Using Minerals to Improve Body Functions - dummies

Using Minerals to Improve Body Functions

By Christopher Hobbs, Elson Haas

Minerals are essential in human nutrition because they aid in a variety of the body’s functions. Your body does not manufacture any minerals, so you must get these nutrients from your diet and from nutritional supplements. The plants and animal foods you include in your diet absorb these nutrients from the soil and water and pass them to you.

You store some minerals, such as bone calcium and phosphorus, and your body may retrieve them when it needs them to maintain your blood and tissues. Current aggressive agricultural practices commonly deplete the soil of minerals, so you may not obtain these essential nutrients from your food. When this happens, you can become mineral-deficient.

Growing children and adults who are chronically deficient in minerals may experience problems in sexual maturation (due to zinc deficiency), bone strength (resulting from calcium and phosphorus deficiency), anemia (stemming from iron deficiency), or thyroid dysfunction (because of iodine deficiency), to name only a few.

Minerals play a crucial role in supporting many body functions, and in the following table, you can see which minerals you should take to maintain specific functions.

Minerals and the Role They Play in Body Functions
Body Function Key Minerals
Supports bone health; reduces cramps Calcium
Relaxes muscles and blood vessels; helps with sleep Magnesium
Improves cell and nerve conduction, heart regularity, and
Boosts immunity; acts as an antioxidant; helps prevent
Provides immune support; controls sexual development and many
enzyme systems

Nutritionists group minerals according to the amounts your body stores and needs:

  • The macrominerals: Science calls the most important minerals, the ones that the body needs in abundance, macrominerals. Although you find minerals like carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen at even higher amounts in your body than these macrominerals, these four substances make other tissues, cells, and biochemicals.

  • The trace minerals: The essential trace minerals are also extremely important for human health and must be obtained from your diet or from supplements. Trace minerals occur in the soil, in foods, and in your body at much lower levels than the macrominerals, so they become depleted more easily.

    When deficiencies occur — and deficiency is much more common than toxicity — important metabolic functions like blood sugar regulation, or specific substances and enzymes in the body, will not work properly. Examples include iodine needed for thyroid production, iron for red blood cell hemoglobin production, and zinc for proper immune function.

    Because of the importance of trace minerals for optimum health, note that some diseases, activities, foods, and drinks can increase your risk of trace mineral deficiency. Diseases and conditions to watch out for include parasitic infections, ulcers and diverticulitis (with chronic blood loss), liver disease, burns, chronic inflammatory bowel disease, and weak digestion.

    Remember, too, that if you live in a hot climate or are physically active, excessive sweating and taking diuretics can increase the loss of many trace minerals.