What is fat malabsorption?
If you have dry skin, hormonal imbalances, or gallstones, you may suffer from a condition called Fat Malabsorption or Fat Maldigestion. As the name implies, fat malabsorption syndrome is the inability to adequately digest fats. Modern diets are lacking in good fats and overloaded with bad fats, suppressing our natural digestive juices. This can be troublesome, but fortunately, there are steps you can take to improve this condition. First, lets review the symptoms and causes.
What are the symptoms?
What are the causes?
In order to properly digest and absorb nutrients, enzymes are released from the pancreas to mix with food. These pancreatic enzymes help break down food so that it can be absorbed in the small intestine. A lack of pancreatic enzymes can cause fat malabsorption because these enzymes are needed to mix with bile in order to digest fat. The second key factor in healthy fat absorption is bile.
When we eat fat, the gallbladder secretes bile into the small intestines. Healthy bile will break down the fat, then our bodies will absorb it. If you don't have good bile flow, your gallbladder can't release it. If bile cannot be released from the bile duct, your body cannot digest fats. Consuming bad fats (canola oil, soybean oil, safflower oil, etc) causes bile to be thick instead of thin and free-flowing. In order to have healthy bile, you must consume healthy fats. A low fat diet is the main cause of unhealthy bile.
Summed up: poor digestion is at the root of fat malabsorption.
How do I improve fat absorption?
Eat slowly, peacefully, and mindfully. This is beyond difficult as a full time working mom- I totally get it! But, it's important and we have to find time to calmly eat our food in a stress-free environment. This doesn't just apply to eating fat. Your body cannot adequately absorb any macro-nutrient (fat, carbohydrates, or protein) when you are stressed and consuming food too quickly. Digestive juices are secreted when the body is relaxed. Eat slowly and chew your food well.
Consume coconut oil and apple cider vinegar (doesn't need to be consumed together- of course). Coconut oil is actually absorbed without bile, making it a great starting point in your healing journey. Make sure you're also consuming animal fats (like grass-fed butter or ghee) because coconut oil does not stimulate bile production. Apple cider vinegar helps thin out bile and can even soften gallstones.
Eliminate grains. Consuming grains damages the microvilli in the small intestines which are responsible for absorbing food. This causes leaky gut syndrome (undigested food leaks through the small intestine into the bloodstream) and disrupts the absorption of fat. This does not mean you should eliminate carbohydrates. You can get plenty of carbohydrates from starchy vegetables, or even fruits, nuts, and seeds.
Consume lacto-fermented foods. Fermented foods are essential for overall healthy digestion. Probiotics found in naturally fermented foods balance the good and bad bacteria in the digestive tract. In addition, when the production of hydrochloric acid by the stomach is low, fermented foods help increase the acidity of gastric juices. Basically, fermented foods restore and balance the production of digestive enzymes and create an environment conducive to the growth of healthy bacteria. Try these fermented cinnamon apples.
Slowly increase healthy fats in your diet. You will need to slowly add healthy fats into your diet over several weeks. If you make a drastic change, you won't absorb and properly digest the healthy fats. Bile secretion isn't signaled when you're following a low fat diet. Suddenly consuming healthy fats would signal bile secretion, but the gallbladder won't be able to release the thick bile and the fat will pass through the digestive tract without being absorbed and utilized. Start by adding coconut oil to your diet and slowly add other quality fats that I have listed below.
Examples of Healthy fats
- Whole eggs (you need to eat the yolk)
- Grass-fed meat
- Ghee and grass-fed butter
- Whole nuts and seeds
- Avocado oil, coconut oil, olive oil
- Wild caught fish