Are you getting the most from the foods you’re eating?
By Caitlin Burnett
Do you live a healthy and active lifestyle, and eat well to nourish your body from the inside out, yet still experience low energy, bloating, sugar cravings and struggle with a sluggish metabolism? The answers may lie within your digestion!
Eating a balanced diet full of wholefoods to fuel your body and taking all the right supplements doesn’t necessarily mean you are optimally absorbing all of your nutrients. Dysfunction in the process of digestion, absorption and elimination of waste can reduce nutrient availability which may therefore exert a range of effects on other body systems resulting in a poor immune system, reduced energy production, food and skin allergies, increased inflammation, anaemia, and even sleep and mood disorders.(1)
I like to think of the digestive system as a sponge. A sponge’s function is to soak up mess (think of mess as waste that the body needs to eliminate). If the sponge is not rinsed out or given a good clean it won’t be able to do its job properly and will get to a point where it is unable to absorb anything else. Now let’s relate this back to our digestive system. If our digestion is not working optimally and elimination of waste is compromised (think of the dirty sponge), how can we expect all of our nutrients to be absorbed efficiently?
So how can we ensure we are maximising nutrient absorption?
Below are my top eight tips for you to follow in order to maximise your nutrient absorption. It is important to note that these tips can still be used even if you do not experience any gastrointestinal symptoms.
Increase digestive enzymes
Add some fresh pineapple (for its bromelaine) or papaya (for its papain) to your meals as these foods contain natural digestive enzymes.(2)(3) Supplementing with a good quality digestive enzyme as well as making sure your protein powder also contains them is another great way to ensure you’re getting enough.
Eat bitter foods such as kale, rocket, spinach, radicchio and dandelion greens (I aim for two cups a day).
Bitter greens alongside lemon water or apple cider vinegar are great for stimulating hydrochloric acid (HCL) and enzyme secretion. Other great benefits include decreased bloating, appetite stimulation and prevention of undigested food in the stool.(5) Start the day with lemon water approximately 20 minutes before breakfast. I also love to add apple cider vinegar to my salads, vegetables and meats as it contains acetic acid which helps to improve fat metabolism!(4) WIN, WIN!
Balance gut bacteria
Our digestive tract relies on micro flora (good and bad bacteria) to create an environment where nutrients can be easily absorbed.(5) If micro flora is imbalanced, nutrient absorption is hindered and an overgrowth of yeast and fungi can occur (both of which feed off sugar, leading you to crave more of the sweet stuff!)(6) Support micro flora homeostasis by eating fermented probiotic-rich foods such as sauerkraut, kefir, miso soup, tempeh, kombucha and natural Greek or coconut yoghurt, or you can take a supplement.(7)
1. Gropper, S, Smith, J and Groff, J 2009, Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism, Fifth Edition, Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, Belmont, USA, Pg. 33, 63-75, 131-140, 179-189, 469, 474, 488, 490, 506
2. Debnath P. et al 2012, A Survey on Pineapple and its medicinal value, Scholars Academic & Scientific Publishers Volume- 1, Issue-1, India <http://saspublisher.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/SASP11-24-29.pdf >, accessed 25/06/14
3. Aravind G. et al 2013, Traditional and Medicinal Uses of Carica papaya, Journal of Medicinal Plants Studies, India, <http://plantsjournal.com/vol1Issue1/Issue_jan_2013/2.pdf>,accessed 25/06/14
4. Kondo T. et al 2009 Acetic Acid Upregulates the Expressions of Genes for Fatty Acid Oxidation Enzymes in Liver to Suppress Body Fat Accumulation, J. Agric. Food Chem., Pg. 5982–5986, <http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf900470c >, Accessed 25/06/14
5. Hechtman L. 2014, Clinical Naturopathic Medicine, Australia, Elsevier, Pg. 156, 176
6. News RX 2010, Wellness; Yeast Overgrowth Isn't Just Making Women Sick, It's Making Them Fat, Obesity, Fitness & Wellness Week <http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.endeavour.edu.au:2048/health/docview/750575041/A70C4638F97A49FFPQ/1?accountid=45102>, Accessed 23/06/14
7. Hawrelak J. 2013 Appendix 1 – Choosing the Right Strain for Specific Therapeutic Applications
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