With so many people these days experiencing gastrointestinal issues (such as Chrohn’s Disease, colitis, Celiac Disease, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome), and with an increased intake of processed foods, nutrient deficiency seems to be at an all-time high! Even certain pharmaceutical medications seem to inhibit absorption of nutrients. But maximizing your nutrient absorption, whether it be through your diet, through lifestyle changes, or through supplementation (or all of the above), is definitely within your control!
Daily Practices Which Will Increase Nutrient Absorption
They say it takes 21 days to make a habit! Consider implementing some of these daily practices into your diet and lifestyle to maximize nutrient status and overall health. And make them a habit!
- Consuming fresh, organic produce each day is a start. Fruits and veggies have built in phytonutrients, bioflavonoids, and enzymes which support proper utilization and absorption of nutrients within the body. Furthermore, while cooked veggies still have minerals and fiber intact, the antioxidants will be partially destroyed. If you find yourself consuming most of your veggies cooked, consider enhancing your antioxidant status with a whole food supplement such as Resveratrol or Green Tea.
- Avoid consuming proteins and starches together, as they tend to neutralize each other and inhibit digestion. Instead, opt for combining proteins with vegetables, or starches with vegetables. As for fruits, I like to eat them on an empty stomach between meals for maximum absorption. And they make the perfect healthy, yummy snack!
- Eliminate any foods which you feel you may be sensitive or allergic to (which helps to reduce digestive tract damage). An elimination diet can aid in identifying which foods may be causing issues. Some common food sensitivities include wheat, gluten, dairy, soy, corn, and eggs.
- Reduce alcohol and caffeine intake, as these are known to inhibit certain nutrients from absorbing fully.
- Decrease stress and smoking, which are known to deplete the body of Vitamin C and other nutrients.
- A daily bowel movement will help to keep the digestive tract from becoming stagnant and rid the body of toxins produced by intestinal bacteria and yeast (which can inhibit nutrient absorption).
3 Considerations When Choosing and Consuming Supplements
In the face of a poor diet, or even a healthy diet, some may consider using supplements in order to maximize nutrient status. There are three things to consider here: choosing supplements which help aid in nutrient absorption, combining nutrients in order to maximize absorption, and choosing the most absorbable forms of vitamins and minerals.
1. Supplements which aid in nutrient absorption and maximize gastrointestinal health:
- Digestive enzymes come in capsules which can be consumed 15 minutes before meals to allow your body to break down nutrients fully for maximum absorption.
- Probiotics can help to replace the good bacteria in the gut (and decrease the “bad” bacteria and yeast) which aids in nutrient absorption. Good bacteria can be depleted over time with certain medications, such as antibiotics.
2. Remember these vitamin and mineral combination considerations:
- Balance zinc with copper supplementation. Over-supplementation of one can cause depletion of the other. Research shows that toxicities in copper are linked to mental illness.
- Fat-soluble vitamins, such as Vitamins A, D, E, and K, should be consumed with food for proper absorption (preferably a meal containing healthy fat).
- Water-soluble vitamins, such as B-vitamins and Vitamin C, can be consumed on an empty stomach. Absorption is enhanced if the daily dose is spread out into two or three doses throughout the day since they are water soluble and readily eliminated from the body.
- Iron is absorbed best when taken with Vitamin C (such as a glass of orange juice).
- Calcium should be taken 30 minutes away from other supplements, as it can inhibit the absorption of other nutrients.
- Calcium absorbs and is utilized best when magnesium and Vitamin D status are sufficient. Some calcium supplements are combined with one or both of these.
3. Vitamin and mineral supplementation: “form” matters!
When searching for vitamin and mineral supplements, the least expensive bottles on the shelf are usually not the most absorbable! Here is a list of vitamin and mineral forms to look for to maximize absorption:
- Multivitamin/multimineral supplements: Choose multi’s made from whole foods.
- Vitamin C: Ascerola powder or synthetic Vitamin C with bioflavonoids are absorbed best.
- Vitamin A: The product should have a balance between beta carotene and retinol for maximum absorption.
- B Vitamins: Consider sublingual B12. Other absorbable forms of B vitamins include methyltetrahydrofolate (folic acid), benfotiamine (a fat-absorbable form of thiamine), riboflavin 5′-phosphate (riboflavin), niacinamide (niacin), d-calcium pantothenate (pantothine), and pyridoxal 5′-phosphate (B6).
- Vitamin D: Try to get 20 minutes of sunlight per day on most of your body (your body uses the sun to synthesize its own Vitamin D), or use Vitamin D3.
- Vitamin E: The natural form, d-alpha tocopherol, is best.
- Calcium : Look for calcium citrate or calcium oratate.
- Iodine: Potassium iodide is considered most absorbable.
- Magnesium: Look for topical magnesium oil, or epsom salt (which contains magnesium sulfate – throw it in your bath!). Oral supplementation forms should be magnesium citrate or magnesium glycinate.
- Chromium: Chromium picolinate or chromium nicotinate are considered most absorbable.
- Selenium: Selenomethionine is most absorbable and won’t inhibit Vitamin C absorption as other selenium supplements may.
- Zinc: Zinc picolinate or zinc glycinate are highly absorbable.
I hope these dietary, lifestyle, and supplementation considerations allow you to enhance your own nutrient status! Prevention of nutrient deficiencies can go a long way in preventing certain inflammatory and chronic conditions, giving your body the tools it needs to maintain a healthy immune system, and keeping you energized for many years to come!