How To Improve Nutrient Absorption – 5 Ways To Get More Nutrients

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By Leslie Waterson

Reviewed by Juliana Tamayo, MS, RDN - Last Updated

How To Improve Nutrient Absorption

Growing up, chances are you learned the importance of eating fruits and vegetables every day. If not taught by family, this is a common curriculum in school, and for a good reason. These are foods packed with important nutrients that your body relies on to function properly. It is proven by research study after study that incorporating whole, healthy foods into your diet regularly can benefit your well-being.

But, what if you’re not feeling any healthier even though you eat all the right things and take your vitamins consistently? The issue is, if these nutrients aren’t being appropriately absorbed by your body, you’re not going to receive any benefits. And, did you know that there are definite factors that could be harmfully affecting your nutrient absorption? 

Fret not, though! If you’re wondering how to improve nutrient absorption in your body, there are ways to do so. We’ve done the research for you, so let’s dive in so you can learn exactly how to improve nutrient absorption and reap all the benefits!

Nutrient Absorption Through Eating

Nutrient Absorption and Gut Bacteria

Here’s a fact. Affecting the number of minerals and vitamins that your body absorbs is the whole lot from your age, diet, stress levels, and also your gut bacteria.

There is a study that was done in the Washington University School of Medicine stating that gut bacteria may play a more important role than we originally thought in our body’s capability to be well-nourished. The right bacteria is essential for proper nutrition and growth, even when your diet is excellent.

How Does Nutrient Absorption Work?

Digestive bacteria and enzymes work to break down your food and all that you consume into molecules. Most of these molecules go through your upper small intestine, where they come into the bloodstream then make their way throughout your body to provide many benefits.

The absorption of vitamins and minerals can vary. The number of nutrients that your body takes in from food can range from 10% to 90%. Making sure that your body is getting the right nutrients appropriately is a key influencer when it comes to overall well-being because your body is depending on the scores of nutrients to function at the finest level. And as soon as you’re not absorbing nutrients as it should be over a drawn-out period, you’ll certainly start to notice.

There are times that the serving sizes on food labels do not apply to your diet, or the method the data collected might not precisely reflect what you’re eating at that moment. But the good thing is, even if there are no available exact data for the number of nutrients your body absorbs, there are steps you can take to maximize nutrient absorption from the foods you’re consuming.

Eating and Nutrient Absorption

What Helps Your Body Absorb More Nutrients?

Food that you eat must be broken down into usable pieces to sustain your body. Carbs become glucose, proteins are transformed into amino acids, and fats turn into fatty acids. Vitamins and minerals are pulled from each food item that you eat and digest. This is the main function of your digestive system.

After the first bite, digestion starts immediately. In the manner you chew, food becomes manageable chunks. Salivary amylase, the enzyme in your saliva, breaks down the food’s chemical structure.

Digestion occurs in the stomach, where powerful acid breaks down food even more. With the aid of peristaltic motion, the rhythmic digestive movement, the food you eat is stimulated and mixed as it gets ready to go through the small intestine.

Food must go through chemical and mechanical digestion for nutrients to be absorbed by your body. This is when food is broken down into macro and micronutrients. There are also certain food pairings (like turmeric and black pepper) that can enhance absorption.

As soon as the food is broken down into vital nutrients, it sets off to the small intestines and is absorbed into the bloodstream. Your circulatory system then takes over and transfers the nutrients to the different parts of your body that need them. Everything that is not used is dispersed to either storage or waste.

Each person needs a healthy digestive system for nutrient absorption to work optimally. You may not absorb nutrients properly if your digestion or general gut biome is not good.

Food Digestion And Nutrient Absorption

What Blocks the Absorption of Nutrients?

Potential causes that may lead to poor nutrient absorption include autoimmune diseases, food allergies, surgery, pancreatic deficiency, a weak gut lining, intestines that are damaged due to infection, and microbiome imbalances like bacterial overgrowth. 

Add that to the possibilities of our fruits and vegetables not having the right nutrient levels because of soil quality being poor, other environmental causes, and it is easy to see how nutrient deficiencies are prevalent in the world today.

Lack Of Nutrients And Stomach Ache

External Factors that Play a Role in Blocking Absorption

Something else that blocks the absorption of nutrients and can lead to nutrient malabsorption is the frequent use of many kinds of medications as it alters the lining of your gut. Hormone medications, antacids, antidepressants, and blood pressure medications are medications that can get in the way of the absorption of nutrients in human bodies. 

Another part of absorption blockage is a popular category: the consumption of alcohol. Closely related, being stressed also plays a part in your digestion and nutrient absorption. This hurts not only your digestion and GI tract but also your general immunity systems. 

Stress can also deplete your body of different vitamins and minerals, specifically vitamin C and B vitamins and magnesium. When these nutrients become depleted, it can lead to irritability and fatigue. They can also lead to iron absorption issues, which can lead to things like anemia.

On the other hand, alcohol consumption is associated with a decrease in digestive enzymes. So when people drink too much, their digestive system may not be able to break down the nutrients from the food that passes through it in the first place.

Many causes can affect our body’s digestion and nutritional absorption negatively from foods, including gastrointestinal problems such as coeliac disease and IBS, as well as a diet high in sugar and lots of processed foods.

It’s not a secret that processed foods are low in nutrients. Usually, they are high in sodium and sugar. And those foods can deprive the body of nutrients, specifically magnesium. If you have been experiencing changes in your digestion, stool, the condition of your hair, nails, and skin, and energy levels, digestion consults with your doctor to find out if you have any nutrient deficiencies.

How to Improve Nutrient Absorption: 5 Top Ways

If you want to improve your nutrient absorption, there are ways to do so. Below we’ve explained in detail the 5 best ways to absorb more nutrients and get the benefits your body needs.

Variety Of Food For Nutrients

1. Include Healthy Fats in Each Meal

To efficiently absorb things like A, D, E, and K, you need to consume healthy fats as they are all fat-soluble. With this, you can add salad dressings that are oil-based such as olive oil or sesame oil, to increase the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins from your vegetables in your diet.

The addition of seeds, nuts, and avocados to your salads and meals is also a great way to enhance your body’s nutrient absorption. These three contain healthy fats too.

2. Eat a Variety of Foods in a Meal

To obtain a good combination of nutrients, center on adding a variety of colorful foods to your meals. An example is a salad with vegetables that are roasted; you could do this as a kebab or brown fried rice sautéed with greens, carrots, capsicum, celery, and zucchini.

Eating a variety of diverse foods consistently every day and staying away from eating the same foods, just like having the same breakfast every day, improves your body’s nutrient absorption. This method ensures a broad variety of nutrients are being absorbed by your body.

3. Try Adding a Probiotic to Your Daily Diet

Nourishing your gut is the key. More than ever, if you do have issues with your digestion, such as constipation or IBS.

Kombucha, sauerkraut, and kefir are some of the probiotic-rich foods that you can add to your diet to populate healthy bacteria in your gut. You may also do this with probiotic supplements and drinks such as Klean Probiotic, Gundry MD 24 Strain Probiotic, and 1MD Complete Probiotics Platinum.

4. Match-Up Vitamin C-rich Foods with Iron

For the most part, for people that consume plant-based iron sources like tofu, dried fruit, legumes, when you pair these with vitamin C-rich foods, this helps convert the nonheme iron into a more bioavailable substance.

Eating foods that are high in vitamin C, such as chili, capsicums, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and oranges, with iron-rich foods, like the ones mentioned above, increase iron absorption in your body. You can also consider adding a vitamin c supplement, like Lypo-Spheric Vitamin C, to your routine as well if you’re concerned you won’t get enough through dietary means.

5. Hydrate as Much as Possible

Hydrating is an important factor that can make or break your body’s digestion. You will immediately see a difference in your stool and urine when you haven’t had enough water or fluids. But mostly just water. As your blood can’t carry nutrients without enough water throughout your system, your digestive system is dependent on the level of hydration that you do.

While your health situation is personal and unique to you and your lifestyle, it’s important to take in on the overall picture and start to make developments where you see fit. You can begin with putting a limit on your stress levels, consistently having a diet high in plant-based foods, consuming foods with probiotics or taking probiotic supplements, and taking great care of the health of your digestive system. These will improve your body’s nutrient absorption and set your body up to lead you on a path to a healthy life.

Nutrient Absorption: FAQ

What Blocks Absorption of Nutrients?

If you are having a hard time absorbing vitamins and minerals or nutrients from your food, there are a few things that could be the cause. If your gut microbiome is disrupted, you may experience a hard time testing food in general, but plant foods in particular. Oftentimes these plant foods contain high levels of vitamins and minerals, and if you have various health problems or digestive health problems, it can disrupt the process.

Some common things that can be hard to absorb depending on your health include Vitamins A, D, E, and K. If you don’t have proper digestive enzymes, then absorbing things like Vitamin D, Vitamin A, and protein, in general, can be difficult. Some may even find that foods like spinach, broccoli, kale, etc., are difficult because of the dietary fiber content.

Stomach Pain And Nutrient Absorption

How Can I Increase Digestion and Absorption?

There are different ways to increase the digestion of nutrients, the main one being improving your general gut health. If you work to improve your gut health, increase digestive enzymes, etc., then absorbing nutrients like a fat-soluble vitamin can become easier. It’s also important to determine what type of nutrition plan works best for your body.

If you supplement with different things, it is also important to know the best way to take said supplements. For instance, if you are supplementing with turmeric, then making sure it includes black pepper is best for maximum absorption. If you are taking fat-soluble vitamins, olive oil can work to enhance the absorption of them. Another key match is adding citrus to your dishes with cruciferous vegetables. The phytic acid in the veggies helps absorb the nutrients in the citrus and makes the digestion process easier. These food combinations and the general process of food combining can come in handy.

Lastly, speak to your doctor about testing for food sensitivities if you have a hard time digesting nutrients. This can have a strong impact on how you react to foods. If your general digestion is off, you may see that you have a hard time digesting things like protein, fats, or even food groups like fruits or vegetables. If you do have a hard time here, contact your doctor so you can see if there is a deeper issue going on.

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Leslie Waterson

Leslie has been passionately involved in the health and fitness industries for over a decade. She is constantly reviewing the latest scientific research and studies in order to take a research-backed approach to lifestyle optimization. Her main areas of interest include nutrition and supplementation. Leslie shares her findings on Fitness Clone to help other health enthusiasts choose the products and routines that will help them achieve their goals.