Farmers give their horses selenium when it’s needed. Midwives prescribe folate and iodine to pregnant women. Premature babies are given nutrient supplements. It is strangely, and wrongly, assumed, that everyone else can get all they need from their daily food.
Many people say “But I eat a really good diet, why would I be low in some nutrients?”
Put aside the simple fact that some people think a good diet is living on coffee all day until you hit the sugar wall at 3pm and crumble into a heap of chocolate biscuits. You’re probably not that person if you’re reading this, but still, one person’s idea of ‘good’ is very different from another’s.
Most of you will already know that sugary foods and foods with highly refined carbohydrates usually take more from the body than they give, in terms of nutrients. But even if you do eat a ‘good’ diet, there is still every chance you could be a little out of balance in the nutrient department. A little, or a lot?
Here are some really important considerations, and reasons why you may be low in some essential vitamins and minerals.
What is a “vitamin”? It’s a vital amine. Yes, vital. Scientists don’t use that word lightly. Vital means we need it. Most vitamins we don’t produce in our bodies, and rely on our food intake to supply, and yet they are vital, ie. essential, for our bodies to function. Not just a nice extra, VITAL.
Where does your food come from? Many vitamins rapidly degrade in food after food is harvested. The longer its been sitting around, the less nutritious it’s likely to be. The more food miles, the less goodies. Vitamin C is a prime example, degrading rapidly once food is picked from the tree. It seems that once upon a time we evolved eating fresh food as we found it, not storing it for long periods. Perhaps because of this, we are one of the only animals that doesn’t synthesise it within our bodies. Others in our non-vitamin-c-making club are: teleost fishes, anthropoid primates, guinea pigs, as well as some bat and Passeriformes bird species. The importance of Vitamin C cannot be overstated. We need relatively large quantities of it as a daily anti-oxidant and for the formation of collagen, an essential part of our tissues. But if you’re not eating much in the way of fresh food, or if that ‘fresh’ food ain’t so fresh, chances are you could be a little bit low in this essential nutrient.
What kind of soil was your food grown in? Modern farming practices have caused a depletion of nutrients even at the level of the soil. If it ain’t in the soil in the first place, a plant can’t magic it up. Just as if it isn’t in our food, our bodies can’t magic it up! Vital.
Do you cook your food? While some nutrients are liberated by cooking (such as lycopene from tomatoes), many more are destroyed or diminished by cooking. Vitamin C is especially vulnerable to heat, and some of the B group vitamins also. Increasing your intake of raw foods can help this enormously.
Are you taking any medication? Some medications can cause depletions in nutrients. In fact, many can. Commonly prescribed medications like omeprazole for example, a reflux medication, when taken long term can create deficiencies in magnesium and vitamin B12. Diuretics can cause increased excretion of nutrients in the urine and therefore lower levels of potassium, magnesium, zinc and B vitamins are available to the body.
Is your digestive function optimal? If you have any bloating, reflux, constipation, indigestion or diarrhoea, your digestion and absorption of nutrients may be impaired. Food sensitivities can also reduce nutrient absorption, for example an reaction to dairy foods can reduce iron absorption.
Do you drink coffee? Coffee acts as a diuretic in the body and can increase nutrient loss. Minerals such as calcium are especially vulnerable to caffeine-related loss.
Do you drink alcohol? Although the secret to anything in life is moderation, our idea of ‘moderate’ drinking is radically different now than it was for our grandparents and great-grandparents. Alcohol can deplete our B vitamins, magnesium, zinc, and tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid (from protein) that is necessary for the production of seratonin (happy hormone) and melatonin (sleep hormone). Too much alcohol can also affect our absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A,D,E and K), and our pancreatic function. If our pancreas isn’t working well, it’s harder for us to break down foods for digestion and absorption.
Do you drive in traffic?
…work in an office?
…live in the city?
…have amalgam fillings in your teeth?
…have any specific health conditions?
…do lots of exercise?
Have you suffered from significant stress?
Okay so I could go on! Perhaps by now you may have answered yes to a few of these questions. The point of course is that we are all vulnerable, in our modern world, our modern society, our modern life, to nutrient imbalances. We have never had so much food available to us and yet still our ‘nourishment’ is often far from optimal, for all the reasons I have touched on above, and for so many more. A thorough assessment of your nutrient levels is beneficial not only to improve your health now, but to prevent the development of health problems later. Prevention, we all know, is always, always, always better than cure.