Minerals

A basic working knowledge of the main vitamins and minerals used by the human body is useful for therapists and practitioners of a wide variety of treatments and therapies.

Definitions:

Mineral

Chemical element (as opposed to organic compound, as in the case of vitamins) necessary for the health and maintenance of bodily functions.

Macro mineral

Definitions vary slightly from one source to another. Common definitions of macro minerals include:

  1. Minerals found in a typical adult human body in quantities greater than 5g.
  2. Minerals required by a typical adult human body in quantities greater than 100mg per day.

Micro mineral

Definitions vary slightly from one source to another. Common definitions of micro minerals include:

  1. Minerals found in a typical adult human body in quantities less than 5g.
  2. Minerals required by a typical adult human body in quantities of 1mg-100mg per day.

Trace Element

Chemical element (as opposed to an organic compound, e.g. vitamins are not elements - they are compounds) required in minute concentrations for normal bodily development and growth.

There is some overlap between the classification of elements as 'micro minerals' and 'trace elements'. Different textbooks favour one or other category for elements such as copper, manganese, zinc and others. In the case of trace elements, of the two definitions stated above, No.2 (relating to the typical daily requirement) might be the most helpful because according to this definition Trace Elements are described as "minerals required by a typical human body in quantities of less than 1mg per day".

Examples of trace elements include:

  • Fluorine
  • Iodine
  • Cobalt
  • Molybdenum
  • Silicon, and others.

Summary Table

The following tables (in alphabetical order within categories) include basic information about some of the major minerals used by the human body.

Macro Minerals

Mineral

Calcium (Ca)

Functions

Key constituent of bones and teeth

Essential for vital metabolic processes such as nerve function, muscle contraction, and blood clotting

Sources

  • Dairy produce

Signs of Deficiencies

Deficiency (or insufficient uptake) can lead to:

  • Osteomalacia
  • Osteoporosis
  • Rickets
  • Tetany

Signs of Excessive Intake

Formation of 'stones' in the body, especially the gall bladder and the kidneys.

Iron (Fe)

Functions

Essential for transfer of oxygen between tissues in the body

Sources

  • Blood (e.g. 'black pudding')
  • Eggs
  • Green (leafy) vegetables
  • Fortified foods (e.g. cereals, white flour)
  • Liver
  • Meat
  • Nuts
  • Offal
  • Peas
  • Whole grains

Signs of Deficiencies

Deficiency can lead to:

  • Anaemia and
  • Increased susceptibility to infections

Signs of Excessive Intake

Long-term excessive intake of iron can lead to:

  • Haemochromatosis or haemosiderosis (involving organ damage), both of which are rare
  • Insufficient calcium and magnesium in the body (because these minerals compete with each other for absorption)
  • Increased susceptibility to infectious diseases

Magnesium (Mg)

Functions

Essential or healthy bones

Functioning of of muscle and nerve tissue

Needed for functioning of approx. 90 enzymes

Sources

  • Eggs
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Fish, esp. shellfish
  • Milk and dairy products
  • Nuts
  • Wholemeal flour

Signs of Deficiencies

Deficiency can occur gradually, leading to:

The most extreme cases of deficiency may be associated with arrhythmia.

Signs of Excessive Intake

Unusual

Phosphorous (P)

Functions

Constituent of bone tissue.

Forms compounds needed for energy conversion reactions (e.g. adenosine triphosphate - ATP).

Sources

  • Dairy products
  • Fruits (most fruits)
  • Meat
  • Pulses
  • Vegetables (esp.leafy greens)

Signs of Deficiencies

Insufficient phosphorous can lead to:

Signs of Excessive Intake

Excess phosphorous can interfere with the body's absorption of:

  • calcium
  • iron
  • magnesium
  • zinc

Potassium (K)

Functions

Main base ion of intracellular fluid

Necessary to maintain electrical potentials of the nervous system - and so functioning of muscle and nerve tissues.

Sources

  • Cereals
  • Coffee
  • Fresh Fruits
  • Meat
  • Salt-subsitutes
  • Vegetables
  • Whole-grain flour

Signs of Deficiencies

Insufficient potassium in the body can lead to:

  • General muscle paralysis
  • Metabolic disturbances

Signs of Excessive Intake

Excessive amounts in the body (whether due to intake or other causes) may lead to:

  • Arrhythmia, and ultimately cardiac arrest ('heart attack')
  • Metabolic disturbances

Sodium (Na)

Functions

Controls the volume of extracellular fluid in the body

Maintains the acid-alkali (pH) balance in the body

Necessary to maintain electrical potentials of the nervous system - and so functioning of muscle and nerve tissues.

Sources

  • Processed bakery products
  • Processed foods generally (incl. tinned and cured products)
  • Table Salt

Signs of Deficiencies

Insufficient sodium in the body can lead to:

Signs of Excessive Intake

Excessive amounts in the body (whether due to intake or other causes) can lead to:

  • Hypernatraemia
  • De-hydration (especially in babies)
  • Possible long-term effects may include hypertension

Micro Minerals

Mineral

Chromium (Cr)

Functions

Involved in the functioning of skeletal muscle

Sources

  • Cereals
  • Cheese
  • Fresh fruit
  • Meat
  • Nuts
  • Wholemeal flour

Signs of Deficiencies

Deficiency may lead to:

  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Weakness

Copper (Cu)

Functions

Part of the enzyme copper-zince superoxide dismutase (CuZn SOD)

Also present in other enzymes, including cytochrome oxidase, ascorbic acid oxidase, and tyrosinases

Found in the red blood cells, and in blood plasma.

Sources

  • Cocoa
  • Liver
  • Kidney
  • Oysters
  • Peas
  • Raisins

Signs of Deficiencies

Insufficient copper has been associated with:

  • Changes in hair colour and texture and hair loss
  • Disturbances to the nervous system
  • Bone disease

Serious deficiency is rare but can lead to:

  • Menke's syndrome

Manganese (Mn)

Functions

  • Antioxidant properties
  • Fertility
  • Formation of strong healthy bones, nerves, and muscles
  • Forms part of the enzyme copper-zince superoxide dismutase (CuZn SOD) system

Sources

  • Avocados
  • Nuts
  • Pulses
  • Tea
  • Vegetables
  • Whole-grain cereals

Signs of Deficiencies

Deficiencies are unusual but can lead to:

  • Bone deformities
  • Rashes & skin conditions
  • Reduced hair growth
  • Retarded growth (in children)

Signs of Excessive Intake

Excessive intake has been associated with brain conditions such as symptoms similar to those resulting from Parkinson's disease.

Selenium (Se)

Functions

Antioxidant properties (prevents peroxidation of lipids in the cells)

Essential component of the enzyme glutathione peroxidase

Contributes to efficiency of the immune system, having a wide variety of protective functions within the body

Sources

  • Egg yolk
  • Garlic
  • Seafood
  • Whole-grain flour

Signs of Deficiencies

Deficiency can lead to:

  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Kaschin-Beck disease (affects the cartilage at joints)

Signs of Excessive Intake

Excessive intake can lead to selenium poisoning.

Sulphur (S)

Functions

Healing build-up of toxic substances in the body

Structural health of the body (sulphur is a part of many amino acids incl. cysteine and methionine)

Healthy skin, nails and hair

Sources

  • Beans
  • Beef
  • Cruciferous vegetables (e.g. broccoli)
  • Dairy produce
  • Meat

Signs of Deficiencies

Deficiency of sulphur is unusual.

Zinc (Zn)

Functions

Needed for:

  • Functioning of many (over 200) enzyme
  • Strong immune system

Sources

  • Dairy produce
  • Egg yolk
  • Liver
  • Red meat
  • Seafood
  • Whole-grain flour

Signs of Deficiencies

Deficiency is rare but can lead to:

  • Lesions on the skin, oesophagus and cornea
  • Retarded growth (of children)
  • Susceptibility to infection

Signs of Excessive Intake

Excessive intake is not a common problem but especially if zinc supplements are taken over an extended period of time, can reduce the absorption of copper. If applicable, copper supplements might also be appropriate.

More about Nutrition

In the News:

Kale is in season in February - 7 Feb '20

Packaged food healthiest in the UK, USA, Australia and Canada - 22 Aug '19

Reducing saturated fat in diet lowers blood cholesterol and risk of CVD - 1 Aug '19

Garlic and Artichoke adopted through ABC's Adopt-an-Herb Program - 14 Jun '19

Cranberry Harvest underway in USA - 5 Oct '18

The higher prevalence of hypertension in black compared with white Americans has been linked with fried and highly processed food - 5 Oct '18

Total retail sales of herbal supplements in the USA exceeded $8 Billion in 2017 - 13 Sep '18

It's a bumper blueberry season - 13 Jul '18

Although care has been taken when compiling this page, the information contained might not be completely up to date. Accuracy cannot be guaranteed. This material is copyright. See terms of use.

IvyRose Holistic 2003-2024.