You may know the old saying, “You are what you eat,” but I’d like to counter that and say, “You are what you digest and absorb!” In my clinic, I frequently see patients complaining of fatigue, brain fog, anxiety and depression. Often, they are eating a very clean diet, but they haven’t seen improvement because they aren’t able to digest and absorb all the great vitamins and minerals they’re consuming.
How does this happen?
There are a number of factors that can affect your digestion and absorption, but the top three that I see in my clinic are gluten, gut infections, and a lack of HCL or digestive enzymes.
1. You’re eating gluten.
Gluten is one of the top two causes of leaky gut. It can also damage the lining of your small intestine, making it very difficult to properly absorb fats and fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E and K), as well as other nutrients.
2. You aren’t absorbing nutrients due to gut infections.
If you've eliminated inflammatory and toxic foods from your diet, but you still have symptoms, then you may have an underlying gut infection, like Candida, parasites, or SIBO affecting your digestion and ability to absorb nutrients.
3. You aren’t absorbing nutrients due to enzymes or HCL.
If you've healed your gut from infections and eliminated gluten from your diet but still notice symptoms, you may need to restore the factors that are essential to digestion, such as digestive enzymes and stomach acid (HCL). Digestive enzymes help you break down proteins and fats so that they can be properly absorbed. HCL helps to break down protein into amino acids so that they can be absorbed in the small intestine. Amino acids are the building blocks for neurotransmitters, the chemicals in your brain that control your mood.
There are 10 amino acids that are considered essential. This means that if you do not get them from your diet, your body cannot make them. So, if you experience anxiety, depression, irritability or any other mood imbalance, then you might be deficient in these amino acids and could benefit from replacing your stores of digestive enzymes and/or HCL.
What can I do?
1. Eliminate gluten from your diet.
If you’re experiencing anxiety, mood swings, fatigue, or brain fog, gluten may be preventing your body from absorbing the essential fats and amino acids in your diet. If your body does not absorb enough healthy fat from your diet, then you may also have deficiencies in the fat-soluble vitamins — vitamins A, D, E, and K.
2. Heal your gut.
If you suspect gut infections, follow my 4R Program to heal the gut through diet and supplementation.
3. Try HCL and digestive enzymes.
Do a trial with baking soda to see if you could benefit from extra HCL. Mix 1 teaspoon baking soda in 4 ounces of water, and drink. If you burp, you don’t need HCL. If you don’t burp, then you do need HCL.To see if you need digestive enzymes, take some with your meals to see if your symptoms improve.
If you’d like further assistance in healing your gut, I would highly recommend scheduling a Wellness Coaching session with one of my Registered Dietitian/Nutritionists, or finding a Functional Medicine practitioner in your area.