Contrary to popular belief, you are not what you eat. You are what you absorb. Not everything that hits your stomach gets used in your body, and not everything that that gets used in your body ever even hits your stomach. In fact, you consume somewhere in the neighborhood of 550 liters of oxygen every single day. If you tried drinking 550 liters of water in a day, you’d never leave the bathroom! At least not until the paramedics wheeled you out.
Right now you might be thinking that unabsorbed food sounds great, and if only your body would absorb less of it, you wouldn’t have those extra pounds around the waistline. Unfortunately, caloric foods such as proteins, fats, and especially carbs are much easier to absorb than many calorie-free nutrients. Deficiency in these can lead to grogginess, fatigue, depression, anxiety and poor health. This can happen even with the healthiest of diets.
What Are The Causes of Poor Absorption?
Various circumstances can lead to insufficient absorption, including illness, genetics, and especially gluten!
One of the most common causes of poor absorption is gluten, particularly for those who have difficulty processing it. Gluten can also cause damage to the small intestines and their lining, which reduces the absorption of nutrients, especially fats and fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, and K).
There are numerous intestinal infections caused by bacteria, viruses and parasites that can cause reduced nutrient absorption. Many of them can damage your stomach or intestines, leading to more severe problems such as ulcers.
Chemical or Enzyme Imbalance
Your body can’t digest food without the aid of specialized enzymes and hydrochloric acid. And you can’t absorb what you don’t digest.
Your digestive system can only handle so much food at one time. When you consume too much food at once, there’s a good chance it won’t sit in your gut long enough to be properly digested and absorbed. A similar problem can come from not fully chewing your food.
Other Gastrointestinal Disorders
Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, diabetes, lactose intolerance, bariatric surgery… The list goes on and on. There are far too many genetic conditions, auto-immune disorders, and intestinal injuries to list them all here.
There are many essential nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fats and more. ‘Essential’ means that your body doesn’t make them at all, or not in sufficient quantities for good health. You need your diet to supply these, and poor absorption can cause deficiencies in these vital nutrients. Deficiencies can lead to all of that grogginess, fatigue, depression, anxiety and poor health I mentioned earlier.
So What Can We Do About It?
Cut Out the Gluten
This is becoming easier to do every day as more and more gluten free options are made available. With 1 in every 20 people suffering from it, poor gluten tolerance is so common that losing the gluten should be one of the first fixes you try.
If you’re not sure how you’ll live without your morning bagel or that gluten loaded pizza crust, there’s good news! Your doctor can test you for gluten sensitivity, and for a slew of other allergies that you weren’t even aware you had.
The best offense is a good defense! You can protect your stomach and intestines from infection by loading up on good bacteria. It’s common knowledge that lactobacillus and other probiotics help you to digest food, but they also help protect you from infection! Bacterial infections need resources to survive. These resources come from you and everything you eat. By taking a healthy probiotic regularly, you’re giving yourself a defensive shield of healthy bacteria that will compete for resources with harmful pathogens that are trying to move into your body.
Pro Tips: Make sure you’re getting a quality probiotic. Contrary to what marketing teams want you to believe, the sheer number of bacteria in a probiotic is not nearly as important as the variety included. Look for probiotics that contain at least three or four of the following strains: L. acidophilus, B. longum, B. bifidum, L. fermentum & L. rhamnosus.
Also, pay attention to the expiration date and packaging. Bacteria are living things, making them susceptible to light, humidity, temperature, oxidation and age. There’s really no point in taking a gel caps filled with dead bacteria.
Your best protection from bacteria, viruses and parasites is cleanliness. You can avoid introducing any of these pathogens into your system by washing your hands with soap before you eat, prepare food or touch your face, lips or eyes.
Still having trouble? Try taking digestive enzymes with your probiotics, or with meals. If you notice an improvement, you may have found your problem!
An easy way to check your hydrochloric acid levels is to mix a teaspoon of baking soda with a glass of water and drink it. If it doesn’t make you burp, you may need to add orange juice to your shopping list. That extra acidity could be just the thing you needed to get your stomach back on track.
If you suffer from frequent heartburn, then low acidity is probably not your issue. Gluten is the more likely candidate, since it’s notorious for causing frequent and severe heartburn in those who are sensitive to it. Man, for someone who loves pasta as much as I do, I’m being really harsh on gluten today.
Serving sizes vary from food to food, but they really shouldn’t be much bigger than the palm of your hand. Watching your serving sizes is also an excellent way to shed a few extra pounds! Spreading your daily intake out into smaller meals and snacks can help ensure proper absorption, increase your energy levels and maintain that sense of being satisfied throughout the day.
Chew Your Food
Digestion starts in the mouth! Saliva contains enzymes that begin breaking food down before you’ve even swallowed. You can see for yourself. Try putting a small piece of (gluten optional) bread on your tongue and let it sit there for a moment. It won’t be long before you notice a sweet taste. This sweet taste is caused by the amylase in your saliva breaking the bread down into simple sugars.
Chewing your food properly breaks it down into smaller, easily digestible pieces while mixing it with these awesome enzymes. The best part about thoroughly chewing is that not only do you get to enjoy the flavor for longer, the flavor also gets stronger while the food is breaking down. It’s also easier to tell when you’re full when you eat slower. So many benefits! Chewing your food more thoroughly may be one of the best changes you’ve ever made to your life, and it’s so easy to do!
Pro tip: Don’t drink while there’s still food in your mouth. It dilutes your saliva!
Ask Your Healthcare Provider
Remember all those issues that were too many to list? Well, it doesn’t do any good to speculate about which ones you may or may not have. And no health article, web doctor or over the phone consultation is going to tell you if you have any health issues of note. Only your healthcare provider can do that for you!
Use VitaMist Spray Vitamins! (Did anyone NOT see that one coming?)