Foundation 5: Mineral Needs
Continuing on in my series about the six foundations we have mineral needs as the next foundation to cover.
Minerals take up about 4% of our body, and unlike other compounds in the body, we cannot produce minerals; we must obtain them from the foods we eat.
Minerals have a myriad of roles in the body including facilitating the transfer of nutrients across cell membranes, maintaining nerve conduction, contracting and relaxing muscles, regulating tissue growth, providing structural support, and acting as cofactors in enzyme reactions. Moreover, one of the most important jobs that minerals, specifically calcium, do in the body are work to maintain pH balance in the body.
When we think of calcium or minerals in general, bone health generally comes to mind as well. Bones are hard, calcified connective tissue that are continually being destroyed and remodeled as we age. Bones provide structural support, protection for organs, and produce blood cells as well.
Additionally, bones help buffer the pH level of the blood (how acidic it is) through the mineral calcium. Calcium is released from storage in the bones if the pH of the blood falls and becomes too acidic. Conversely, if the pH of the blood rises too high and becomes to alkaline, calcium is pulled from the blood and deposited in the bone.
Speaking of calcium, it has become one of the most well-known minerals in our culture, especially as the rates of osteoporosis and disorders of the like are continually on the rise. What many don’t realize about calcium is that it is a game of cofactors, not necessarily the amount of calcium we actually intake.
When I refer to cofactors, what I mean is that the following factors must also be in place in the body in order for calcium to be properly absorbed and utilized in the body. These cofactors include: systemic pH, hormonal function, hydration, other minerals, vitamins, fatty acids, and digestion.
As mentioned above, calcium helps regulate the pH of the blood, and that proper pH of the blood is also a cofactor in calcium absorption. The process comes full circle.
Hormones, to a certain extent, govern our bodies, and we need the proper balance of parathyroid and thyroid hormone, as well as adrenal and sex hormones, in order to maintain proper calcium levels and bone homeostasis.
We haven’t covered the foundation of hydration yet, but it is critical to ensure there is good hydration to ensure enough blood fluid to transport calcium throughout the body. Hydration also keeps the body in a balanced electrolyte state to balance the transfer of calcium in and out of cells.
Maintaining a balance with other minerals in the body is important for calcium absorption as well. Potassium, manganese, boron, copper, and zinc are also needed for the body to be able to use calcium properly.
Vitamins, especially vitamin D, are also closely connected to our hormonal systems to increase the level of calcium in blood serum.
As we discussed in the previous post on the foundations, fatty acids are essential for health. They are needed to transport calcium across cell membranes into the cell and increase calcium levels in tissues. It makes sense then that we are seeing a correlative rise in osteoporosis along with a culture still afraid to eat too much fat.
Digestion seems to pop up with most topics we discuss with regards to health. Minerals have to be eaten through the body and calcium is no exception. Proper digestion is critical for absorbing calcium as calcium is only absorbed in an acidic environment and requires enough HCl (stomach acid) for uptake.
Obviously, these cofactors are important for calcium uptake specifically, but I would argue that they also bleed over into the absorption of other minerals as well. Our bodies need the balance of all minerals (magnesium, zinc, copper, etc) in order to function properly. And where can we get these minerals? From real, whole foods of course in a body that has proper hormonal and digestive function. That is when we can start to achieve optimal mineral balance health.