Can you digest your food?

There is plenty of information that you can find by hitting Google and visiting page after page until you locate the advice you are looking for. You can even find pages that will list your symptoms and provide you with a number of solutions in the way of supplements consisting of vitamins, minerals, hormones and more.

The use of all these supplements by individuals may be required, as a possible depletion of a vitamin or mineral could be evident. The use of these supplements is not the issue, the ability to digest and absorb the food is.

We all know about the food pyramid –  and also how in real life many of us are unable to achieve the daily recommended portions. Because of processed foods that we consume daily, it is believed that we could all benefit from a high quality daily multi vitamin and mineral.

BUT – what if your body is unable to absorb the very vitamin or mineral that you require so it can function correctly? Many are under the impression that just because they take the required supplements or reach the daily recommended intake they should be healthy. Often these people are still unwell in one form or another. Just because you pop that pill does not mean that (a) that is the right supplement for you (b) that your body is able / capable of digesting and absorbing the nutrients.

Through the use of BioSET and Kinesiology we are able to assist in determining if your body is functioning correctly and able to utilise the vitamins and minerals that are taken in daily from foods and supplements. If your body is not functioning then we can correct this condition allowing full function of the digestive system and processing of foods and supplements. By knowing what your body can and cannot tolerate will allow you to choose a path that is most suitable to a lifestyle of health and happiness that you want to achieve.

Vitamin and mineral deficiencies

Vitamins are organic compounds that our bodies use and your body only needs a small amount of vitamins and minerals every day. A varied diet generally provides enough of each vitamin and mineral. However, some people may need supplements to correct deficiencies of particular vitamins or minerals.

People who may benefit from vitamin and mineral supplements include:

  • Pregnant women
  • Women who are breastfeeding
  • People who drink alcohol above the recommended safe amount (two standard drinks per day for women and four for men)
  • Cigarette smokers
  • Illegal drug users
  • Crash dieters or people on chronic low-calorie diets
  • The elderly (especially those who are disabled or chronically ill)
  • Some vegetarians
  • Women with excessive bleeding during menstruation
  • People with allergies to particular foods
  • People with malabsorption problems such as diarrhoea, coeliac disease or pancreatitis.

Women planning a pregnancy should consider folate supplements or foods fortified with folic acid to reduce the risk of neural tube defects in the baby.

Vitamins from food are best

Research indicates that most of the vitamins you get from the food you eat are better than those contained in pills. Even though the vitamins in supplements are synthesised to the exact chemical composition of naturally occurring vitamins, they still don’t seem to work as well. The main exception to this is folate. The synthetic form (in a supplement or fortified food) is actually better absorbed by the body than folate from food sources.

Research has shown that a food component that has a particular effect on the body when present in food may not have the same effect when it is isolated and taken as a supplement. This could be because the vitamins and minerals in foods are also influenced by other components of the food, not just the ‘active ingredient’.

Food is a complex source of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, which all work together. Supplements tend to work in isolation. Phytochemicals (plant chemicals) are an important component of food. They are thought to reduce the incidence of cancer and heart disease. Supplements do not provide the benefits of phytochemicals and other components found in food. Taking vitamin supplements is no substitute for a varied diet.

Supplements can become poisons in high doses

Taking higher than recommended doses of some vitamins may cause problems. For example, the vitamins A, D, E and K are fat soluble, which means they are stored in the body. High doses of these vitamins can be toxic. High doses of some water soluble vitamins, like vitamin B6, can also become toxic. Large folate intakes can hide vitamin B12 deficiencies. In extreme cases – for example, where people take 100 times the recommended daily level – this can stop the work of anticonvulsant drugs, such as those used in epilepsy.

Excessive doses of some minerals may also cause problems. At just five times the recommended levels, zinc, iron, chromium and selenium can be raised to toxic levels in the body. For example:

  • Large zinc intakes can reduce or prevent iron and copper absorption and can contribute to impaired immunity, heart problems and anaemia.
  • Large intakes of fluoride (especially in childhood) may stain, and even weaken, the teeth.
  • Very large doses of fish oil can lead to decreased blood clotting.
  • Excessive calcium intakes inhibit absorption of iron and possibly other trace elements.
  • Iron toxicity is also common. Even a small amount over the recommended dietary intake (RDI) can cause gastrointestinal upset, nausea and black bowel motions. Severe toxicity can lead to coma and even death.
  • High levels of vitamin B6 have been linked to some types of nerve damage.
  • Doses of vitamin C above one gram can cause diarrhoea.
  • High doses of vitamin A may cause birth defects, as well as central nervous system, liver, bone and skin disorders.

For a healthy adult, if supplements are used, they should generally be taken at levels close to the recommended level for the person’s age and gender. Dietary recommendations for a range of nutrients are available from the Australian Nutrient Reference Values (NRVs) website. High-dose supplements should not be taken unless recommended under medical advice.

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