Few people realize the importance of trace minerals in their diets, especially in times like these.
Studies have shown that many trace minerals - also known as microminerals - are important in maintaining a healthy and stable immune system.
While the immune system consists mostly of cells, other components such as the cardiovascular system, certain organs, and even enzymes aid its function, too.
So trace elements not only influence how human bodies respond to pathogens but also the pathogen itself.
Iron is one example of a trace mineral. As you may know, it is absolutely essential for the transport of oxygen throughout the body.
So while we may not need large amounts of these minerals (that’s why they’re called “trace”), we couldn’t live without them.
Other trace minerals such as copper and zinc have been shown to speed up the healing process of wounds – a good indicator of the strength of your immunity. Besides facilitating oxygen transport in the body and speeding up wound healing, trace elements also aid in:
But today, we want to focus on those trace elements that will help your immune system defend against infection.
Selenium is best known for its antioxidant properties, immunity benefits, reproduction benefits, and improvement of thyroid function.
As you may know, antioxidants aid in neutralizing reactive molecules that damage body tissues if left to accumulate. Studies have shown that selenium is actually a much more potent antioxidant than vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin A, and beta carotene.
But despite being more potent, it is also more toxic than most antioxidants. That’s one reason why we only need it in trace amounts.
Regarding the immune system in particular, current evidence suggests that selenium is an active immunomodulator.
An immunomodulator is a chemical agent that works by modifying the response or functioning of the immune system. As an immunomodulator, selenium can modify the formation of antibodies to help fight off infections.
It can even inhibit the overproduction of white blood cells (which is what leads to inflammation).
In the thyroid gland, selenium plays a role in making thyroid hormone. Specifically, it facilitates the conversion of thyroxine to the more potent triiodothyronine.
Few realize it, but thyroid hormones are important components of the immune system. For instance, they help facilitate the movement of white blood cells to where they’re needed most.
They also enable WBCs to engulf the “bad guys” in a process known as phagocytosis.
It’s well known and undisputed that patients who are deficient in zinc are more susceptible to infections. That’s because zinc plays a central role in the immune system.
Studies have shown that zinc is crucial in the synthesis of DNA and proteins. For starters, enzymes are proteins in nature. Enzymes have specific roles in the body, but as far as immunity is concerned, some are responsible for breaking down toxins.
The majority of these enzymes are found in the liver where they help improve its detoxifying ability.
Research also shows that zinc is useful for the normal development and function of immune cells, especially neutrophils and natural killer cells - both of which are our first line defenses against pathogens.
Most people recognize copper as a metal used in wires and cables, but not so much as a trace element. In addition to its revolutionary benefits in human civilization as an industrial mineral, copper is also an important part of the immune system.
Like zinc, research has shown that a deficiency in copper leads to increased susceptibility to infections.
Although the specific mechanism is not yet known, studies reveal that inadequate levels of copper are directly related to insufficient amounts of cytokines.
If you’re familiar with cytokines, you know they’re usually discussed in a bad light because they’re essentially what ignite inflammation.
However, inflammation is actually a critical part of your immune system. It’s chronic and hyper-inflammation that’s a problem.
So low levels of copper lead to reduced interleukin 2 - a cytokine that aids in the proliferation of T cells.
T cells are the key players in cell-mediated immunity and are responsible for fighting infectious organisms.
Copper also plays a major role in energy production and helps your body better absorb and utilize iron. And to top it all off, it’s one of the minerals needed to make red blood cells.
Manganese is well known for its role in metabolizing carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids. As a result, it helps generate energy and improve enzyme function.
But studies also link manganese to reduced cholesterol. That’s significant because high cholesterol is a factor in how deadly cardiovascular disease may be.
Manganese also improves cartilage and bone formation. As such, it’s an important supplement for patients with bone diseases, fractures, and tendon tears.
There’s no single answer to this question, but research certainly indicates that micromineral deficiency is a real - and common - problem.
This may be attributed to one of three reasons:
Decreased intake is by far the most common reason why people have trace element deficiencies. People just aren’t eating mineral-rich foods anymore.
They’ve traded a whole food diet rich in vegetables for one loaded with refined sugars and highly processed meats.
Not only that, but poor farming practices and overuse of pesticides have led to soils stripped of nutrients. So the plants grown now just aren’t as nutrient dense as they were in our great grandparents’ generation.
Now to address decreased absorption…
This can either be due to structural issues in the intestines or induced malabsorption caused by certain medications or even a pro-inflammatory diet.
For instance, patients taking antacids have reduced iron absorption while conditions like Crohn’s disease can impair trace mineral absorption.
Generally, however, it’s poor diet and mineral-depleted soil that’s resulted in the widespread mineral insufficiencies we see today.
Since trace elements are such important nutritional components for strengthening our immune systems, it’s important to eat a balanced diet rich in fresh produce.
You also want to do everything you can to foster good gut health in order to optimally absorb the nutrients in your food.
And when you need to support your immune system during high-risk seasons, consider filling in the gaps with an Organic Trace Mineral supplement. Ours is sourced from mineral-rich herbs with nothing added but water and vegetable glycerin.