Why Stress Affects Nutrient Absorption and Vice Versa

Lacking digestive enzymes can effect your whole body.

What does gas, bloating, a burning sensation in the stomach, heavy/tired feeling after eating, allergies and food intolerance's have in common with poor immune function and inability to cope with stressful situations? The short answer- a lot. The long answer- keep reading.

Most of us know that what we eat effects our mood. If we eat our greens and veggies, and drink appropriate water intake, we are feeling good! If we are eating junk food, skipping breakfast and relying on fast food- we aren't ourselves (whether we notice it or not). We are tired, lethargic, moody, unambitious.

What if I told you that there is more to just knowing WHAT to eat, but we need to know HOW to eat as well.

An underactive stomach, also known as low stomach acid means that the body does not produce enough hydrochloric acid (HCl) and enzymes for the proper digestion of food.

Let me try and explain what HCl is and why it is so important.

There are many stages to digesting foods, the most important that we are talking about today is the breakdown of the foods into nutrients and the absorption of those nutrients. HCl is needed to activate pepsin, an enzyme that breaks down protein. Without enough HCl and pepsin, other digestive juices slow down, resulting in maldigestion (inability to digest food), especially with protein and fat soluble nutrients and minerals.

Here is a list of vital nutrients that do not get absorbed properly in the body without stomach acid:

Amino Acids from Protein:











Vitamins and Minerals:

Vitamin A

Vitamin B12

Folic Acid


Vitamin C

Vitamin D

Vitamin E

Vitamin K

Omega 3

Omega 6

Omega 9



Low Stomach Acid and Adrenal Fatigue

Adrenal glands are glands that secrete hormones, including your stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. When we are under stress, our adrenals release adrenaline to prepare ourselves for the fight or flight response. We respond to stressors in our life one of two ways: we fight (aggression, hostility) or flight (avoid). When we are suffering with adrenal fatigue, we are constantly in our fight or flight response, because we have not dealt with the problem yet. Because we are constantly dealing with the stress, our bodies cannot produce enough of our happy hormones like serotonin and dopamine. Stress slows down HCl acid and other digestive juices, gut motility, mucosal permeability and barrier function. (In basic words, stress slows down the entire digestion process). With everything slowed down, the less digestive enzymes and juices are secreted to help the breakdown and absorption of our nutrients.

To sum it all up:

1. We need proper HCl to absorb our nutrients

2. We need vital nutrients to support our adrenal glands

Without proper eating habits and proper coping mechanisms, we cannot properly nourish our systems with the nutrients they need, and we need properly nourished systems to deal with stress.

So WHY do so many of us have an underactive stomach?

There are many cumulative factors that effect HCl production, including what you're eating and HOW you're eating.

A diet high in meat (particularly red meat), dairy products, refined and processed foods, and fast foods

Drinking chlorinated water or ice-cold water or carbonated beverages

Poor food combining

Consuming larger, heavier meals

Low salt intake


Use of antacids

Coffee and nicotine consumption


Eating too fast


And HOW do we fix this problem?

Eating smaller meals throughout the day, avoiding red meat, dairy products, convenience food and alcohol will ease the digestion process.

Being mindful of how you are eating- chewing each bite for longer, enjoying food for the flavour.

Small sips of room temperature water during meals instead of large glasses of cold liquids.

Avoid caffeinated beverages- do not drink coffee within two hours of eating. Coffee speeds digestion and prevents giving your body time to absorb the nutrients.

Reduce and quit smoking.

The state of mind of the person at mealtime will affect digestion. Eating when rushed or upset should be avoided.

Do not combine protein-rich foods with sweets- sugar gets digested a lot faster than protein and fats- this creates a fermentation process that causes gas and bloating, and creates bacteria.

Drink 8 glasses of water a day at room temperature.

Supplementation: A digestive enzyme containing HCl and bile can also help alleviate the problem.

½ tsp per day of true sea salt contains a high amount of minerals.

Learning how to cope with stress- finding ways to relieve stress in a healthy way, being able to confront stressful situations and not holding the feelings inside, learning how to let go.

If you want to take control of your stress, you need to look at your eating habits. What are you eating? How are you eating? How are you digesting? Be kind to your body, give yourself those nutrients, and eat for nourishment.

If you are having trouble knowing what/how to eat, what's healthy and what's not, or you are interested in learning more about taking control of your health and digestion, feel free to contact me for a consultation.

Thanks and enjoy!!

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