The intestinal tract is specifically designed to absorb food without any external assistance. In addition to the hydrochloric acid in your stomach, your intestines release enzymes to break down fats, proteins and carbohydrates for absorption into your gut. However, in some instances, such as with an illness, dietary changes or certain drugs, your digestive system might not be able to absorb nutrients as efficiently as it should. Simple lifestyle changes can maintain healthy bowel function and help your body continue to absorb food properly.
Eat foods rich in fiber, which adds bulk to your feces and helps it move through your digestive tract. When the feces is unable to move properly, it can interfere with nutrient absorption. Fiber-rich foods include fruits and vegetables, and whole grain products. If you do not get adequate fiber from your diet, use a fiber supplement.
Stay well hydrated. Fluids keep the feces moist and prevent it from becoming impacted or blocking the bowels. Drink at least eight 8 oz. glasses of fluid, preferably water, per day. Avoid beverages with caffeine or alcohol, which are diuretics.
Take smaller bites and chew your food thoroughly. The stomach uses hydrochloric acid to weaken the protein bonds in foods so that the enzymes in your intestines can dissolve them more easily. The smaller the foods are when they enter your stomach, the greater their surface area that comes in contact with the acid and the enzymes. Thorough chewing also allows the digestive enzymes in your mouth to break down starches more efficiently.
Consume probiotics in food or supplement form. Probiotics feed the good bacteria in your intestinal tract and help you absorb nutrients. Probiotic food sources include yogurt, with live and active cultures, and kefir – a fermented milk product. Some manufacturers also make juices with probiotics added.
Supplement with digestive enzymes. These supplements assist your body’s naturally occurring enzymes with absorbing food into the intestinal tract. These enzymes are available in the supplement section of drugstores and health-food stores. Use them per the manufacturer’s instructions.
Items you will need
- ✓ Fluids
- ✓ Probiotic foods
- ✓ Probiotic supplements
- ✓ Digestive enzymes
- Consult your physician if you experience continuous and persistent bloating and cramping, chronic diarrhea, unexplained weight loss, or bulky or fatty stools.
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: Your Digestive System and How it Works
- “Principles of Anatomy and Physiology”; Gerard Tortora et al.; 2010
- Medline Plus: Malabsorption
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.