Sure, your diet is full of whole-food sources of vitamins and minerals, but your body might not be getting the full benefits. If the micronutrients you're consuming aren't being absorbed into the rest of your system properly, you may actually become micronutrient deficient even though you're eating all the right things.
First, let's clarify what micronutrients are. It's the term used to encompass all the vitamins and minerals you need in trace amounts through consumption of food or supplements because your body doesn't produce them naturally. They include cobalt, chromium, copper, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, zinc, B vitamins and other antioxidants and minerals.
3 Mistakes That Prevent Proper Micronutrient Absorption
The amount of micronutrients your body produces naturally declines with age and exposure to disease, so dietary and vitamin supplementation is essential as you get older, says Kedar Prasad, Ph.D., author of "Micronutrients in Health and Disease." But if your body isn't absorbing them, all the supplements in the world won't do you any good.
So how do you know if you're micronutrient deficient? First, try tracking your food and see if you're getting enough of the major vitamins and minerals (like vitamins A, C, D and E). Second, talk to your doctor. A blood test can rule out some of the more common deficiencies (like iron).
Since there's an overabundance of misinformation about multivitamins and the best way to absorb nutrients, so let's clarify three things that can keep your body from absorbing them properly.
1. Taking the Wrong Supplement
Synthetic binding agents used in some supplements can cause interactions with other medications, digestive problems and an array of other health issues that can hinder correct micronutrient absorption.
To avoid this, choose whole-food sources of these nutrients. And if you do need to supplement, look for ones certified by either the United States Pharmacopeia Convention or NSF International, which independently test and review vitamins. The National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements provides an excellent Dietary Supplements Fact Sheet resource for researching vitamins.
Read more: The 10 Best Supplements
2. Not Keeping Your Gut Healthy
While taking supplements can help address nutrient deficiency, your intestines may not absorb micronutrients adequately until a full health regimen is incorporated. Probiotics can help improve immune function, digestion and absorption of micronutrients.
Micronutrient absorption can be further improved by removing refined carbohydrates like bleached flour from your diet, consuming refrigerated probiotics, increasing your fiber intake and eating phytonutrient-rich foods like tomatoes, carrots, squash, peaches, mangoes, blueberries, kale and broccoli.
Read more: 7 Signs Your Gut Is Out of Whack
3. Drinking Too Much Alcohol
Chronic alcohol consumption inhibits the absorption of nutrients like thiamin (vitamin B-1). Thiamin is essential for normal cellular function and is used to help manage digestive problems, immune disorders, metabolic disorders, canker sores and vision problems.
So What Can You Do?
Aside from choosing better supplements, eating a gut-healthy diet and cutting down on alcohol, there are three ways you can be sure your body is getting all the micronutrients from your food that it can and performing at optimal levels.
Before trying any of these, though, make sure that you're actually deficient and get the OK from your doctor first. After all, you can have too much of a good thing. And while most of the time your body flushes out excess vitamins and minerals, you don't want to be spinning your wheels trying to solve a problem that isn't there.
1. Tinctures or Liquid Minerals
As fillers and additives in commercial multivitamins can affect micronutrient absorption, alternatives include tinctures and liquid minerals. Tinctures are herbal extracts employing alcohol or glycerin to absorb phytochemicals, while minimally processed liquid supplements can help the body process vitamins more efficiently.
2. Transdermal Application
For those with skin issues that aren't solved by regular supplements taken orally, Dr. Prasad suggests using a micronutrient and mineral-rich body wrap. A liquid mixture of iron, copper and manganese is administered transdermally (through the skin) to boost enzyme reactions and improve collagen production and skin cell regeneration, Dr. Prasad says.
3. Additional Supplementation
While your standard multivitamin provides the essential micronutrients, you might consider going one step further. Dr. Prasad recommends supplementing with curcumin, resveratrol, omega-3 fatty acids and lutein.
These protect your cells against oxidative damage and inflammation by different mechanisms. Curcumin reduces inflammation. Resveratrol improves function of mitochondria to produce more energy. Omega-3 fatty acids are important for brain function. And lutein is essential for eye function.
What Do YOU Think?
Are you getting enough of these micronutrients? Have you been diagnosed with micronutrient deficiency? What course of treatment have you used to address the issue? What multivitamins or supplements do you take? Are you doing what you can to make sure they're being absorbed properly? Let us know in the comments below!