Minerals and Hormones: What are we missing?
Minerals are to the body as spark plugs are to a car – they are necessary to make the engine run. The human body doesn’t have an engine, per se, but each cell manufactures energy, similar to an engine. Unless, of course, minerals and other nutrients are missing, at which point energy cannot be produced. When energy isn’t produced, hormones can’t be made, or balanced, either. So the interrelationship between minerals and hormones is pretty important to all of us.
Energy production is what keeps us alive. Without energy, there is no life.
This is one of the reasons that the number one goal of the body at all times is balance. Balance, or homeostasis if you like scientific terminology, provides the best internal environment for energy production. One important objective of homeostasis is to assure there are enough minerals getting into the cells so that all of the systems of the body, including the endocrine system that produces hormones, have enough energy to function efficiently and effectively.
Homeostasis is the main goal of the body.
The mechanisms the body uses to keep itself balanced are pretty amazing. As an example, let’s say you’re going through a nasty divorce. As a result, your stress level has been through the roof for months. While you’re stressed, you are burning through vitamins and minerals at a faster than usual rate. Metabolism increases. Heart rate increases. Certain functions of the body deemed unnecessary for survival at the moment are slowed or shut down. If this continues, you’re going to burn out, meaning your body will no longer have the tools necessary to support energy. But your body doesn’t want to burn out because that would mean you’re a step closer to not surviving! Kind of a morbid thought, right? So what happens? As noted above, certain body functions slow down to conserve energy while nutrients from other parts of the body come to the rescue to compensate in an attempt to generate energy. Vitamins and minerals are pulled from tissues like bone and muscle, including the brain and the heart, and sent to the blood because nutrient levels in the blood must stay pretty stable for survival. The problem, of course, is that once the tissues become depleted of these nutrients, they become impaired (think osteoporosis!)
It’s true that the human body is pretty awesome. There’s no doubt that it can be easy to take its functions for granted. But maintaining homeostasis is not as simple as it may sometimes appear. It’s so important to understand that everything you put into your body literally has an effect on everything else. For instance, I may suggest to that very stressed-out, divorced person above that extra Vitamin C will help her adrenal glands (the glands that make stress hormones) function at their best and therefore ease the negative consequences of the excess stress. That’s a great recommendation, right? I mean, I’m helping her stay strong and maintain balance. Or … am I??
All nutrients interact with and affect each other.
With this single recommendation, I am not considering the fact that vitamin C increases iron absorption while actually reducing copper retention – both very important trace minerals when it comes to a healthy functioning body. This means that although there may be plenty of vitamin C available to help with stress, this woman may end up with too much iron (not good) and too little copper. Since copper interrelates with the estrogen-progesterone balance, now a whole new imbalance may have been created! Certainly not what I meant to do. The bottom line is, because of the interactivity within the body, it is literally impossible to make a recommendation involving diet or supplementation without affecting levels of trace minerals and therefore hormone balance.
That was just a small example of how trace minerals and micronutrients can affect hormones. Only very small doses are necessary so you can imagine that even small ups and downs can have very significant effects on our functioning. These minerals aren’t made by your body, so they must come from diet and supplements. They interact with and affect the absorption of all other nutrients so it’s critical to have enough of them! Minerals not only help produce hormones, they also build living tissue, turn food into energy and make up part of all enzymes. Even a small deficiency or imbalance can cause a wide range of health issues, many of which end up being treated with pharmaceuticals when, in fact, merely balancing the minerals would eliminate the problem.
Minerals and Hormones: Reasons why you could have a mineral deficiency or imbalance that is contributing to hormone problems:
- Poor diet. A “poor” diet speaks for itself but the fact is that even a healthy diet often lacks optimum levels of minerals due to poor soil quality and overcooking!
- Stress. Can’t we all relate to this one? Stress depletes zinc and B-vitamins (among others!) and also makes it hard for us to absorb minerals.
- Medications. Pharmaceuticals can be referred to as “nutrient robbers” because they tend to do just that – rob the body of essential nutrients. Remember, the job of medication is to “block” certain functions of the body (think acid blocking meds for reflux or statins that block cholesterol production). As a result, minerals are also blocked and normal homeostasis can’t happen. Drugs can also increase levels of heavy metals inside the body which affect the balance of the healthy minerals.
- Pollution and chemicals in household/personal care products. These are physical stressors to the body requiring detoxification and elimination, which, in turn, requires the necessary minerals.
- Nutritional supplementation. The best of intentions can sometimes lead to the exact opposite of what you’re trying to achieve! Here’s an example from my own personal experience: Many years back prior to my career in natural health, my husband tested low in Vitamin D so he began a regimen of 5,000 daily IU’s of supplemental Vitamin D3. After a week or two on that regimen, he began to have heart palpitations. At first, we were very concerned (he has a congenital heart defect, so that’s where our minds went!) After a trip to the doctor to find out all was “normal” and a bunch of research by yours truly, we determined that boosting his Vitamin D levels actually exposed an underlying magnesium deficiency! Vitamin D and magnesium affect each other in a big way. Thankfully this was easily corrected with temporary magnesium supplementation.
How you can avoid unintended hormone (or any) imbalance
- Stick to a diet of whole, real foods.
- When possible, use supplements made with whole foods. That way you will take in the whole spectrum of interrelated nutrients.
- To correct imbalances that have been going on for a long time, a healthy diet and general multi-vitamin supplementation is probably not enough for the reasons listed above. Still, you don’t have to suffer. Consider finding out about your specific biochemistry; the mineral levels present in YOUR specific tissue. You can do this with a non-invasive lab test called Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis.
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