Minerals are critically important for a wide variety of functions in the body: helping muscles to contract and relax, producing stomach acid, maintaining healthy bones and teeth, regulating blood pressure and heart rhythm, transporting oxygen to cells, making thyroid hormones, and so much more.
Most of us know that calcium is fundamental for having healthy bones and teeth, but calcium is actually used by almost every cell in our body. We only build bone until our mid-20s, so we have a limited window of time during which to build the strong bones and teeth needed to carry us through the rest of our lives. Osteoporosis is a disease of childhood that manifests in old age. Consuming more than 300 mg per day of caffeine (3-4 cups of coffee) can increase the urinary excretion of calcium. For every cup of coffee, there is about a 2 to 3 mg loss of calcium.
Upper limit (UL): 2,500 mg/day is the upper limit for adults aged 19 to 50, and 2,000 mg per day for those over 50 years of age. Excessive intake of calcium is not good for you: it may increase the risk of fractures, prostate cancer, kidney stones, and heart disease. Calcium carbonate can be constipating. Calcium citrate has less elemental calcium, meaning you have to take more pills than calcium carbonate to get the same dose, but it doesn’t have to be taken with meals. Calcium citrate-malate is another combination that is widely available and is well absorbed. Calcium gluconate, calcium lactate, and calcium phosphate have very low levels of calcium. As for coral calcium- skip it. There are more environmentally friendly ways to get your calcium. Calcium can’t be absorbed in large quantities. Don’t supplement with more than 500 mg at a time.
Our body requires only trace amounts. Small amounts of chromium can be found in numerous foods, but processing lowers levels that might be from foods grown in chromium-depleted soil. Chromium is vital to the function of insulin, the pancreatic hormone that orchestrates the use of fuels from carbs, fats, and protein. Scientists have been looking at the potential role of chromium for preventing and treating diabetes.
Chromium chloride is the least absorbed form, whereas picolinate or nicotinate enhance chromium absorption and retention in the body. Dr Low Dog prefers chromium derived from brewer’s yeast
Iodine deficiency is the leading cause of hypothyroidism in the world. Iodine deficiency is the most preventable cause of brain damage in the world. The WHO estimates that 2.3 billion people do not get sufficient iodine in their diets. Iodine’s most important role in the body is the production of thyroid hormones, which are crucial for maintaining body temperature, metabolism, and cellular growth. Thyroid hormones are manufactured in your thyroid gland located in the lower front of your neck. Some of our body’s iodine can also be found in the breasts, cervix, lungs, stomach, and salivary glands. During pregnancy, thyroid hormones are necessary for nerve and brain development in the baby. A meta-analysis of 18 studies found that iodine deficiency lowered mean IQ scores by 13.5 points! Only half of prenatal supplements contain iodine and not all contain the recommended 150 mcg. Low levels of iodine may be particularly problematic in women who are deficient in iron. Unless the salt shaker says the salt is “iodized,” you’re getting very little iodine. Kelp is highest in iodine.
The signs of iodine deficiency are the same as for hypoactive thyroid: dry skin, poor memory, slow thinking, fatigue, muscle cramps, weak muscles, intolerance to cold, hoarse voice, puffy eyes, and constipation. A number of clinicians believe iodine deficiency may play a role in fibromyalgia. Do not purchase kelp tablets unless the actual amount of iodide is provided on the label. You could be getting hundreds of times the DV without knowing it (the UL is 1,100 mcg/day).
According to WHO, iron deficiency affects roughly two billion people. The toll it takes in developing nations is staggering. There, the culprit is a combination of iron-deficient diets and chronic infections from parasites, malaria, and TB. Iron deficiency during pregnancy increases the risk of death for both mother and baby.
Iron is necessary for normal growth and development, plays a key role in DNA synthesis, and is an essential component of hemoglobin, the protein in blood that is responsible for carrying oxygen from the lungs to all the tissues of our body. Iron plays a critical role in cellular energy production, reproduction, immune function, and the detoxification of certain toxins and drugs. Iron is necessary for proper brain function, and poor focus and inattention are common in kids and adults with low iron. Dr Low Dog wonders if some of these children and teenagers taking psychostimulant medications for ADHD have been thoroughly evaluated for nutritional deficiencies, including iron. If you are a healthy person who donates blood, you probably also need an iron supplement. Cooking your food in a cast-iron skillet can increase the iron in your food. Keep iron supplements out of the reach of children. Accidental overdose is a leading cause of fatal poisoning in children under six.
It is generally recommended that adults take 50 to 60 mg of elemental iron twice a day if they have been diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia. The UL of iron is 45 mg, except for those with anemia. Ferrous fumarate contains the most elemental iron, but both it and ferrous sulfate tend to be the most constipating, nausea-inducing forms. Chelated forms of iron are better tolerated. Look for iron bisglycinate, ferrous bisglycinate, or iron glycinate on the label. Food-based iron products are also available and are probably the best tolerated of all the forms.
Chronically low levels of magnesium have been linked to diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, sudden cardiac death, migraines, menstrual cramps, depression, osteoporosis, and asthma. Magnesium is involved in the workings of more than 300 enzyme systems in the body. It is the fourth most abundant mineral in our body, and the adult skeleton is its primary storage depot, holding over 60 percent of the body’s magnesium reserves.
Low levels of magnesium reduce serotonin levels, a neurotransmitter associated with a healthy mood. People with migraines often have low brain levels of serotonin and magnesium. Taking magnesium at bedtime can help relax your muscles and promote a restful sleep. Magnesium is widely used as a laxative for the treatment of constipation. Magnesium oxide is the least expensive and also the most likely to cause intestinal cramping and diarrhea. To avoid these problems, look for chelated magnesium, magnesium malate, magnesium glycinate, or magnesium biglycinate. These forms are gentler on the stomach, less likely to cause diarrhea, and easily absorbed. Magnesium citrate is a middle-of-the-road choice, good for those who could benefit from magnesium and a mild laxative. Bathing with Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) or using magnesium gel or lotion topically can be helpful for relaxing muscles and easing leg cramps.
Low levels in the body increase our risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, infertility, and possibly even cancer. You will not find commercial dietary supplements that contain more than 99 mg of elemental potassium per serving. That’s only 3 percent of the DV per tablet. The only way to get the potassium you need is by eating plenty of potassium-rich foods.
There is an important relationship between selenium and iodine in our body. Selenium deficiency combined with iodine deficiency can increase the risk for hypothyroidism. Selenium is important for the reproductive health of both men and women. Look for products that contain selenomethionine or yeast-bound selenium. In general, taking a multivitamin-mineral supplement that provides 100 percent of the DV (70 mcg) should be adequate.
Within the nucleus of our cells, you’ll find an abundance of zinc, where it assists in the replication, transcription, and repair of our DNA. Deficiency of this important trace mineral might contribute to lower testosterone levels and infertility in men. While most people reach for the vitamin C when they get a cold, there is actually better evidence for zinc. A review by the international Cochrane Group concluded that zinc lozenges are beneficial in reducing the duration and severity of the common cold in healthy people when taken within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms. Another study found that children taking a basic zinc supplement for at least five months had fewer colds, missed less school, and were less likely to be prescribed antibiotics. Our body needs zinc, along with vitamin C and other nutrients, to heal wounds. The vast majority of zinc is stored in our muscles, connective tissues, and bone.
Zinc is important for our eyesight, hearing, taste, and sense of smell. It helps deliver vitamin A to the retina. It is also important for the health of your mouth; one sign of zinc deficiency is red, swollen, and tender gums that often bleed after brushing. Zinc may offer some protection against depression. Recurrent major depression has been associated with decreased blood zinc concentrations, which may be further diminished by antidepressant medication. Short-term use of higher doses of zinc is not a problem (during cold and flu season).
This blog post contains notes taken from Dr. Low Dog’s book Fortify Your Life. She helped reformulate Megafood’s line of vitamins.