'The 3 Most Common Mineral Deficiencies'
An in-depth rundown of what your body’s likely missing out on.
BY ELISSA ROY
You’re probably aware that in order to get the most out of your mind and its corporeal home, nutritional supplementation is a necessary part of self-care in the 21st century. The hard part is knowing where to start. Given the myriad of health-priming products available to us, not to mention the difficulty of diagnosing issues, the question of when to use supplements over food-sourced nutrients, and so on, it’s difficult to keep on top of the many things our bodies may be missing out on and the plethora of ways we can combat those deficiencies.
But let’s start at the beginning — what are we likely to be lacking? Here, we explore three of the most common mineral deficiencies today – magnesium, zinc, iodine – along with these minerals’ functions and the symptoms of insufficient levels of them. All of these minerals work like keys unlocking functions all over the body, enhancing our physical and psychological experiences in countless ways. There’s a reason they’re such a large area of focus in natural medicine: most of us simply aren’t getting enough of them.
This heroic mineral is best known for its fast-acting effects on the nervous system, as well as its versatility, aiding everything from hormonal issues to energy production. Unfortunately, the standard Australian diet lacks magnesium due to soil quality and food processing. Those factors combined with the human body’s near insatiable appetite for magnesium mean that most of us are deficient in this wonder mineral. So, what are its main benefits?
LOWERS CORTISOL LEVELS.
Due to the pressures of modern life, many of us spend way too much time in a cortisol-fueled ‘fight or flight’ state. Over time this causes inflammation, visceral fat storage around our middle, mental health issues, and well, pretty much every disease known to humankind.
COMBATS MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES, INCLUDING THAT COMMON SILENT KILLER: ANXIETY.
It helps make the vital inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), which is essential to a peaceful mind. Magnesium also aids the fight against depression, as well as helping to initiate the onset of sleep when taken before bed.
IT IMPROVES BLOOD SUGAR LEVELS BY ENHANCING THE CELLULAR UPTAKE AND USAGE OF GLUCOSE.
This means glucose is used in your cells, rather than roaming free and causing havoc in your bloodstream.
IT AIDS FEMALE HORMONAL HEALTH
Magnesium supports female hormone health by helping with conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis, fibroids, hair loss, menstrual migraines, and painful menstruation.
IT RELAXES TIGHT MUSCLES.
Magnesium can be taken to fight cramps and spasmodic pain and reducing pain-perception overall.
AS AN ANTIOXIDANT.
Magnesium works as an antioxidant, preventing telomere-shortening and reducing the cellular aging process.
IT EVEN ACTS AS A LAXATIVE!
Which magnesium supplement to use depends on your needs. If you’re looking for the laxative effect, purchase magnesium oxide or (to a lesser degree) magnesium citrate. If you’re looking for magnesium’s many other aforementioned benefits, the best absorption is seen with a magnesium amino acid chelate, the best of which is a magnesium bis- or diglycinate. Aim for a minimum of 200mg per day, with 400mg to 600mg in divided daily doses being optimal for deficient states. You may need to increase your dose in increments if you have a sensitive digestive system. Increase doses by up to 10g per day for extreme complaints, but you may experience diarrhea before you get to the full dosage. Transdermal magnesium is another great way to support systemic magnesium levels, but magnesium chloride sprays cause itching. This effect lessens over time, but it may not be the best option for sensitive skin.
It’s also important to note that one of magnesium’s synergistic nutrients is vitamin D — we need magnesium to activate this phenomenal hormone-like vitamin. So, if you have chronic vitamin D deficiency, remember that you may need to take magnesium supplements too.
Zinc is an immensely important mineral — it’s required for over 300 enzymatic processes in the body. For this reason, it’s highly sort after by our cells, especially those in the hippocampus region of the brain, where the highest concentrations are found. Zinc deficiency is also rampant. Its availability in our soil is low, and processing and phytates in foods further deplete its availability. Additionally, stressed humans lose zinc through their urine, and it’s hard to get if you’re on an animal-free diet. There’s a myriad of complaints that zinc deficiency can cause, but here are some of the most notable issues.
Zinc deficiency has been connected with a variety of mental health issues, including depression, ADHD, learning difficulties, and memory issues.
Zinc can be used to:
REDUCE HORMONAL IMBALANCES.
Specifically over-production of negative forms of androgens connected to issues such as polycystic ovary syndrome, male pattern baldness, and hormonal acne (for men and women). It also supports testosterone deficient states in both sexes, as well as supporting healthy ovulation, and therefore progesterone production, by nourishing the ovarian follicles. In general, zinc is incredibly important in maintaining both female and male reproductive health.
REDUCES CORTISOL, THEREBY REDUCING STRESS.
Zinc is an HPA (hypothalamus-pituitary axis) regulator, which means that it prevents your adrenal glands from hijacking your brain.
ENHANCE THYROID FUNCTION.
Zic can enhance thyroid function by supporting healthy thyroid hormone conversion, creating the hormone’s most efficient active form: thyroid hormone (T3). If you have an underactive thyroid, you are even less likely to be absorbing enough zinc.
REGULATE IMMUNE FUNCTION BY SUPPORTING WHITE BLOOD CELL PRODUCTION.
It’s essential in the creation of regulatory T cells, whose job it is to check immune dysregulation in allergy and autoimmune conditions, as well as chronic inflammatory pain-based conditions such as endometriosis.
ZINC IS A LEGENDARY ANTI-ACNE NUTRIENT.
It has antibacterial functions, decreases over-production of keratin, supports collagen integrity for wound healing, and regulates hormonal dysfunction.
The optimal zinc dosage is 30-80mg per day, taken in a picolinate, amino acid chelate (bis- or diglycinate), or citrate form. It should be taken with a meal to avoid nausea. Three-month cycles are generally sufficient for higher dosing to combat deficiency states, but the dose shouldn’t exceed 80mg per day, given that zinc can affect copper and iron levels. Our bodies don’t store zinc well, so regular small doses are better than larger single doses. If you need to supplement your diet with iron and zinc, it’s important to separate your doses, since they compete for absorption if taken simultaneously.
Iodine is perhaps the most underrated, and the least understood, of the minerals we’re commonly deficient in. Its levels in Australian soil are — you guessed it — very low, leading to the fortification of bread and salt. (At one point, milk was incidentally fortified, due to the use of iodine as a sanitising agent for dairy cows’ teats. A chemical agent has replaced the use of iodine in the dairy industry, so milk is no longer a good source of this fabulous mineral.) Iodine is beloved by the glandular tissues. When these tissues become highly deficient, nodules begin to form — examples include polycystic ovaries, fibrocystic breasts, and thyroid nodules. Iodine is also essential in a myriad of body functions.
IT SUPPORTS HEALTHY OVULATION AND THEREFORE PROGESTERONE PRODUCTION.
The ovaries are a huge reservoir for iodine, even more so than the thyroid. Iodine eases ovulation pain and ovarian cyst formation and, though its role in progesterone production, supports PMS, fertility and the oestrogen dominant hormonal pattern.
Iodine supports oestrogen detoxification and reduces cell sensitivity to circulating oestrogen. In conditions caused by excessive oestrogen, some evidence suggests there’s altered gene expression in oestrogen-dependent breast cancer cell lines. Other conditions caused by an oestrogen excess that can benefit from iodine supplementation include fibroids, endometriosis, PMS, heavy menstruation, fibrocystic breasts, and breast pain.
SUPPORTS HEALTHY THYROID FUNCTION AND A HEALTHY METABOLISM.
Thyroid health is directly connected to your Iodine levels. It’s needed to make thyroid hormones, however, the most common thyroid conditions in Australia (autoimmune thyroid conditions such as Hashimoto’s and Grave’s disease) can be aggravated by Iodine supplementation, so it’s important to seek guidance from a health practitioner before commencing supplementation.
PROMOTES BRAIN DEVELOPMENT IN BABIES.
Iodine plays an integral role in brain development of the foetus, affecting learning and cognitive function in infants and children. In fact, iodine deficiency is the most prevalent preventable cause of cognitive impairment, so it’s an important pre-conception and natal mineral supplement.
There are two main forms of supplemental iodine. When using iodine to help with thyroid issues, use potassium iodide. For female reproductive issues, molecular iodine is better. Dosages vary depending on deficiency levels and the condition we’re treating, but usually sit between 300mcg and 3000mcg (3g) per day. If it’s possible you may have a thyroid condition, or if you have a family history of thyroid issues, it is important to have your thyroid antibodies tested prior to supplementing. When using iodine to treat hypothyroidism, it’s beneficial to supplement with selenium, tyrosine and zinc too. These minerals work in harmony to optimise healthy active thyroid hormone levels, as well as aiding in immune system and inflammation regulation.
Also of note.
While magnesium, zinc and iodine are the three most common mineral deficiencies I encounter in my practice, there are many more that are prevalent. Iron is an important one, especially if you’re following a vegetarian or vegan diet, or menstruating. However, a blood test should always be carried out and a health professional should be consulted before commencing iron supplementation.
Remember, using targeted mineral and nutrient supplements is always more effective than using multivitamins. More on that soon.