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Avoiding Mineral Deficiencies


Minerals are substances that your body needs to function well. There are two types of mineral nutrients that your body needs: macrominerals like calcium and potassium, which your body needs in relative large quantities and microminerals like iron and selenium which your body needs only in miniscule amounts.
Minerals can be easily obtained from food sources and you need not take supplements to supply your body’s daily needs. Poor food choices, an unhealthy lifestyle and special circumstances may result in mineral deficiencies. Unlike vitamin deficiencies, mineral deficiencies may lead to serious health problems, and must be remedied upon the advice of a health professional.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified some major mineral deficiencies that threaten most parts of the world. These include:

Iodine deficiency

Iodine is essential for the production of a thyroid hormone that controls metabolism. Low levels of this hormone (thyroxine) can lead to visible goiter and cretinism, a condition characterized by severe brain damage occurring in very early life. Iodine deficiency in younger children can cause mental impairment leading to poor school performance, reduced intellectual ability and impaired work capacity. Other health problems resulting from iodine deficiency include fatigue, overweight, and low sex drive. Iodine deficiency is characterized by dry hair and skin. Food sources of iodine include sea vegetables, kelp, sea salt, herring , seafood, cod-liver oil, and vegetables grown in iodine-rich soil.

Iron deficiency

SpinachIron is important for every tissue in your body. Iron in your red blood cells is responsible for carrying oxygen to other parts of your body. Without iron, your muscles will lose strength and your brain can become less focused. Adequate iron intake is vital for women's health. Women are more likely to suffer from iron deficiency than men because of the physical nature of women and their diet styles. Iron levels of women may be depleted as a result of menstruation, pregnancy and childbirth. Chronic dieters and those who consume low-calorie diets tend to avoid iron-rich meat and eggs and may suffer from iron deficiency. Symptoms of iron deficiency include pallor, fatigue, forgetfulness, depression and shortness of breath. Rich sources of iron are meat, eggs, leafy greens, silverbeet, kelp, dried beans, enriched cereals and whole grains, pumpkin and sesame seeds and black strap molasses. Cooking in iron pots may also provide small amounts of iron in your diet.

Calcium deficiency

Calcium is important for bone health, blood clotting, cell division, muscle contraction and maintenance of tone, brain function, and hormonal balance. Calcium also has a natural sedative effect and can lower blood pressure in some individuals. Inadequate levels of calcium can lead to brittle bones, osteoporosis, painful muscle contractions, tremors, convulsions, heart palpitations, backaches, bone pain, insomnia, numbness and menstrual cramps.

Calcium deficiency may be the result of low calorie diets, excessive consumption of high-fat, high-protein and high-sodium foods, smoking, caffeine, as well as excess fibre from grains and bran. Your body does not manufacture calcium so that this mineral must be obtained from your diet or from supplements. Foods that are high in calcium include: yogurt, sardines, sesame seeds, milk, cheese, salmon, oysters, garbanzo beans, almonds, broccoli, kale and orange.

Other mineral deficiencies that are also widespread among women include zinc and magnesium deficiencies. Most mineral deficiencies may improve by making dietary improvements. Those who suffer from serious mineral deficiencies should first seek medical advice before taking mineral supplements as mega doses of minerals may have toxic effects.

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