Why Do You Need Extra Vitamins and Minerals?
I did not take vitamins for years. In the gap between young childhood when my parents made me take kid’s vitamins and my 30’s when I realized just how sick I was from nutrient deficiencies, I didn’t take them. My Dad told me I should and he was right…as with so many things!
I argued with him and said I had read that if you eat a healthy diet there is no need for supplement since we can get all we need from food. After all I thought, how did people live for millennia before the invention of supplements if we need them? This is the justification that many people use to avoid taking them but the logic does not hold up under careful scrutiny.
Do You Really Need Extra Vitamins and Minerals?
For most of us our diets and lifestyles are nothing like those of our ancestors. If you have a perfect diet, get outside in clean air, drink clean water, don’t have stress and happen to be naturally healthy you may not need them.
However, if you:
- Eat fast food,
- Eat processed, packaged food,
- Live somewhere with polluted air,
- Drink city water with chemicals added or polluted water,
- Don’t get enough exercise,
- Get too much exercise without proper nutrition to support it (no protein powder is not enough)
- Have stress in your life,
- Don’t get enough sleep,
- Eat regular produce from the store that has pesticides and herbicides,
- Eat produce that comes from commercial farms with depleted soil (most all normal produce now)
- Have genetic causes of malabsorption,
- Have autoimmune disease and other diseases that cause malabsorption,
- Just don’t eat enough fresh vegetables and fruits,
- Don’t eat meat or a balanced diet with a mix of meat, vegetables etc.,
then, you may well need supplements to get adequate micronutrients. Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals vs. macronutrients which are proteins, carbohydrates and fats.
Micronutrient Deficiency is Very Common
Even if you eat a very healthy diet you will have a high risk of micronutrient deficiency. How can a diet high in fruits and vegatables with a good mix of nutrients result in vitamin and mineral deficiencies?
The biggest problem is the relative lack in micronutrients in fresh produce now compared with that in the past. While fruit and vegatables are supposed to have dense mix of minerals and vitamins, those levels are declining rapidly. This is a result of industrial agriculture. If the same crops are grown year after year after year, it makes sense that the nutrients in the soil will get depleted. This is one reason organically grown produce can be healthier option. Organic farming does not rely on the application of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Chemical fertilizers do not contain the mix of nutrients found in rich soil. If natural farming practices are used, the soil is replenished, crop rotation is practiced and soil is kept rich. Of course organically grown produce can also be very expensive.
How Many People Have Micronutrient Deficiency?
While Western diets often offer an overabundance of calories, many of them don’t offer enough vitamins and minerals.
The majority of American for example have deficiencies in magnesium and potassium. Many have deficiencies in B vitamins and especially in northern latitudes with low sunlight, they have deficiency of Vitamin D. Of course the numbers depend on the definition of deficiency and that can vary. The USDA levels for micro-nutrients are ridiculously low by some estimates and certainly low for some populations who need more. I believe they are enough to keep you alive but not healthy in today’s environment.
Even a Diet of Organic Produce Might Not Be Enough
Many people cannot afford to buy all organic produce. Even if they could, it may not be enough. There are other causes of nutrient deficiency. Some are even genetic mutations that result in low absorption of certain vitamins or minerals. Pollution, treated water, and stress are also very common reasons why we need additional nutrients. Some minerals like magnesium are used by the body to deal with stress. This could be mental stress or physical stress from illness or injury. So, even with a great diet and no genetic reasons for nutrient deficiency, you will likely need micronutrients like I did.
What I Needed
It was a car accident that triggered a domino effect of problems for me. I needed magnesium, Vitamin D, B vitamins, potassium and zinc. Many or all of these deficiencies may have existed before, but that was the event that set off the domino effect of stress, sprained muscles, inflammation and fatigue as well as light headedness and difficulty thinking. I have never fully recovered but I am making progress and finally finding solutions. Instead of ending up in a wheelchair and losing my job I am still working, walking and this is absolutely unbelievable to me; we live on the third floor of our new building! Stairs were the worst thing for me for years since the accident so the fact that I can live on a third floor now is amazing!
I now take magnesium glycinate, Vitamin D, B complex, zinc, niacin, full-spectrum Vitamin K and more. I can tell if I stop taking them. I end up with a host of pains and problems quite quickly. Everyone won’t need as many supplements as I do but some people are prone to nutrient deficiencies and it can cause many serious health problems. You will probably not know that is a cause however if you don’t know about micronutrients. Your regular doctor might tell you if you are extremely low in Vit D but the others are not usually tested for. Even the normal range for Vit D is quite low and you may already suffer from the effects of deficiency and be in this “normal” range.
Even Stress can Cause a Deficiency
One micronutrient that is affected by stress is magnesium. Magnesium helps the body deal with stress. This was ok in the cave man days when stress was occasional. When the bear was chasing you or you were hunting, stress to keep you on your toes was necessary. Nowadays people are stressed all the time however. They end up feeling stressed constantly. This long term stress is damaging to our bodies. When we are stressed (from physical injury, illness or from mental stress) our body tries to deal with it by producing extra hormones such as cortisol, the “fight or flight” hormone. Cortisol is the hormone that is responsible (partially) for developing belly fat since it affects our metabolism and makes the body store calories as fat.
If cortisol is produced all the time, the adrenal glands which produce it can wear out. At first you might have too much of it and eventually when it really wears out there may not be enough. Having stressed adrenal glands can make you store belly fat but it can also have many other painful side effects. It can cause lower back pain! I had no idea of this but I suffered from it for years! It wasn’t until my Naturopathic doctor gave me a supplement for night sweats (another symptom of adrenal fatigue) that my back pain was suddenly cured! I did not even know they could be related but I told her it was suddenly better after taking the pills and she told me adrenal fatigue can cause it! Having high cortisol levels can make it hard to go to sleep at night and then make you feel exhausted the next morning since you didn’t get enough (or good enough) sleep. It can make you have bad dreams or dreams that seem so real they keep you from getting restful sleep because your mind is racing all night.
Adrenal Fatigue Due to Chronic Stress
If you have symptoms of fatigue, brain fog, low back pain for no apparent reason, night sweats, muscle aches or have trouble getting to sleep at night, you might want to check out this amazingly complete explanation of adrenal fatigue, it’s causes and treatments by Dr. Lam. Dr. Lam is a pioneer in Adrenal Fatigue and I really recommend this site: Fundamentals of Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome
He explains how adrenal function is linked with other hormones and conditions such as thyroid problems and hormone imbalance. Adrenal fatigue can cause progesterone to not be absorbed and therefore result in problems like estrogen dominance for women. This is what I had and caused the night sweats, terribly itchy skin due to nerve issues and other problems. I will share a post later about my experience with adrenal fatigue and the wonderful supplement that helped me so much! It is not listed in Dr. Lam’s article above but it worked wonders for me.
Magnesium Helps With Stress, Heart Disease and More
These are just a few of the symptoms of adrenal disorders caused by chronic stress! Magnesium helps the body deal with stress. The more stress you are under the more magnesium you need. The same goes for chronic illness. If you have a chronic illness you most likely need additional magnesium. A blood test at the regular doctor’s office won’t show this however. Magnesium is so important that your body will leach it out of your bones and organs to keep your heart pumping! Calcium makes muscles including the heart contract and magnesium allows them to relax. Without both in balance, heart disease such as arrhythmia can occur. My Dad had to take nitroglycerine pills for heart arrhythmia before he started taking magnesium at my urging. When he told the heart doctors he was taking it they said it should help! I wonder why they don’t volunteer that information? There are different forms of magnesium and I will go over those forms and which ones work best for different conditions and concerns.
Genetics Can Cause Nutrient Deficiency as Well!
If you eat a healthy diet, get exercise, plenty of sleep, drink filtered water and everything else you could STILL have deficiencies. It doesn’t seem fair but there are even genetic mutations that can cause deficiencies in micronutrients such as the minerals zinc and magnesium. I plan on getting tested for those mutations soon. There really is no way to be sure you don’t have any deficiencies without extensive testing (which can be expensive and difficult to obtain). In many cases a good doctor can recommend supplements you can try and see if they make you feel better! Most of them are very safe so you can try them out and see what works for you. They are almost always safer than prescription drugs which have many, many side effects. In my experience these supplement are extremely effective also.
Find a Good Doctor or Naturopathic Doctor
I am not a doctor. I am not offering any medical advice. Please find a good, open-minded doctor or doctor of Naturopathic Medicine to advise you before starting any supplements or treatments. There are 16 states in which Naturopathic Doctors are licensed. In these states, their services are covered the same as any medical doctor. Therefore, regular health insurance will pay for them. I am lucky to live in one of those states so I don’t have to worry about coverage. They can order blood tests and other tests the same as any other doctor. They can order more specialized tests that won’t normally be done and these can identify many problems. Naturopathic doctors started me off on the road to finding solutions after the regular doctors and specialists told me there were no cures.
What is Coming Next
Stay tuned for upcoming posts on magnesium, Vit D, zinc, potassium and many more! These basic micronutrients can prevent and help treat diabetes, heart disease, depression, pain, inflammation and a massive list of hundreds of problems! They are safe, effective and don’t require a prescription and I will share these all with you! That is my answer to why you need extra vitamins and minerals!
Please leave a comment or question! I would love to hear your stories and thoughts!