For those of us leading (or attempting to lead) healthy lives, we try to eat well-balanced diets and perhaps top up vitamin supplements to get all of the vital nutrients our bodies need to function properly. However, if those vitamins are not properly absorbed by our bodies, we get little or no benefit from our healthy efforts. So how exactly does absorption happen in the body?
After food is chewed and swallowed, it travels into your stomach where hydrochloric acid and enzymes break down carbohydrates, fats and proteins. From there, the digestive system extracts the vitamins and minerals in the digested food, where they are absorbed into the bloodstream. These nutrients are delivered to the cells, which then absorb the ones they require.
Vitamin intake, however, is only part of the story. Some nutrients are needed to help your body absorb other nutrients more efficiently or to transport them throughout the body. For example, vitamin C helps in the absorption of iron and chromium. Copper is also needed by the body to absorb the iron it needs and keep its cells alive. Without vitamins D and K, calcium will not be absorbed. Calcium and iron prevent each other's absorption, and thus should not be taken at the same time. The same is true for magnesium and fluoride.
There are other factors that can aid or obstruct the absorption process. If your body is lacking a certain nutrient, it will be more aggressively absorbed from the food source. Those who exercise should consume meals a few hours before working out, because the body may not be focused on digestion and absorption when it's diverting nutrients to muscles. Stress negatively affects nutrient absorption, as do alcohol and caffeine. (The latter can reduce absorption by up to 80 %!)
The types of foods which nutrients are coming from also have a bearing on how readily they're absorbed. For instance, fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K will be better absorbed when consumed in a meal that contains fat. For this reason, people on low-fat diets may experience a decline in absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.
By following the above nutrient absorption guidelines, your body will get more of the vitamins and minerals it needs to keep you looking and feeling young, regardless of your age.
Did you know ?
As healthy as our diets might be, it's hard to keep track of how many vitamins we're getting on a daily basis. Therefore, vitamin supplements are a good way to ensure we're getting the recommended daily dosage of all vitamins our bodies require to function properly.