If your body is racked with symptoms like bloating, gas, and fatigue, you might have a certain type of indigestion. Try these five tips to increase your nutrient intake.
The healthy foods we eat are only as good as our ability to properly digest them. If you’re experiencing digestive issues, you may have trouble absorbing a key macronutrient: fat.
Not being able to digest fats is especially concerning if you’re following a high-fat keto diet. Here’s how to tell if you’re suffering from fat malabsorption, and five ways to get your body back on track.
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Symptoms of Fat Malabsorption
You can usually tell if you’re suffering from fat malabsorption by the quality of your stool. You might notice light-colored, foul-smelling stools that float, are difficult to flush or stick to the toilet bowl.
Other symptoms include:
- Weight gain or loss
- Avoiding or nauseated by fatty foods
- Dry skin
These symptoms can be serious and might indicate other nutrient deficiencies as well. Vitamins A, D, E, and K all require adequate amounts of fatty acids to be absorbed, so if you aren’t metabolizing fats properly, you won’t get enough of these key nutrients. (1, 2, 3)
Reasons You May Not Be Digesting Fats
There are several reasons you may not be absorbing fat properly. You may not produce enough of the required enzymes, or there may be something more serious afoot, like Crohn’s disease.
The process of fat digestion involves several organs, like your liver and pancreas, as well as many digestive “juices” like bile. With multiple systems involved, there are several reasons you may not be digesting fat properly, including:
- Low stomach acid (HCL) production
- Enzyme deficiency
- Celiac, Crohn’s, or other inflammatory gastrointestinal diseases
- Prolonged use of antibiotics
- Liver or gallbladder diseases
5 Tips to Help You Digest Fats Better
The good news is that there are several inexpensive and easy steps you can take to help your body absorb more healthy fatty acids.
1. Eat Your Bitters
When we eat, our bodies secrete gastric juices composed of acids and enzymes to help break down and absorb macronutrients.
Bitter foods stimulate your body to release more digestive enzymes, which includes lipase, the enzyme needed to break down and absorb fats. In addition, bitters have also been shown to increase blood circulation through the digestive tract, which can also improve digestion and absorption. (4)
Try adding bitter herbs and greens to your diet such as dandelion, beet greens, collards, chard, and chicory. You can also try bitter herb blend supplements you can take by mouth before meals. These usually include ingredients like burdock, gentian, orange peel, and dandelion root.
2. Supplement with HCI
Stomach acid, or hydrochloric acid (HCl), is important for overall digestion and the release of bile, which helps break down fats. It’s important to ensure that you have sufficient stomach acid for fat absorption, but also to avoid issues like bad bacteria overgrowth and B vitamin deficiencies. (5)
Look for a Betaine HCI supplement at your local health food store and follow the dosage instructions before mealtime. Many also swear by adding a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to a glass of water before meals to help increase HCI production.
3. Try Digestive Enzymes
You can give your digestion a boost by taking extra digestive enzyme supplements.
Browse your health food store for a digestive enzyme supplement that includes lipase, which breaks down lipids. Take one or two before each meal. You may also be able to find one that includes Betaine HCI, so be on the lookout for a potential two-for-one.
4. Drizzle on Some MCTs
Medium-chain fatty acids, or MCTs, are easier for your body to absorb than other fats. Instead of going through a lengthy process of digestion, MCTs are transported directly into your bloodstream and used by your liver for energy. As a bonus, they also don’t need enzymes to be broken down. (6)
Coconut oil is one of the richest sources of MCTs, so try swapping your other oils for coconut. You can also purchase pure MCT oil at your local health food store or online and use it in the same way you would use other oils.
5. Take Probiotics
Fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi contain beneficial bacteria that help keep your digestion running smoothly. Interestingly, one study showed that the microbiota balance (how many and what types of bacteria are in the gut) can affect how zebrafish absorb fats. (7)
Try eating fermented foods every day. You can also supplement with a probiotic of at least 1 billion active cultures.
The Bottom Line
It’s important to note that some people simply have a harder time breaking down fats than others. Even if you don’t have a full-blown fat malabsorption problem, you may just need a slight digestion boost in the form of a digestive enzyme.
See what works for you, so you can indulge in all the good fats without digestive woes.
(Read This Next: Give Your Gut a Break with These Easy-To-Digest Foods)