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Tips for Improving Nutrient Absorption and Assimilation

Wrote by Stephanie Oswald Certified Health Coach (IIN, graduated 2014) and an Registered Holistic Nutritionist.

Nutrient deficiencies can cause a whole host of issues and even contribute to the development of some illnesses. Eating a diet rich in whole foods, vegetables, leafy greens, fruit, whole grains, organic quality eggs, fish and meat can provide us with a variety of vitamins and minerals. But it is important to consider how well we are actually absorbing and assimilating the foods we eat within the body. Here are some ways you can improve your nutrient alimentation.

Improve your Digestion for Better Nutrient Breakdown.

It is not just what we eat, but how we eat too.

  • Rest and digest. When we eat in a rush or when we are in a stressed-out state, our digestion literally shuts down. Try eating in a relaxed setting whenever possible. If you are feeling stressed or are grabbing lunch in the middle of a busy day, try taking 4 deep breaths before you start eating. This will help calm your nervous system and allow for better digestion.
  • Chew your food better. Most of us are used to chewing our food a couple times and swallowing, without properly breaking the food down mechanically in our mouths. Our saliva contains an enzyme amylase, which aids in carbohydrate breakdown. Food is also easier to digest when first broken down with proper chewing. It takes 20 minutes for our brain to receive the message that we are full. Chewing more means eating slower which helps us feel when we are actually full, so we avoid over eating.
  • Increase stomach acid. Adequate stomach acid is important for breakdown of food, especially proteins. For those who must take antacids or proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), avoiding drinking too much will allow the gastric juices to concentrate as much as possible with our food bolus.
  • Avoid drinking with meals. Drinking with meals can dilute digestive juices, laboring digestion. If you do want to drink with a meal, choose warm drinks instead of cold and try taking smaller sips instead of drinking large amounts.
  • Eat adequate fiber. Fiber sweeps the colon and adds bulk to stool, improving digestion and avoiding constipation.
  • Stay Hydrated. Adequate hydration during all day is important for proper digestion and to avoid constipation.

Support your Gut Microbiome.

The good bacteria in your digestive system actually produces natural chemicals that help you digest and breakdown food in your intestinal system. They also produce B Vitamins critical for many of our bodily functions and help control bad bacteria, yeast, parasites and pathogens that enter/live in our system and may weaken our digestion, consume our nutrients or block absorption of nutrients.

  • Eat fermented foods. Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh, kombucha, kefir all provide a healthy dose of probiotic bacteria.
  • Eat prebiotic rich foods, which feed our good bacteria and help us have a healthy microbiome. Some great sources include chicory fiber, Jerusalem artichoke, garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus and bananas.
  • Avoid Antibiotic use unless absolutely necessary. If you do have to use antibiotics, take a probiotic along with it a couple hours apart.

What Impairs Absorption?

  • Avoid having caffeine with meals and vitamin supplements. Caffeine can inhibit the absorption of certain vitamins and minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamin B, C and D.
  • Reduce alcohol consumption and avoid having it with meals. Alcohol can affect nutrient absorption by decreasing the secretion of digestive enzymes, causing damage to the cells lining the stomach and intestines, impairing nutrient absorption.

Nutrient Combinations for Improved Absorption.

  • Consume Iron rich foods with Vitamin C for increased Iron absorption.
  • Vitamin D aids in the utilization of Calcium within the body.
  • Fat soluble Vitamins A, D, E and K are best absorbed taken with fat.
  • Zinc and copper compete for absorption. If you have a copper IUD, you may want to add more zinc into your diet to balance.

Choose Liquid Supplements.

Liquid supplements are bioavailable and are easily absorbed within the body. Choosing liquid over other forms like tablets and capsules, can help you get the most out of your supplements. Going for liquid supplements is ideal for those with difficult or slower digestion, as these supplements are easier to digest, easier to absorb, and act faster than capsules or tablets.

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