signs of mineral deficiency

What is Body Language? 

The more comprehensive background.

The trouble we face today with regard our main health problems are largely due to ignoring the requirements of our bodies for healthy living and take no notice of the signs our bodies are trying to tell us. We have called these signs Body Language.

We are familiar with the messages from the media about the health problems of our society with coronary heart disease, cancer and obesity. However, we fail to grasp the fact that our way of life is entirely different to the life led by our forebears, some thousands of years ago, when our bodies and physiological needs were evolving.

They lived in harsh conditions, where food was relatively scarce and had to be obtained by hard work. Our prehistoric beginnings were in cold, often hostile environments struggling to survive. The problem we have with our health today stems largely from our warm cosy environment, where food is plentiful and we no longer have to expend large amounts of energy to survive. Essentially, we have become lazy.

The human body is genetically very robust, fighting against a series of insults, to maintain normal function. This is called homoeostasis, defined as “The ability of an organism to maintain internal equilibrium by adjusting its physiological processes”. This means that the organs and systems within the body will alter and compensate if it witnesses adverse conditions. But then there are limits to this compensation, when the assault is too severe, the body simply begins to degenerate and illness sets in.

One example, and one that we are hearing more and more of, is obesity. Simply this is when the energy input from food outweighs the energy expended. Then this occurs over an extended period the body starts to store the excess energy in its stores of fat. Thinking back to the time of our ancestors a great deal of energy had to be expended, searching for sources of protein, either as live animals or carcasses of dead animals or else cultivating the soil with poor tools. The situation today is that the vast majority of us have enough money to buy more food than we need. Unfortunately, much of the food we buy is processed, packaged for long shelf-life, with additives to preserve it longer.

We evolved such that when a plentiful food source became available then the body would over indulge to make stores for when times were less favourable. Now, we have no time of scarcity so the tendency now is to over indulge all the time. Unfortunately, the foods that are plentiful are those which are high in animal fats, those which appeal to our instincts and tastes – the ‘fast food revolution’. Consequently, many people are consuming large amounts of food material that the body is not designed to cope with. Evidence is abundant which tells us that too much meat, particularly red meat and animal fats are factors in the cause of cancer and obesity.

We as human beings should be able to know our basic food requirements and change our intake if the balance becomes unsettled. The sign of increasing body weight is a warning that there is too much food consumption and too little energy expenditure. The balance needs to redressed.

The body’s requirements for energy changes with age. Children and young adults have a higher energy requirement, because, generally they are more active and their bodies are still growing requiring energy. As the person ages these processes slow down and the requirements are less, but the food intake, in middle age, does not decline accordingly. Hence the increase in weight in middle aged people.

This is the reason that fitness and work outs have been advocated. But how many gym subscriptions go unused? Many! Energy expenditure should ideally be slow and rhythmical so as not to put too much strain on aging joints. Walking, as encouraged by numerous campaigns, is the ideal solution.

One of the major sources of energy expenditure no longer required to the same extent as before is keeping the body warm. Most of us live, work and travel in warm centrally-heated houses, offices and cars. Consequently, one of the main reasons for fat stores accumulated for winter, are no longer needed to the same extent. Hence another source of excess energy intake.

The reasons leading to the diseases of modern living are many and varied and can not all be covered in this summary. So we will turn our attention to one of the scourges of modern living, particularly for the elderly is osteoarthritis. Much of this again can be attributed to the unhealthy diet. Animal fats in the diet are broken down into their basic constituents, to fatty acids. These play a role in causing pain.

The joints of our bodies are prone to wear and tear – too much football, bad posture causing back pain. This wear and tear is recognised by the body. It sees it as one of the first signs of degeneration. Trauma or damage to any aspect of the human body is seen as requiring attention or repair. The part of the system responsible for this repair programme is the blood, specifically the white cells in the blood system. They accumulate around any site of injury, whether it be a cut or foreign body in the skin, to damaged ligaments. The cells gather, rather like a motorway repair team, setting up all the paraphernalia needed for the job in hand, and like a road repair the immune response can often be painful. The cells release chemicals to help destroy the cause of the insult, as if it was a foreign body. These chemicals will recruit more white cells to help, but also cause pain and discomfort. This is another sign from the body that not all is well and movement is afoot to sort it out. Unfortunately many of the chemicals released by the white cells and their helpers a derived from fatty acids. The chemicals made from animal or saturated fats have more painful effects than fats from unsaturated sources. This is the reason that oils derived from non-mammalian sources such as fish oils and vegetable oils are less damaging and friendlier that animal fats. This is the hypothesis that fish oils protect against arthritis and degenerative diseases.

Fatty acids are also important in the functioning of the brain. Fats from mammalian sources are thought to contribute to neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

Another aspect of inflammatory diseases which has been talked about a lot is chemicals released by the white cells called free radicals, or oxidants. These are very complex chemicals, in that they have large amounts of potentially destructive energy but are very short lived. These have been incorporated by the white cells as a major part of their armoury to defend the body against invading or foreign elements. Free radicals can help kill bacteria and viruses and destroy other unwanted material. Because of their destructive nature, if misdirected, something like “friendly fire” they can also destroy the cells, materials and ultimately the body, which they are trying to protect. To counter act these free radicals the body has evolved a very elaborate system of anti-oxidants. These are often taken in with the diet and consist of a range of substances like vitamins A, C and E. Selenium, uric acid, lycopenes, and carotenoids. These substances have become the by-words in many diet and nutritional advice columns – and rightly so. Without them the free radicals and similar substances would soon overwhelm many of our systems. Degenerative disease is the consequence, and early symptoms are signs of vitamin or antioxidant deficiency.

Some antioxidants like vitamin C are water soluble and need to be consumed in the diet every day. Some like vitamin A are fat soluble and are stored in the bodily tissues. When external free radicals, like UV light, cause damage to the body the arsenal of antioxidants is mobilised. When the sources of free radicals are internal, like inflammatory cells, the same applies. As long as the assault is not too severe, or too long, then the damaging free radicals are neutralised and damage is avoided. If however the assault is too great and antioxidant supply inadequate or depleted then damage occurs, often to the most delicate parts of the cells. One of the major sites of damage in the cells by free radicals is the DNA. And once the DNA is damaged then there is the real chance of serious consequences – frequently cancer.

Cancer is caused when the DNA of cells is damaged and it can no longer control the cell properly. Most likely these damaged cells will be recognised by the all powerful immune system, but if the damaged cells are too numerous or the immune system is compromised for some reason the cancer cells will survive and proliferate. Depending on which organ the cancer is growing will largely influence the outcome. In some organs, like the bowel or bone, the cancer grows slowly and if detected in time can often be removed successfully. If the cancer is in ‘softer’ tissues, like the liver or lung, the chances of removal or treatment are significantly depleted.

This is the reason that fresh fruit and vegetables, the natural sources of antioxidants and other cancer fighting chemicals, are so important. The advice to consume 5 pieces of fruit and vegetables come from research into free radicals and antioxidants and is an important course of action.

Although sources of free radicals are all around us, sunlight, pollution, pesticides one of the highest sources of free radicals are consumed by one quarter of the population – cigarette smoke. Experiments have calculated that in each puff of a burning cigarette there are 6,000,000,000 free radicals. That needs a massive amount of antioxidants to prevent damage, and considering it is cigarette smokers who have the poorest fruit intake, it is no wonder that smokers suffer so much illness. Not only do they suffer a greater risk of damage, particularly to the soft tissues of the lung, but the tobacco smoke and its 4000 different chemicals severely damages the immune system. This is why smokers have more illness, irrespective of cancer, than non-smokers. The destruction of the immune system will also damage the chances of DNA-damaged cells from being eradicated.

Another consequence of our modern diet, which is well documented, is the lack of fibre. The human digestive tract has evolved to an omnivorous diet of fruit, vegetables and some meat and fish. Previously, fruit and vegetables grown and collected, and primitive food production would produce a diet high in fibre. Modern food processing has removed much of that fibre. How many of us now each processed manufactured bread, where much of the fibre has been removed by the processing of flour? This is a major factor in the cause of one the major diseases today – colon cancer.

The layperson’s understanding of the working of the human digestive system is poor. This is largely due to the embarrassment factor; we do not like to discuss the workings of our bowels! But if we knew a little more, many of the diseases which affect our society could be avoided. Essentially, the digestive tract starts in the mouth where the teeth crush and liquefy the food. The stomach with its acidic environment and enzymes starts to digest the food and break it down into its constituent parts. The slurry from the stomach then goes into the small bowel where the nutritional elements are absorbed. The small bowel is extremely long and has a very large surface area to allow this to occur. Once this is done the remaining material passes into the colon – for what. Well the main function of the large bowel or colon is to absorb water and salts, this maintaining the liquid and salt balance of the body. The function of the colon is enhanced by a massive colony of different bacteria which help breakdown the remaining material that is left in the contents. Once these different basic functions have been performed the colonic contents are expelled as faeces. These are largely bacteria and indigestible material, including fibre. The role of fibre is to provide a matrix for the bacteria to work, to trap the resultant gases and to allow the bulk to propel the contents along the colon. If there is insufficient fibre there is not enough material for the colonic muscles to work against, the contents stay in the colon too long and excessive water and salts are removed producing a hard mass which is hard to push against and expel. The result of which is constipation or impacted faeces, often accompanied by uncomfortable haemorrhoids. But worst of all, harmful substances that are in the colonic contents instead of being removed rapidly and regularly, causing little or no harm, they linger and attack the lining of the colon causing colon cancer. So, to recognise a healthy bowel function is to ward off bowel cancer.

But what are the signs of a high fibre diet? Stools. There are many native peoples in Africa who still have a high fibre diet. Their stools are very different to ours. Investigation of these differences has pointed to properties of the stool that should be desirable. They should be frequent in passing, large in mass and float on the water of the toilet. This is because the fibre traps the waste material and the gaseous material, with the right amount of fluid. This is a simple sign that should ward off many of the digestive problems of our modern society.

Another difference between the modern and ancient diets is the soil in which it is grown. At the beginning of agriculture the cultivators regularly moved from one growing area to another, because they found the plants grew better. When permanent farms were established they found that rotating crops and adding animal waste improved productivity. However, with modern farming techniques the soil is supplemented, not with organic matter, but inorganic NKP fertilisers, which contain only nitrogen (N), potassium (K) and phosphorus (P), sometimes iron (Fe) is also present. This does not add the other essential elements required for health plant, and animal growth. Consequently, we have increasingly severe mineral depletion of soil. This means that fruit and vegetables have a lower mineral content than they did just 50 years ago. So even if we consume a diet high in fresh fruit and vegetables we might still be deficient in a number of minerals.

Insufficient intake of many mineral and vitamin have their signs of nutritional deficiencies, and are part of body language. For example zinc deficiency will show itself as white flecks in the nails, while magnesium deficiency produces soft or brittle nails. Iodine deficiency will cause a reduction in thyroid hormone production, which will cause the neck to swell, referred to as “Derbyshire neck” when the deficiency was more common before supplementation. These are just a few examples of symptoms or signs of mineral deficiency.


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