Karen Jensen, ND
An increasing number of diseases today may be attributable to a deficiency of minerals in our diet.
An increasing number of diseases today may be attributable to a deficiency of minerals in our diets. How can we be deficient when there is no shortage of food in our country?
Mineral deficiencies are not caused by a lack of food, but rather by poor quality of food. Unfortunately, the large majority of foods found in supermarkets are deficient in many minerals.
It Starts with Soil
Minerals are naturally present in the soil, where they are taken up by plant roots, nourishing fruits, vegetables, and, through the food chain, animals. The mineral content of food depends on the quality of the soil in which it was grown.
Current industrial farming practices leave soils with less than optimal amounts of minerals, especially the less common trace minerals. Organically grown crops often contain higher levels of many essential minerals. We lose additional minerals when food is processed and during its storage and distribution.
As well, mineral deficiency in humans is linked to the overuse of prescription drugs. Antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, laxatives, diuretics, corticosteroids, and chemotherapy drugs can all interfere with the uptake and utilization of minerals in the body.
The Micro and the Macro
Microminerals (also known as trace elements) include chromium, iodine, cobalt, boron, nickel, iron, fluorine, copper, manganese, strontium, selenium, silicon, zinc, vanadium, and molybdenum. These are dietary minerals needed by the human body in very small quantities (generally less than 100 mg) per day.
Macrominerals are required in larger quantities and include calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, chlorine, potassium, and sulphur. Both groups are necessary for healthy bodies.
A deficiency in minerals can result in premature aging and cellular breakdown. Without minerals, vitamins have little or no effect. Minerals are catalysts for thousands of essential enzyme reactions in the body, and a lack of vital nutrients leaves the body vulnerable to disease.
A Mine of Healthy Foods
Food and herbs: Food is always our best medicine, so choose fresh organic foods whenever possible. Seaweeds and herbs are dependable mineral sources when eaten, brewed as tea (one ounce of herbs steeped for four hours in a quart of boiled water), or in tinctures or capsules. The herbs alfalfa, dandelion, red clover blossoms, stinging nettle, oat straw, and peppermint are especially good sources of minerals.
Cell salts: In the late 1800s Dr. W. H. Schuessler identified 12 mineral compounds. His research led him to believe that illnesses arose because of a deficiency in these minerals, and he formulated tissue salts or cell salts to address these deficiencies. These are available at many natural health stores.
Bone broth: Broth made from the bones of animals has long been used as an easy-to-consume and -digest source of nourishment for the sick. To make the stock, choose bones (ideally from organically raised animals) with or without meat. Add enough water to cover the bones, a splash of vinegar, kelp or other seaweeds, and vegetables such as potatoes, which add potassium. Simmer for a day or two, strain, and cool. You can freeze the broth to have on hand when needed.
The amount of minerals each person needs daily depends on health, age, sex, and other factors. Make sure you get the minerals, both micro and macro, that you need to maintain good health.
Minerals and Their Uses
Calcium - muscle contraction and bone health
Sodium - cell waste removal
Potassium - nerve transmission, blood pressure regulation, muscle contraction
Phosphorus - bone formation, cellular energy
Magnesium - muscle, nerve transmission, calcium metabolism, enzyme cofactor
Chlorine - digestion, blood pressure regulation
Sulphur - protein synthesis collagen cross-linking, bone and ligament structure
Copper - immune function, arterial strength, hemoglobin formation
Chromium - insulin and glucose regulation
Iron - blood formation, immune function
Selenium - immune function, antioxidant
Nickel - immune regulation, brain development
Iodine - thyroid function
Vanadium - blood-sugar regulation
Strontium - bone building
Molybdenum - enzyme regulation
Silicon - enzymes, connective tissue
Manganese - enzyme action, bone health
Fluorine - tooth and bone health
Zinc - antioxidant production, enzyme cofactor