Three Important Questions

1) Does Your Gut Absorb Nutrition Properly?

2) Do Our Foods Contain Enough Nutrition?

3) Does Illness Cause The Body To Process Nutrients Poorly?

A deficiency or excess of any nutrient can cripple the system.

This is especially true when the body is weakened by the inflammation of chronic illness — when the body struggles to maintain homeostasis.

“The presence of a certain amount of one nutrient often increases or decreases the amount of other nutrients needed.”

Ray Peat, PhD

All nutrients must be in relative balance.


A Healthy Body Balances Nutrients Easily

A healthy gut readily absorbs food’s nutrients into the bloodstream.

These nutrients swiftly absorb into cells and are well-balanced throughout the system.

The body keeps a tight rein on nutrients in the blood, using hormones to balance nutrient levels at all times.

How The Body Maintains Nutrient Balance

  • The gut absorbs nutrients efficiently.
  • Gut microbes create and release nutrients round the clock
  • Insulin drives nutrients into cells.
  • The liver stores vitamins and minerals to be released into the blood when needed.
  • The kidneys reabsorb minerals, amino acids, and glucose into the blood stream
  • The colon reabsorbs water and minerals from the stool
  • Glucagon, adrenaline, and cortisol raise blood glucose.
  • Aldosterone raises sodium levels in the blood when they get too low.
  • Parathyroid hormone raises levels of calcium in the blood.

These processes allow the body to maintain homeostasis — or balance.

Fluids Are Balanced

The body is mostly water and, as such, fluids must constantly be balanced throughout the body. Each molecule of water requires a certain amount of all nutrients — and lack of toxins and waste — for excellent cellular and organ function.

Excellent fluid balance is easily achieved by a healthy person.

Puffiness, dehydration, and edema are signs of poor fluid balance — and are rare in a young and healthy system.

The gut is a key regulator of all of these processes, and thereby, a primary controller of fluid balance throughout the body.

Healthy Gut Functions

  • Nutrients absorbed — Food is digested and utilized efficiently
  • Nutrients produced — Gut microbes produce B-vitamins and metabolic cofactors
  • Appetite stimulated — Ghreling, a hormone, properly stimulates the appetite
  • Toxins eliminated — fiber in the gut traps toxins for removal in a bowel movement
  • Bowel movements — are regularly stimulated (this removes metabolic waste and other toxins)
  • Immune function — 70%+ is in the gut

Read more.

In a healthy body, nutrients are properly absorbed in the gut, are delivered to cells, and stay balanced in proper ratios throughout the body.


An Unhealthy Body Struggles

To Absorb & Balance Nutrients

In chronic illness, the system struggles to maintain its nutritional balance.

Nutrients Aren’t Absorbed Well

In poor gut health (dysbiosis), nutrients are not absorbed efficiently.

Ideally, the lining of the intestines accomplishes two tasks:

  1. Absorb nutrients
  2. Keep microbes and toxic waste inside the intestines.

In dysbiosis, neither of these functions works properly because the gut lining is damaged and inflamed.

In fact, in chronic illness, the entire digestive process loses efficiency, which translates into a) fewer nutrients absorbed and b) higher inflammation due to infectious pathogenic activity.

The body is kept in a low-energy state because food — even healthy food — no longer nourishes as it can and should.

Fortunately, gut health can be improved and restored over time. In fact, gut health restoration is essential for the correction of energetic and nutritional deficiencies we see in chronic illness.

Nutritional Immunity Means Deficiency

In poor health, the body is overburdened by multiple, low-grade pathogenic infections.

These almost always manifest in the gut (as dysbiosis of the gut flora) but also present throughout the body — especially in other microbiomes such as the mouth, nose, or skin.

The body fights these low-grade infections by many avenues. One such process is known as nutritional immunity, where the intestines slow nutrient uptake and nutrients in the bloodstream are “hidden” from pathogens.

This also makes nutrients unavailable for use by the body.

Nutritional immunity may be beneficial in acute infections, but it is detrimental and counterproductive when illnesses become chronic.

Ultimately, the body is forced to fend off long-standing infections in a state of perpetual nutrient deficiency — a losing battle.

As a result of this lack of nutrients, the body’s metabolism even slows down, creating conditions like hypothyroidism and all the symptoms that accompany it.

While sequestering zinc is considered a protective response to restrict pathogens, the resulting decline in serum zinc levels may compromise the immune cell functions resulting in adverse effect.

Pernicious nutrient deficiencies are a common occurrence in the chronically ill.

Nutritional problems in chronic disease are a significant cause of increased morbidity, mortality, and psychosocial consequences of growth failure.

Poor gut health and nutritional immunity perpetuate chronic illness by reducing the bioavailability of nutrients from the diet and their ability to be properly delivered to cells around the body.

These deficiencies can ultimately lead to more compound problems than the initial infection or disease state.

In this process, intestinal assimilation of minerals is reduced, and free minerals are sequestered in storage tissues, primarily the liver, thereby rapidly limiting the circulating minerals available for uptake and use by pathogens.

Deficiencies Cause Deeper Problems

One downstream effect of nutrient deficiency is that it compromises immunity even further.

Thus, weakened immunity directly leads to rising levels of pathogens that call the body home — the body’s pathogenic load to increase.

A higher pathogenic load means rising systemic inflammation and rising toxicity. Both work to impair the liver and gut, as well as to blunt the metabolism.

When the body is chronically ill, many factors work together to cause nutrients to become scarce.

A Negative Feedback Loop

On top of hiding nutrients from pathogens, chronic inflammation further prevents nutrients from entering cells — as well as from being absorbed in the gut at all. 

Mere increased inflammatory burden can increase the caloric need and, thereby, the risk of protein-calorie malnutrition.

What’s worse, pathogens, particularly in the gut, release toxins known as “endotoxin” which are quite harmful and readily absorb into the bloodstream.

In poor gut health, normal metabolic waste is not cleared very well.

This means daily toxicity builds up in the gut and is reabsorbed into the bloodstream and transported throughout the body. This overwhelms every bodily system, which cannot function optimally in a state of high toxicity.

Chronic toxicity burdens the liver to excess.

This requires the liver to use stores of nutrients more quickly. High toxicity causes excessive demand for nutrients in a system that is already starved of nourishment.

This situation can be slightly compounded in genetic situations like MTHFR — where detoxification in the body is effectively slowed down.

Rapid Use & Loss Of Nutrients

In hypothyroidism, minerals are wasted rapidly. 

As the metabolism slows, the body is less able to retain minerals in cells (because doing so requires energy), and they are lost via urine.

A healthy body doesn’t waste nutrients this way, but an unhealthy body does — and it’s a big deal. Rapidly losing nutrients wrecks energy metabolism in the short term, and worsens health outcomes in the long-term.

All of these effects accumulate in the system in a chronic feedback loop. The body needs nutrients more than ever — yet fewer and fewer nutrients are absorbed and available to the body.

READ MORE: We know more than ever, yet chronic disease continues to rise.

Modern Foods Are Less Nutritious

Soil quality is plummeting, and modern farming practices are to blame.

Poor soil means food is less nutritious, too.

Remarkably, few diets on their own provide adequate nutrition.

In a 2010 study, researchers found that several popular diet plans were remarkably deficient in micronutrients.

These selected diet plans are presented to the public as sound, healthy, balanced diets.

They recommend their followers eat a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins, and yet, not a single plan was able to provide RDI sufficiency of the studies selected 27 essential micronutrients at the calorie intake level suggested by their respective sample menus.

It was found that 100% sufficiency was possible for all 27 essential micronutrients only when daily calorie intake requirement averaged 27,575 calories.

An individual following a popular diet plan using food alone, has a high likelihood of becoming micronutrient deficient, a condition shown to be scientifically linked to a higher risk of dangerous and debilitating diseases including cancer, osteoporosis, heart disease, birth defects and overweight/obesity.
Vitamin D

Vitamin D is almost non-existant in modern diets — even with fortification — in part because modern animals are often kept indoors, but also because humans have historically received most Vitamin D from sunshine, not food.

Vitamin A

Real, preformed Vitamin A (not carotenes) is even more absent from the diet than Vitamin D — if organ meats are not consumed.

Carotenes are not real Vitamin A and, as a result, they must be converted to Vitamin A in the liver — a processed which is commonly compromised in chronic illness and aging.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C intake can easily be too low if it’s not a focus in the diet via fruit and greens.

Most vegetables don’t have Vitamin C, meaning it’s possible to eat nots. ofvegetables and still be quite deficient in Vitamin C.


Multivitamins are often a flawed way to address nutrient deficiencies in foods due to inferior, imbalanced, and limited ingredients. That magnesium deficiency that’s rocking the 1st world? Most multi-vitamins contain virtually no magnesium to speak of.

Plummeting soil quality and modern research suggest it’s becoming increasingly difficult to receive adequate nutrition from food alone.


Nutrient Imbalance Means Illness

Imbalance Is Disease

Imbalanced nutrition can cause disease states without help from other threats.

Every bodily function is weakened by nutrient imbalance. The energy of the system is reduced, which impairs energy metabolism, immunity, and more.

Sleep often suffers in nutritional imbalance.

Gut health worsens.

The thyroid slows down to conserve nutrients — leading to all sorts of miserable symptoms.

When nutrients are not present and are not balanced the defenses against disease become frail.

Based on the nutrients in short or excess supply, imbalances create unpleasant side effects and conditions that could lead to serious disease.


No nutrient acts alone in the body.

In fact, all nutrients work together to facilitate energy metabolism and health.

But nutrients exist within a family of other nutrients, and balance is essential within and across these families.

To some extent, every nutrient is a cofactor for every other nutrient.

They each interact. On some level, every nutrient is a “weak co-factor” with all others to help the metabolism turn food into energy.

But some nutrient relationships are especially important, and the term cofactor typically refers to these special relationships between nutrients.

Each nutrient has a small handful of other nutrients that are considered its primary cofactors.

Supplementing one nutrient without its cofactors, or in optimal ratios, can directly result in imbalance over time.

Example Co-Factors:

Vitamin D


Vitamin A

Vitamin K2




Vitamin C

Major Partners

Most nutrients have a single most important cofactor, which might be considered its major partner nutrient.

Partners must be well-balanced with each other. 

Any supplementation of one nutrient will “use up” or “drive down” its partner’s levels more than any other relationship.

Partners often exist in a 1:1 relationship — but not always. 

Examples of Major Partners: 

  • Vitamin D & Vitamin A
  • Sodium & Potassium
  • Calcium & Magnesium
  • Zinc & Copper
  • Sulfur & Molybdenum

Three Micronutrient Families

Macronutrients are food. Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals.


Minerals are mostly metals, with a few exceptions.

They are often very conductive, which makes them electrolytes utilized in both batteries and the human body (which is, in fact, a walking battery).

Electrolyte (defined): A chemical that conducts electrical current.  (Metals are made of chemicals).

We need electrolytes (minerals) to help us hydrate and to conduct electricity throughout the body.

Biological uses for minerals:

  • As electrolytes (to carry an electrical charge)
  • For hydration (to transport water around the body)
  • To kill pathogens
  • To stimulate and relax the nervous system,
  • To balance hormones

Each mineral needs to be balanced with all other minerals, as well as with all other nutrients.

The Minerals


2nd FOUR



There are 12 B-vitamins, and they are crucial for the body to extract energy from food, a process known as energy metabolism.

B-vitamins are absorbed from animal products, and created by the beneficial microbes in the gut. A premier risk of poor gut health is the lack of B-vitamins supplied by the gut.

The B-vitamins are also essential for nervous system function.

Imbalance and deficiency of B-vitamin levels can cause a wide-range of symptoms: poor digestion, weak cognitive & motor function, blood sugar unregulation, insomnia, and chronic fatigue.

As is always true, B-vitamins need to be balanced with all other nutrients.

The B-Vitamins

Fat-Soluble Vitamins

There are only 4 Fat-Soluble Vitamins, but they’re important in health recovery.

The Fat-Solubles each interact with minerals, impacting various mineral levels when supplemented.

Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the body’s fat tissues, meaning they can accumulate when supplemented in excess.

These nutrients absolutely must be balanced with each other, and none should be supplemented daily.

The Fat Solubles


What You
To Know

Whether recovering from illness or interested in optimizing great health, nutrient balance represents an expansive field of exploration and — potentially — results.

It can also be a large field of landmines if supplementation is pursued unwise.

Nutrient supplementation should almost never be undertaken for the drug-like effects of a nutrient or collection of nutrients. This will almost always lead to over-supplementation and unwanted side effects. This will be especially likely in illness, when the body is weakened and nutritional deficiency is prevalent.

3 Rules Of Nutrient Supplementation

In this blog post, we discuss nutrient supplementation from a bird’s eye view — and three simple concepts to prevent a majority of pitfalls.

When you know which nutrients you need most
  • Slowly bring up the levels of nutrients you’re low in.
  • Slowly reduce intake of nutrients you’re toohigh in.
  • Undo years of mistakes from poor diet or unbalanced supplementation.

This completes Understand Nutrients.
To continue, select Minerals below.

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