There is a high mountain pasture in northern Afghanistan, watered by glacial run-off from the Himalayan Mountains where shepherds journey to let their depleted and sick animals graze. It is common knowledge among these shepherds that within five days of grazing on this particular grass, their animals will once again begin to thrive.
Why mention this interesting and entertaining anecdote? The answer is simple: minerals.
What are minerals and what do Afghani shepherds have to do with them, you ask? Minerals are the elements that make up the earth. They are literally the building blocks of our planet—everything in it and on it, including you and I. And as the building blocks of our bodies, minerals are involved in innumerable processes essential to life. We get our minerals in two ways—from eating plants or eating the meat of animals that have eaten plants. Either way it’s by ingesting plants (directly or indirectly) that has been grown on mineral rich soil. The soil and pasture in the Himalayan Mountains are extremely rich and balanced in major and trace minerals, giving the animals that graze on it the building materials they need to thrive.
It is on the subject of soil that I want to really focus—not ALL soil is as mineral rich as the soil in northern Afghanistan. Due to modern commercial farming techniques adopted with in the last 100 years, our soil has been depleted and depleted, year after year. This is because modern fertilizers only replace three minerals back into the soil—nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium—even though there are over 75 (that we know of) that should be there. Modern herbicides and pesticides have also played their part, changing the microbiology of the soil and there by changing the soil itself. All of this has created vegetables and plants that pale in comparison in mineral content to their early 20th century counterparts—reduced in their levels of both major and trace minerals like calcium and zinc.
It’s been well established that mineral content of soil is depleted in most areas of the world. For this reason, I believe that if you do not live on a farm and have the ability to grow all your food and raise your own animals on mineral rich soil, it is in one’s best interest to supplement key minerals in addition to purchasing food from organic, trusted sources to prevent mineral deficiencies.
Symptoms of mineral deficiency are vast and wide, but some common ones include fatigue, muscle cramping, brain fog, endocrine dysfunction, and poor immune function, just to name a few. Almost every person with a health problem I see in my clinic has a mineral deficiency of some kind.
When it comes to supplementing, you have to be careful because there exists a delicate balance of minerals in your body. When disrupted, the imbalance can cause health problems (an example is copper vs. zinc, or calcium vs. magnesium). If you are new to mineral supplementation and want to do it on your own without the help of a holistic health care practitioner, the words of the game are BALANCE and BIOAVAILABILITY. Balance means that minerals are not supplemented by themselves—they are balanced by other minerals. It’s not a good idea to supplement a single isolated mineral for long periods of time because once the deficiency is fixed, it can cause other imbalances in the body.
There are certain minerals which almost everyone is deficient: zinc, calcium, and magnesium being three of them. In our office we can check for these and more deficiencies using a zinc taste, calcium cuff test, and hair mineral analysis.
Bioavailability means that the mineral is in a form that can be digested and absorbed at a cellular level without taxing the body’s energy stores. Whole food minerals are what you want to look for and Standard Process (a supplement company we trust) is an excellent source at providing balanced minerals that are extremely bioavailable. Two suggestions I can recommend for anyone are Calcium Lactate and Trace Minerals B12 from Standard Process.
The last piece of the puzzle when it comes to minerals is you must have healthy digestion, good bowel flora balance, and the proper amounts of fat soluble vitamins A and D. These factors are necessary in order to absorb minerals and direct them to be used in specific tissues (i.e. bones, muscles, and more). To super charge your mineral absorption, focus on two things:
- Eating fermented foods or taking an enzyme and probiotic
- Eating a diet rich in fat soluble vitamins D and K2 such as cod liver oil, grass fed butter, and raw milk cheese
Want to learn more about minerals? Check out our Youtube channel with videos from recent discussions on minerals. Have a health problem that concerns you? Call our office to schedule a consultation—we will point you in the right direction.