One of the least understood keys to our health may be the gut microbiome, that complicated mix of bacteria that lives in your digestive system. Researchers know now that it can impact a lot of illnesses, including mental health disorders, thanks to its connection to the brain and other organs. Luckily, there’s an easy way to influence your gut health: your diet. What we eat every day directly impacts and shapes our gut health, and there are certain foods that help boost its functioning. Research around probiotics is always changing, but right now science says it’s a good idea to maintain your microbiome with food, and eating these foods can improve your gut health.
“Your gut bacteria are extremely important for many aspects of health,” notes Healthline. “The best way to maintain a healthy microbiota is to eat a range of fresh, whole foods, mainly from plant sources like fruits, veggies, legumes, beans and whole grains.”
When it comes to a healthy gut, diversity in the microbiome is important; a 2018 study found that people who ate around 30 different plant types per week had more diverse biomes than people who ate around ten. Diversity means more species of bacteria and fungi happily living and making your gut work. And remember that scientists are still figuring out precisely what a “healthy gut” is in different people. If you eat a certain “gut-boosting” food and don’t feel well or react badly, listen to what your gut’s telling you and quit eating them for a while.
Here are seven foods that can improve your gut’s health and feed that microbiome all kinds of tasty treats.
A study in 2018 found that walnuts can improve your gut health. “When you consume walnuts, it increases microbes that produce butyrate, a beneficial metabolite for colonic health. So the interaction of walnuts with the microbiome is helping to produce some of those health effects,” lead author Dr. Hannah Holscher said in a press release. Other kinds of nuts are also part of a healthy gut, but walnuts in particular seem to show benefits.
Cranberries can’t actually help out with your UTIs, but they appear to be great for your gut, according to research published in 2017. It turns out that a particular kind of gut bacterium “utilizes cranberry xyloglucans as a sole energy and carbon source,” explains the study. Xyloglucans are a type of substance found in cell walls, and it turns out that the variety in cranberries is very tasty for a healthy variety of gut bacteria.
If there’s one substance that definitely has a good rep for helping gut health, it’s probiotic substances вЂ”В but that label covers more than you might think. There are a lot of different probiotic foods and drinks, and scientists still discovering how they can help us, from yogurts to fermented kefir.
You can consume probiotics in several ways: probiotic yogurts often have cultured strains of bacteria added, while other foods like naturally fermented kimchi grow healthy strains of bacteria as they age. These strains, when digested, help the bacteria already in the gut to function properly. “Probiotic administration seems to have a great potential in terms of health that justifies more research,” said a review of the science in 2014. Studies in 2018 found that some people respond better to probiotic substances than others, so stay tuned for more science about refining your probiotic intake.
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We spent a lot of time putting together this massive list.
And yes, there are actually 86 things on the list.
But not only did we spend a lot of time on the list, we also spent time turning it into a useable sheet for you to take action on.
You can download it right now and skip the rest of this post, if you want.
There are 6 sheets via one PDF download:
- The main sheet with all 86 ways to view/hang up/bind wherever you’ll be able to see it often.
- A sheet that’s more for viewing online, as it links to places for more context and information.
- 4 pages of the information from page 1, broken down so that you can use it for your OWN journey. You can print it then cross off the things you’ve done and/or make notes next to the ones you want to try and/or have further questions on. Process of elimination?!
If you have my physical journal, this is a great complimentary piece. You can print it and add to your physical journal via the back pockets!
And if you have the e-journal (PDF), then print these sheets off and add them to your journal binder. On the Master Gutsy Spreadsheet, there is a tab called “Journal Essentials.” I have listed some beautiful 3-ring binders to consider if you’ve chosen the PDF journal route (which is cheaper, BTW).
Ways to Heal the Gut
Anyways, here are the first 22 things on my list of 86:
- Journaled, the right way
- Intermittent Fasting
- Meal spacing
- SIBO test
- Dutch test
- Probiotic, the right one
- Intestinal movement
- Breath work
- Bone Broth
- Understood difference between gut health and gut healing
- Combined a Western meets alternative approach
- Got Rifaximin through an Australian pharmacy
- HCL (Hydrochloric Acid)
- Added more foods to increase butyrate production
- More fat, less fat-free
- Digestive enzymes
- Learned to meet people where THEY are at on their healing journey, not where I want them to be
- Implemented a 100% personalized diet
- Got out of the weeds of OVERWHELM
Because this resource is very put together and comprehensive, I couldn’t place it here.
However, you can get the full PDF download with all 86 Ways to Heal the Gut by clicking HERE.
You can now listen in to the detail for numbers 1 – 4 from above.
If you enjoy listening to all 86 broken down into more detail, they can all be found on the YouTube channel. Each video contains 4 of the 86 things. Yes, took me forever to put this altogether.
I truly hope you love this brand new (free) resource!
If you liked this post, you might also enjoy:
Digestive system problems such as heartburn, gas, bloating and constipation reflect what’s happening throughout your body. “As we age, the natural cycles slow down and don’t work as well,” says Johns Hopkins gastroenterologist Gerard Mullin, M.D.
The main drivers of gut health change are shifts in stomach acid, gut immunity and gastrointestinal flora—the complex ecosystem of bacteria in your digestive system.
When gut health is good, he says, you’re less likely to experience damaging inflammation and lapses in immunity.
The following ways to protect your digestive system may sound surprising because they’re not just about diet. “Everything ties together,” Mullin says.
Eat the right foods.
“Americans’ fiber intake is 40 to 50 percent of what it should be,” Mullin says. A balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables provides the fiber that builds good bacteria and gut health.
Other foods that build a healthy digestive system include kefir (a fermented milk drink that’s similar to yogurt and is rich in probiotics) and other fermented or pickled foods (such as kimchi, sauerkraut and pickled ginger).
Ask your health care provider about foods for specific problems such as constipation or bloating.
Get more sleep.
Not getting enough sleep is linked to a higher prevalence of obesity, which sets you up for digestive system disorders.
As with other aspects of health, exercise is the best way to lose weight and maintain a healthy body weight to ward off digestive system problems.
Reducing stress is fundamental to reducing heartburn, Mullin says. “There’s no magic diet that works.” Try relaxation therapies along with other distraction techniques.
Get help for issues like anxiety and depression.
Mood and digestive system health (especially disorders like irritable bowel syndrome) are closely linked via the brain-gut connection.
This article was co-authored by Dale Prokupek, MD. Dale Prokupek, MD is a board certified Internist and Gastroenterologist who runs a private practice based in Los Angeles, California. Dr. Prokupek is also a staff physician at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and an associate clinical professor of medicine at the Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Dr. Prokupek has over 25 years of medical experience and specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the liver, stomach, and colon, including chronic hepatitis C, colon cancer, hemorrhoids, anal condyloma, and digestive diseases related to chronic immune deficiency. He holds a BS in Zoology from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and an MD from the Medical College of Wisconsin. He completed an internal medicine residency at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and a gastroenterology fellowship at the UCLA Geffen School of Medicine.
There are 8 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.
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If you have abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhea, or other issues with your gut, you can heal it in no time by maintaining a stable balance of good bacteria in your gut. The key to healing your gut is to increase your consumption of foods that are high in probiotics and prebiotics. Probiotics are a type of good bacteria that need prebiotics to flourish in your gut.  X Trustworthy Source Mayo Clinic Educational website from one of the world’s leading hospitals Go to source However, a diet high in sugar, fat, processed foods, and animal protein may promote the growth of bad bacteria in your gut, which can slow the healing process.
Co-authored by Mark Hyman, MD, a practicing family physician, a seven-time #1 New York Times bestselling author, and an internationally recognized leader, speaker, educator, and advocate in his field. He is also the founder and medical director of The UltraWellness Center, chairman of the board of the Institute for Functional Medicine, a medical editor of The Huffington Post, and a regular medical contributor on Katie Couric’s TV show, Katie.
Millions of Americans take over-the-counter painkillers like Advil or Aleve for any random ache, pain, or cold symptom, without a second thought. What most don’t know is that those drugs — called non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) — are responsible for over 16,000 deaths per year: that’s more deaths per year than caused by asthma or AIDS.
And, there is another less-recognized side effect — or, more accurately, another less-recognized effect, because side effects are nothing more than unwanted effects of medication. NSAIDs can damage your gut lining, causing a condition responsible for a whole range of ailments, from allergies to autoimmune disease. It’s called leaky gut.
Here’s one girl’s story of recovery:
Sarah is a 5-year-old girl who was brought to us as a patient of The UltraWellness Center by her mom. She came in for the treatment of severe pain and swelling in multiple joints including her ankles, elbows, and fingers.
Walking was painful, as was drawing, one of her favorite activities. Her mom and teachers also noticed that she’d changed from her playful, vibrant self, to an anxious child.
Sarah had been in perfect health until about a year before she came to see us, at which time she’d developed a bad cold — with fever that persisted on and off for about a week.
The pediatrician instructed Sarah’s mom to alternate giving Sarah ibuprofen and Tylenol around the clock to help with the discomfort of fever, and to bring it down. This is standard fare in pediatric care.
What Doctors Know. And Don’t Know. About NSAIDs
Doctors are taught that ibuprofen, a drug in the family of NSAIDs, can cause gastritis. In our medical training we learn that it can lead to stomach ulcers that, in extreme cases, can result in upper-gastrointestinal bleeding and the need for surgery and blood transfusions.
Generally, we are taught that this is uncommon and only occurs with prolonged use in high doses.
However, what Sarah’s pediatrician didn’t know, and in fact, what most doctors don’t learn in their medical training, is that even short-term use in regular doses can lead to gut damage and negative health consequences.
And not just in kids — in all of us.
Many scientific studies conducted over the past two decades show a correlation between NSAID use and leaky gut syndrome (LGS).
According to a study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “All the conventional NSAIDs studied were equally associated with small intestinal inflammation apart from aspirin and nabumetone which seem to spare the small bowel.” Another study concluded, “NSAIDs are thus shown to disrupt intestinal integrity and long-term treatment leads to inflammation of the small intestine.”
In this young patient’s case long-term was just over a week!
Why Leaky Gut is Bad for You
Why is leaky gut bad? Because toxic bacteria and food proteins “leak” into your bloodstream, triggering inflammation that can lead to allergies, autoimmune disease, depression, obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer.
Not only that, inflammation can affect the brain and nervous system, causing anxiety (as happened to our patient), depression, irritability, and mood swings.
And, if you have gluten sensitivity? Whoa, baby! Ibuprofen and other NSAIDs might not be your best option because they can make it worse!
These medications increase leaky gut, or more technically, intestinal permeability. Intestinal permeability allows food particles and fragments of the gut flora in our intestines to get across our gut lining and into our bloodstream, triggering food sensitivities, inflammatory responses, and autoimmune reactions.
- Advil / Motrin (ibuprofen)
- Aleve (naproxen sodium)
- Naprosyn (naproxen)
- Lodine (etodolac)
- Nalfon (fenoprofen)
- Daypro (oxaprozin)
- Ansaid (flurbiprofen)
- Cambia / Cataflam / Voltaren (diclofenac)
- COX-2 Inhibitors
Functional Medicine: Treating the Root Cause
Most often, NSAIDs do not treat the root cause of the pain, they treat the symptoms. Functional Medicine treats the underlying causes of health problems.
In Sarah’s case, we quickly went to work healing her gut in order to treat what had now become arthritis in her joints, constant stomach pain, and anxiety.
We removed all gluten and dairy from her diet because with leaky gut and inflammation, these are common triggers for many people — even for those who weren’t previously sensitive.
We then added in a few simple supplements to begin to heal the gastritis — the inflammation in her stomach — and her leaky gut. These included curcumin (an anti-inflammatory extract from turmeric), DGL (a form of licorice in a chewable tablet that helps to heal gastritis and leaky gut), zinc, and L-glutamine.
A Happy, Pain Free Girl!
In just a couple of short months since coming to see us, Sarah is off of her antacid medications. She is joint-pain free, and her anxiety is resolved. Once again, she is playing comfortably and happily. Her stomachaches, which were previously severe and occurring multiple times daily, are almost entirely gone. Her mom said she’s made a 180-degree turnaround, and she can’t even believe the changes.
We can. We see these kinds of results every day in our practice specializing in Functional Medicine, for anyone with chronic health problems.
That’s what happens when we understand and treat the root causes of disease!
Here Are Five Steps to Heal Your Leaky Gut:
Digestive problems, such as gas, constipation and diarrhea, affect millions, with 15 percent of people in Western countries experiencing a severe form of gut sensitivity called irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
In this article, Linda Lee, M.D. , shares five foods that promote healthier digestion and help you avoid common gastrointestinal symptoms.
White or brown rice? Whole-wheat or white bread? “If you want your gut to work better, choose whole grains,” says Lee, adding that optimal colon function requires at least 25 grams of fiber daily. Compared to refined carbohydrates, like white bread and pasta, whole grains provide lots of fiber, as well as added nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids. “When gut bacteria ferment fiber, they produce short-chain fatty acids,” Lee says. These molecules encourage proper function in the cells lining the colon, where 70 percent of our immune cells live.
Despite the popularity of low-carb diets for weight loss, Lee says avoiding grains altogether may not be so great for the good gut bacteria that thrive on fiber.
Leafy greens, such as spinach or kale, are excellent sources of fiber, as well as nutrients like folate, vitamin C, vitamin K and vitamin A. Research shows that leafy greens also contain a specific type of sugar that helps fuel growth of healthy gut bacteria.
“Eating a lot of fiber and leafy greens allows you to develop an ideal gut microbiome,” says Lee, referring to the trillions of organisms that live in the colon.
The Brain-Gut Connection
If you’ve ever “gone with your gut” to make a decision or felt “butterflies in your stomach” when nervous, you’re likely getting signals from an unexpected source: your second brain. Hidden in the walls of the digestive system, this “brain in your gut” is revolutionizing medicine’s understanding of the links between digestion, mood, health and even the way you think.
People with IBS or bowel sensitivity should stick with lean proteins and avoid foods that are rich in fat, including fried foods.
“We know that high-fat foods can trigger contractions of the colon,” Lee says, noting that fat content is just one reason to avoid red meat. “Red meat also promotes colon bacteria that produce chemicals associated with an increased risk of clogging the arteries.”
“If you’re somebody who’s prone to gas and bloating, you may need to reduce your consumption of fructose, or fruit sugar,” says Lee, pointing out that foods like apples, pears and mango are all high in fructose.
Berries and citrus fruits, such as oranges and grapefruit, contain less fructose, making them easier to tolerate and less likely to cause gas. Bananas are another low-fructose fruit that are fiber-rich and contain inulin, a substance that stimulates the growth of good bacteria in the gut.
Avocado is a superfood packed with fiber and essential nutrients, such as potassium, which helps promote healthy digestive function. It’s also a low-fructose food, so it’s less likely to cause gas.
“Foods like nuts and avocados are really nutrient-dense,” says Lee. “They also have a lot of fat, so you have to eat them in moderation.”
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How your gut works dictates how the rest of your body, including your mind, works.
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Gut health and mental health—and by extension, whole-body health and physical performance—are connected in more ways than one. (Read more about the fascinating gut-brain axis here). To improve one, you have to look at the whole system. But you can start small, and let little steps build on each other. And for runners, we already have a head-start with our exercise routine.
To begin, consider focusing on a more “traditional” diet, like Mediterranean, versus a modern diet. Think of it as eating more food from the fridge and less food from the pantry. “You’re only made up of what you eat,” says Stephanie Small, a Boulder, Colorado–based mental health nutritionist. “So the way your digestive system is working is crucial for using your fuel correctly.”
7 Steps to Gut and Brain Health
For runners, it’s critical to evaluate what fuel you put in the “gas tank” so that you’re thinking, focusing, and physically performing at a high level. If you approach your health holistically (including the oft-neglected gut) and implement these gut-health best practices, you can reap the running rewards.
1. Consume enough protein, often.
A major focus of Small’s mental health nutrition program is stabilizing blood sugar. “When your blood sugar drops, people can experience symptoms like poor focus, low energy, depression, and they also experience cravings for something that will spike their blood sugar,” Small says. “When the blood sugar drops, the adrenaline fires, and the adrenaline can cause anxiety, irritability, even rage for some people.” To regulate blood sugar and your moods, she recommends eating three meals per day that each have healthy fats and at least 15 grams of protein—and never go more than four or five hours without protein.
2. Take probiotics, in moderation.
Dr. Ellen Stein, associate professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins Center for Neurogastroenterology, looks to other cultures when giving guidance on probiotics—cultures that have fermented or cultured food, like kefir, cheese, kimchi, and yogurt. “If you go around the world, there’s not a single culture that doesn’t have some kind of fermented food,” she says. “So it’s meant to be a part of the diet.” Researchers don’t yet know a specific “recipe” of types or quantities of probiotics, but she recommends finding a fermented or cultured food that you enjoy having a few times per week.
3. Incorporate anti-inflammatory foods.
Take the average American diet and add running on top it, and you have a recipe for a whole lot of inflammation. Small recommends combating it naturally by consuming omega-3, a highly anti-inflammatory fat found in fish, flax seeds, and walnuts, or curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric.
4. Hydrate often.
We cannot emphasize this enough: Water is critical for a well-functioning gut. And dehydration could do damage to your gut. If you go for an intense run while under-hydrated, you could experience the “runs,” which is a result of the gut being cut off from blood supply, termed gut ischemia. It also tends to happen when you’re pushing beyond your fitness ability. If you feel the urge mid-run, she recommends walking for a few minutes to allow the blood supply to return to the gut and prevent further injury to your intestines.
5. Practice self-care.
That looks like getting a solid eight hours of sleep per night and finding methods to deal with your stress, like yoga, meditation, mindfulness, or therapy.
6. Eat more fiber.
“We know that when you deprive the gut of fiber, you can change the microbiome,” Stein says. As an athlete, you need carbs for fuel, so focus on fueling with nutrient- and fiber-rich carbs like whole grains, quinoa, and oats.
Preaching to the choir here, but if you’re looking to keep your gut functioning well, keep exercising. The caveat: Listen to your body and rest or slow down when it tells you to. That slower time might coincide with your menstrual cycle. You might be sluggish and hungrier around your period but less hungry and more energetic at a different time of the month. Notice those ebbs and flows (no pun intended) in your body, and work with them—not against them.
If you try these methods and are still struggling, either mentally or gastrointestinally, call in a professional. “If you can find a practitioner who knows these natural approaches for working with the gut and optimizing mental health, it shouldn’t be hard and mysterious,” Small says. You’ll have to get comfortable talking about something you never talk about (poop!), but healing your gut can only help your energy and mood.
“It’s the fuel for the rest of the body that passes through your gut,” Small says. “Don’t ignore that piece. Don’t suppress that piece, because how your gut works dictates how the rest of your body works.”
We know that a healthy diet can lead to shinier hair, clearer skin, and loads more energy. But, it’s possible that even if your food diary is clean, you still may not be seeing results. According to nutritionists and holistic health experts, one of the most common—but still fairly unknown—reasons health-obsessed women don’t enjoy all the benefits of their superfood-packed diet is because they have hidden gut health issues preventing those powerful (and expensive) ingredients from being absorbed.
Nutritionist, food blogger, and best-selling author Jessica Sepel explains that, contrary to popular belief, you aren’t what you eat—instead you’re what you absorb—and there are a number of signs that suggest you might not be fully absorbing all those $8 green smoothies. “The purpose of good digestion is to turn the food you eat into fuel for your body’s cells,” she explained, adding, “many people I meet have digestion issues [that can make] you feel fatigued, foggy, bloated, experience flatulence, endure nutritional deficiencies, constipation, diarrhea, reflux, weight gain and an inability to lose weight, cravings, low immune function, and hormonal imbalances.”
The link between gut issues and those common symptoms aren’t always obvious, so we’re breaking down some of the most obvious signs of poor gut health and how to address them.
1. You’ve Been Feeling Down Lately.
By now we know there is a strong link between the gut and the brain. Have you ever felt upset, anxious, or stressed about something and symptoms such as constipation, diarrhea and bloating come along as well? Lee Holmes, author and nutrition coach says we now know gut issues could come first. “Researchers are learning that it can come the other way around and that the gut issues may also be causing those emotional feelings.” To wit: Recent research suggests the microbiome directly influences neurotransmitters in the brain, impacting the way that we think and feel.
One study found that taking prebiotics—a supplement that boosts healthy bacteria in the gut—may have an antianxiety effect. In fact, subjects who took prebiotics in the study had lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone associated with both anxiety and depression. Even more: Our bodies also make serotonin, a hormone linked with happy emotions, in our gut, which Sepel says “could explain why many people with gut problems struggle with low moods and even depression.”
2. You Get Sick Often
“The immune system lies in the gut!” Sepel explained, and research proves she’s right: A huge proportion (around 70-80%) of the immune system is in the gastrointestinal tract, and certain cells in your gut excrete huge amounts of illness-fighting antibodies into the body. Put simply: Having a healthy gut makes it less likely that you will develop an autoimmune condition or inflammation-related illness.
3. You Are Suddenly Sensitive to Certain Foods
People with leaky gut become unwittingly more sensitive to certain foods. “Sometimes allergies or sensitivities can signify a leaky gut, meaning that your intestinal permeability is compromised and undigested food particles can make their way through the small holes and into the bloodstream,” Holmes told Byrdie. At this stage, your immune system will mark these particles as foreign invaders and set off an immune response. If you keep eating these foods, your body will continue to react accordingly—which can be painful.
4. You’re Bloated All the Time
According to Holmes, belly bloat is often caused by “excessive gas in the intestines.” Basically, this happens because your body is struggling to digest certain food areas, such as protein and carbohydrates which leads to “fermentation, excess gas, and an imbalance in gut flora can lead to symptoms of bloating.” It could also signal an underlying condition, so it’s worth chatting to a doctor if you’re worried about constant bloating.
Some tips for taking control of your gut health, below:
1. Reduce Your Stress Levels
Meditate, take a bath, sleep more, stop over-exercising—whatever you need to do in order to reduce your stress levels, do it. “The gut basically freezes when you are stressed,” Sepel warned. Research shows that stress also can make the gut more permeable, allowing more bacteria to cross what is known as the epithelial barrier (which has the important function of protecting the body from damage and dehydration), totally messing up the composition of your microbiome. This means stress can lead to inflammation-causing leaky gut, slow absorption of certain foods, and trigger other serious health issues. You don’t want this, so make an effort to curb stress.
2. Eat Probiotic-Rich Foods
Now more than ever we know about the impact probiotics can have on our overall mental and physical health. Your body contains trillions of bacteria, and the type and quantity of these micro-organisms in your gut can either prevent or encourage the development of different diseases. It can even alter your mood. To keep the ratio of good bacteria to bad bacteria tipped in your favor, take probiotic supplements and eat more probiotic- and prebiotic-rich foods. “Sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir can found at most health food stores,” Sepel suggests. Prebiotic foods like onions, garlic, dandelion greens, artichokes, and bananas are like food for good bacteria in your gut.
3. Start Each Meal With Something Raw
Eating something raw—even a celery stick or some carrots—can help fire up the digestive enzymes to help break down the rest of your meal. When you go out for dinner, try starting the meal with a raw salad.
4. Avoid Raw Nuts
Adding nutrient-dense nuts to your diet is normally a great idea. However, Holmes recommends avoiding raw nuts, particularly if you suspect digestion issues. “Raw nuts can be harder to digest because of their tannin and phytate content. These compounds help protect the nut but can make them harder for us to digest, so err on the side of caution,” she told Byrdie.
5. Soak Nuts, Seeds, and Grains Before Eating
Soaking some foods before eating can make them easier to digest and for your body to absorb the good stuff. “Nuts, seeds, and grains are covered in phytic acid, which makes them difficult to break down and digest,” Holmes explained. “I recommend soaking nuts, seeds, and grains before consumption. Or if you’re a little pressed for time (or just can’t really be bothered), you can opt for nuts and seeds that are already activated.” The soaking process breaks down the phytic acid and allows them to become more “bioavailable,” which basically means they become easier to absorb.