Micronutrients: The Gut Barrier and Malabsorption
The small intestine and large intestine are where the majority of vitamins, minerals, and other important micronutrients are absorbed after a meal.
The health of your intestinal cells and the protective coating above them called the mucosa directly impacts how efficiently you digest and absorb nutrients from your food and supplements.
If you have been diagnosed with or are suspected of having intestinal permeability (this is often referred to in layman’s terms as ‘leaky gut’), it is likely you have some degree of nutrient malabsorption due to inflamed intestinal epithelial cells.
This means that some of your micronutrients may be deficient because you cannot properly absorb them through your intestinal wall and into your body.
Depending on the location of the inflammation or cellular damage, which nutrients are being malabsorbed can vary.
A common finding in patients with intestinal permeability, such as that shown on the test panel below, is that fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) may be low or suboptimal. This can be for a variety of reasons, but those might include:
- cellular inflammation has impaired absorption
- bacterial pathogens present have altered vitamin receptors on intestinal cells
- bacterial overgrowth present has altered the pH of the digestive tract, and impaired lipase enzyme (fat digesting enzyme) function or bile concentration
- low dietary fat intake has reduced the solubility of fat-soluble vitamins (fat at meals is required to absorb fat-soluble vitamins)
This is just one of many scenarios in which micronutrients throughout the rest of the body depend on the health and functionality of the intestinal barrier.
When examining levels of critical micronutrients, it is important to assess the health and status of the intestinal barrier at the same time, to determine if nutrient deficiencies are due to lack of dietary intake, poor absorption at the intestinal lining, or simply poor absorption or activation at the cell membrane.