For decades, science has proven that a well-rounded, natural diet is the key to a long and healthy life. But recently, we’ve discovered something new.
While it is vital that you consume all of the proper vitamins, amino acids, and minerals, those nutrients will be largely rendered ineffective if your body doesn’t absorb them properly.
Nutrient absorption is an essential component of wellness and vitality, particularly in terms of gut health. And for that reason, it’s no longer something you can afford to ignore—not if you want to get the most value out of every meal. Fortunately, there are natural steps you can take to boost nutrient absorption. To that end, this guide will first cover how nutrient absorption works and then review the natural ways to improve the process.
How Does Nutrient Absorption Work?
Nutrient absorption is the process by which food’s vitamins, fatty acids, minerals, and amino acids are assimilated into the bloodstream, cells, tissues, and organs. Broadly speaking, it occurs in a five-step process:
Chewing – To be useful for your body, food needs to be broken down into smaller components. This is what digestion does. And the process starts right after you take your first bite. When you chew your food, enzymes in your saliva (salivary amylase) instantly begin breaking down the food’s chemical structure.
Churning – The macerated food moves down into the stomach to continue being further broken down. There, stomach acids and rhythmic digestive movements (peristaltic motion) work together to stir, mix, and strip the pieces of their nutrients before sending them along to the small intestine.
- Contact – The primary function of the small intestine is nutrient absorption. It’s the organ in charge of removing all the nutrients the cells will need, including:
- Fatty acids
- Amino acids
Villi—the microscopic brush-like lining of the small intestine—make contact and comb through the food particles, pulling out the essential macro and micronutrients.
To the Bloodstream – Water also plays a vital role in diffusing water-soluble compounds and ensuring the digestion process continues properly. After the nutrients have been diffused into the villi, they’re shot into the bloodstream.
- Carrier Proteins – Carrier proteins usher the nutrients into the cells. There, those nutrients are converted into protein, which then creates energy. These efforts are aided by the circulatory system, which transports the nutrients to various parts of the body.
How To Boost Nutrient Absorption?
Now that you know how the nutrients are absorbed by the body and the critical function it plays, you might wonder how much control you have over the process. Fact is, you can do quite a lot to impact your body’s nutrient absorption—for good or worse.
Here are a few things you should consider:
Take a Probiotic
One of the best ways to fortify your gut and support your nutrient absorption is to take a probiotic. This populates your gut microbiome with probiotic bacteria—healthy bacteria—that ensure a robust bacterial diversity, which helps your gut properly break down foods for absorption.
The right probiotic can help maintain a healthy balance in your body by fighting off bad bacteria, supporting immune function, and controlling inflammation. Ideally, doctors recommend that your probiotic include Lactoferrin, Glutathione, Lactobacillus Rhamnosus, and Pyrroloquinoline Quinone (PQQ).
Also, look for a product that is organic, non-GMO, with zero heavy metals. A daily 2ml dosage before a meal can:
- Support healthy intestinal tract
- Mitigate food & environmental allergies
- Improve nerve growth factor
- Reinforce innate immune response
- Neutralize free radicals
- Produce Anti Viral / Bacteria Properties
- Assist removal of heavy metals
- Boost signal between brain and gut
Eat Prebiotic Foods
Like probiotics, prebiotics are naturally occurring, non-digestible carbohydrates that promote healthy bacteria growth in your gut. According to a 2014 report in Gut Microbes:
There is growing evidence that probiotics and prebiotics could be used to improve the absorption of micronutrients (such as calcium and iron) from ingested foods… studies in both humans and animals showed positive effects of non-digestible oligosaccharides on mineral metabolism, bone composition, and bone architecture.
Typically, prebiotic foods are either a fiber or complex carbohydrate. This includes many fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. So, it’s best to build a diet that consists of a wide variety of different healthy prebiotic foods, such as:
- Chicory root
- Flax Seeds
Pair the Right Foods Together
When certain foods are eaten together, their natural properties enhance one another to help improve absorption. Similarly, your intestines absorb specific vitamins better when they're paired with a proper fat source. See our blog article on how to increase vitamin absorption for more information on this topic.
Knowing this, here are some food pairings that will increase nutrient absorption:
- Vitamin C and plant-based iron – Vitamin C improves the digestion of plant-based irons. Either add some lemon or orange juice to a spinach salad or dice apples into a lentil dish.
- Tomatoes and olive oil – Tomatoes have lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that is rendered even more effective when combined with olive oil. Bake tomatoes and drizzle them with olive oil or create tomato sauce with an olive oil base.
- Turmeric and black pepper – Both spices have strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can be added to a wide variety of dishes.
- Vitamin D and calcium – Vitamin D helps you derive more calcium from the foods you eat. Pair vitamin D foods like salmon, tuna, or eggs with calcium-providing foods like broccoli.
- Complementary proteins – Different proteins have different essential nutrients. It’s ideal to combine animal-based proteins like fish, poultry, meat, or dairy products with non-animal proteins like soys, legumes, nuts, grains, and some veggies. Check out our blog on how to increase protein digestion and absorption for more information on this topic!
- Fat and fat-soluble vitamins – Your intestines can more readily absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K when they’re combined with a fat source. A colorful plate of veggies drizzled with avocado oil can increase absorption.
Take an Alcohol and Caffeine Hiatus
Regular consumption of alcohol and diuretics inevitably decreases the total amount of digestive enzymes within your system. Also, they can negatively impact the stomach’s cell linings, which makes it more difficult for nutrients to enter the bloodstream.
To fortify your gut health and boost nutrient absorption, take a few weeks off from both alcohol and caffeine. Instead, be sure to hydrate properly—avoid drinking too much or too little. When you wake up in the morning, immediately hydrate with 16oz of water before your meal or probiotic. Throughout the rest of the day, you should drink at least two more glasses. Men are advised to drink 3 liters total, and women, 2.2 liters.
Try Your Best to Relax
If you’re stressed, your body may have a difficult time digesting. This is because cortisol, which is released when you’re stressed, tends to slow down digestion. As a result, food is left undigested or partially digested.
To destress, consider the following:
- Deep breathing exercises
- Unplug from media
- Listen to music
What Factors Negatively Impact Nutrient Absorption?
On the other side, several factors can negatively affect your body’s digestion and nutritional absorption. These include:
- Age – When you’re young, the absorption cycle typically runs at an efficient clip. However, as you age, your intestines and digestive system have greater difficulty adapting, which is why “malabsorption of carbohydrates, lipids, amino acids, minerals, and vitamins has been often described in the elderly.”
- Diet – As discussed, certain foods aid digestion while others hamper it. Processed and high sugar foods that have low nutrient content can strip the body of nutrients.
- Medications – Some medications act as drug-nutrient squanderers, such as antidepressants, hormone medications, antacids, and blood pressure medications—all of these can interfere with a body’s nutrient levels.
- Gastrointestinal issues – IBS, Celiac Disease, and other gut issues can wreak havoc on the digestive system's ability to operate at peak capacity.
- Stress and alcohol – According to nutritionist Fiona Tuck, “Stress increases our nutrient requirements… particularly vitamin C, the B vitamins and magnesium… which can lead to irritability and fatigue when these nutrients become depleted. Alcohol consumption is linked to a reduction of digestive enzymes, so people who drink heavily may not be able to break down the nutrients from the foods in the first place."
Cymbiotika—The Key To Proper Digestive Health
To derive the most nutritional benefit from every meal, your digestive system must be operating at its best. Fortunately, there are simple ways to improve your natural ability to absorb nutrients, starting with a well-rounded diet. And if you want to support your gut health, a probiotic is a must-have addition to your wellness routine.
Our cutting-edge formulations provide the critical nutrients and productive bacteria often missing from today’s diet. Thanks to our advanced Micelle Delivery System, we ensure maximum bioavailability and absorption. Each formulation uses only the highest quality of organic ingredients, thus fortifying your long-term health.
So if you’re trying to identify how to boost nutrient absorption, you have your answer.
You might also be wondering, “Are liquid vitamins better than pills for vitamin absorption”? Check out our guide where we break down the best way to consume your every day supplements.
Ask The Scientists. Nutrient Absorption. https://askthescientists.com/nutrient-absorption/
NCBI. Can prebiotics and probiotics improve therapeutic outcomes for undernourished individuals? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4049942/
NBC News. 7 food pairings that will increase nutrient absorption. https://www.nbcnews.com/better/health/7-food-pairings-will-increase-nutrient-absorption-ncna889181
The University of New Mexico. Water: The Science of Nature's Most Important Nutrient. https://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article%20folder/WaterUNM.html#:~:text=However%2C%20Valtin%20highlights%20a%20much
Science Direct. Nutrient absorption and intestinal adaptation with aging. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1521691801902628
Huffpost. 8 Easy Ways To Boost Nutrient Absorption.