Minerals are incredibly important to have in our diet
However, because of soil depletion, gastrointestinal dysfunction leading to poor absorption, and lack of proper dietary nutrition, it is often reasonable to consider supplementing. But there is a lot more to consider before just rushing out to your local health food store and a la carte shopping for this mineral or that mineral.
A Mineral Deficiency May Not be the Problem
First, single minerals MAY NOT be acting within your body the way “Dr. Google” suggests. When you do a Google search for a specific health complaint, or symptom you’ll often get a list of some common minerals, vitamins, and foods which are seemingly specific “natural” treatments, but there’s more. Those minerals and vitamins often overlap with other minerals and vitamins which may be on page 2,3 or 20 of that same Google search. The fact of the matter is that the body uses minerals and vitamins synergistically, and it is likely that MOST often, a single specific mineral deficiency is NOT the problem – the research supports this very clearly when studies are conducted on individual vitamins and minerals. Of course, there are also instances when specific minerals are certainly needed, but often we want this to be true much more than might be the case.
How the Body Processes Minerals
Second, the volume of minerals we take in common supplements isn’t comparable to the amounts the body utilizes. In certain instances, it may be necessary to supplement minerals in large doses. However, the body doesn’t utilize minerals in milligram amounts at a cellular level. It’s using minerals on many orders of magnitude less; more along the lines of homeopathic dilutions.
A parallel to this consideration, is the form of minerals supplemented. The body isn’t designed to absorb minerals as single, ground up rocks (which is essentially what a capsule of zinc, or chromium is). We biologically have evolved to get our minerals from plant sources, which are in similar dilution levels as our cells, and suspended in colloidal matrices, with many other cofactors. This suggests that when, and if supplementation is needed, that perhaps homeopathic forms, liquid colloidal forms, or freeze-dried plant sources mixed in water or smoothies should be considered.
Possible Mineral Imbalances
Lastly, taking some minerals individually may lead to imbalances in other minerals. This specifically occurs when taking large amounts of zinc, which leads to copper deficiency. It is important to supplement these two minerals together in an appropriate ratio. Other minerals such as iron, magnesium, and calcium (just to name a few) can cause uncomfortable or detrimental side effects when taken in excess.
When in Doubt Seek Out a Naturopath
Many naturopaths see patients who have been supplementing themselves with minerals and vitamins, who may not actually need these supplements, or are hurting themselves. It is important when considering supplementation to seek the advice of a naturopath who is trained in the different forms, doses, and uses of these important therapeutic agents.
Node Smith, associate editor for NDNR, is a fifth year naturopathic medical student at NUNM, where he has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine amongst the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend campout where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Three years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision.