Nutrient deficiencies are not uncommon. They can contribute to a wide variety of imbalances and dysfunctions in the body — including energy production issues, endocrine (hormonal) imbalances, the potential to impact our bone and muscular health, and more, of course!
One thing that can lead to nutrient deficiencies is poor digestion. Our digestive system is one of the main ways that our body can gain access to nutrients — our digestive processes, from our mouths, to our stomach, to our small intestine, involve enzymes that help us breakdown our food, into usable nutrients. Our small intestine, is where the majority of our nutrients are absorbed.
In this article, we’re going to explore how poor digestion can contribute to common nutrient deficiencies:
Low Stomach Acid + Nutrient Deficiencies
Hypochlorhydria (or low stomach acid), is a common contributor to poor digestion. Our stomach acid is one of our first lines of defense against pathogens, starts the digestive process of protein, and helps us to absorb B12.
That being said, when we aren’t producing or secreting enough stomach acid, we can see inadequate protein digestion (which can set the stage for a variety of nutrient deficiencies!), and specific nutrient deficiencies, like:
B12 (which is important for our blood, energy, brain and nervous system function, metabolism, and more)
Iron (which is important for thyroid health, energy, hemoglobin production, etc.)
Calcium (which is important for bone health, nerve function, blood pressure management, muscular contraction and more)
Here are some ways you can improve your stomach acid secretion:
Manage your stress! The stress response shuts down our digestive processes, stomach acid production and secretion included.
Ensure you’re getting the nutrients you need to make stomach acid in your diet: zinc, iodine, B vitamins
Address any underlying contributors to low-stomach acid, like H. Pylori infections
Be mindful of taking TUMS, Gaviscon, and PPIs (proton pump inhibitors)
Focus on eating mindfully, and chewing your food thoroughly at mealtime
Bile Output and Nutrient Deficiencies
Deficiencies in fat soluble vitamins (like A, D, E and K), can occur when there is inadequate bile flow. We need bile to help us breakdown dietary fats that we consume on a daily basis. We then need these dietary fats, to help us absorb and utilize fat-soluble vitamins:
Vitamin A is important for immunity, general growth and development, the production of pregnenolone (which is the precursor to many of our hormones!), and more.
Vitamin D is important for immune function, calcium absorption, and bone health.
Vitamin E is an important antioxidant, and is protective against oxidative stress.
Vitamin K is important for blood clotting, and in calcium uptake.
We can improve bile output in a few ways:
We need to ensure that our stomach acid production is adequate. An acidic-enough pH in the stomach “triggers” the release of stomach contents into the small intestine. This acidic trigger stimulates the gallbladder to secrete bile, and the pancreas to release bicarbonate and digestive enzymes.
Support the liver (which makes bile before it’s stored and concentrated in the liver), and gallbladder through nutrition: citrus, bitter greens, beets, garlic, and teas like green, burdock root, nettle, and dandelion root, are great to incorporate on a daily and weekly basis!
Pancreatic Output and Nutrient Deficiencies
Another aspect of poor digestion could be low pancreatic output. Our pancreas is responsible for secreting digestive enzymes like amylases (which help break down carbohydrates), proteases (that breakdown proteins), and lipases (that help breakdown fats). If we don’t have enough output of digestive enzymes from the pancreas, there could be potential for nutrient deficiencies across many macro (and micro!) nutrients.
If you suspect you might have poor digestive output (or if you're experiencing any digestive symptoms), and want to look further into healing your gut, then definitely check out my Gut Rehab Intensive.