We often hear talk about a multivitamin – but what about taking individual minerals? We know they are important but how do we figure out if we need one more than another?
Minerals that are well known include magnesium, calcium, potassium, sodium and iron. Other, smaller minerals, include chromium, manganese, phosphorous, chloride, sulphur, zinc and copper. The major minerals can be looked at when you have blood work done. The values of iron and calcium are valid when you have blood work done. Magnesium and potassium show you what is circulating but not necessarily what is being used. So what can look normal may actually be low. It’s possible to do hair mineral analysis to check on the smaller minerals but it would just give you a ballpark as the hair isn’t specific to most minerals.
Often, the best way to determine if you are low in a mineral is to go based on your symptoms. But this is not the case with iron. Iron has a wide range and the optimal range for iron stores are 40-50. Iron shouldn’t be taken if blood work hasn’t been performed as the symptoms of low iron can be the same as symptoms of very high iron. Fatigue is the number one symptom of low iron but shortness of breath is a close second.
Magnesium is a common mineral that many people know about. Seventy percent of us are low in magnesium. Magnesium supports your muscles (think cramping – including menstrual cramps), heart, brain and hormones. There are many different types of magnesium and what works best for you depends on your symptoms. These can include muscle cramps, hot flashes, poor sleep, anxiety and constipation.
Potassium is an underrated mineral. But it is so important. Symptoms of low potassium are similar to those of magnesium – muscle twitches, cramps or muscle weakness, abnormal heart rate and kidney issues. Foods that contain potassium include beans and lentils, dried fruits, spinach and broccoli, avocado and bananas. Celery is one of the highest potassium-containing foods – one of the reasons the celery juice kick became so popular! Some people still need to supplement with small amounts of potassium. These supplements are often shrugged off because they were thought to disrupt the electrolyte balance and affect the heart. This is not the case and potassium is a mineral that supports proper heart function.
Sodium has a very bad rap. I must admit – I do love my sea salt. It’s a Tanner thing I think. I’m sure that genetics play a role in sodium usage. Too much sodium can be very bad for your heart and organs. But we’ve gone from too much to none and that can be harmful as well. If you are active, have periods or are in menopause, are having trouble with your adrenal glands or have excessive sweating you may need “some” sodium. This is different for everyone and I definitely recommend speaking with your health care provider.
The smaller minerals also do different things. Sulphur supports your detoxification. Copper supports metabolism, bone health and ensures your nervous system works properly. Zinc supports the skin, immune system, wound healing and your sense of taste and smell. Zinc and copper need to be in balance with each other.
Chromium supports blood sugar.
But what if you eat a healthy diet? Will you get enough? Maybe. If the food you are eating has enough of these minerals AND you have proper absorption then yes. But so many people are not breaking their food down properly or not absorbing it properly. This comes back to the need to make sure the stomach is working and the gut lining is absorbing. If you aren’t absorbing properly then try to fix that before starting on a whole bunch of minerals. But the best first step is to eat lots of fruit and vegetables!