How Does The Body Absorb Vitamins?
Optimized nutrition goes much further than being keen on healthy food choices. The next step is being able to efficiently absorb the nutrients from the food we eat. As we all strive to eat better and lead healthier lives, taking vitamins is a great way to get the right amount of nutrients our body needs, but what if we’re not absorbing all those good nutrients?
What if, for whatever reason, we are not benefiting from healthy eating habits and supplementation?
In this article, we will explore how we absorb vitamins, what hinders the absorption process, and how we can get more out of the food we eat.
How Quickly Are Vitamins Absorbed?
This is a very multilayered question as there is no one answer that will make due for all. The Vitamin absorption rate is dependent upon many factors. The type of nutrient itself, the health of one’s digestion, lifestyle choices like smoking or regularly taking prescribed medication.
Fatty vitamins like omega 3, for example, will take much longer to break down than a vitamin C tablet as they require different enzymes and pathways to absorption. Generally speaking, under normal conditions, it should take roughly 30 minutes for a vitamin to break down after it is consumed.
Where Are Vitamins Absorbed?
The vitamin absorption process begins with digestion. Most vitamins are best taken with food to enhance its absorption rate. Once in the stomach, gastric acid along with other enzymes secreted from the liver and pancreas, pool together to begin breaking down the capsule and its contents.
It then moves into the small intestine for absorption. Vitamins are absorbed in the small intestine, this is where nutrients are pulled into the bloodstream and are readily available to our cells for uptake.
What Prevents Vitamins From Being Absorbed Properly?
We are all unique and lead different lifestyles. That being said, there are a plethora of reasons as to why we cannot absorb our vitamins sufficiently. Pharmaceutical drugs, genetics, alcohol, age, digestive health, and diet can all play a role in absorption resistance.
Too many binders and fillers in cheaply made vitamins can also inhibit absorption. Below are two of the most common reasons and what we can do to help ourselves.
Stress inhibits vitamin absorption. In a society where stress is at an all-time high, our immune systems, and digestive health amongst other things, receive the negative backlash. Stress slows down the function of the digestive system for the purpose of its energy being rerouted into the bloodstream to adhere to the stress response.
Now imagine always being stressed out, anxious and worrisome; this emotional rollercoaster will eventually take a lasting toll on digestive health as the body naturally cannot give the energy to feed both the digestive process and the stress response at the same time. Finding permanent solutions to alleviate chronic stress through yoga, meditation, self-care, or whatever means, is a great way to assist one’s level of absorption.
2. Weak Digestion
Weak digestion can inhibit absorption. Enzymes, along with the stomachs’ gastric juices are necessary catalysts for digestion and absorption to take place effectively. When these enzymes are depleted in any way, (due to the organ imbalance, diet, stress, etc.) it makes it harder and longer for us to break down vitamins efficiently. Evidence of enzyme lack shows up as flatulence, bloating, constipation, stomach pain, and general indigestion.
A great solution would be to supplement with a digestive enzyme so your body can replenish and strengthen its own enzyme stores. Vegetables and fruits, especially pineapple (bromelain) and papayas (papain) contain naturally occurring enzymes so they are easier to digest and of much less burden on the body.
“Partner” Vitamins Are Key To Absorption
Specific nutrients act like buffers for other nutrients by assisting their absorption or their transport throughout the body. Calcium is more efficiently absorbed when Vitamin D is present. Sufficient potassium levels help the kidneys excrete excess sodium which balances its partnership.
Folate depends on B-12 for absorption and they work together to support cellular energy and cell health. Too much Zinc depletes Copper levels and vice versa so they are both needed in equal amounts. The list can go on forever as all micronutrients are interdependent. This is why daily multivitamin is always an essential supplement. Taking your vitamin with food is also a great way to enhance absorption.
5 Tips To Improve Vitamin Absorption
Absorption is the most important process of digestion. Without it, we cannot benefit from the nutritional value of food nor would our immune systems thrive without nutritional nourishment.
Below are some simple ways we can improve our absorption.
- Supplementing with enzymes to assist the digestive process will improve the absorption rate.
- Choose liquid vitamins vs capsules or soft gels if you are having digestive difficulties as liquids are easier to digest and absorb.
- Follow the Holistic Food Combining Guide. This guide offers rules around eating certain food groups together that help to optimize digestion.
- Look for vitamins that contain some natural food ingredients as it will assist in the absorption of synthetic vitamins
- Take fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) with a large meal to enhance the absorption rate.
As you can see, eating the right foods is only the first part of the puzzle to optimal health. The second part is to ensure that your digestive system is healthy and absorption is efficient. There is a saying, you are what you eat. This saying is only partially correct because you are only what you assimilate and absorb!