By Kelley Herring
In my previous article, I showed you the many ways your ability to absorb nutrients (and therefore your health) can be compromised.
Today I’ll share with you six simple tips to maximize the nutrition you absorb from your food, bringing more health-promoting nutrients to your cells… and more vitality to your life.
Nutrient Booster #1 – Betaine HCL
Low stomach acid (known as hypochlorhydria) is a common cause of poor gastrointestinal health and malnutrition. It might seem strange, but acid reflux, or heartburn, is a frequent symptom of low stomach acid. When people with this condition use acid blockers, it further reduces acidity in the gut and makes it even more difficult to break down food and absorb its nutrients!
Betaine HCL is a supplement that can be used to slowly raise your body’s natural hydrochloric acid levels. It is important to always take betaine HCL at the start of a meal. If it is taken without food, stomach burning may result.
If you notice a significant burning sensation in your gut after you’ve taken betaine HCL with a meal, this is an indication that your stomach is overproducing acid. Stop using the supplement. It is also important that those who take corticosteroids, aspirin, ibuprofen, or any other NSAID pain relievers only use betaine HCL under the guidance of a physician. These types of medications can already damage the GI lining, supplementing with HCL could aggravate that damage.
- Eat a meal that contains at least 15-20 grams of high-quality protein (grass-fed beef, pastured pork, wild fish, pastured chicken or turkey).
- Take only one pill (650 mg or less) at the beginning of the meal.
- After you’ve finished your meal, observe your body for any changes in feeling in the stomach and belly button area. If you feel heaviness, hotness, burning, or other GI distress, the current dosage may be too high or it may be just enough. Try the same dosage the next day and observe again.
- If you don’t notice any sensations after taking one pill, stay at the same dosage for another day of meals. If you still don’t notice anything on the third day, try taking two pills.
If you still notice no symptoms, try three pills.
- Once you feel slight burning, heaviness, and other GI sensations, stop increasing your dose. You have found the correct dose.
How to Take Betaine HCL Safely
After a while, you will be able to taper off the supplement as your digestive system begins making enough hydrochloric acid on its own.
Nutrient Booster #2 – Organic Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) with the “Mother”
A gentler alternative to betaine HCL is apple cider vinegar (ACV). Always use the raw, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar with the “mother” as it is rich in proteins, enzymes, and friendly probiotic bacteria.
Build up your dose of ACV gradually, just like you would with the betaine HCL. Begin with one teaspoon mixed into a 4-ounce glass of water, and take it 20 minutes before your meal. At your next meal, repeat the same process. Increase the dosage to one more teaspoon each day until you notice a mild burning sensation in your gut.
- Day 1: Take 1 teaspoon in a 4-ounce glass of water 20 minutes before each meal. Observe for stomach sensations.
- Day 2: Take 2 teaspoons in a 4-ounce glass of water 20 minutes before each meal. Observe for stomach sensations.
- Day 3: Take 3 teaspoons in a 4-ounce glass of water 20 minutes before each meal. Observe for stomach sensations.
As soon as you feel slight burning, tingling or heaviness in your stomach, you’ve found the right dosage. Continue with that dosage, slowly tapering down if stomach sensations become uncomfortable.
Nutrient Booster #3 – Probiotics
Those of us living with inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, or any other type of chronic digestive disorder will more than likely struggle with nutrient absorption.
This is why probiotics are so important. Probiotics are the “good” gut bacteria that help heal leaky gut syndrome, ease inflammation and improve nutrient uptake from food.
According to a study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, just one dose of a probiotic strain calledLactobacillus rhamnosus GG, colonizes the digestive tract and keeps it teeming with good bacteria for up to seven days! Traveler’s diarrhea, antibiotic-resistant diarrhea, and relapsing Clostridium difficile colitis are all noticeably improved with LGG supplementation.
This powerful probiotic strain had also provides beneficial effects on intestinal immunity by increasing the number of IgA (antibodies that play a crucial role immune function) and other immunoglobulin-secreting cells in the intestinal mucosa.1
In addition to taking a high quality probiotic supplement, be sure to add lacto-fermented foods like real sauerkraut and pickles, kimchi and kombucha to your daily diet.
Nutrient Booster #4 – Eat Vegetables with Healthy Fat
Although mainstream nutritional advice often leaves out this critical information, how we combine our food is just as important as what type of food we’re eating.
One example of healthy food combining is eating vegetables with healthy fat. In order for fat-soluble nutrients like vitamin A, D, E, and K (as well as lipid-soluble phytonutrients like curcumin, lycopene, astaxanthin and more) to be properly absorbed, they must be consumed with healthy fat.
During a clinical trial that published its results in the Journal of Nutrition, 12 healthy men and women were recruited for two randomized, two-way crossover studies. In each study, one meal was served with fresh avocado, and one was not.
In the first study, tomato sauce high in pro-vitamin A carotenoids and beta carotene was served. Some study participants received fresh avocado along with the sauce, and some did not.
After nutrient absorption testing, it was revealed the avocado enhanced beta carotene absorption by 2.4 times.
In the second study, the source of pro-vitamin A carotenoids was raw carrots. After testing, study participants who ate avocado showed a 6.6-fold increase in beta carotene absorption.2
Nutrient Booster #5 – Limit Liquid Intake With Meals
When we drink water, soda, tea, or coffee during meals, it dilutes the HCL in our stomachs and reduces our ability to digest food. Because of this, it is better to drink no more than a 2-ounce glass of water during a meal.
Nutrient Booster #6 – Slow Down and Chew Your Food Well
Most of us are so busy, sometimes eating a meal seems like just another chore to get out of the way. Because of this, we may give into the temptation to shovel the food down as fast as we can, not tasting it, and wonder why we feel bloated and uncomfortable later on.
Digestion begins in the mouth. The moment we start chewing, an enzyme in our saliva (called amylase) helps break down large food particles into smaller ones, making the food easier for our stomachs to digest.
Here are some quick tips to slowing down during a meal:
- Take smaller bites.
- Chew slowly and mindfully. Savor the flavor and texture of the food.
- Avoid taking another bite until you have swallowed.
Maximizing nutrient absorption is just as important as choosing nutrient-dense foods. So fill your plate with brightly colored veggies, healthy sources of fat and ancestral superfoods like liver (and other organ meats), bone broth, grass-fed and pasture-raised meats, and wild seafood… and then maximize your absorption of these nutrient powerhouses with the tips above.
Ed Note: Need some kitchen inspiration? Grab Kelley’s free guide – Instant Pot Keto Dinners – made exclusively with Paleo-and-Keto ingredients, for quick and delicious meals that taste just as good – of not better – than your restaurant favorites. Get your free guide here.
- Gorbacha, L, Sherwood (M.D). Probiotics and the Microflora of the Human Intestine: Probiotics and gastrointestinal health. The American Journal of Gastroenterology. January 2000. Volume 95, Issue 1, Supplement 1, Pages S2–S4.
- Kopec RE, Cooperstone JL, Schweiggert RM, et al. Avocado consumption enhances human postprandial provitamin A absorption and conversion from a novel high-β-carotene tomato sauce and from carrots. J Nutr. 2014;144(8):1158-66.