April 29, 2013

214 Zinc – the Sex Mineral

The final mineral in this series is zinc. Zinc plays many roles in the body as a component of over 100 enzymes – including insulin and SOD – but is best known for its roles in sexual maturation and function in both males and females.

Zinc is found in all tissues and organs but is concentrated in the prostate, liver, eye, pancreas, blood cells and the part of the brain associated with smell. A steady intake of this mineral is required as the body has no zinc storage system.

A zinc deficiency can occur during infancy, puberty, child-bearing years, use of oral contraceptives, pregnancy, periods of high stress (physical, mental, emotional), diabetes, alcoholism, or high copper levels. A deficiency can result in:
• delayed sexual maturation of both boys and girls
• some types of adolescent acne
• loss of taste and smell; loss of appetite
• enlarged prostate in older men
• delayed wound healing
• frequent colds and infections
• offensive body and breath odors
• white spots on fingernails
• hair loss

Health Canada’s daily RDA varies with age and gender: infants & young children 2-4mg; male teens & adults 11mg; female teens & adults 8mg; pregnancy 11 and breastfeeding 12. Good food sources include sardines, herring, beef liver, beef, lamb, egg yolks, dark poultry meat, grains, legumes, nuts and pumpkin seeds.

Zinc is available as a supplement, either as part of a multi vitamin/mineral or on its own. Typical strengths are 15 to 50 mg, as zinc sulfate, citrate or chelate. Caution – the higher doses should only be used for a short time while treating a known deficiency. Zinc and copper are antagonists so a high intake of one can cause a deficiency in the other. For this reason oysters and lobster, although high in zinc, are not a dependable source as they can also be quite high in copper.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

April 22, 2013

213 Iron – the Energy Mineral [22 April 2013]

Iron is one mineral that is important to keep at the optimum level. On one hand iron is often described as the most common nutritional deficiency; on the other, excess iron can be a serious problem for many people.

Iron’s main function in the body is as a component of the oxygen-carrying protein hemoglobin found in red blood cells. Severe iron deficiency results in anemia which impairs the blood’s ability to carry oxygen to the cells of the body. Symptoms include: fatigue, pale skin, poor appetite and low resistance to infection. Three groups most affected by iron deficiency are: growing children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and pre-menopausal and elderly women. Anemia can also be caused by hidden internal bleeding so should be investigated.

A common genetic condition called hemochromatosis increases absorption of iron which then builds up in the body affecting the liver, pancreas and heart. Men aged 50 or more are most commonly affected. The best treatment is frequent blood donation (although the donated blood cannot be used). A simple blood test can tell you if you have enough, too much, or insufficient iron.

If you are deficient, you can increase consumption of iron rich foods like liver, red meat, egg yolk, legumes and leafy green vegetables like spinach. Spinach by the way is not the iron super power that Popeye thought – a transcribing error in 1870 showed it having 35mg/100g instead of 3.5, an error that wasn’t caught until 1937. Cooking in a cast iron pan is another easy way to add iron to your diet.

There is a variety of iron supplements available, should they be necessary. Inorganic iron salts are not recommended as they are poorly absorbed and tend to be constipating. Ferrous fumarate is a better, organic form. For people with a sensitive digestive system, ferrous bisglycinate chelate is a form that doesn’t cause constipation or diarrhea. The best iron supplements, in my opinion, are the organic herbal iron tonics with a small amount of a highly bio-available form of iron.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

April 15, 2013

212 Silica – the Health and Beauty Mineral [15 April 2013]

Silicon is the second most abundant element in the earth’s crust after oxygen. It commonly occurs as silicon-dioxide, also called silica. Silicon is a useful mineral to man. Glass is about 75% silica. Silicon’s semi-conductor property created the electronics revolution. And it’s a component of silicone rubber, famous for its flexibility and heat resistance.

But silica’s most important use to man is as a nutrient.. Silica promotes the synthesis of the proteins collagen (Type 1) and elastin. Collagen is an abundant protein in mammals, making up the majority of connective tissue like cartilage, tendons, ligaments, gums and skin. Elastin is a stretchy protein, important for healthy skin, lungs and arteries (especially the aorta). Silica also promotes stronger thicker hair, stronger nails, and stronger bones. Although silica only makes up a tiny proportion of bone, it’s important for promoting re-calcification of bone and speeding healing of fractures. As we age the silica content of our tissues decreases, especially for post-menopausal women.

Clinical trial results have shown that a silica supplement:
• increased hair diameter by 12.8%
• increased hair strength by 13.1%
• reduced facial wrinkles by 30%
• increased skin elasticity by 89%
• strengthened nails making them more resistant to breaking
• increased collagen formation and mineral density in bones.

Although silica is abundant in the earth, it is less common in our food. Silica is abundant only in grass-related foods such as the bran or hulls of oats, wheat and rice, which is almost entirely eliminated from our foods by processing. There are several different silica supplements formulated to provide this nutrient in an easily absorbable form for your body to use:
• aqueous extracts of horsetail or oatstraw – orthosilicic form of silica
• silica gel – a colloidal solution from quartz crystals
• silicon as orthosilicic acid – probably the most effective form

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner

April 8, 2013

211 Potassium [8 April 2013]

Potassium is one of a special group of minerals called electrolytes which includes calcium, magnesium, sodium and phosphorous. Electrolytes occur in the blood in an ionic form, meaning they carry an electric charge and are not attached to anything. Electrolytes affect the acidity of the blood (pH), the amount of water in the blood (and therefore blood pressure), and muscle function (including the heart). Potassium is essential for bone growth, proper nerve transmission, heart and kidney function, and adrenal function.

The role of potassium in regulating blood pressure is often overlooked. Potassium deficiency is at least as important, and possibly more so, than excess sodium (see my column #129 Salt in Balance, 29 August 2011). Other signs of potassium deficiency include:
• water retention
• muscle weakness and cramps
• heart arrhythmia
• constipation

Our diets are often deficient in potassium. The Paleolithic diet was estimated to contain 11,000 mg potassium and 700 mg sodium. Compare that with our modern diet with 2,500 mg potassium and over 4,000 mg sodium. (Not that the Paleolithic diet ratio was necessarily ideal; the point here is that the ratio has flipped). The Health Canada “Adequate Intake” amount for potassium is 4,700 mg for adults.

Good dietary sources of potassium include vegetables like lima beans, squash, spinach, broccoli, sweet potatoes, avocados and asparagus, and fruits including papaya, prunes, cantaloupe and bananas. Don’t overdo the bananas, though, as they are high in sugar and have only half the potassium of the green vegetables. Unrefined sea salts with a pink color are another source of potassium. Potassium is also available as a supplement, usually in citrate form.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.


Mercola: The Guilty Pleasure that Could Save you From Heart Disease, 5 March 2012

"Paleolithic Nutrition – A Consideration of Its Nature and Current Implications", New England Journal of Medicine, January 31, 1985: 312; 283-289, S. Boyd Eaton, M.D. and Melvin Konner, Ph.D.

April 1, 2013

210 Magnesium – Getting Enough [1 April 2013]

Last week I discussed the many roles of magnesium in the body, signs of deficiency, and factors that could lead to a deficiency. I also mentioned that an estimated 80% of Americans (and likely similar ratio of Canadians) have a deficiency in this vital mineral. How then can we be sure we are getting enough?

First, since blood tests are inaccurate, refer to the list of deficiency symptoms; if you have more than a few consider increasing magnesium rich foods and supplementation.

Magnesium is the key mineral in chlorophyll (like iron is in hemoglobin) so all leafy green veggies are a good source. Green drinks are a concentrated source of chlorophyll and hence of magnesium. Other food sources are whole grains (rice, wheat & oat bran), flax & sunflower seeds, nuts (almonds and our friend Brazil nuts again), and artichokes.

Our diets should ideally contain a total calcium to magnesium ratio of less than 2:1 but because of our high use of dairy (which has little magnesium) it is closer to 3.5:1. Finland with the world’s highest rate of heart disease, has a dietary calcium to magnesium ratio of 4:1. Most calcium supplements come in a 2:1 ratio with magnesium, which is fine if your diet is already high in magnesium. A 1:1 ratio Cal-Mag supplement would be better to improve the overall ratio. If your calcium does not contain magnesium then you need to take a magnesium supplement as well.

Magnesium supplements come in several forms. Magnesium oxide is the cheapest and is absorbed fairly well. Magnesium citrate and chelate are somewhat better. Magnesium in liquid ionic form has the highest and fastest absorption rate, and is the one I recommend to prevent night-time muscle cramps, but comes at a higher price. Whatever form you choose, I think magnesium supplementation, along with a good green drink, is a wise investment in your health. It plays so many critical roles in our health that we can’t afford to allow ourselves to become deficient.

Source: Carolyn Dean, MD ND The Miracle of Magnesium on mercola.com.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.