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Minerals

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Certain minerals are also essential to the human body. Some of these regulate the water and acid-alkaline balance in the body, which is vital to support life. Minerals provide structure to our skeletal system and promote nerve impulses, along with a multitude of other functions.

Certain minerals are also essential to the human body. Some of these regulate the water and acid-alkaline balance in the body, which is vital to support life. Minerals provide structure to our skeletal system and promote nerve impulses, along with a multitude of other functions. The minerals calcium, chlorine, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and sulfur are required in abundance in the body. While these are all essential, chlorine, sodium and phosphorus are abundantly available in food and water.

Other minerals are needed in the body but are only needed in trace amounts: boron, chromium, copper, fluorine, germanium, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, silicon, vanadium and zinc. Iodine is needed in the thyroid to regulate the body's metabolism, and iron is responsible for carrying oxygen in the red blood cells. While both are vital, they too are only required in trace amounts.

Not all minerals are easily eliminated from the body, so over-supplementation should be avoided. Generally, the minerals are measured in milligrams and trace minerals in micrograms.

Different Forms of Minerals

Minerals are not always easily absorbed; however, there is evidence suggesting an amino acid bound to a mineral increases its absorption. Minerals bound to amino acids are called "chelated," and are usually recommended. Chelated forms include aspartate, citrate, malate, fumarate, glycinate, orate, picolinate and succinate

Minerals

Calcium

Calcium is not only the most abundant mineral in the body, but one of the most essential, since it is part of so many body functions. Calcium is famous for ensuring strong bones and teeth. In addition, the body depends on this mineral for normal nerve conduction, muscle contraction, acid-alkaline balance and blood clotting.

There are many reasons to take extra calcium, since, like many minerals, calcium is not absorbed well. Many women supplement calcium to guard against osteoporosis. Calcium is dependent upon vitamin D, phosphorus and vitamins A and C for ideal absorption. Even regular exercise facilitates calcium absorption. While both magnesium and phosphorus work together with calcium in the body, too much of either one interferes with calcium. Calcium and magnesium are often recommended together, since each helps absorb the other when taken in the proper 2 to 1 ratio.

Calcium is available in many different supplements. Lead content is a concern in some forms, especially in bone meal, dolomite and natural, unrefined calcium carbonate from oyster shells. Refined calcium carbonate and chelated calcium, such as calcium citrate and calcium gluconate, are more easily assimilated by the body and have tolerable lead levels. People with insufficient stomach acid, particularly postmenopausal women, do not absorb calcium carbonate well, and should supplement with the chelated form. For most people, calcium citrate and other soluble forms (lactate, aspartate and orotate) are the most easily absorbed.

Compounds, such as fumarate, malate, succinate and aspartate called Krebs cycle intermediates, can be used in combination with calcium citrate to help increase the body's absorption of calcium and other minerals. The Krebs cycle produces energy in cells and these compounds foster this essential function.

Magnesium

Magnesium works with calcium and phosphorus to build bones, conduct nerve impulses and contract muscles. During metabolism, it increases enzymatic activity essential for the production of energy, especially in the heart, brain and other vital organs. Many people are using magnesium for a variety of heart and blood vessel problems. Magnesium and calcium supplementation are intricately linked. Too much of one will adversely affect the other, so calcium and magnesium are often recommended together, except in the treatment of specific conditions. Magnesium and vitamin B6 also interact to produce enzymatic reactions.

Magnesium is available in many forms and is generally well absorbed. As with all minerals, chelated forms, such as citrate, malate, succinate, glycinate and fumarate, are recommended. Magnesium-bound chelates help alleviate fatigue and are better absorbed and tolerated than magnesium oxide, chloride or carbonate.

Phosphorus

Next to calcium, phosphorus is the second most common mineral in the body. It exists in every body cell and is part of many processes. Intricately related to calcium, the two are needed for nerve conduction and muscle contraction. Together they also lend structure to the bones and teeth.

Phosphorus is readily available in all kinds of foods. Most people tend to ingest an overabundance of it in the form of phosphates, especially from meat products and soft drinks. Too much phosphorus interferes with calcium absorption.

Potassium

Potassium works with sodium to regulate the water and acid-alkaline balance in the body, and to stimulate nerve impulses and muscle contractions in conjunction with calcium. It is an important mineral in kidney function and helps supply the brain with oxygen. As an electrolyte, potassium transmits electrochemical impulses to regulate theheartbeat. The actions of potassium are strongly tied to the other electrolytes, sodium and chloride. While a balance of these minerals is important, sodium and chloride in overabundance often causes of high blood pressure.

Potassium is available as potassium chloride and potassium bicarbonate and in chelated forms as potassium aspartate and potassium orate. Supplementation is not needed in most cases. The exception is those who need to replenish their electrolytes to treat or avoid dehydration. There are a number of supplements designed specifically for athletes containing the electrolytes together with calcium and magnesium. For those wanting additional sources of potassium, various salt substitutes that contain potassium are available. Those on heart and blood pressure medication should be particularly careful with potassium supplements, as drugs can cause undesirable side-effects.

Sodium

Sodium is an essential mineral and exists throughout the body, but most people get more than enough of it from the overuse of table salt. The main function of sodium is to regulate the water and acid-alkaline balance in the body, although it has a multitude of other functions. Sodium is essential for nerve stimulation, muscle contraction, stomach acid production and oxygen transport.

Except to replace electrolytes in dehydration, sodium should not be supplemented in the diet, but rather avoided. Excess amounts of sodium have contributed to water retention and high blood pressure in some cases. Most North Americans have a potassium to sodium ratio of less that 1:2. Research has shown that we should have a potassium to sodium ratio of 5:1. That means five times more potassium than sodium.

Sulfur

Sulfur is another essential, abundant mineral which does not need supplementation because it is readily available in food. Since amino acids contain this mineral, adequate amounts of protein ensure an ample supply of sulfur. Sulfur disinfects the blood, fights harmful bacteria and protects against toxins.

Trace Minerals

Boron

Boron has gained recent interest as a beneficial trace mineral for bone growth and stability. Vital to the absorption of calcium, studies suggest that boron is responsible for converting vitamin D into its active form, as well as slowing calcium and magnesium loss in the urine.

Although most people are not lacking in this trace mineral, boron supplements can combat bone loss in osteoporosis and arthritis. It is available in many different forms, of which sodium borate or the chelated forms are recommended.

Chromium

Chromium is popular for its ability to stabilize sugar imbalances in the blood by regulating insulin, and is therefore helpful to people suffering from diabetes and hypoglycemia. It is especially important for promoting weight loss and the healing of acne. In the body, this mineral is a major component of glucose tolerance factor (GTF), responsible for the proper use of glucose. Niacin and amino acids are also part of GTF.

Chromium available as chromium picolinate, chromium polynicotinate, chromium chloride and chromium enriched yeast is equally effective.

Copper

Essential for many enzymatic reactions, copper is a trace mineral needed for a variety of body processes. Together with iron, copper helps the red blood cells transport oxygen. Among its long list of functions, copper also lends both strength and elasticity to connective tissue, which connect, support and bind body structures.

Copper supplementation has been useful in the treatment of anemia, arthritis and to combat heart disease. Zinc and copper are strongly interrelated, and very high dosages of zinc will deplete copper stores. The optimal ratio of zinc to copper is 10:1. Iron and vitamin C also reduce the absorption of copper. There is a wide variety of comparable copper supplements on the market, including picolinate, sulfate, gluconate, chelated forms and copper bracelets. The copper bracelets for arthritis allow copper to be absorbed through the skin.

Iodine

Iodine is a most essential trace mineral, since it regulates the body's metabolism. Found mainly in the thyroid gland, it is needed to produce thyroid hormones that stimulate the body's basal metabolic rate. Not only is this important to burn fat and increase energy, but also for normal growth and development in children.

While too little iodine leads to an underactive thyroid, or hypothyroidism, oversupplementing is also harmful to the thyroid gland. For this reason, food sources of iodine, especially kelp, are recommended over inorganic sources, such as potassium or sodium iodide.

Iron

Iron is well known for its critical role in transporting oxygen in red blood cells. This not only improves energy and prevents anemia, but provides each cell with oxygen to function better. As the most abundant trace mineral in the body, iron is also involved in other body functions, including enzymatic reactions vital to energy, metabolism and DNA. Iron is always bound to protein in the body and is found in the red blood cells and in storage.

Supplementing iron is most common for treating and preventing blood loss and anemia. Since iron is a poorly absorbed mineral, especially when stomach acid is lacking, many people are prone to low iron levels, especially the elderly. Excess iron is stored in various organs and can cause other problems. Supplementation is only recommended for the treatment and prevention of low iron levels in the blood (anemia) or low ferritin (stored iron). While normal blood tests for iron show deficiencies later rather than sooner, measuring levels of ferritin determines iron levels (too low or too high) very early on.

Most physicians prescribe iron from mineral sources. High doses can cause intestinal upset and constipation. Ferrous sulphate, ferrous gluconate, ferrous fumarate, ferrous succinate and iron-fed yeast supplements are commonly available.

Vitamin C significantly improves iron absorption and should be taken together with iron supplements. Furthermore, adequate amounts of B vitamins, vitamin A, calcium and some trace minerals are also recommended. Vitamin E and zinc should be taken separately from iron supplements as their absorption is impaired when taken in combination with iron.

Manganese

Manganese is essential for normal growth because of its role in the utilization of many enzymes and other nutrients, including iron and vitamin E. Responsible for the production of sex hormones, manganese supports the reproductive system. It is also important in thyroid hormone production, the regulation of blood sugar and normal neuromuscular control. As a supplement, this trace mineral is best known for its powerful antioxidant function in treating inflammation, as well as for muscle weakness, uncoordination and diabetes.

Manganese is available in various forms. Again, the chelated forms, such as manganese picolinate and gluconate, are easier to absorb than the mineral salt forms, like manganese sulphate. High dosages should be taken only under the guidance of a practitioner, since manganese can interfere with the absorption of other minerals.

Molybdenum

Molybdenum's main function is the detoxification of substances, especially alcohol, sulfites and copper. It is also important in the production of uric acid. Inadequate amounts of molybdenum have been linked to incidents of throat cancer and tooth decay.

Sodium molybdate is the main form available on the market.

Selenium

Selenium is an antioxidant which works with vitamin E to fight free-radical damage. As such, it prevents aging and degenerative diseases including cancer and heart disease. This trace mineral also promotes normal growth and fertility. Necessary for the production of prostaglandins, it is essential for the utilization of essential fatty acids and to treat inflammation. Selenium also binds to toxic metals, keeping them from being absorbed.

Selenium is available as an inorganic mineral as sodium selenite and sodium selenate. More easily assimilable in its organic form, it also comes bound to an amino acid as selenomethionine or selenium in a yeast base. The effects of selenium are enhanced when taken together with other antioxidants, especially vitamin E. Vitamin C should be taken separately if choosing inorganic forms of selenium, since absorption will be affected.

Silicon

The mineral silicon is one of the most widespread on the planet. In the body, it works principally to make the skin firm and to improve its elasticity; to harden nails; and thicken hair. Like calcium, it strengthens the bone structure, as well as other connective tissues, including the tendons and cartilage. In the blood vessels, silicon prevents arteriosclerosis and heart disease with its anti-inflammatory and disinfecting properties. It also stops the aging process in cells. Silicon is popular either as aqueous organic vegetal silica extract (horsetail) and in its inorganic mineral form suspended in a liquid gel. Both types are equally effective.

Vanadium

Vanadium has become a popular supplement for its role in the treatment of diabetes. Besides this, vanadium is required for building healthy bones, cartilage and teeth, and guards against too much cholesterol production in the body.
Vanadyl sulfate is by far the most common vanadium supplement. High dosages are not recommended unless under a practitioner's advice.

Zinc

Zinc is one of our most important trace minerals, helping the immune system fight a wide variety of infections. Essential for healthy skin, zinc also helps to heal wounds and burns more quickly. Zinc is needed for many hormones, and supports a healthy reproductive system. Hence, it is widely used for prostate problems. Without adequate zinc, our sense of smell, taste and vision can be affected.

Zinc is a popular supplement, available in various forms. Zinc sulfate, picolinate, acetate, citrate, glycerate and methionate are the main types available. Very high dosages of zinc will deplete copper stores. The optimal ratio of zinc to copper is 10:1. When choosing a zinc supplement look for one with this ratio of copper. Large amounts of calcium and fiber will also hinder zinc absorption.

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