A lot to Digest

A lot of us take supplements to improve our health. Those supplements may be extremely beneficial, however, they may not be doing anything depending on our body’s ability to absorb them. Many vitamins and minerals need certain gastric conditions to be absorbed efficiently. These conditions range from being taken with fats or oils as in the case of fat-soluble vitamins like A,D,K, and E, or in an acidic environment, like in the case of vitamin B12. Also, many minerals can actually affect the absorption of other minerals, like calcium inhibiting iron absorption. And often times, the underlying reason why we have deficiency in a certain vitamin or mineral is that we’re having difficulty absorbing it, questioning whether eating a supplement will help (though sometimes it does by simply saturating the GI tract with enough of it). So, before you diagnose yourself with the latest “Google vitamin or mineral deficiency,” and purchase another supplement, try to enhance your digestion.

Simple Enhancement of Digestion

Perhaps the easiest place to begin is by actually priming the digestion before eating. This will increase the gastric juices (hydrochloric acid) in the stomach and aid in absorption of vitamin B12, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, chromium, selenium, manganese, vanadium, molybdenum and cobalt. Gastric acid also helps activate enzymes which break down protein, fats and carbohydrates. Folic acid is also absorbed better when gastric acid is present. Gastric acid helps move the entire digestive process along, so it is no wonder that all of these nutritional elements are affected by its presence.

Taking a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar (ACV) 15 minutes before meals has an amazing ability to stimulate gastric secretions and get your digestive system ready for a meal. Many people swear by the health benefits of ACV to “cure” all kinds of ailments. It’s likely that improving digestion is how it does this.

Lower Inflammation

Inflammation is a stressor on our body. When our body is stressed, our digestion does not work as well. This is an underlying factor in many people’s constipation – as we get stressed, our intestines move less quickly, resulting in constipation. Inflammation in the gut also changes our natural intestinal bacteria, which can alter our absorption of nutrients, as well as cause gas and bloating. Inflammation in the gut can also lead to reactions to foods that we have never had problems with in the past.

The easiest way to stop gastric inflammation in its tracks is to stop eating sugar, alcohol and refined/processed foods. Doing this even for a single month will likely give you a better idea of how your symptoms are related to the operation of your digestive system.


Node Smith, associate editor for NDNR, is a fifth year naturopathic medical student at NUNM, where he has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine amongst the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend campout where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Three years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision.

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