Vitamin malabsorption as a cause of autoimmune diseases

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Vitamin malabsorption as a cause of autoimmune diseases

Our digestive function is incredibly important as the digestive system forms the very foundation of our health. Common digestive problems can be the cause of vitamin malabsorption among other major problems. Review the causes and symptoms below of this problem that could be the cause of even autoimmune diseases.

Our ability to digest and absorb nutrients from food it is integral to the function of all other organs and organ systems in the body. The amino acids, vitamins, and minerals that we get from our diet are transformed into the hormones, neurotransmitters, and cells that we require for every bodily function.

Your mood actually depends on the B vitamins you get from your diet. Your hormones are made from dietary fat and cholesterol; if you’re not eating or absorbing those fats, it can affect your hormonal balance. Your thyroid and metabolism depend on the specific minerals you get from food, as long as you absorb them properly.

Symptoms of vitamin malabsorption

When our digestive system is compromised by an overt disease (for example, inflammatory bowel disease) or malfunctions (for example, irritable bowel syndrome), we may not be optimally extracting nutrients from food, despite following a “healthy diet”.

Here are some of the clues your body is telling you that your digestive system needs extra support:

nutrient deficiencies

If you have been told that you have low levels of iron, vitamin B12, vitamin D, or other minerals and vitamins, this may indicate that you are not eating enough of that nutrient or that you are not absorbing it effectively from your food. Simple blood tests can help inform you of this.

digestive symptoms

Symptoms such as lack of appetite, nausea, bloating, diarrhea or loose stools, flatulence, stomach cramps, or pain indicate that you may not be digesting and absorbing optimally.

Abnormal bowel movements and stools

It is the window to the digestive system. The “perfect poop” should be 1-2 pieces, banana-shaped, medium brown in color, easy to pass, 1-3 times a day.

Symptoms of poor digestion can include:

  • Visible bits of undigested food in the stool
  • Floating or greasy stools
  • Blood or mucus in the stool
  • Unusual colors like gray or black
  • Loose or watery stools
  • Stools that are in multiple hard pieces that are painful to pass

Signs of vitamin deficiencies

  • Hair loss
  • brittle nails
  • Bleeding gums or cracked corners of the mouth
  • red/swollen tongue

Low energy or fatigue

Be careful to rule out fatigue as a result of lack of sleep or stress; Tests often reveal that a nutrient deficiency is part of the problem. For women, low iron is the most common nutrient deficiency.

Common Reasons for Not Breaking Down and Absorbing Food Properly

There are certain medical conditions that can cause nutrient deficiencies due to malabsorption or ‘malabsorption’. For example, inflammatory bowel disease (such as Crohn’s disease) or celiac disease are some common examples. It’s important to discuss your symptoms with your doctor to make sure you get the right tests.

Stress as a symptom of vitamin malabsorption

Your brain and nervous system need to be in the “rest and digest” state to release the saliva, stomach acid, and digestive enzymes necessary for optimal digestion and absorption. However, nowadays, most of us don’t spend a lot of time in “rest and digest” mode.

During periods of stress, the body goes into “fight or flight” mode. In this state, the body mobilizes resources to help you flee a perceived “danger”: your heart rate and breathing rate increase, your pupils dilate, you sweat, and blood is diverted to your muscles. During this time, body systems that are not essential to your immediate survival (including the digestive system) are effectively “shut down” to conserve energy and prioritize more immediate demands.

When we rush through meals, eat on the go, eat at our work desk while checking email, or are generally stressed, the body is in this “fight or flight” state and is less able to “rest” and digest food optimally.

What does this mean for us? It means that when we are stressed, we are not producing the proper digestive juices, so we are more susceptible to feeling bloated.

Eating quickly and chewing improperly

The first and most important step in the digestion process is seeing and smelling food, which causes the brain and intestine to begin releasing saliva and enzymes to prepare the stomach to receive the food. When we are moving or eating too fast, we skip the step, resulting in a suboptimal release of enzymes. This can be a contributing factor to bloating and indigestion.

Insufficient stomach acid causes nutrient malabsorption

High stress can result in decreased stomach acid secretion, as can certain autoimmune diseases. The lack of stomach acid means that the protein is not broken down properly before entering the small intestine. This can cause bloating, indigestion, flatulence, heartburn, or a suboptimal nutrient absorption.

Gallbladder or fatty liver surgery

The liver produces bile, which is stored in the gallbladder until it is stimulated to be released by eating. People who have had their gallbladder removed often have difficulty breaking down and absorbing fat. This means they may also have trouble absorbing fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, K), as well as feeling very bloated after fatty or greasy meals.

Unhealthy balance of gut bacteria

Bacteria play a vital role not only in our digestion, but also in our general health, including mental health. In the gut, certain bacteria help us make vitamin K, break down certain nutrients, train our immune systems, and form a first line of defense against pathogenic bacteria, yeast, and parasites.

Harmful bacteria can predominate in the gut in a variety of circumstances, such as: food poisoning or gastroenteritis, post-antibiotics, C. difficile infections, inflammatory bowel disease, a highly processed or high-sugar diet. Your balance of gut bacteria can also vary based on your genetics and how you were born (vaginal birth versus cesarean delivery). An overgrowth of harmful bacteria or yeasts can impair our ability to absorb nutrients from food.

leaky gut

A leaky gut occurs when the tight junctions between cells in the intestine become excessively permeable, allowing substances to pass through the intestine into the bloodstream, which can trigger an immune response. Leaky gut is hypothesized to be a contributing factor in a variety of autoimmune disorders, including inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, autoimmune hepatitis, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and SLE (lupus), among others.

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