Vitamins and Minerals for Digestion

Updated by Charlie Rose, Spring 2015

 

The digestive system relies on a wide range of vitamins and minerals in order to function optimally. Unfortunately, our modern diets often lack these essential nutrients. This leads to numerous issues, as the digestive system is central to the entire functioning of the body. So health really does begin with good digestion.

Digestive problems occur as a result of bad digestion, poor absorption and insufficient elimination.

B vitamins are highly important in the breakdown and utilisation of nutrients including carbohydrates, protein and fat. They provide the body with incredible amounts of energy. Due to this, a deficiency in B vitamins is linked to fatigue. They are often sold separately to treat different conditions specifically, but for general digestion and health it is best to take them as a complex as B vitamins work together. They are water-soluble which means that the body does not store them, they get excreted daily. For this reason, you will need to be getting a regular dose. B vitamins also help regulate appetite and eliminate waste. They become difficult to absorb as we get older, so a supplement is particularly useful for older people.

Adequate vitamin C provides the body with healthy teeth and gums. These are essential as chewing plays a vital, though often over-looked role in the breakdown of food. Vitamin C is also needed for collagen production and it aids in the absorption of iron-which is important for energy. Collagen can be found throughout the tissues in the digestive tract and it is needed to hold them all together. The body also uses collagen to repair tissue damage. Therefore it is necessary for a healthy system.

Calcium is seen as the mineral that makes teeth and bones strong. But we shouldn’t forget about vitamin D, as it assists calcium absorption. It also contributes to proper colon function. Furthermore, the nerves in the digestive tract rely on calcium (and therefore vitamin D) to communicate with each other to regulate digestion. Calcium may also help to ease diarrhoea type symptoms in IBS-D sufferers.

Vitamin A nourishes the mucosal tissue lining the digestive tract, ensuring normal digestion.

The digestive process begins before we even start to eat. As we take in the sight and smell of food, our bodies start preparing themselves for digestion. Salivating is an obvious way to see this process in action. Zinc enhances smell and therefore improves this first digestive step. It increases the absorption of vitamin A as well and a deficiency can be linked to fatigue.

Magnesium has an association with constipation. A research paper ( Murakami et al, 2007) demonstrates a link between low magnesium intake and constipation in Japanese women. So if you suffer from constipation or IBS-C it may be advisable to take a magnesium supplement.

Manganese contributes towards the breakdown of proteins and fats, contributes to a healthy immune system and is involved in balancing blood sugar levels.

Potassium helps towards the elimination of waste.

Chromium enhances insulin that stores glucose for future energy use.

Copper is required for protein metabolism.

Selenium is important in the proper functioning of the pancreas. The pancreas is a vital part of the process as it produces digestive juices.

While kelp is technically a supplement it is also worth mentioning here as it contains both calcium and magnesium, along with many other beneficial vitamins and minerals in a form easily absorbed by the body. For a sensitive digestion, easily digested vitamins and minerals are preferred. Some customers who take our one a day Hebridean Kelp Capsules report that it helps to keep them regular and that when they don't take it, their digestive system appears to "slow down". This is because seaweeds contain the vital mineral iodine which is needed by the thyroid, a gland that regulates the speed of all the body's processes.

 

Summary

  • Vitamin A - nourishes the lining of the GI tract
     
  • Vitamin B complex - aids nutrient breakdown for energy
     
  • Vitamin C - is needed for collagen production. The tissues in the digestive tract are full of collagen. Therefore Vitamin C is needed to maintain a healthy system.
     
  • Vitamin D + Calcium - Vitamin D aids the absorption of Calcium. Calcium provides strong teeth that are needed for chewing.
     
  • Chromium - enhances insulin
     
  • Copper - is needed for protein metabolism
     
  • Iodine - needed for the speed of body processes
     
  • Magnesium - helps prevent constipation
     
  • Manganese - is involved in the breakdown of protein and fat
     
  • Potassium - eliminates waste
     
  • Selenium - is needed by the pancreas
     
  • Zinc - enhances smell, improving digestion.

 

References

Murakami K, Sasaki S, H Okubo H, Y Takahashi Y, Y Hosoi Y, M Itabashi M et al. (2007) Association between dietary fiber, water and magnesium intake and functional constipation among young Japanese women. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2007) 61, 616–622. Nature Publishing Group.

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