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Wednesday, May 2, 2007

MINERAL DEFICINCIES AND BLOOD LEVELS

MINERAL DEFICIENCIES AND BLOOD LEVELS

Readers of my Blog have noticed that I frequently write about politics and politicians. I am the first to admit that I am not an expert in these matters. I write on these topics because they provide a diversion to the mundane things in life, and I like humor. Writing about politics and politicians is humorous. Politicians are very funny people. They deserve to be laughed at because they do very funny things and, if you or I take any of them seriously, then we become funny and foolish too. Besides I like to think that I can dabble in philosophy.

The meaning of philosophy from the Greek: philos meaning friend or lover; sophy meaning wisdom put together means a lover of wisdom. So the joke would be, if I am trying to be philosophical, why am I writing about politics and politicians? Perhaps the joke is on me. But I am told that not taking oneself seriously may be the key to a long and happy life.

The purpose of my Blog today is to discuss something I might know something about. I am both a Medical man and a self appointed philosopher. I do not know why I stay up some nights thinking about answers to questions asked by no one, but, nevertheless, questions come into my mind. I do not ask for these questions, but, as I am saying, they just pop into my mind anyway. The last several nights I have been thinking about the answer to a question: how come some people develop osteoporosis but if you check their blood calcium levels these are normal their entire life. I do not know of anyone who has developed osteoporosis who has had chronic low blood calcium levels. But yet, we tell these people to take calcium supplements. Why? The answer is because they need them.

The same can be said of other mineral deficiencies. Sunstroke, for instance, has little to do with exposure to the sun except that over heating results in losing through perspiration an excessive amount of sodium. The resulting low blood sodium causes a disturbance of sodium/potassium balance resulting in an electrical short circuit in the brain which is sunstroke. The taking of salt pills under these conditions can prevent this imbalance and the resulting sunstroke. Years ago companies developed a drink called Gatorade designed for athletes. This drink was high in salts and prevented individuals from becoming deficient in some important nutrients during training and games.

I have been very interested for a long time in magnesium deficiency. Among other things magnesium deficiency can result in excessive and spastic muscular activity and constipation. One of the first things I recommend to a person with chronic constipation is to increase their water intake and magnesium supplements. Why would one want to take a laxative or other medication, if the problem can be corrected naturally?

Something which triggered my thinking along these lines was watching television ads for people to take this or that medication for insomnia with many of these same people being plagued with so-called restless leg syndrome. Why not consider magnesium? Drug companies do not make money on magnesium supplements. They make it peddling the latest drug coming off the research assembly line.

I would like to return to the philosophical question. People exhibit all kinds of symptoms of calcium, magnesium, sodium/potassium deficiencies, but they never exhibit abnormal levels of these minerals in their blood. The answer is quite simple. The body is very good at establishing and maintaining a level of these minerals necessary for overt normal bodily functions.

One can be chronically deficient in calcium for many years with the consequence of developing osteoporosis many years down the pike. But their calcium blood level is normal because, if the blood level gets dangerously low, convulsions and death can occur. The same can be said of other mineral deficiencies. Low or high potassium can result in cardiac arrhythmias; low sodium levels can interfere with brain function. The body works at maintaining adequate levels of such substances, and long term greater body deficiencies go undetected. In fact, in the case of calcium, the body depends upon the reserves in the bones to take out from the bones what is needed to maintain the equilibrium and return to the bone to store the excess.

We tend to be chronically deficient in magnesium. In my opinion, this is one of the reasons why we experience so many nervous conditions. Magnesium can be considered the body tranquilizer and muscle relaxant.

What are the dietary sources of magnesium? They are green leafy vegetables, whole grains, and nuts, among other things. When one makes a green salad and removes the green portion and keeps the white portion, one has just thrown away the magnesium-containing part of the lettuce. Magnesium is to chlorophyll as iron is to hemoglobin. Magnesium is in the center of the chlorophyll molecule which allows plants to photosynthesize just as iron is in the center of the hemoglobin molecule required to carry oxygen to the tissues of the body. Besides, how many individuals eat bowls of green leafy vegetables? A salad is insufficient in providing magnesium. A bowl of cooked spinach is quite another thing. But a bowl of cooked spinach would be equivalent to a packet or two of raw spinach. Do you get what I mean?

To eat nuts to give us enough magnesium would result in obesity. And how about whole grains? Whole grain bread which is mostly white flour is high in calories. There usually is a small portion of whole grain flour which contains the wheat germ part of the outer coat of the grain containing the magnesium. The diet should really contain it all: a healthy mixture of green leafy vegetables, nuts, and grains and other foods known to provide magnesium. But, if one is chronically deficient, diet may not be sufficient to catch up and magnesium supplements may be necessary for awhile. This would also be the case in chronic deficiency states of other minerals.

I practiced so-called Holistic Health in my home town of Frederick, Maryland. Let me tell you I was considered somewhat of a pariah by many of my fellow physicians. My friends forgave me for my aberrant ways. Some other physicians thought me a threat and a quack. But that is another story.

Digressing as I tend to do quite well, during the late 1970's and early to mid 80's I traveled around the US lecturing on Holistic Health and diet. When I talked about the dangers of eating trans fats people looked at me asking what are trans fats and what are you talking about? In the late 1980's and early 90's, Harvard (my medical Alma Mater) did a study of the dangers of trans fats. All of a sudden, I was not crazy any more. I was just ten or so years before the time of enlightenment! By that time I owned a 4-star Italian restaurant where people were eating all those trans fat-containing foods, and they were enjoying it!

In summary, let me say that because of poor dietary habits many individuals are deficient in many essential nutrients resulting in medical conditions for which drugs should not be the answer. If the body is deficient of a particular nutrient, replace the needed nutrient. Taking medicines may get rid of the symptoms because conventional medicine is good at getting rid of symptoms, but the deficiency still exists. Eating a good diet is a must. If the condition is chronic, consider taking supplements for these may be necessary to bring the levels to true normal.

nicola michael c. Tauraso, M.D.
Director, Tauraso Medical Clinic

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