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How Stress Affects Absorption of Nutrients

Health involves so much more than just eating your greens. You can’t be running out the door, chugging your green juice, trying to make it to Equinox on time and forgetting to catch your breath. Health is an all-encompassing state. It is important to remember that there are other big, influential players in this game like stress levels, relationships, sex and creation. For more health factors, check out the Sakara Life Pyramid.

Stress negatively affects the body in a multitude of ways, which include causing headaches, upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pain, and sleep issues. Stress affects every system in the body from the respiratory system to the reproductive system, while also hitting the digestive system hard.

Nutrient absorption starts with digestion. When stressed, your fight or flight response is turned on, your adrenals are turned up and your digestion is halted. Your body believes your life is at stake and immediately heightens necessary senses, while pausing all unnecessary systems along the way. Digesting lunch can wait when you are trying to stay alive.

It’s important to note that sources of stress could be mental and/or emotional such as: conflict in relationships with family and friends, physiological stress such as disease, and environmental stresses such as cleaning agents, fluorescent lighting and pollution, or even physical stress such as over-exercising.

With halted digestion comes fewer digestive enzymes and less hydrochloric acid. Hydrochloric acid is what helps breakdown carbohydrates, fats, and protein. Without this acid, it is difficult for vitamins and minerals to be broken down and absorbed properly.

In a study by Gastroenterology, participants consumed a mineral drink while they were in a relaxed state. Researchers found that participants absorbed 100 percent of the drink's nutrients in this relaxed state. Then the participants were asked to concentrate as two different people spoke to them simultaneously about different topics. Under these circumstances, subjects showed a significant reduction in nutrient absorption.

This makes sense though. How much can your body handle at one time? Certain things have to be prioritized to keep us going. With distraction and stress, food digestion gets put on the back burner. Your body is working to digest information and threat. Additionally, stress depletes nutrient stores. Vitamins A, E and C, B-vitamins, chromium, copper, iron, zinc and magnesium are some of the first to go.

So what can you do?

First, take a look at your life. What do you have on your plate? What are you prioritizing? Your own well being should definitely be at the top of your list. Consider these helpful practices:


  • Be present while you eat - yes, that means actually taking a lunch break.
  • Sit down while you eat.
  • Meditate - start with just 10 minutes a day. Headspace is a lifesaver.
  • Try adaptogenic herbs to help your body handle stress.
  • Exercise - SANITY SAVER.
  • Develop a yoga practice.
  • Go for an afternoon walk - even 10 minutes outside, without e-mails and phone calls can make a huge difference.
  • Practice breathing techniques.


This is all much easier said than done, but the science is there. Listen to it. We all want to reap the full benefits from our healthy diets and conscious efforts. Don’t let them go to waste.

Tags: Body

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