Important for me to Know About?
We have been discussing anemia and nutrients that are necessary to prevent and alleviate these situations, but are there other nutrients that we should watch for?
There are several vitamins and minerals that tend to be low in diets across the board. Vitamin E, vitamin K, magnesium, potassium, selenium, copper, and zinc are all important for our body functions and are frequently low in the standard American diet. Vitamins come packed with other chemicals in our foods unless they are delivered as a supplement, so our body must separate the chemical structures whether or not they are delivered in a natural form, but minerals are their own element. Dr. Christopher believed that we shouldn’t supplement with minerals, because we don’t eat rocks. The minerals we need for a healthy body can only be delivered in their natural, organic form that is easily taken up by cells and found in our food. When they aren’t delivered as found naturally in foods, they can build up and become toxic. Our body does not have a system in place to eliminate certain nutrients, so our best form should ALWAYS be food; however, there are some circumstances where supplements can be lifesaving. Some people have been so malnourished for so long, that supplements must be used, and some people have damaged pathways that prevent them from absorbing nutrients, so supplements help while restoring those conditions. (I’m saving some nutrients for next week; those that can be controversial like vitamin D, iodine, chromium, and calcium).
Vitamins E and K are both fat soluble vitamins. That means that they are absorbed and stored in fat tissue. Unlike water soluble vitamins that can pass through the body when they occur in excess, fat soluble vitamins build up and can become toxic. I remember hearing stories of children who died from eating too many vitamin supplements. (It’s usually vitamin A, another fat soluble vitamin that we read about in stories on toxicity).
Vitamin E is vital for our cells and healthy blood circulation.
Vitamin E contains 8 different antioxidants and is most often found in nuts and seeds and leafy greens. It is vital for the health of our cells. Vitamin E supports our immune system by aiding in the formation of red blood cells and promoting healthy blood circulation. Additionally, vitamin E has been studied for its potential role in reducing the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer. Vitamin E helps to support healthy cell function by promoting the growth and development of new cells, aiding the repair of damaged cells, and reducing inflammation.
The recommended amount of vitamin E for health is 15 mg a day, but most Americans don’t even get half of that amount. While vitamin E is very important, high doses can increase the risk of bleeding, so this is one that I strongly advise you to research before supplementing. For anyone who is already on blood thinners, NSAIDS, or anticoagulants, it is safe to eat food forms of vitamin E, but do NOT supplement with it without talking to your doctor (I still wouldn’t supplement if I was on those!). I mention the importance of omega 3 fatty acids quite often, and most of those foods are also high in vitamin E, so please aim for omega 3 nuts and seeds daily: walnuts, chia seeds, ground flax seeds, and hemp seeds can help you with omega 3s and vitamin E. The best sources are almonds, sunflower seeds, and hazelnuts, but they are also high in omega 6 fats, which are still healthy, just make sure you balance these out with the omega 3s. You can also get vitamin E from spinach, broccoli, and avocados
Vitamin K is another important vitamin that is frequently found to be low, and it is also fat soluble. Luckily, warnings have been removed, but my grandfather (30 years ago) was warned not to eat dark leafy greens and other foods that contain vitamin K, because his meds would need to be adjusted. How crazy is that? Don’t eat this healthy food that offers loads of nutrients, because it may make you better, and we may have to give you less. BUT, if you are on these meds, never go against your doctor’s orders. Discuss with your doctor things you can do, lifestyle changes you can make, to go off of these meds.
Vitamin K helps us keep calcium in our bones and not in our arteries.
Vitamin K aids in blood clotting. We think blood clots are dangerous, and they are under certain situations, but I don’t want to die from a paper cut or a deep bruise. Vitamin K makes sure that we don’t clot too fast, and we don’t lose too much blood. Vitamin K is also very important for bone health and works with vitamin A and vitamin D, and it also helps prevent mineralization in the blood vessels. We want to keep our blood vessels free of this debris. We have several proteins in our body that rely on vitamin K to be able to be broken down and re-assembled for use, as well.
Vitamin K is not only found in our foods, but it is made in our intestines, as well. It is so vital for our health, that we make it! Vitamin K is synthesized in the liver, so in cases of liver disease there is an increased risk of bleeding. If you know or knew someone with liver disease, you’ve seen how easily they bleed.
While vitamin K helps us with blood clotting, excess vitamin K does NOT lead to abnormal clotting. There is actually no known toxicity with vitamin K1 or K2 through food.
Vitamin K is one of the reasons that I recommend all of my clients to aim for greens 3 times a day.
1-You cannot overeat vitamin K.
2-Vitamin K prevents hardening of the arteries.
3-Vitamin K works with vitamin D to regulate osteoclasts for bone protection.
4-Vitamin K inhibits cancer growth.
5-Vitamin K protects from internal bleeding and stroke, improves insulin sensitivity, prevents Alzheimer’s, and so much more.
There are different forms of vitamin K, so be sure to eat a wide variety of foods, lots of different leafy greens, fermented foods like miso and natto, and even some beans like lentils and chickpeas can add vitamin K. And, keep your intestinal microbes happy to create the vitamin K you need.
What’s so important about potassium?
What’s the first food you think of when you hear the word, potassium? For most people it is bananas. While bananas do have some potassium, they are far from the one of the best sources.
Potassium is an essential electrolyte that is electrically charged, so it can move quickly to maintain our pH, electrolyte balance to protect our heart, water balance, contractions of muscles like our heart, etc. While most people get plenty of potassium through their foods, there are certain medical conditions that make it difficult to absorb. Beans, lentils, winter squashes, spinach, broccoli, and avocados are all high in potassium.
Deficiencies in potassium can lead to a range of health problems, including muscle weakness, cramping, and even heart problems. However, too much potassium can also be harmful, particularly for those with kidney disease or on certain medications.
Magnesium deficiency has been linked to increased risk for chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis.
Magnesium is essential for many bodily functions, including energy production, protein synthesis, and nerve function. It is also important for the proper function of the heart, muscles, and immune system. Good food sources of magnesium include leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains, legumes, and some types of fish. Magnesium can also be obtained through supplements, although it is generally recommended to get nutrients through food sources whenever possible.
Low levels of magnesium can lead to a range of health problems, including muscle weakness, cramping, and irregular heartbeat. It is important to be cautious with supplements and dosage, as too much magnesium can also be harmful. Individuals with kidney disease should be particularly careful with magnesium supplements, as the kidneys are responsible for regulating magnesium levels in the body.
Selenium is required to produce thyroid hormones.
Selenium is a trace mineral that is essential for many important bodily functions, including DNA synthesis, thyroid function, and immune system regulation. It is toxic at high levels, but it is frequently found to be deficient. It is also a powerful antioxidant that helps protect our cells. It is essential for development, growth, and metabolism. Good dietary sources of selenium include Brazil nuts, wild mushrooms, reishi, chaga, chia seeds, and mustard seeds.
Low levels of selenium can lead to hypothyroidism, which is a condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone. Hypothyroidism can cause a range of symptoms, including fatigue, weight gain, and cold intolerance. In addition, selenium is important for immune system function because it helps protect cells from damage caused by free radicals, which can weaken the immune system. Selenium is needed in combination with many other nutrients. Some biochemical pathways need selenium, riboflavin, and glutathione, another needs selenium, zinc, and copper, iron needs selenium, selenium and vitamin C are needed in another pathway, and selenium and iodine both influence each other and must be in balance for thyroid health.
Those at risk of selenium deficiency include those on a feeding tube, those with a colostomy, those who have had part(s) of the gastrointestinal system removed, and those with low stomach acid. Low selenium increases risks for cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even chronic viruses like EBV and HIV.
Copper is important for collagen.
Copper is an essential mineral that plays a critical role in many bodily functions, including the production of red blood cells, maintenance of bone health, the formation of connective tissue, and acting as an antioxidant. Copper is actually used with zinc and vitamin C to form elastin which is important for our skin.
Hopefully we talked about this in Part 1, because Copper can affect anemia. It is involved in the metabolism of iron and the regulation of the immune system. While copper deficiency is rare in the U.S., patients with poor intestinal health could be deficient. Sometimes, when blood tests look like iron is low, it is actually copper that is low. This is another reason not to supplement with iron! Make sure you are eating foods that are high in iron and copper. Good dietary sources of copper include nuts, seeds, mushrooms, and dark leafy greens.
Copper is also involved in pigmentation like the color of your hair, skin, and eyes. Too little copper can lead to a range of health problems, including anemia, bone abnormalities, and impaired immune function. However, excessive copper intake can also be harmful, particularly for individuals with certain medical conditions, such as Wilson’s disease, which is a rare genetic disorder that causes copper to accumulate in the body.
Get your copper through food sources. People with certain medical conditions, such as kidney disease, should not take copper supplements, as the kidneys are responsible for regulating copper levels in the body.
High amounts of iron decreases how well copper is absorbed. High amounts of vitamin C can lead to a copper deficiency, too. Signs of a copper deficiency include low birthweight, anemia that doesn’t respond to iron, frequent infections, loss of pigmentation, neurological symptoms, osteoporosis, and cardiac dysfunction.
Zinc is an essential mineral that plays a role in growth and repair, hormones, neurotransmitters, wound healing, and digestion, and it is very important for fatty acid metabolism. It affects our taste, stomach acid, hormone balancing, insulin, and brain function including chelating heavy metal from the brain. My favorite source of zinc is pumpkin seeds, but it is highest in beef (#1), sesame seeds(#2), then pumpkin seeds(#3). I don’t recommend eating beef for zinc.
Several nutrients work with zinc in body processes, but many also affect absorption. Copper and zinc compete for cell receptors. If you take in too much zinc, copper can actually get trapped in a cycle and not be able to move into the blood; therefore, you need to add copper if you supplement with zinc. BUT, I always recommend food over supplements. Vitamin A also has a relationship with zinc. As mentioned before, vitamin A is fat soluble and can build up and actually become toxic. Zinc activates enzymes to release vitamin A from storage. There must be adequate amounts of zinc for someone taking vitamin A in supplement form.
Zinc is important for immune health, and our body actually needs more zinc when we are sick, inflamed, stressed, or have gastrointestinal disorders. A deficiency in zinc can lead to a weakened immune system, delayed wound healing, and even stunted growth in children. On the other hand, consuming too much zinc can also have negative effects such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Sign of low zinc include slow wound healing, brittle nails and poor nail growth, unhealthy hair, compromised immune system like autoimmune illness, frequent colds, acne, taste changes, rashes, white spots on the nails, and cracked finger tips.
By including zinc-rich foods in your meals, you can ensure that your body has enough of this important mineral to keep you healthy.
Vitamins and minerals do not work alone.
This is one of the many reasons that I do not recommend supplements. When we eat beans, for example, we get the vitamins and minerals and other nutrients that work together for certain enzymes and biochemical pathways. Beans contain vitamin K and potassium. If we eat mushrooms, we get a combination of vitamins and minerals like selenium and copper. If we eat leafy greens, we get vitamin E, vitamin K, and copper plus loads of other minerals. When we take supplements we’re only getting a chemical compound that includes that vitamin or mineral with added chemicals and fillers and without the other enzymes and nutrients found in the food, some that we haven’t even discovered.
As with any dietary changes, it is important to speak with a healthcare provider to determine the appropriate amount of magnesium for your individual needs.
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