Micronutrients: Vitamins, Minerals, and more
It has become clear that vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients are required for health and wellness, and are needed at higher levels than those listed as RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) for the prevention of diseases.
It is possible (though rare) to achieve optimal micronutrient status through diet (food) alone. Hippocrates said over 2000 years ago, “leave your drugs in the chemist’s pot if you can heal the patient with food”. I do believe we will achieve the best health by avoiding toxins (pesticides, herbicides, GMO food, for some- wheat or gluten, etc.) and by getting as many of our nutrients from our diet, with lots of colorful fruits and vegetables, seeds, nuts, and legumes.
If possible, eat organic fresh food (or frozen, not canned, if fresh is not available), and drink and cook with filtered water. You either get adequate sunshine, or you need to take a vitamin D supplement. If you don’t have access to lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, you likely would benefit by taking some nutritional supplements.
How do we now if we are getting all the vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients we need? Is your life, or that of your child, filled with hope, energy and enthusiasm?
The absence of illness or disease is just one clue, but too often the results of poor nutrients may show up decades later in the form of heart disease, cancer, neurodegenerative disorders, autoimmune disorders or just plain fatigue, low energy, or less than optimal brain function. Don’t get me wrong here, bad things happen to good people, and if you, or your child, are suffering from less than perfect health, it may not be anything you had control over. We do have control over our nutrition and micronutrients if we get the information we need.
Should you get your child’s vitamin and micronutrient status tested and which tests should you do?
This is the key question. If you don’t look, you won’t know. Until I had my vitamin D level tested, I was unaware that I was walking around and feeling fine with a very deficient status for vitamin D. I have seen healthy athletes in their prime fracture their femurs while running or jumping, only then to find out they had a vitamin D level in single digits (normal is 30–100).
For some nutrients, a blood test to determine the level in the blood or serum is a good measure of your body status. This seems to be true for vitamin D. For many nutrients, the level in the blood has little correlation with the level inside the cells. How do you determine if there is enough of a nutrient inside the cells? Some labs do analysis of nutrients inside the red blood cells. These are expensive but likely a huge improvement on blood levels.
I also use a lab, Spectracell, that does a functional test to see if your cells (white blood cells) grow in the absence of a given nutrient. If your cells grow and divide normally without the added nutrient, we can assume that there is enough of that nutrient inside the cell.
In addition to micronutrient testing, are there other key health issues related to our diet and what we eat?
YES: I have seen more and more disease and suffering (eczema, asthma, allergies, autoimmune issues, intestinal issues) triggered by food sensitivities. This is not a topic of this series on micronutrients, but you should consider getting a food sensitivity panel done (IGG) and remove those foods that your body is mounting an immune response against.
Avoiding foods that are harmful to you, getting your nutrients from organic whole foods, and taking those supplements that may be needed will go a long way in optimizing your health. Add in exercise, reduce stress, drink lots of filtered water, and surround yourself with nurturing friends and family.
If you cannot afford buying organic, continue to focus on whole foods with an emphasis on fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts and whole grains. Take vitamin D, and if you are not getting a good variety of fruits and vegetables (several servings a day) consider a quality multivitamin. During pregnancy, your prenatal vitamins should have folinic acid (methyl-folate), methyl-B12, and iodine.
What follows will be a brief summary on each of the major micronutrients listing:
– Where in the body this nutrient is needed and how it works.
– Symptoms of deficiency.
– Food sources for this nutrient.
– Safety or toxicity issues.
– Other Information if relevant.