Ever sunk into an epsom salt bath or had the opportunity to take a dip in a pristine hot spring? You came out feeling relaxed, happy, and renewed, right? That’s the magic of minerals.
Minerals are truly the unsung hero of our cellular health and overall vitality. They do so much for our bodies and minds, and yet they remain firmly underappreciated next to vitamins and other nutrients.
Today, we want to shine a much deserved spotlight on the essential minerals our bodies need for health in every single area of the body, from the circulatory system, to the nervous system, to our hormones and digestion.
In this article, we will cover:
- Types of minerals in the body
- Major minerals or macrominerals
- Trace minerals
- The importance of mineral balance
- Mineral deficiency, and why it’s so common
- Mineral testing
- Minerals in foods and what to eat
- Mineral supplements
- And more!
Types of Minerals in the Body
There are 16 minerals that contribute to proper function in the body, from the cellular to the system level. Seven of these minerals–-sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and sulfur–-are classified as the major minerals. The remaining nine–-iron, copper, zinc, selenium, iodine, chromium, fluoride, manganese, and molybdenum–-constitute the trace minerals, present in much lower amounts in the body but no less important to our health.
We can also categorize them by their function in the body. Many of the minerals, such as zinc, copper, manganese, chromium, and magnesium, are the key to enzyme function in the body. Magnesium alone catalyzes over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body!
It is important to understand that these essential minerals work interdependently with each other, which is why we must be careful when supplementing with a single mineral in absence of its friends. For example, consuming too much phosphorus can deplete calcium, and too much zinc can deplete copper. Molybdenum helps the body use iron, as does copper.
In fact, iron and copper are so intertwined that a person who is diagnosed with “iron deficiency anemia” may actually have plenty of iron stored in their tissues (remaining undetectable in a blood test) and could be really suffering from a copper deficiency, which means all of that stored iron can not circulate in the body.
It always pays to measure essential minerals in the body in context with each other.
Major Minerals (Macrominerals)
Calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, chloride, potassium, and sulfur are generally listed as the major minerals or macrominerals, and they require replenishment in large amounts every day through our diet.
Calcium, as most of us already know, is integral for bone health and structure in the body, but so is phosphorus and magnesium. Potassium, magnesium, sodium, and calcium are also critical for muscle contraction and release. Chloride is essential to create stomach acid, while sulfur is a key component in protein molecules.
The macrominerals are also involved in nerve transmission and cell signaling, blood clotting, blood pressure regulation, immune system health, and more. Perhaps you’re starting to see how even a little dysregulation among these minerals can be cause for big concern.
Trace Minerals (Trace Elements)
The trace minerals, as you might expect from the name, are required in much lower amounts than the macrominerals but are still critical to our health. The trace minerals include iron, iodine, selenium, zinc, chromium, copper and manganese, along with molybdenum, silicon, boron, cobalt, sulfur and a few others.
They contribute to blood oxygenation, hormone regulation, blood sugar and insulin stability, wound healing, and metabolic health, among many other functions.
Importance of Mineral Balance
We’ve briefly discussed how minerals rely on each other in the body, but what happens when they become unbalanced? In short, when two or more minerals that work together become unbalanced–-usually an overabundance of one and a deficiency of the other–-a detrimental cycle begins that can only be corrected by increasing the deficient mineral over time and slowly restoring balance to the body.
Zinc and copper balance is an easy example. If you are taking zinc to support your immune system, that’s great–-but did you actually test your zinc levels before you began supplementing? Is there any extra zinc sneaking into your intake besides direct supplementation? How much are you really getting? If you don’t know, you might be taking too much, and all of that extra zinc will deplete your copper stores, which can result in anemia, weakness, and low neutrophil count, among other symptoms.
Between imbalanced diets, nutrient depletion within our food itself, and the defensive compounds in plants that hinder mineral absorption in our digestive system, mineral deficiency is extremely common. Magnesium and potassium deficiency are especially rampant today, and those who avoid dairy and/or meat are at a high risk of becoming deficient in calcium as well.
Common disorders and symptoms associated with mineral deficiencies include osteoporosis, muscle weakness, fatigue, cold extremities/poor circulation, hormone dysregulation, brain fog, low stomach acid, and a weak immune system.
How Do You Know If You Have Mineral Deficiency?
Firstly, if you have any kind of preexisting condition, especially relating to the digestive system where minerals are absorbed into the bloodstream, you are probably mineral deficient in some way. GERD is usually a sign of deficiency in the minerals that create our stomach acid. Constipation may be a sign of magnesium and/or potassium deficiency, which regulate our muscle contractions. The inflammatory bowel diseases Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis are well known to cause mineral deficiencies of many kinds.
Even if you are generally healthy, it’s worth taking a look at your mineral balance. Are you regularly under a lot of stress, even the everyday stresses of work and family life? Do you sleep well, or do you toss and turn or wake up during the night? Are you easily able to focus on your work or do you struggle with motivation? Do you consider yourself anxious or depressed?
Any of these seemingly minor issues can indicate a deficiency in minerals, and correcting this deficiency can set you up for a healthier, happier lifestyle overall, not to mention prevent future chronic and acute illness.
Your mineral levels can be tested in a few different ways. If you have a hunch that you are deficient in a specific mineral, say zinc, you can test for a deficiency just by using your sense of taste.
Our mouths were cleverly designed with the ability to sense the presence of minerals through taste. With the BodyBio Liquid Trace Minerals set, you can test 9 essential minerals separately to see whether your body craves more or even if you’re getting too much of some minerals in your diet.
If you experience no taste or a sweet taste, your body is telling you you need more of that mineral. A taste that is slightly more bitter or metallic than sweet indicates a balanced level of that mineral. When the taste gets into a stronger metallic or bitter taste, you may have too much of that mineral already.
To taste test one of the BodyBio Liquid Trace Minerals, add 8 oz. of purified water to a glass and add the correct dosage of that mineral to the glass. Take a sip, swish for a few seconds, and swallow, noting the taste. You can compare the taste to our scale here.
While this is a great tool to have handy for continuous at home monitoring of your mineral balance, bloodwork or hair tissue mineral analysis testing (HTMA) may give you a wider picture of the minerals you need. HTMA can also indicate heavy metal toxicity and other systemic issues. For either of these types of testing, it’s a good idea to work with a practitioner you trust, such as an N.D., functional medicine M.D., or a nutritionist.
Minerals in Food
It’s a sad fact of modern life that the soil our produce grows in is highly depleted of minerals. You may see a specific mineral value attributed to a certain vegetable or grain, and yet whether that value actually translates to the food item you pick up at the grocery store is questionable at best.
So, invest in organic produce as much as possible, or even better, produce from farms using regenerative agriculture practices. These farms and producers are committed to restoring the health of their soil by planting cover crops, rotating their crops, and grazing animals on pasture to return nutrients to the soil. This means more minerals and nutrients in our food!
It’s just as important to prioritize high quality meats, including organ meats. As with many nutrients, animal foods are the most bioavailable source of minerals we have. Liver is especially a mineral powerhouse, with 11 grams of calcium, 476 grams of phosphorous, 18 grams of magnesium, 380 grams of potassium, 8.8 grams of iron, 4 grams of zinc, and 12 grams of copper per 100 gram serving. That’s a significant source of minerals!
Other foods high in minerals include:
- Grass-fed red meat and organ meats
- Pastured eggs
- Wild-caught fish
- Green vegetables like spinach, broccoli, and asparagus
- Bone broth, especially when made with greens
- Pink salt and sea salt.
As always you should find a balance of foods that works for you and pay close attention to how your body responds when you eat them. But in general, eating a variety of animal and plant foods results in more mineral intake.
If you have trouble sourcing high-quality food sources of minerals, you can’t stomach organ meats, or you have a preexisting condition that puts a drain on your mineral stores, you might want to supplement some of your minerals.
Drinking your minerals is one of the best ways to do this, and you’ll stay hydrated too!
Ionic vs. Colloidal Mineral Supplements
Mineral supplements are commonly available in two forms, ionic minerals and colloidal minerals. Ionic minerals are dissolved in water, making them more absorbable and usable in the body. Colloidal minerals are merely suspended in water and tend to be a larger particle size, so they aren’t as easily absorbed.
The body always prioritizes the most bioavailable nutrients, which is why all BodyBio mineral supplements are ionic minerals.
Ionic minerals translate directly to electrolytes in the body–-which is just a way of describing a combination of positively or negatively charged minerals that allow the body to conduct electricity, which is needed for all of its cellular operations.
Nothing complicated here–-liquid minerals are exactly what they sound like, minerals dissolved in water, instead of encapsulated.
At BodyBio, we like liquid minerals because they allow you to easily adjust the amount you need to maintain good mineral balance. As we mentioned earlier, they can also be used to test your mineral needs by taste. You also save money by combining minerals to your individual needs instead of buying a different combination supplement every month or two.
Be Mindful of Minerals
Compared to vitamins and other trendy nutrients, minerals are vastly underappreciated in the medical world. But they are absolutely essential for hundreds of functions in the body from nerve signaling, to muscle contraction, to enzymatic reactions. We need minerals for water and resource transport in and out of our cells. We need them to have energy and vitality, clear thoughts and balanced hormones. Do not underestimate the power of minerals!