In my post, ‘The Role of Minerals in the Body’, I discussed the importance that minerals play in our bodies, as well as explained how they have specific cofactors that help them to work properly. Now I’d like to discuss exactly what actually depletes our bodies of minerals.
First and foremost we must understand that we are ultimately made of the earth. The same chemical elements found in soil make up our bodies. The food we obtain and consume must ultimately have a direct relationship with good healthy mineral -nutrient rich soil full of healthy live beneficial organisms. Our nutrition must come from plants and animals as we are indeed omnivorous creatures. These plants and animals must ultimately get their food either directly or indirectly from the soil. It is our mineral-deficient soils that are likely causing a majority of our modern health issues. Food crops grown on depleted soils produce malnourished bodies that then fall prey to all sorts of disease. When we lack minerals, we lack vitamins, because minerals are catalysts to vitamins in the body.
“99% of the American people are deficient in minerals, and a marked deficiency in any one of the more important minerals actually results in disease.” (source – Senate Document 264 74th Congress, 1936 )
Factors that Deplete Minerals
Soil Depletion – This is the number one reason that most Americans are mineral deficient. Soil depletion has been well documented since the US Senate made their study back in 1936. Even organically grown vegetables are lacking in minerals – organic farming only addresses the pesticide/chemical issues most typically. The best way to get mineral rich grown fruits and vegetables is through bio-dynamic produce, local CSA’s that practice crop rotation and soil supplementation through compost and other means, and of course growing your own garden you can work on the integrity of the soil. Not to mention, the animals we consume also need to be raised on good quality pastures with good soil conditions as well.
Antacids & Acid blockers – deplete calcium, but often people are unaware as testing is done on blood levels and only 1% of the calcium in the body is in the blood. This doesn’t indicate the loss in the bones/tissues. Antacids/Acid Blockers contain aluminum hydroxide which prevents the absorption of calcium from the intestinal tract.
Low Stomach Acid/Hypochlorhydria – the body needs appropriate stomach acid in order to break down minerals, namely calcium. Also, low stomach acid can be a sign of low zinc because zinc is needed in the body to help produce stomach acid.
Cortisone – used for pain and inflammation can contribute to severe calcium loss with prolonged use. It also depletes potassium.
Pharmaceutical Drugs – this is too vast to go into, suffice it to say all drugs deplete the body of a vast amount of nutrients.
Birth Control Pills – deplete magnesium and zinc, along with numerous other vitamins. And since they have a direct impact on our hormones this also plays with our ability to get the minerals needed. They cause excess copper in the body, which can be toxic, this is why zinc becomes depleted as these two minerals are antagonistic to each other.
Coffee – calcium/magnesium are lost in our urine with coffee. It’s a diuretic. You will be losing potassium and sodium as well. The same goes for caffeine in general.
Alcohol- speeds up the excretion of magnesium through the kidneys. It can also deplete, calcium, zinc, iron, manganese, potassium and chromium.
Soda consumption – contains excess phosphorous which leads to reduced body storage of calcium because they compete for absorption in the intestines. Soday also causes potassium loss.
Sugar- for every molecule of sugar our bodies use 54 molecules of magnesium to process it. Insulin surges use up our zinc. Sugar also depletes magnesium, potassium and robs your bones of minerals in general. A high sugar diet results in increased losses of chromium through the urine.
Excess Insulin- causes calcium to be retained by the body through re-absorption by the kidneys.
Excess Estrogen – decreases calcium excretion. Same effects as birth control also apply.
Hyperthyroidism- causes increased calcium losses and increased calcium resorption from the bone. Creates the need for more magnesium. Often more copper is needed, along with iodine. Perhaps it would be better stated that deficiencies of selenium play a role in low thyroid hormone production
Stress- depletes magnesium.
The Standard American Diet (S.A.D diet) – the typical diet of minimal fresh foods, higher amounts of refined and processed foods, foods grown on poor/depleted soils, excess phosphorous in these foods depletes calcium and has been shown to cause bone loss. Magnesium and chromium, (and all minerals really) are also lost in processing and due to poor soil.
Excess Grains- phytic acid binds with the minerals in the intestine and blocks absorption, causing them to be excreted unused.
Oxalates- oxalic acid is a substance which binds with calcium in the intestinal tract and actually prevents calcium absorption. (oxalates are found in spinach, beet greens, rhubarb and chard)
Dietary Insufficiency – source of food, how it’s prepared, is it processed or whole real natural foods. And of course, was the food raised properly on mineral rich soils.
Athletes/Excessive exercising- taxes magnesium reserves.
Pregnancy- it takes a lot of nutrients to make a baby, and minerals are no exception. If mother is already low in mineral stores she will become further depleted as her body takes the nutrients to build a healthy baby. Iron is one common mineral deficiency in pregnant and breastfeeding women, namely because the needs for it increase immensely during this time.
Vegetarian/Vegan Diet - the best sources of many minerals are in animal foods. Plant foods grown in poor soil are not enough to supply the dietary needs of minerals. Vegetarians are more vulnerable to iron deficiency as well.
Heavy Metal Toxicity-
• Mercury – amalgam fillings, in certain fish, vaccines. Blocks magnesium and zinc. Mercury binds with magnesium and renders it void. Supplementing won’t be enough, must detoxify the metals.
• Aluminum – Antacids/Anti-perspirants/Cosmetics – aluminum foil – aluminum penetrates the blood brain barrier and is very difficult to detoxify. Impedes the utilization of calcium/magnesium/phosphorous. Neutralizes pepsin.
• Lead – binds with calcium and makes it unusable for the body.
Also an excess of certain minerals in the body can antagonize other minerals and cause depletion. For example, excess sodium depletes potassium. Excess calcium depletes magnesium by dominating over it. Too much of one will dominate the other. Iron and copper need to be in the right proportion and work together. They are co-factors. Potassium deficiency it’s not enough to just take potassium, you also need magnesium. Potassium inside the cell needs magnesium to maintain it. Copper/zinc – copper tells the body to retain estrogen. Copper toxicity is commonly known in hyperactive violent individuals. It is a primary cause of miscarriages and susceptibility to postpartum depression.
What To Do If You Are Mineral Deficient
Supplementation with minerals is not a simple solution. It is not enough to supplement with one mineral to fix a specific deficiency, though for short periods of time with extreme symptoms it can certainly be helpful. But, knowing how to approach this can be tricky. I personally suggest working with someone qualified to help you balance your minerals safely if you are looking to supplement. Not only will minerals need to be considered but underlying issues as to why you may not be utilizing the minerals you are getting in the first place. It’s important to work with someone so you do not take too much of one and throw off your balance of another or become toxic.
It’s not enough to test the blood to find out the body’s mineral status. I can recall iron being a widely recognized deficiency. Back when I was in my early twenties I often showed signs of being anemic. The Dr. would then put me on iron pills and retest my blood and sure enough, it would show my iron levels were back up. But in reality anemia only counts for 1/3 of the problems caused by iron deficiency. Those were never addressed. Not only that, but if one is lacking in iron they are typically also low in other vitamins that work synergistically with iron. It is rare that a single mineral deficiency will develop. This is why supplementing with just iron, or just magnesium is not a good approach. Also, you can’t just take a pill and address all the issues related to an ‘iron deficiency’. You have to understand that the body can only utilize iron if the stomach is acid enough to absorb it in the first place. Also, iron can hide itself in the body when a bacterial infection is present, so it won’t show up in blood tests. This is just one example of the issues surrounding one specific mineral and why it is not wise to haphazardly supplement with any individual mineral alone, or without knowing all the cofactors involved.
The best way to ensure you are getting a wide array of minerals is by a whole foods, properly prepared nutrient dense diet. Understanding traditional foods and what our ancestors and indigenous tribes and cultures ate throughout history can really help us in our modern day peril of industrialized processed foods and depleted soils. It is critical in my opinion to learn how to make mineral rich bone broth and consume it regularly. This is one of the absolute best options and most absorbable forms available to us. Mineral rich salts are another great source. Our water used to be the best source, but nowadays our waters are so polluted that is not the best option anymore. Following the dietary principles as taught in; Nourishing Traditions, Traditional Foods Our Bodies Best Medicine, Deep Nutrition, Real Food: What to Eat and Why, The Primal Blueprint, The Primal Blueprint Cookbook, Primal Body Primal Mind, Eat Naked, The Paleo Solution, Super Nutrition For Babies, along with Dr. Natasha’s GAPS dietary protocol will ensure that you have the right raw ingredients to work with.
Consider getting support from a holistic practitioner/nutritionist that understands these dietary principles. Also consider getting hair tissue mineral analysis to assess your mineral levels, especially if you have health conditions that won’t resolve after following a good diet protocol for any length of time. You may have some foundational things that need to be worked on that you are not aware of. Diet does usually help health issues resolve, but when it doesn’t typically there is need for supplemental therapy or even further work that you will need guidance with.
(sources: The Doctor Within; ‘Staying Healthy with Nutrition’, by Elton M. Haas, MD; ‘Trace Elements and Other Essential Nutrients‘, Dr. David L. Watts, as well as notes from studies done through ‘The Nutritional Therapy Association‘.)