gut bacteria, reducing inflammation in the body and the digestive tract, improving nutrient deficiencies.
2. Low Stomach Acid
Why is it important?
Stomach acid is vital in the body’s process of nutrient absorption from food, especially in the digestion of protein into essential amino acids and nutrients. If you suffer from heartburn symptoms, it could be down to this. Contrary to popular belief, indigestion is caused by low stomach acid, meaning the acidity of your stomach acid is low, and it affects up to half of the American population. Stomach acid also stimulates the pancreas and small intestines to produce the digestive enzymes essential to breaking down food.
Low stomach acid leads to ineffective digestion and absorption of protein, which creates toxins in your intestines and can also lead to acidic blood. As your blood becomes more acidic, it starts to look for minerals from anywhere in your body to make it alkaline again, and will even rob these from your bones, potentially leading to issues like osteoporosis down the road.
What can you do?
There are some ways to heal low stomach acid, but one very effective way of doing so is to take apple cider vinegar before your meals. The apple cider vinegar has a low pH in balance with your stomach, increasing its acidity.
As well as this, you try adding fermented foods and drinks such as kimchi or sauerkraut to your diet, as these will help raise stomach acid if it is too low.
3. Bad Eating Habits
Why is it important?
Having a routine when it comes to eating is really important for proper digestion and nutrient absorption. Increasingly people are putting food and mealtimes lower and lower on their list of priorities. Anyone who’s eaten their lunch at their desk or in front of the television recently will know what I’m talking about!
Mindless eating, or eating without really thinking about it, doesn’t give your body a proper chance to know that you are engaging in eating. There are lots of studies linking our stress levels and gut health, and if you aren’t taking time out of your day to properly focus on eating, your gut will suffer. You won’t secrete gastric juices properly, and as such, as we’ve already seen, end up not properly absorbing your food’s nutrients.
If you rush meals, not properly chewing food, you essentially skip the first step in the digestive process, as chewing food thoroughly releases certain enzymes, aiding the stomach’s digestion, as well as helping reduce gas.
What can you do?
Start to practice mindful eating. Be fully aware of what you are eating and be sure to put yourself in a relaxed state before you begin a meal. Eat meals slowly, savoring each bite and the flavors they bring, striving to reach around 30 chews per mouthful, and place your knife and fork down after each bite you take.
By slowing down mealtimes and making them a separate occasion in your day, you will begin to notice not only that you are filling up much faster than usual, but that by giving your body fair warning that you are eating, it will more effectively digest and absorbing the nutrients from the foods you are consuming.
4. Damaged or Inflamed Gut
Why is it important?
Over 80% of all absorption takes place in the small intestine thanks to the microvilli lining its walls which draw out the partially digested foods’ nutrients. If this becomes in any way inhibited, you are going to seriously miss out on the nutrients. Unfortunately, dairy is known to cause excessive mucus in the gut which can coat the intestinal walls and prevent effective absorption.
An additional issue centering on the gut is caused by gluten. Over a third of the American population suffers from some form of gluten sensitivity, with the majority unaware of it.
The reason this is an issue is that gluten contains a protein called zonulin, which damages the tight junctions in your gut. Suddenly, things not intended to get through your gut wall are able to and are leading to your body having an immune response. Additionally, this could be inducing inflammation which has been linked to diseases such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s. Gluten also contains phytates which are anti-nutrients that can block mineral absorption.
What Can You Do?
One of the best solutions is to do an elimination diet. To do this you should completely remove foods like gluten, dairy, and soy, and others depending on how extensively you wish you test your intolerances, from your diet. Then after 3 or 4 weeks, reintroduce them one by one, monitoring for any adverse reactions over a couple of days. This will help you solve the riddle of which foods are causing you trouble, and will lead to a healthier gut in the future.
Without dairy present in your diet, you may begin the clear some of mucus from your intestinal wall and bring absorption function back to normal levels.
If you think you a nutrient absorption issue might be at the heart of your health issues, begin to make these changes to your diet and see if you notice an improvement in how your body uses the foods you consume.
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