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This section contains the most important minerals required for good health.

It is even more important than normal to maintain as good a health as possible when suffering from a long-term illness to give the best chance of recovery.

The best way to ensure that the body receives the correct nutritional requirements is to eat a healthy balanced diet.

However, if the list of deficiency symptoms seems to point accurately to a problem or if you have a reason for a deficiency then supplementation may be relevant.

Sufferers of long-term illnesses such as chronic fatigue syndrome are often tempted to take vitamin and mineral supplements to excess.

Toxicity problems may occur with some supplements if taken to excess.

Further information is given under the headings:

Sources - given from best to reasonable concentrations

Deficiency - possible symptoms

Toxicity - possible symptoms



Calcium plays an important role in muscle contraction and nerve transmission.

It can help provide energy by breaking down fats.

It can have a subtle calming and tranquilizing effect, as it is necessary for maintaining a regular heartbeat.

Additional Information
It is important for the maintenance of electrolyte balance, regulation of cell division, hormone secretion, formation and maintenance of bones, tissue maintenance, the development of teeth and healthy gums, proper cell membrane permeability and blood clotting.

It can help lower cholesterol, help muscular growth and help to keep the skin healthy.

Calcium has been found to help combat irritability in women suffering premenstrual symptoms, though it is best absorbed in small amounts at a time.

Leafy green vegetables, kelp, molasses, fish with bones, yoghurt, cheeses (gruyere, mozzarella and cheddar), milk, sesame seeds and green beans.

Deficiency can cause nervousness, numbness in the arms and legs, heart palpitations, aching joints, muscle cramps, eczema, elevated blood cholesterol, insomnia, irritability, brittle nails and hypertension (high blood pressure).

Deficiency can even cause convulsions, depression and delusions.

Prolonged deficiency results in rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis.

Long-term excess calcium can cause kidney stones.



Chromium is needed for healthy muscle function and the processing of glucose.

Additional Information
It is important for the effectiveness of insulin and certain enzymes, synthesis of fats, protein and carbohydrates and may assist in preventing coronary artery disease.

If you have sugar cravings you might benefit from a chromium supplement.

Chromium picolinate is the most easily absorbed form whereas chromium chloride is mostly un-absorbable.

Cheese, eggs, cereals*, whole grains, molasses, beef, peas, beans, lettuce, tomatoes and onions.

True brewer’s yeast remains the best source of chromium.

*A large amount is lost in cereals through refining.

Deficiency may lead to anxiety, fatigue, glucose intolerance (particularly in people with diabetes), inadequate metabolism of amino acids and an increased risk of arteriosclerosis.

Natural chromium levels decline with age.

Does not tend to be a problem as it is hard to absorb and easily lost in the urine.

An excess taken over prolonged periods may cause dermatitis, gastrointestinal ulcers as well as liver & kidney damage.

If you are diabetic do not supplement with chromium as it can make your blood sugar levels drop.

Some people taking a chromium supplement have reported a skin rash and light-headedness. If this occurs then stop supplementation and consult your medical practitioner.



Copper is necessary for the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is used for energy transfer at an intra-cellular level.

It is also necessary for the manufacture of the neurotransmitter, noradrenaline.

Additional Information
It is needed for the formation of haemoglobin, red blood cells, pigment, absorption and processing of iron, various hormone productions, bone health and the production of elastin and collagen (making it necessary for wound healing).

Liver, oysters, molasses, chard, spinach, sesame seeds, kale, asparagus, cashew nuts, tomatoes, sunflower seeds and green beans.

Note that water from copper pipes and foods cooked in copper cooking vessels are also likely to contain increased levels of copper in them.

If copper is deficient in the body then iron is also normally in short supply, leading to anaemia as well as an increased likelihood of infections, osteoporosis, thinning of the bones, thyroid gland dysfunction, heart disease and nervous system problems.

A lack of copper may also lead to increased blood fat levels.

Absorption of large amounts of vitamin C and zinc can negatively influence the level of copper in the body.

An excess may cause fatigue, irritability, depression, loss of concentration, nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting, liver damage and discoloration of the skin and hair.



Germanium is a mineral found in small quantities in most of the food that we eat.

At the moment there is considerable ignorance about Germanium's role in the body.

Proponents of the mineral claim that compounds containing germanium may have certain therapeutic properties useful in treating neuralgia and chronic fatigue. They also claim that it stimulates the body's production of interferon, which helps the immune system by boosting the activity of natural killer cells (a type of white blood cell), which attack invading germs.
Available scientific evidence does not support these claims.

How essential germanium is as a mineral to the body has yet to be established and therefore there is little known about what, if any, disorders would arise from a Germanium deficiency.

Although some germanium compounds are known to be highly toxic, the germanium-yeast products used in nutritional supplements are less toxic and are more readily metabolized by the human body.

Excess amounts may cause anaemia, poor appetite, weight loss, nausea, vomiting, tiredness, muscle weakness, skin rashes, numbness in the hands & feet due to nerve damage and kidney damage or failure.


Iodine is used to make the hormone thyroxin, which regulates the conversion of fat to energy.

Additional Information
Iodine is important for bone formation and maintenance of healthy skin, nails, hair and teeth.

Kelp, sea salt, seafood, sea fish, eggs, yoghurt, milk and asparagus.

A deficiency is unusual, but when it does occur the thyroid gland enlarges (a condition known as goitre) to try and extract more iodine from the blood.
If the deficiency continues there may be constipation, obesity, weakness, mental slowness and mental problems.

Note that eating large amounts of raw cabbage, peaches, pears, spinach or brussels sprouts may block iodine absorption.

Toxicity is not very likely, but too much iodine can also cause goitre with acne or skin rashes.



Iron is important for formation of haemoglobin in the blood and myoglobin in the muscles, which supply oxygen to cells.

It is also important for a healthy immune system and for the synthesis of the neurotransmitters norepinephrin, dopamine and serotonin.

Additional Information
It is needed for the oxygenation of red blood cells and normal brain development and the synthesis of collagen.

Iron that is found in meat, fish, poultry and organ meats is readily absorbed into the body.
Leafy green vegetables, kelp, molasses, beans, cereals, fruits and whole and enriched grains are also good sources, but absorption is more influenced by other dietary factors.

Deficiency can cause fatigue, poor stamina, intestinal bleeding, excessive menstrual bleeding, nervousness, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, brittle hair and spoon shaped nails with ridges running lengthwise. Production of stomach acid can also be reduced, causing digestive problems.

Severe iron deficiency can cause anaemia.

Vegetarians tend to be more at risk of deficiency than their non-vegetarian counterparts and iron lost in menstrual blood may make deficiency even more likely.

Spinach, chard, tea, coffee, soy and some pulses contain oxalic acid, which may affect absorption and diuretics such as caffeine and alcohol will cause more iron to be lost.

An excess of iron content in the body may cause liver and heart damage, diabetes and skin changes.

Iron supplements are the leading cause of death in children - so keep the supplements out of the reach of children as a fatal dose for children could be as little as 600 milligrams.



Although magnesium deficiency is considered to be uncommon, those with chronic fatigue syndrome are more likely to suffer a deficiency as it is depleted by stress. 

Magnesium is essential for life and plays a role in much cell level activity.

It is used to relax the muscles, assists with the production of energy and helps control blood pressure.

It is important for nerve function and muscle tone of the heart.

It can help prevent depression, dizziness and muscle twitching.

Additional Information
It is important for the formation of bones and teeth, absorption of calcium and potassium, widening of the blood vessels, synthesis of proteins and nucleic acids, electrical stability of cells and the maintenance of membrane integrity.

The best in each category are listed first.
Nuts - brazil, almonds, cashew, pine, peanuts and hazelnuts. 
Fish - halibut, pollock, tuna and haddock.
Beans  - white, black, soy and lima beans.
General foods - bran, quinoa, spinach, okra, brown rice and wholegrains (bread or cereal).

Foods that have been processed or refined are often poor sources of magnesium.

Hard water may also supply some magnesium.

Magnesium can be given in the form of intramuscular injections.

When taking magnesium supplements calcium should also be taken at the ratio of roughly two calcium to every one magnesium. Imbalances of the two minerals can reduce their beneficial effects. This is even more effective if the two minerals are taken two or three hours apart.

Deficiency can cause irritability, anxiety, confusion, cold hands and feet, depression, insomnia, muscle twitches, rapid heartbeat, hypertension, fatigue, poor memory, and painful periods.

Stress can increase the likelihood of deficiency.

Toxicity only tends to be a problem amongst people with kidney or heart problems taking high doses.



Manganese is important for normal nerve function and it may be able to help neutralise free radicals.

It is thought to be important for brain functioning.

Additional Information
It is important for bone growth and development, sex hormone production and cell function.

It may also be important in stimulating growth of connective tissue.

Lettuce, spinach, pineapple, raspberries, chard, kale, maple syrup, molasses, grapes, strawberries, whole grains, green beans, brown rice, leeks, tofu and broccoli, nuts, avocados and eggs.

Manganese is not easily absorbed, but as small amounts are needed, deficiencies are rare.

Deficiency can cause problems with blood glucose levels.

Large amounts of calcium, phosphorous, zinc, cobalt and soy protein can partially block the absorption of manganese.

Toxicity through diet is highly unlikely.

Long-term extreme amounts have been known to cause a condition known as 'manganese madness'.



Molybdenum is needed for normal cell function and assists in the breaking down of any sulphite toxin build-up in the body.

Additional Information
It is needed for nitrogen metabolism, production of certain genetic material and proteins, assists the body by fighting the nitrosamines, which are associated with cancer and may help to prevent anaemia.

Beans, peas, oats, bran, liver, grains, pasta and brown rice.

Deficiency may cause abnormal excretion of sulphur metabolites and low uric acid concentrations.

Excess doses of more than 15 milligrams and may cause diarrhoea, anaemia and the symptoms of gout.



Phosphorus is important for most metabolic actions in the body and contraction of the heart muscle.

Additional Information
It is important for bone and teeth formation, kidney functioning and cell growth.

Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, seeds, milk, dairy products, bran, broccoli, apples, carrots, asparagus, brewer's yeast, corn, beans and whole grains.

Deficiency is unusual as phosphorus is so abundant in our everyday diet, although calcium and phosphorus must be balanced.

Deficiency may cause painful bones, irregular breathing, fatigue, anxiety, numbness, skin sensitivity and changes in body weight.

High dosages of phosphorus exceeding 3 to 4 grams may interfere with calcium absorption.



Potassium is important for transmission of nerve impulses and regulating the contraction of smooth, skeletal and cardiac muscles.

Additional Information
It is also important for growth and the synthesis of nucleic acids.

Leafy green vegetables (like chard, spinach and celery), molasses, tomatoes, squashes, green beans, fruit (like bananas), fish, unprocessed meats, bran cereal and dairy products.

If you are suffering from vomiting, diarrhoea or extreme sweating you may require more potassium.

If you have diabetes or kidney problems do not take a potassium supplement without your doctor's consent.

Deficiency may cause muscle cramp, fatigue, muscle weakness, slow reflexes, acne, dry skin, mood changes and irregular heartbeat.

Excessive potassium may affect your heart.



Selenium is important for defending against cell damage from oxidation, clearing toxic minerals such as mercury, lead and cadmium from the body, aiding the immune system and promoting more energy in the body.

It may help to keep the multiplying of viruses somewhat in check, but please be aware that this mineral can be highly toxic in large amounts.

Additional Information
Selenium is important for thyroid hormone control, tissue elasticity, pancreatic function and alleviating menopausal symptoms in women.

Brazil nuts, fish, seafood, eggs, liver, lean meat, whole grains and brown rice.

Deficiency may allow viruses to become more active and may contribute to the excessive build-up of fats and other lipids in the liver, producing what is known as 'fatty liver syndrome'.

Excess selenium may cause hair loss, tooth decay, brittle nails, white spots, stomach pain, nausea, diarrhoea, poor appetite, irritability, fatigue, loss of feeling in the hands and feet and change in skin pigmentation.



Sodium is involved in energy utilisation and functioning of muscle and nerve tissues.

It is required for glucose absorption and for the transportation of other nutrients across cell membranes.

It is important for maintaining the proper acid-base balance.

Additional Information
Sodium is an electrolyte that helps regulate body water content and plays a crucial role in maintaining blood pressure.

Sodium is required in the manufacture of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, which protects the body from any infections that may be present in food.

The kidneys efficiently reabsorb sodium when intake is either low or losses are excessive.

The most common form of dietary sodium is table salt, which contains 40 percent sodium.

Sodium is found in most foods, but especially fish (anchovies), meat (bacon) and processed foods.
Typical intakes of sodium are higher than physiological requirements.

A deficiency is rare, but can happen with diarrhoea, vomiting or excessive sweating.

A shortage may lead to nausea, dizziness, poor concentration, cramps, anorexia, confusion, dehydration, depression, loss of appetite and muscle weakness.

In rare cases, sodium deficiency can also lead to shock due to decreased blood pressure.

High salt intake may cause hypertension (high blood pressure).

Excessive long-term use of sodium may also cause a loss of calcium from your body.

Excess dietary sodium is excreted through the urine.



Zinc is important for regulation of metabolism and a variety of immune defences.

Additional Information
It is also important for cell division, growth and maintenance of muscles, taste and smell sensitivity, integrity of biological membranes, dark vision adaptation, insulin storage and release, healthy maintenance of hair and nails, sexual maturation and reproduction and helps control the oil glands.

It is needed for the synthesis of protein and collagen and is helpful to combat skin problems such as acne and boils.

Meat, spinach, asparagus, chard, broccoli, peas, yoghurt, seeds, fish and seafood.

Also found in whole grains, although certain whole grains contain phytic acid, which binds to zinc and makes it unabsorbable.

Deficiency may cause an under-performing immune system, immune dysfunction, allergies, an increased incidence of infections, weight loss, anorexia, diarrhoea, delayed wound healing, night blindness, loss of smell or taste, oligospermia (low semen volume), mental lethargy, hypogonadism, growth retardation, sleep disturbances, skin changes, white spots under finger nails and alopecia (hair loss).

Vegans, vegetarians, people suffering from psoriasis and pregnant or lactating women are most at risk of deficiency.

If taking a zinc supplement it is best to take separately from other minerals, especially iron, copper, manganese and calcium as they may interfere with zinc absorption.

Excessive doses of zinc (1- 2 gram per day) over a long period can actually harm your immune system instead of assisting it.

Excessive amounts can also cause nausea, diarrhoea, dizziness, vomiting, abdominal pain, dehydration, fever, chills, drowsiness and hallucinations.

Large amounts of zinc supplementation can interfere with absorption of copper.


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