Hello and Happy Spring! The last two days have brought welcome sunshine over here in Glengarriff. Happy Holidays! What better time for a little nutritional biochemistry? You might need to dust off your brain cells for this month’s column, I certainly did! But I think it’s important so here goes.
This month I am going to talk about minerals. No, not the fizzy drinks, the essential mineral salts that (and the hint is in the name!) are ESSENTIAL to our physiology and wellbeing.
We’re all aware of the importance of Calcium for example, having been bombarded with Dairy Industry marketing for as long as I can remember (Dem Bones Dem Bones Need Calcium…!). You would be forgiven for thinking that calcium was the only mineral worth talking about but when you dig a little deeper it appears that minerals act in a complex and balanced biochemical pathways and consuming vast quantities of cows milk may not be the answer to healthy bones on its own. It kind of stands to reason if it were the answer we should all have amazing bones with no osteoporosis or brittle bones in our population.
I’ve been reading a very interesting and compelling book by Australian Naturopath Kathryn Alexander who specialises in Gerson Therapy (an alternative cancer therapy). Gerson Therapy is based on an understanding on how the human body detoxifies, and this is linked right into the story of calcium and magnesium, sodium and potassium. The book is called Dietary Healing, and all the quotes in italics are from Kathryn. If you’d like to know more about her you can look her up online.
Kathryn writes that the four main minerals that we need to be aware of work in pairs in our cells – Calcium and Magnesium, Sodium and Potassium. I think at this point most people do realise the importance of Magnesium in helping us to absorb the calcium we need for our bones. Because it’s not that calcium is not important – all of the essential minerals are vital. It’s just that it needs a certain number of mineral friends in order to thrive and keep us healthy. I did a little experiment recently and I counted the supplements we have in Organico that contain these four minerals. The winner was Magnesium with over 30 different products containing magnesium, from powders to capsules and tablets to oils and lotions for absorption through the skin. So we seem to be getting the message to supplement magnesium! We also have lots of calcium supplements. But I was shocked to find we had only have one or two potassium supplements. I think the reason for this is that historically for most people, a healthy diet should contain enough potassium. However, it turns out that our Western habits mean that this may no longer be the case. And then we have no supplements containing sodium, for the simple reason that our Western Diet contains far too much already.
It is the interplay and specific rations between the major minerals that govern health, not their isolated intake. Current dietary trends make us vulnerable to potassium and magnesium deficiencies; these two minerals together control cell vitality. Deficiencies lead to cellular congestion, inefficiency and a loss of vitality with increased vulnerability to disease.
So, too much of any one and we are in trouble, because we need our minerals to be balanced. Let’s look at how that is working for us these days. Is there enough magnesium in our food to enable us to absorb the calcium we need? Kathryn (and many other scientist and healers) say no, that due to our intensive farming practices it’s not available in the soil and hence not so available in our food. Hence all those supplements which many of us take in order to balance things out. Ok, but what about Potassium and Sodium?
A question lots of people ask in Organico is, is salt (sodium chloride) good for you or not? For years some people have been trying to limit it, and then more recently there have been health advisors saying it’s OK, even that it’s good for you. And certainly cooking with Sea Salt, which does have some other minerals in it, is better than using table salt. However, if you are battling a serious disease or are trying to prevent serious disease (hmm, that’s all of us isn’t it!) then from what Kathryn says, drastically limiting your salt intake is a good thing. When Kathryn says current dietary trends, she is talking our addiction to processed foods and their high high salt levels. In contrast, if we ate as we are meant to, we have very little salt in our diet: in fact she says that Man’s natural diet contains very little sodium but large quantities of potassium.
It does make sense when you think it through – if you swap fresh fruit and vegetables in and all the bread cakes biscuits and processed foods (meals but also sauces and pickles and crisps and snacks) out, then the salt level in your diet goes way down. Fresh fruit and vegetables don’t contain salt! But they do contain Potassium. So that five a day, (which they are trying to get us to make 10 a day) is absolutely essential for our Potassium levels. So to connect the dots – a high salt diet causes us to lose Potassium and this results in the chronic degenerative changes that so many people we know are suffering from.
Why is potassium so important? Potassium is important because it is the key mineral within the body cells and governs and activates many enzyme processes. Potassium is the factory Foreman, if he is present within the cell, the enzymes kick into action, but if absent, they go on strike.
If our cells become deficient in potassium they lose their capacity to take up oxygen and …eventually activity ceases and the cell dies. This (leads to) chronic degenerative change.
However she also says: When we reinstate potassium within the cells, by applying a high vegetable diet, low in added salt, healing occurs.
So there it is. If you are trying to heal a chronic condition or keep yourself well, and you think you might have an excess of Sodium in your diet, give yourself a few weeks to develop a taste for food without added salt. Don’t ever add it to food, use as little as possible in cooking and don’t eat crisps or salty snacks. Reduce the processed foods in your diet (basically anything that is not made from scratch). And eat more vegetables and fruit. Kathryn recommends lots of vegetable juices made from organic vegetables. Her book is available from online bookshops; if you are interested in health, buy it. It could change your life.
Organico is open Good Friday and Easter Saturday but closed for Easter Sunday and Easter Monday. Bring the Family in – kids can play upstairs while you enjoy a well earned flat white. And don’t forget we are online at www.organico.ie Have a lovely Easter holiday folks!