We eat food for a variety of reasons—taste, texture and fuel for the body. But none of that matters if all the nutrients, minerals, proteins and fats just go in one end and out the other without being absorbed. It’s a waste of time, money and energy if you can’t reap the benefits of eating healthy and nutritious foods. What can you do about it?
Increase your system’s ability to absorb, especially if your body is out of balance.
There are many things that can disrupt the digestive tract—especially antibiotics, stress, food intolerances or allergies—and make it more difficult for your body to absorb nutrients and fluids. Thankfully, there are simple solutions that can help your digestive system extract as much good stuff from your food as possible.
If you think your body might not be absorbing properly, or you simply want to get the most out of the food you eat, keep reading.
Here are 5 simple ways to boost your body’s absorption power.
1. Chew your liquids and drink your food
If you’re going to spend time and energy buying, preparing and consuming nutritious food, don’t flush your effort down the toilet by not chewing enough.
When your food is properly chewed (think baby food consistency), it’s easier for your body to maximize absorption of essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients.
Think of the digestive system as a complex assembly line. Each “station” is essential for producing the end result (nutrients for the body). When things are unfinished at any of the first stations, they back up and create problems for the entire system.
If your food arrives in the intestines still in large chunks because you ate too quickly/didn’t chew enough, your entire digestive tract has to work harder to correct and compensate.
Chewing allows your teeth to do their job and saliva to do its specialized digestive work. There is an essential digestive enzyme (amylase) that is only produced in the mouth, and helps break down the starch in your food. It stops working as soon as it hits the stomach due to the high acidity environment. Chewing thoroughly gives that enzyme time to work its magic.
In addition to making it easier for your physical body to assimilate the nutrients you’re consuming, chewing can help you slow down, be more present with your food, and give thanks for the delicious food that feeds your body and nourishes your soul.
2. Drink apple cider vinegar or lemon juice before meals
Gallbladders—we all have one, but do you know what they do?
If you like eating, your gallbladder is one of your best friends. It’s responsible for storing and secreting bile that’s produced by the liver, which enables your body to break down and absorb fats and proteins.
If you know you’re going to be eating a heavy meal, or some form of protein or fat, apple cider vinegar (ACV) and lemon juice can help get your system ready.
ACV and lemon juice stimulate the digest tract. They get the stomach to produce stomach acids, and the sour taste causes the liver and gallbladder to start cleansing and pumping. This will all help with the breakdown and absorption of your well-chewed food.
How to make it:
- Pour a glass of warm water 10-15 minutes before your meal, so as not to dilute your stomach juices too much. Note: Avoid cold or ice water—warm water is neutral for the body, whereas with cold/ice water, your body has to use energy to warm it up to body temperature.
- Add 2-3 teaspoons of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar. You can also add it to hot water with a little honey and drink it as a warm tea. Raw, organic and unfiltered is best for you because it has more beneficial properties than processed vinegars, and contains live cultures that nourish the digestive tract with good “gut bugs” (similar to probiotics). It’s called “the Mother” and is the sediment you see settled at the bottom, giving the vinegar a cloudy look.
Add the juice of ½ a lemon. Lemon juice has many potential benefits:
- Helps detoxify the blood and support the liver– A natural antiseptic, lemon juice helps remove toxins from the body by stabilizing free radicals released during digestion. It also contains high levels of citric acid, which helps the body break down fatty acids (lightening the workload for your liver).
- Can help prevent disease – Lemons contain high levels of potassium, which has been shown to stimulate brain and nerve function and help control blood pressure.
- Boosts the immune system – Vitamin C is great for strengthening the immune system on a daily basis, as well as for helping a stressed out immune system prevent or fight sickness.
3. Cook with digestive aids
There are many different foods, herbs and spices that help to stimulate and promote healthy digestion. They do everything from reducing gas and bloating to increasing gastric juices to soothing inflamed mucus membranes.
Consciously including digestive aids in your cooking can also be a great way to broaden your culinary skills and try out new dishes.
Digestive aids to cook with:
- Herbs: Rosemary, parsley, mint, basil, lavender
- Spices: Turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, fennel, black pepper
- Foods: Ginger, lemon peel, flax seed, olive oil, artichoke, burdock root, bone broth
So the next time you get a bit of parsley garnish on the side of your plate, don’t be afraid to dig in.
4. Include fermented foods
Fermented foods are packed with good “gut bugs” that help keep the balance in your digestive system. Your gastro-intestinal (GI) tract is full of bacteria and fungus, good and bad. This is completely natural, but when the good gut bugs die off—due to oral antibiotics, stress, food sensitivities, parasites or other factors—it creates an opportunity for the more harmful ones to take over. This has a huge negative effect on your body’s ability to absorb nutrients.
Foods with beneficial bacteria or “live cultures” help replenish your body with the gut bugs that help maintain a healthy balance and keep digestion functioning at optimal levels.
Make sure that you buy raw fermented foods. If they are processed or heat-treated, all the beneficial live cultures get killed in the process.
Fermented foods to try:
- Greek yogurt
- Coconut yogurt (dairy free)
5. Make sure you’re hydrated
Every cell in your body is made up of water, and can only perform its function properly when it’s fully hydrated.
There are two important elements of hydration: water and salt. In order to move the water from your digestive tract into the cells of your body, you need salt to help it move across the cell walls.
That’s right. Salt is good for you—but not your average table salt—sea salt.
Processed foods contain processed salt—commonly called table salt—and have had all the minerals and nutrient stripped from them. Due to the lack of minerals, eating this kind of salt will actually make you crave it more as well as dehydrate you. The best kind of salt that you can consume is sea salt. It contains over 84 essential minerals and nutrients that our body craves on a daily basis.
You can use sea salt in your cooking or add a tiny pinch to your water bottle to help boost your hydration. When all of the cells related to your digestive system are fully hydrated, they’re better able to perform their functions. This will increase your body’s capacity to break down, digest, absorb and assimilate the nutritious foods you’re eating.
Your body works hard day and night to keep your systems running smoothly. When you choose to eat healthy foods, you’re making a conscious effort to give your body the best sources of fuel possible. Support your digestive system and its ability to absorb the food you give it. Give it the tools it needs to keep you happy and healthy.