Optimising fat digestion and absorption with a few simple steps



You might ask, why is this important!? If I don’t absorb fat, then surely I will loose weight which is what I want to do right!?


To start, we need to look at the smallest structures in the body, our cells. Our cells and also the interior components of our cells like the mitochondria, and endoplasmic reticulum are surrounded by what’s called a phospholipid bilayer (a very thin layer of fat essentially) but let’s just call it a membrane. 


If functioning properly, this membrane acts as a kind of barrier, allowing certain nutrients to pass into the cell to be used for energy or other bodily processes and certain waste products to move in the opposite direction. 


However, if the ratios of fats in this membrane get out of whack, you can probably guess what might start to happen... Nutrients we need for function may not be able to get in, and things we want to remove may hang around for longer than we might like. 


Dietary choices along with how efficiently we digest and absorb fats affect the permeability of this membrane so its important that we are A) making smart food choices and B) optimising fat digestion to ensure we have a good composition of fats in these cellular membranes, giving our cells and ultimately our bodies the best chance to thrive!


Another cell in the body that depends highly on fat for its proper function and growth are neurons, the cells of our CNS. The myelin sheath, which wraps around these strand like cells acting as insulation to speed up nerve impulses is made primarily of phospholipids.  


Additionally, if you are not absorbing or digesting fats efficiently you may be compromising the proper absorption of your fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, K. These vitamins are essential, and require fat to be absorbed into the bloodstream... If your not breaking down fat, you wont be getting maximum bang for buck from these vitamins.   


So how can I tell if I’m not digesting fats efficiently? There are a few tell tale signs which are pretty easy to pick up on:


  • You may feel nauseous first thing in the morning, and have absolutely no appetite.
  • Seeing or the thought of eating fatty food may make you feel nauseous 
  • You may feel an extreme urge to dash to the toilet soon after a meal heavy in fats which usually results in diarrhoea, or very soft stools containing mucous
  • You may notice that when you pass a stool it floats... FYI you want your stools to sink just below the surface of the water, but its not an exact science ;-)
  • Your stools may sink, but you may notice a kind of oily film appear on the surface of the water. 


Whats causing this, and how can I start to correct it?? Well the truth is, that there are many things that could be causing/contributing to this. The most common reason for this is poor bile flow and sub-optimal levels of pancreatic enzymes, namely lipase. Bile emulsifies fats and breaks large molecules down into smaller micelles, lipase basically finishes the job off breaking these micelles down into even smaller components ready for absorption.


There are a few things that contribute to the under functioning of this digestive cascade. If this seems like something you may be struggling with. Take a look at these corrective steps below to fit the final pieces of the puzzle!  


  • Take a bitters extract. Bitters and bitter foods stimulate bile flow and trigger the production of pancreatic enzymes. They act on receptors on the tongue and essentially send a message downwards to let the rest of the GI tract know that food is on its way. Natures answer make a bitters & ginger alcohol free extract which is awesome for this purpose. The reason I opt for an extract over bitter food sources is convenience and potency. But I highly recommend you start including as many bitter food sources into your regimen as possible in addition. Rocket, radicchio, lemon, ginger, turmeric, apple cider vinegar are all great options. Simply take a dropper full 30mins before main meals, diluted with literally a drop of water. Let the solution sit in your mouth for 5-10 seconds rolling over and under your tongue before swallowing. Don’t wash it down with water afterwards, let the taste disappear naturally.  


  • Did your mum ever tell you to chew your food!? Well the old girl was right (again). You may already be aware that our stomachs don’t contain teeth, meaning that food that has not been chewed properly needs to sit in the stomach for longer than we would like whilst stomach acid works its magic. Also, when we dont chew, we produce less stomach acid, less bile, and less pancreatic enzymes, so you can see the picture I’m painting for you here now. 


  • When you eat, sack off your tech devices as this almost puts us into autopilot and we just go into scoff mode literally not even taking a breath in between mouthfuls. Additionally, for many people sitting in front of their computer or on their phone can be a huge stressor, and in times of stress your digestive function will be the first thing to be sacrificed. Try sitting down, at a table, consciously chew your food, put your knife and fork down between mouthfuls as a cue to emphasise chewing and I guarantee this will bring improvements. 


Hope this helps!