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When it comes to fighting chronic disease, the balance of nutrients and minerals that are present in our system can play a huge part. By definition, they are all necessary for our individual health, but they become particularly important when our bodies are fighting long-term illness. They serve a variety of different purposes in areas all over our bodies and their internal systems. A deficiency in any one of these will have a knock-on effect for the rest. But exactly what do trace minerals do for your body? And how can they aid in the fight against chronic disorders?
What Are Trace Elements and Minerals?
Before we look at how minerals can help fight chronic disease, let’s define what minerals and trace elements are. They are necessary in preserving our overall health; our body keeps stores of them to assist in many different tasks it engages in on a daily basis. Minerals are stored in our bodies with a quantity of 50 mg per kilogram of bodyweight or above. They include elements such as magnesium, calcium, potassium and chloride. Trace elements include zinc, copper and many others; they are required in much smaller amounts than minerals and have lower body storage capacity (<50 mg per kilogram of bodyweight). The only exception is iron, which counts as a trace element despite its body storage of 60 mg per kilogram.
In 1981, Earl Frieden proposed a classification system for trace elements, which ranked them into three groups: essential, probable essential, and physically promotive (non-essential). He thought the essential trace elements, considered crucial for normative development and growth, should be composed of boron, cobalt, copper, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum and zinc.
What Do Trace Elements Do For Your Body?
Trace elements provide a number of important functions in the human body. Deficiencies in any one can prove problematic – sometimes even fatal. Copper allows many critical enzymes to function at their full capacity, but a rapid overdose of copper can cause nausea, vomiting and sweating. When copper is excessively acquired over a long period of time, it can cause cirrhosis, hepatitis and azotaemia. A deficiency in copper, especially during growth stages, will result in many serious conditions such as anaemia, defective keratinisation and pigmentation of hair, hypothermia, mental retardation and defects in the askeletal system.
Iron is another crucial trace element that most people know is necessary for a healthy body. It is vital to the proper functioning of haemoglobin, a protein used to transport oxygen from the blood. It also plays a role in a number of other important processes in the body. A common symptom of iron deficiency is anaemia, a condition where the red blood cells are compromised and unable to carry enough oxygen to the body’s tissue. Over a long period of time, iron deficiency can be fatal, as it can lead to heart failure. On the other hand, prolonged accumulation of iron in the body can lead to diabetes, arthritis and hepatic failure.
A final example of a critical trace element is zinc. Broadly, zinc helps the immune system fight off invading pathogens and aids the body in constructing proteins and DNA. It is especially important during pregnancy, infancy and childhood, as it helps promote healthy growth and development. Zinc deficiency can cause loss of appetite, growth retardation, impotence and impaired immune function. High levels of zinc can potentially cause kidney and stomach damage, as well as decreased immune function.
What Do Minerals Do For Your Body?
The function of minerals is less specific than trace elements, but no less important. Calcium is necessary for the healthy development and maintenance of bones and teeth, regulating blood pressure and blood clotting. A deficiency of calcium can cause nerve spasms, muscle and abdominal cramps and extreme fatigue. Potassium is required for proper fluid balance and muscle contraction; a deficiency of this mineral can result in weakness, fatigue, heart palpitations, breathing difficulties, muscle aches and spasms, among other things. As a final example, magnesium is required for constructing protein, nerve transmission and immune system maintenance. Magnesium deficiency can result in muscle cramps and twitches, mental disorders, osteoporosis, fatigue and high blood pressure.
The Importance Of Maintaining Healthy Levels Of Minerals And Trace Elements
Just by touching on the above examples, you can see how crucial minerals and trace elements are to a healthy body. They become even more important when you’re fighting a chronic disease. Usually, the body can absorb all the elements it needs from a healthy and balanced diet. But any disease that has a detrimental effect on the body’s metabolism will result in mineral and trace element imbalance. This is important to correct, as many studies correlate the importance between these levels and a quicker recovery.
However, more research needs to be done in this field to link the exact effects of a particular mineral or trace element deficiency with a particular disease. It is a very complex subject, but one that makes logical sense on a base level. Many chronic diseases impair the immune system, which in turn has a detrimental effect on recovery. Many minerals and trace elements help to bolster the immune system, and therefore can be a key component in fighting back against long-term disorders.
The Role of Supplements
Nutritional intervention is an important component of treatment for many chronic issues, but if your diet is insufficient, you can utilise supplements to make sure you’re getting the minerals you require. Choosing the right supplement can be a difficult task, however; many different brands and variations line the shelves in 2020. Ideally, you should be looking for the most natural, most bioavailable supplements you can find. This reduces the risk of contamination and means that your body will be able to absorb the very best out of the supplement.