Did you know that most of us are suffering from mineral deficiencies due to minerally depleted soils and increased CO2 levels? Even organically grown crops and pasture-raised animals are mineral deficient. So you cannot eat your way to mineral health!
Magnesium, calcium, zinc, iodine and iron are the 5 most common mineral deficiencies you may experience. Since you can't get enough of these from your food, I will share how to make sure you're supplementing enough minerals and how to do this.
Minerals are what remains as ash when plant or animal tissues are burned. They come from the earth and will eventually return to the earth.
Minerals make up only 4% of your body, but you can’t live without them. It might surprise you that your physical health is more dependent on the minerals than on calories, vitamins or macronutrients. Your body can’t make them and of the 103 known minerals today, 18 are necessary.
Minerals are a part of so many key functions in your body. They:
Additionally, calcium and magnesium are 2 of your body's 7 electrolytes. Electrolytes are substances that conduct electricity when dissolved in water. Their most important job is to regulate nerve and muscle function. They send signals from your heart and muscles to other cells and they keep your heart beating.
If most Americans are taking multivitamins, why do so many people have mineral deficiencies? There are many reasons.
Minerals can be synergistic or antagonistic. This means they can either work together or against each other. Zinc and copper are antagonistic. This is one reason I only recommend single supplementation in exceptional clinical circumstances. Your body needs everything in balance as we have been discussing through this series of articles.1
Mineral deficiencies aren't good for your health, but neither are mineral overdoses. This is important when you think about what supplements you’re taking and what foods you’re eating.
Synergistic mineral pairs are:
On the flip side, some minerals are antagonistic to each other:
Antagonists keep intestinal absorption from happening or interfere with the metabolic functions of one another.
That’s why eating a diverse nutrient-dense diet throughout the day is important. Even if you can't end mineral deficiencies just through your diet, it's the place to start.
Remember the “Got Milk?” ads? Getting your daily calcium was a huge part of the campaign for selling more milk. Lack of calcium has long been touted as one of the key mineral deficiencies and, thankfully, milk was here to save you!
But did you know that it’s actually not hard to get enough calcium into your diet even if you aren’t drinking milk? Nuts, dark leafy greens (kale, bok choy, and mustard, turnip and collard greens), seeds, canned sardines, salmon, beans and lentils are high in calcium.
What is difficult is winning the calcium game of cofactors.
It's how much calcium you absorb into your bones, not how much you eat.Clare Kelway
Calcium supplements are invariably recommended to women, especially after menopause. This can be the worst recommendation for your health. You don’t need more calcium, you need the cofactors to utilize the calcium you already have. You don’t want your body calcified in places it's not meant to be! Osteoporosis is not a lack of calcium. It's a lack of mineral absorption that is causing bone density thinning.
Your bones are living tissue and have their own metabolism! Minerals and blood are constantly moving in and out. Most of your body’s minerals are in your skeletal system so mineral deficiencies really show themselves in your bones. 99% of your calcium is in your bones, along with 35% of sodium, 60% of magnesium and 85% of phosphate.
The rest is water and protein, which forms collagen. The combo of minerals and collagen make your bones both strong and flexible. Collagen decreases as you age, especially after menopause. Studies show that women’s skin loses 30% of collagen during the first 5 years of menopause2.
Vitamins (especially D), hormones and exercise also play a part in bone health. Bones are removed (by being reabsorbed) and new ones built. This is called remodeling. Up to 15% of your bones are regrown each year! This is also how you heal broken bones.
Bone loss during pregnancy is an issue for many women. This is because your body will do anything necessary to get calcium to the growing fetus. That means pulling calcium from your bones and teeth if you aren’t getting enough through food and supplements.
And bone loss post-menopause becomes a challenge because your estrogen levels have dropped. Estrogen is a reason your bones are healthier when you’re younger. Post-menopause, low estrogen means more bone is reabsorbed into your bloodstream than formed into new bone.
All of these recommendations are good no matter your age. Following them will put you in a better place once you reach menopause.
Calcium is the most abundant mineral element in your body.
Some of the key functions of calcium are:
There are 6 main cofactors that affect calcium absorption:
Food and lifestyle factors can also play a role in calcium deficiency:
Put your focus on optimizing the calcium cofactors through lifestyle and diet shifts rather than on a calcium supplement.
Iodine plays many roles in your body. It supports:
Iodine may also be important for deactivating unwanted bacteria.
It’s been almost 100 years since iodized salt was created. Since then, the incidence of goiter has dropped and IQs have risen.
Thyroid health should be on your mind because of how common it is. There are many types of thyroid dysfunction and it’s estimated that 20 million Americans (mostly women) have it. 1 in 8 women will develop thyroid disease. And of those 20 million, almost 60% have no idea they have it3!
Mineral balance of iodine is critical for your thyroid. Your thyroid gland cannot make thyroid hormone without iodine. The 2 major thyroid hormones, levothyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) each contain iodine as a major part of their chemical structure. I have found it's impossible to optimize thyroid function if there is an iodine deficiency.
There is a group of elements on the periodic table that are very similar to iodine. They are chlorine, bromine and fluoride and, as a group, they’re called halides. They mess with how iodine works in your body because they're so structurally similar. Fluoride, bromine and chlorine all block iodine receptors in your thyroid.
Natural sources of iodine-rich foods are:
Milk, yogurt and some cheeses are also high in iodine even though it’s not naturally occurring in dairy products. It comes from iodine in cattle feed and iodine-containing cleaning products at dairies4.
Doesn’t this sound just like hypothyroidism?
Iodine supplementation can be dangerous because of how sensitive your body is to the mineral. I recommend only using a supplement with the guidance of a functional health practitioner to make sure you hit the right mineral balance.
Magnesium regulates more than 325 enzymes in your body! The most important of these enzymes produce, transport, store, and utilize energy.
There's hardly a client I see who doesn’t have a magnesium deficiency. Of the mineral deficiencies, magnesium may be the key one you deal with.
Magnesium orchestrates the electric current that sparks through the miles of nerves in your body. It controls nerve action, the activity of your heart, blood pressure, and sending oxygenated blood through your body.
Magnesium also regulates and controls the release of calcium from your cells, which determines muscular activity. Without magnesium, your muscle and nerve functions don't work correctly and your energy level drops. It's like operating with your power switch turned off.
Foods that support mineral balance of magnesium in your body are:
We always recommend you combine a diet of magnesium-rich foods with a magnesium supplement. But which one should you take? You’ve likely spent time in the supplement aisle looking at the options. Magnesium citrate, oxide, chloride, lactate, malate, taurate, L-threonate, sulfate (Epsom salts), glycinate, orotate.
Everyone tolerates magnesium differently, so it’s important to ease into using a magnesium supplement. That said, I generally recommend magnesium glycinate because most people tolerate it well.
Zinc is found in virtually every cell of your body and is a component in more than 200 enzymes. It is stored in your muscle and concentrated in your white and red blood cells.
Do you ever reach for zinc lozenges in the winter and aren’t sure why? New studies show that zinc plays an important role in keeping infections under control. It’s job is to head to the “first-responder” cells that are in charge of fighting infection.
Zinc is so important to the overall health of your immune system, so it’s no surprise that a deficiency in zinc can lead to prolonged illnesses (think winter colds and the flu).
Zinc is found in significant amounts in oysters - they have 3x the amount of zinc as the next highest food source, beef. In addition to oysters and beef, good sources of zinc are:
When meal planning, think about creating meals that feature both zinc and vitamin A. A deficiency in one usually means a deficiency in the other. Zinc and vitamin A work together to create mineral balance - vitamin A helps with zinc absorption and zinc helps vitamin A move around your body.
On the flip side, make sure your multivitamin doesn't contain both zinc and copper. They compete with each other. If you need a zinc supplement, take it several hours before or after your multivitamin if it contains copper.
Iron was once considered the metal of the heavens. Most of the iron in your body is found in your red blood cells as hemoglobin, which carries oxygen from your lungs to cells throughout your body. Hemoglobin also transports carbon dioxide from your cells back to your lungs, where it's exhaled.
Low iron levels are something that all menstruating women should be on the lookout for. Anemia is the most common blood disorder in the U.S., with 3 million Americans suffering with it, and one of the most common mineral deficiencies in women. Your red blood cells need hemoglobin to work correctly. And iron is needed to make this happen.
And there’s one unusual symptom that points straight to an iron deficiency - wanting to eat non-nutritive things like dirt, sand, clay, chalk and ice.
Anemia is a particular issue for female endurance athletes, especially runners. Iron is lost through sweating and through an increase in the breakdown of red blood cells. This happens because of strong muscle contractions and pounding the pavement (literally).
Growing kids are also susceptible to anemia due to their growth spurts.
All this said, not everyone needs extra iron. This is because your body very efficiently recycles and uses the iron it has to create mineral balance.
Even if supplementation might be needed (always confirm with blood work!), iron is one of the easiest mineral deficiencies to get control of by eating nutrient-dense, whole food sources. It comes in two forms - heme (animal-based) and non-heme (plant-based). Your body is less efficient at absorbing non-heme, but it still makes up most of your diet. Great sources of iron include:
To maximize your iron uptake, make sure you’re eating vitamin C rich foods as part of your iron-rich meal. Avoid calcium-rich foods though, because they will prevent iron absorption.
Blood testing is a must if you suspect low iron levels. Be sure to work with a functional health professional on supplementation because too much iron can damage your organs.
Minerals are vital for your health. Your body cannot make them.
But because of soil depletion and increased CO2 levels, a whole foods diet alone can still leave you with mineral deficiencies. Supplementation has to be a part of your daily routine.
This doesn’t take away from eating a seasonal, nutrient dense whole foods diet though. You will always hear me speak about this before any supplementation. A diverse, nutrient-rich whole foods diet combined with a daily multi mineral supplement that includes vitamins D and K is the place to start.
We always recommend that you work with a functional medicine practitioner to determine the specific supplement plan for your bio individual needs. Getting rid of mineral deficiencies is such a straightforward way to improve your health!
If you'd like some support on your health journey, schedule a free health analysis call with our team today and we will get you started.
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