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 Home  > Health Articles  > Vitamin & Herb Guide  >  MINERALS (P-Z)

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Minerals:


POTASSIUM     click for products     top / select another

Potassium is a key electrolyte that must be kept within certain limits by the body because it regulates heart rhythm and nerve transmission.  Stress hormones make nerve and muscle cells fire more quickly by altering the balance of potassium and sodium inside and outside the cell.  Therefore chronic stress eventually leads to an increase in the body’s potassium requirements. 

Potassium regulates water balance, via the kidneys, and therefore is an important component in blood pressure regulation.  Potassium can prevent calcium kidney stones when taken together with magnesium.  It also regulates the intake of nutrients through cell membranes.  As we age this function decreases and may be a reason why circulatory damage, lethargy and weakness are common amongst the elderly.       

Supplemental potassium is best taken in organic forms such as gluconate, citrate and fumarate.  They usually contain 99mg of elemental potassium per tablet.  Inorganic potassium is labelled as potassium sulphate, chloride, oxide and carbonate.  These forms are not as easily used by the body as the organic forms.  Most multivitamin/mineral preparations include a small amount of potassium.

Potassium levels are disrupted by kidney disease, diarrhea, stress, low carbohydrate diets and the use of laxatives, diuretics, alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, sugar and licorice.  Individuals on heart or kidney medication should not supplement with potassium until they have consulted with a health professional. 
 

Potassium – QUICK FACTS

FOOD SOURCES

·  Dairy products, fish, fruit including bananas, legumes, meat, poultry, vegetables, whole grains.

DEFICIENCY SYMPTOMS

·  Dry skin, acne, chills, cognitive impairment, constipation/diarrhea, depression, decreased reflexes, edema, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, muscle weakness, respiratory distress.

OPTIMUM DOSAGE

·  99 mg elemental potassium daily.  (Clinical doses may be higher as recommended by your practitioner.

WORKS WELL WITH

· Vitamin B5, magnesium, calcium.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

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·  Stress and low carbohydrate diets increase your need for potassium.

·  Those with kidney impairment should not use potassium.

·  Potassium toxicity causes muscle weakness, vomiting and heart arrhythmias.

SELENIUM    click for products     top / select another

Selenium is an important trace mineral that people may be deficient in because they eat food from areas where the selenium content of the soil is low.  Selenium’s most important function is as an antioxidant where it protects the cell from damage and prevents the oxidation of other vitamins and nutrients.  It does this by neutralizing free radicals.  They are unstable molecules that in their bid to become more stable must bump into healthy cells and cause damage.  Free radicals contribute to cardiovascular disease by producing oxidized LDL cholesterol, which causes atherosclerotic plaques. 

Selenium’s antioxidant properties also help in cancer, which can result from free radicals damaging cellular genetic material.  It is believed to be an anti-aging vitamin because as an antioxidant it protects the body against environmental pollutants other substances that and lead to aging.  Selenium regulates fat metabolism by controlling the production of thyroid hormone. Selenium and vitamin E act together to produce the antibodies which are important for protecting the body from infections.  Selenium supplementation is particularly important for men because selenium concentrates in the testicles and is lost through seminal fluid.  Selenium, vitamin E and zinc have been shown to reduce prostate inflammation. Selenium has been used to treat many conditions including male infertility, asthma, arthritis, cataracts, AIDS, hypothyroidism, alcoholic cirrhosis and high blood pressure.

Selenium supplements are available in tablet or capsule form.  Selenium is often grown on yeast and may not be suitable for those who are sensitive to yeast or have a tendency towards candida infections.  Selenomethionine is another highly active form of selenium that does not contain yeast.  Selenium works well with vitamin E, vitamin C and beta-carotene and can often be found in a complex with these other antioxidants.

Selenium levels may be decreased by high dose corticosteroid therapy (prednisone).

Selenium – QUICK FACTS

FOOD SOURCES

·  The selenium content of grain and meat products is dependent on the selenium content of the soil.  Good food sources are usually Brazil nuts, brewer’s yeast, broccoli, brown rice, chicken, dairy products, dulse, garlic, salmon, liver, kelp, vegetables, tuna, wheat germ.

DEFICIENCY SYMPTOMS

·  Cancer, heart disease, frequent colds and flus, exhaustion, growth impairment, infertility, liver and pancreatic impairment.

OPTIMUM DOSAGE

·  200 mcg daily.  (Clinical doses may be higher as recommended by your practitioner.

WORKS WELL WITH

· Vitamin E, vitamin C, beta-carotene, zinc.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

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·  Do not exceed 40mcg daily if you are pregnant.

·  Toxicity symptoms include garlicky breath odour, brittle nails, digestive disorders, hair loss, metallic taste in the mouth, tooth loss and yellow skin and may begin at daily doses above 400mcg.

SILICA     click for products     top / select another

Silicon is the second most abundant element on earth and is considered an essential trace mineral for human health.  It forms structural components of bone and connective tissue, such as collagen.  It is especially needed during the early phase of bone mineralization and is found in high concentrations in the bony growth plates. It also forms elastin, a connective tissue that is responsible for the elasticity of connective tissue found in the skin, lungs and blood vessels.
 

Silicon is thought to protect the body from aluminum accumulation.  Silicon levels decline with age and a deficiency of silica may lead to degeneration of the vessels, bones and connective tissue that is commonly seen in the elderly.  Silicon is commonly recommended by natural health care practitioners for osteoporosis, atherosclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease.    

Silicon is the inorganic form of the mineral.  Silicon is commonly found bonded to oxygen and is called silica or silicon dioxide.  This is the organic and supplemental form.  It can be taken as a liquid.  Encapsulated silica supplements are usually made from horsetail herb, which concentrates silica from the soil.  Silicon is naturally abundant in the husks of grains and other high fibre foods but is lost from foods during the refining process. 
 

Silicon – QUICK FACTS

FOOD SOURCES

·  Alfalfa, beets, brown rice, bell pepper, soybeans, leafy green vegetables, whole grains and the herb, horsetail.

DEFICIENCY SYMPTOMS

·  Growth retardation, Alzheimer’s disease, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease.

OPTIMUM DOSAGE

·  50 mg elemental silicon daily.  (Clinical doses may be higher as recommended by your practitioner.

WORKS WELL WITH

· Boron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, potassium.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

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·  Silicon has no known toxicity.

SILVER     click for products     top / select another

Colloidal silver is a natural antibiotic and disinfectant.  Colloidal refers to the suspension of the minute silver particles in pure water.  Colloidal silver has been found to kill more than 650 disease causing organisms.  It can be taken internally for gastrointestinal and respiratory infections.  Topically it can be applied to fungal infections on the skin or in the nails.  It can help prevent the infection of burns, wounds, cuts, rashes and sunburns.  It can be gargled, to kill mouth bacteria that cause bad breath or relieve mouth sores and toothaches.  It can be placed into the eye for eye infections and into the ear for ear infections (make sure the eardrum is not damaged before placing anything in the ear!).  Colloidal silver can be used to disinfect air filters, ducts and vents, kitchen tools and children’s toys.

Colloidal silver is a clear liquid.  To use colloidal silver, follow the directions on the bottle, as each manufacture will have different suggested dilutions.  Generally colloidal silver is diluted with water and applied topically, taken by mouth or used intravenously.  Colloidal silver can be kept in the fridge after opening but should not be put in the freezer.  Because it is an antibiotic it will kill the bacteria that is normally present in your intestines.  These probiotic bacteria help your body to breakdown food and produce vitamins.  It is important to replace the friendly bacteria, with a probiotic supplement, after using colloidal silver.  A general rule is to take a month of probiotic supplementation for every week of antibiotic therapy.  If you are concurrently taking a probiotic supplement and colloidal silver keep the timing of the dosing as far apart as possible.
 

Colloidal Silver – QUICK FACTS

FOOD SOURCES

· None.

DEFICIENCY SYMPTOMS

·  Fungal or bacterial infections, burns.

OPTIMUM DOSAGE

·  As directed on label. (Clinical doses may be higher as recommended by your practitioner.

WORKS WELL WITH

·  Vitamin C, colloidal copper, zinc, homeopathic remedies, probiotics.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

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·  Replenish friendly intestinal bacteria when using colloidal silver internally.

·  Do not use colloidal silver for extended periods of time.

SODIUM     click for products     top / select another

Sodium is a mineral that has a bad reputation because it is found in large quantities in the processed food that is a staple of the standard North American diet.  Sodium is high in foods like luncheon meats, hotdogs, cured meats, like ham, bacon and corned beef, condiments like ketchup, soy sauce and mustard, cheese and milk.  It has been implicated as a causative factor in high blood pressure.  This occurs because the body retains water in the blood vessels to dilute excess sodium, leading to greater blood volume and high blood pressure.  Sodium is also required, with potassium and chloride, to maintain pH balance in the body.  Electrolyte loss, including the loss of sodium, leads to sunstroke and heat exhaustion. Sodium ions are needed to transfer electrochemical impulses along nerves and in muscles.  Therefore sodium balance is important for maintaining heart function.  Those who use diuretics and fibromyalgia sufferers may benefit from moderate amounts of sodium in the diet.

Sodium can be supplemented in the diet by the use of seaweeds.  Seaweeds, such as kelp, dulse and nori, contain sodium and potassium along with many other trace minerals.  They can be found in tablet form or as dried sheets or flakes that can be directly added to foods.  Sea salt is a better source of sodium than iodized table salt because it contains a balance of other minerals.  Celtic sea salt is a variation of sea salt that is reported to have high levels of potassium and other minerals, but is relatively low in sodium.  Some claim that it can actually decrease blood pressure.  This type of salt is a good alternative for those that want the salty flavour but do not want to add much sodium to their diet.

Taking diuretics can deplete sodium and an estimated 20% of the elderly may be deficient in sodium due to diuretic use. Sodium, chloride and potassium are in balance with each other.  A high level of one of these minerals means that the other minerals are low and vice versa.  Those with cardiovascular, kidney or liver disease should carefully monitor their sodium level.

Sodium – QUICK FACTS

FOOD SOURCES

· All foods including kelp, sea salt, shellfish, carrots, beets, artichokes, kidney, bacon.

DEFICIENCY SYMPTOMS

·  Abdominal cramps, anorexia, confusion, dehydration, depression, dizziness, fatigue, flatulence, hallucinations, headache, heart palpitations, impaired taste, lethargy, hypotension, muscle weakness, nausea and vomiting, recurrent infections.

OPTIMUM DOSAGE

·  Less than 3g daily.  Seaweed supplements or sea salt added to foods. (Clinical doses may be higher as recommended by your practitioner.

WORKS WELL WITH

·  Potassium.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

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·  High sodium is a common problem and requires balancing with potassium.

·  A sodium/potassium imbalance can lead to heart disease.

·  Toxicity of sodium occurs at doses of 14g daily.

SULPHUR    click for products     top / select another

Sulphur is a mineral that is found in several of the building blocks of protein, called amino acids.  Methionine, cysteine, taurine and glutathione contain sulphur.  They assist in the breakdown of fats and prevent fatty buildup in organs and vessels.  Sulphur-containing compounds also act as antioxidants.  Antioxidants protect cells from damage and prevent the oxidation of other vitamins and nutrients.  They do this by neutralizing free radicals.  Free radicals are unstable molecules that in their bid to become more stable must bump into healthy cells and cause damage.

Free radicals contribute to cardiovascular disease by producing oxidized LDL cholesterol, which causes atherosclerotic plaques.  Thus sulphur is important for the health of the cardiovascular system.  Sulphur’s antioxidant properties also help in cancer and the side effects of cancer radiation therapy, which can result from free radicals damaging cellular genetic material.  Sulphur is believed to be an anti-aging supplement because as an antioxidant it detoxifies environmental pollutants and other substances that and lead to aging.  It also is needed for the synthesis of collagen, which makes the skin appear vital and young.

Most people’s diets contain sufficient amounts of sulphur through the intake of protein.  Organic sulphur can be supplemented in the diet by the use of amino acid complexes, methyl-sulfonyl-methane (MSM) and dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO ).  Amino acid complexes are simply protein tablets that have been pre-digested into its amino acid building blocks, making it easy for the body to take it in.  MSM is a sulphur-containing compound that is also used as an analgesic and anti-inflammatory.  It can be helpful for those individuals who require more sulphur and have inflammatory conditions like arthritis.  MSM can be purchased as capsules or powder. DMSO is a sulphur containing liquid that is used topically to heal injuries.  The sulphur compounds gain entrance to the body through the skin.  Sulphur, as DMSO or other organic compounds, is often added to creams and ointments for the healing of skin conditions and relief of joint pain. 

Moisture and heat destroy the sulphur content of foods and supplements.
 

Sulphur – QUICK FACTS

FOOD SOURCES

· Garlic and onions, brussel sprouts, dried beans, cabbage, eggs, fish, kale, meats, soybeans, turnips, wheat germ, all sources of protein.

DEFICIENCY SYMPTOMS

·  No deficiency symptoms.

OPTIMUM DOSAGE

·  Dependent on the type of sulphur used.  (Clinical doses may be higher as recommended by your practitioner.

WORKS WELL WITH

·  Vitamin B complex, antioxidants, detoxifying herbs and nutrients, lipotropic factors.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

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·  Sulphur is responsible for the flatulence and burping associated with foods such as beans and eggs.  It is also responsible for garlic and onion breath.

·  There is no known toxicity from organic sulphur (contained in foods and supplements like MSM).

TRACE MINERALS     click for products     top / select another

These minerals are needed by the body in very minute amounts.  They perform a variety of functions, mostly having to do with the exchange of materials across the cell’s membrane and the speeding up of chemical reactions in the body (enzymes).  In general most individuals are deficient in trace minerals for two reasons. 
 

The first is that our food supply is deficient in minerals. Our farms’ soils are depleted after years of farming without allowing fields to lay fallow and replenish themselves.  The second is that many people consume filtered water.  In order to remove contaminants, some of these processes also must remove the trace minerals.  Distilled and reverse osmosis water are two examples of water that have had all of their minerals removed. 

Even those who are seemingly without any signs or symptoms of mineral deficiency will most likely benefit from replenishing their minerals.  Health practitioners recommend trace mineral therapy to those individuals who drink reverse osmosis or distilled water, those with hair and nail problems, those with cardiovascular diseases, like hypertension and those with neurological or emotional problems.

Trace mineral supplements are commonly found as tablets, liquid suspensions and powders.  There is not much difference between the forms, just find the type that is most convenient for you to use.  Some people who are adding the minerals to water find it easiest to mix the liquid minerals in as soon as they open the bottle.  The source of the minerals and the quality of the processing is an important consideration when purchasing trace minerals.  Ensure that the company is testing the supplement for contaminants and chemicals because most of the minerals are sourced from water deposits. 

 

Coral calcium is a form of calcium carbonate that is naturally found in a complex with an array of trace minerals.  Two types of coral calcium exist, fossilized and marine.  Fossilized coral is farmed after it floats to the top of the ocean while marine grade is live coral that is vacuumed from the ocean floor.  There is a debate between the maker of both types as to which is better with no clear winner emerging.  One must consider the ecological effect of both processes when purchasing coral calcium.  Ensure that your supplement is tested for contaminants since the coral is farmed from the ocean.  Even after purification coral calcium contains minute amounts of heavy metals and should not be consumed by pregnant or nursing women.  It may be a good choice for you if you need to take both calcium and trace minerals.
 

Trace minerals– QUICK FACTS

FOOD SOURCES

· Vegetables, fruits, seaweeds and grains.

DEFICIENCY SYMPTOMS

·  Muscle weakness or cramps, insomnia, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, brittle nails, hair loss, tooth decay, depression.

OPTIMUM DOSAGE

·  As recommended on label. (Clinical doses may be higher as recommended by your practitioner.

WORKS WELL WITH

·  Other minerals.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

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·  Purchase a good quality supplement that has been tested for contaminants.

 

VANADIUM     click for products     top / select another

Vanadium plays a role in the metabolism of sugar for energy.  It maintains stable blood sugar levels by regulating the workings of enzymes involved in the metabolism of sugar.  Glycolysis is the process of releasing sugar from glycogen storage and gluconeogenesis is the process of building glycogen stores from blood sugar.  By regulating these processes cells have a steady supply of the fuel, glucose.  The standard North American diet is high in sugar and refined products, as well as being deficient in blood sugar stabilizing substances like fibre.  The pancreas is the main organ responsible for regulating blood sugar and it becomes worn out after many years of excessive use.  These are important reasons why the prevalence of type II diabetes is increasing and the need for vanadium supplementation is growing.  Hypoglycemic individuals suffer from the opposite problem as diabetics; their blood sugar is too low.  Vanadium supplementation also helps these individuals regulate their blood sugar.  Vanadium is needed for the formation of bones and teeth.  It is also important for growth and reproduction, a deficiency of vanadium has been linked to infertility and infant mortality.  Some studies show that vanadium reduces cholesterol levels, thus protecting an individual from developing cardiovascular disease. 

The supplementation forms of vanadium are vanadium pentoxide and vanadyl sulphate.  These are both inorganic forms of the mineral, which means that they are slightly more difficult for the body to use than organic minerals.  Unfortunately chelated vanadium supplements are not generally available.

Active individuals and athletes need more vanadium because they consume more carbohydrates than the general population.  Those with blood sugar imbalances should seek professional advice before supplementing with vanadium.  Vanadium and chromium compete for absorption and should be taken at different times.  Tobacco use decreases the uptake of vanadium.
 

Vanadium – QUICK FACTS

FOOD SOURCES

· Dill, fish, olives, meat, radishes, snap beans, vegetable oils, whole grains.

DEFICIENCY SYMPTOMS

·  Cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, infertility.

OPTIMUM DOSAGE

· 250-750 mcg daily.  (Clinical doses may be higher as recommended by your practitioner.

WORKS WELL WITH

· Chromium, vitamin B complex, bilberry, gymnema, bitter melon, fibre.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

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·  Dietary toxicity of vanadium has not been reported.

·  Diabetics and hypoglycemic individuals should take chromium under the guidance of a health professional.

ZINC     click for products     top / select another

Earl Mindell put it best in his book, Vitamin Bible, when he wrote, “Zinc acts like a traffic policeman, directing and overseeing the efficient flow of body processes (and) the maintenance of enzyme systems and cells”.  This explains why zinc is responsible for so many body functions.  Zinc concentrates in the reproductive glands where it aids in normal fetal development and sperm maturation. 

It is especially important in the prostate gland where supplemental zinc has been shown to decrease prostate inflammation.  Zinc is a regulator of the immune system ensuring that cells for identifying and killing microbes, viruses and cancerous cells are in good working order.  Zinc is a cofactor for the antioxidant system superoxide dismutase (SOD).  Antioxidants neutralize free radicals.  They are unstable molecules that in their bid to become more stable must bump into healthy cells and cause damage.  Zinc also speeds wound healing and is used for the healing of burns and surgical incisions.  Zinc is involved in the sensory organs, the eyes, nose and taste buds. 

One of the first signs of zinc deficiency can be altered taste and smell.  Zinc regulates the activity of insulin, for blood sugar control, thyroid hormone, for metabolism and the digestion of sugar and protein.  Natural health practitioners use zinc for a variety of health concerns including; acne, benign prostatic hyperplasia, colds, flus, diabetes, diaper rash, stomach ulcers, macular degeneration, impotence, osteoporosis, eczema and wound healing.       

The supplemental forms of zinc are the inorganic zinc sulphate and the organic zinc gluconate and zinc picolinate.  The chelated, organic forms of zinc, picolinate and gluconate, are easier for the body to use.  Zinc is usually found in tablet form or as lozenges, for use during colds.  Zinc is also a part of multivitamin/mineral formulas and some immune boosting and antioxidant formulas.  A special form of zinc called zinc monomethionine is used as an antioxidant.  It has antioxidant activity equivalent to that of vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene.  It is often recommended to take a copper supplement concurrently with zinc, usually in a ratio of 10-15mg of zinc to 1mg copper.   

Zinc levels are decreased by diarrhea, kidney disease, liver disease, alcoholism and diabetes.  Zinc is not absorbed when it is consumed with fibre, phytates (found in grains and legumes), hard water, calcium, copper and iron.  Zinc is lost through perspiration so supplementation may be helpful for athletes, those who live in hot climates and those who regularly use saunas or steam rooms.  Zinc is depleted by the following medications: oral contraceptives, some diuretics, ulcer medications, antiviral medication and some antibiotics.  Much of our food is deficient in zinc due to poor soil levels of the mineral.  Food processing techniques destroy zinc.
 

Zinc – QUICK FACTS

FOOD SOURCES

·  Brewer’s yeast, seaweeds, egg yolks, fish, meats, legumes, liver, mushrooms, pecans, poultry, pumpkin, seafood, soybeans, sunflower seeds, whole grains.

DEFICIENCY SYMPTOMS

·  Loss of taste and smell, thin nails, white spots on nails, acne, fatigue, hair loss, impotence, frequent colds and flus, memory impairment, prostate disorders, slow wound healing, stretch marks.

OPTIMUM DOSAGE

· 15-60mg of elemental zinc daily.  (Clinical doses may be higher as recommended by your practitioner.

WORKS WELL WITH

·  Vitamin B complex, vitamin C, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin E, calcium, phosphorus.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

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·  Do not take more than 100mg of zinc because high doses of zinc depress the immune system.

·  Zinc is not toxic until consumption reaches 2g daily.  Toxicity symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness and anaemia.

All articles copyright National Nutrition 2001-2015.  For educational purposes only.  Please note that while National Nutrition supports your right to use natural health care products for any therapeutic purpose that you see fit, that the information on this website should not be considered as a claim or as a substitute for medical advice.

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