Nutrient Absorption & Gut Health

It is a common notion that whatever we consume gets converted into energy. Although this holds true for much of what we eat, there is stuff inside our food that is not converted into fuel. However, it does not mean they are not important. Such micro elements are very much relevant since without these we will not be able to process our food. These miniscule compounds are essential for our life also referred to as vitamins & minerals. Since our body cannot create them, we need to regularly have them through our food. Without them we cease to exist.

Scientists through so many years of research have found out that there are 30 vitamins & minerals that are necessary for normal body functions. If you face deficiency of either of these micronutrients, it can have a catastrophic effect on your body.

For example deficiency of Vitamin A can cause night blindness, since it is required for development of pigments in the retina. Vitamin A is also essential for healthy teeth, development of soft tissues, mucus membranes & skin. Deficiency in minerals can also have serious impact on our health. For instance, Iron deficiency can result in anemia. Iron is required in red blood cells to transport oxygen to various tissues. If iron levels are low, it can lead to serious symptoms such as fatigue & short breaths due to low organ distribution & can put pressure on heart In fact, consumption of Vitamin C can improve the absorption of iron to make up for loss of oxygen in the tissues.

Western lifestyle offers diverse food items which can provide requisite minerals & vitamins for our normal body functions. For instance, the rainbow diet -consisting of different colors of fruits & vegetables & various grains-breads, wheat, oats & other processed grains have been fortified with various vitamins & minerals that provide a balanced nutrition filled diet. However, the nutrient story does not end here- it is not about how much you eat, but your ability to absorb it.

Based on the current state of your body, your digestive body may not be prepared for absorption of these essential compounds. For carrying our correct & appropriate absorption process, you need healthy intestinal lining & a balanced gut microbiome. Besides, it also depends upon how various micronutrients are compound & how we can improve the absorption process.

This brings us to an important discussion on role of our gut microbiota in nutrition absorption

The first & foremost role of our digestive system is to take the foods we consume & breakdown in small & usable components. Once the food is swallowed, various small portions of the food travels through the esophagus to the stomach where the food is further exposed to stomach acid which further degrades various macronutrients. Then the digestive food is released into the small intestine where more digestive enzymes are secreted by liver, pancreas & gallbladder for the purpose of nutrient absorption. Most of the vitamins & minerals we consume are absorbed in small intestine but each one of them has its own unique mechanism to pass through intestinal lining. Understanding the difference between these micronutrients can aid in their absorption. For instance, we have two type of vitamins- Water soluble & fat soluble. Water-soluble vitamins require water for transport. Fat-soluble vitamins require fat to aid in their absorption. One of the best ways to help improve their transport is to consume healthy fats with fat-soluble vitamin rich foods.

Both these categories of vitamins require specific transporters to make their way to the bloodstream through intestinal cell walls. As digested food passes through the small intestine & undergoes the digestion process, it goes to the large intestine for its final stress before it is excreted.

As we shared earlier, the majority of bacteria lives in our large intestine. Gut bacteria serve many supporting functions that not only aids in the absorption process but also increases the levels of essential nutrients. For nutrient absorption our body requires a balanced gut microbiome since gut dysbiosis can make intestinal cell decay thereby impacting the nutrient absorption.

For instance, vitamin C- a water soluble vitamin is said to improve our immunity. However excess intake of vitamin C through fruits & vegetables as well as supplements can actually increase release of oxalate in our body. If our gut microbiome does not have the right bacteria that can metabolite oxalate( oxalobacter), excess oxalate can lead to formation of kidney stones. Besides, Vitamin C is nothing but ascorbic acid & a high intake can increase the pH level of stomach acid in our body & lead to acid reflux. This can have serious consequences since a regular situation of acid reflux or heartburn can also lead to GERD & possibly increase risk of cardiovascular diseases. Doctors generally recommend having a high amount of vitamin C to boost immunity. This has become a standard recommendation during COVID times. However it is important to note here that 70% of our immune cells are found around our gut lining & even if our gut bacteria has oxalobacter, high intake of vitamin C can actually cause imbalance in our gut bacteria( since high vitamin C intake would lead to overgrowth of this oxalate metabolising bacteria). This can impact our immune response. Therefore our ability to absorb nutrients is much more important than just blindly consuming food & supplements that provide these vitamins( specifically Vitamin C).

Since every individual is unique, so is his gut microbiome. Understanding the role of our gut microbiome in the nutrient absorption process can help us in improving & increasing the level of nutrients in our body & even prevent the situation of gut dysbiosis. If you are experiencing conditions of acid reflux or inflammation due to high micronutrient intake, you probably need to bring your gut microbiome in a state of equilibrium. Hop on a free discovery call here with us to find more.

PS: Originally published on www.genefitletics.com

Corporate finance professional turned Health & Fitness Entrepreneur, a fitness enthusiast, adventurer & trekking enthusiast