Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally produced by the pineal gland in the brain. Its main job is to help regulate the body’s circadian rhythms, which are the natural cycles of sleeping and waking that occur daily. Melatonin is particularly important for getting a good night’s sleep, and it can also have positive effects on overall health and weight.
One of the key functions of melatonin is to help regulate the sleep-wake cycle. When it gets dark outside, the body naturally begins to produce more melatonin, which signals to the brain that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep. Conversely, when it gets light outside, melatonin production decreases, which tells the brain that it’s time to wake up and start the day. By regulating these cycles, melatonin can help improve sleep quality and ensure that people wake up feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the day.
In addition to its effects on sleep, melatonin has also been shown to have a number of other health benefits. For example, it is a potent antioxidant, meaning that it can help protect cells from damage caused by harmful molecules called free radicals. This can in turn help reduce the risk of a number of different diseases, including cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Melatonin has also been shown to have positive effects on weight management. In one study, researchers found that supplementing with melatonin helped to reduce body weight and fat mass in overweight and obese individuals. The researchers speculated that this may be due to the fact that melatonin can help improve sleep quality, which in turn can lead to changes in appetite and energy levels.
Overall, it is clear that melatonin is an important hormone that can have positive effects on both sleep and overall health. If you are struggling to get a good night’s sleep, or if you are interested in improving your overall wellbeing, consider talking to a functional nutritionist about incorporating melatonin into your daily routine.
Godfrey, D. A. (2017). Melatonin as a therapeutic intervention in otolaryngology: Head and neck surgery. Sleep Science and Practice, 1(1).
Pires, W., & Bordini, E. A. (2019). The effects of melatonin on weight gain, fat mass, and lipid metabolism: a systematic review. Frontiers in Endocrinology, 10, 86.
Vollmer, C., Michel, U., & Randler, C. (2012). Outdoor light at night (LAN) is correlated with eveningness in adolescents. Chronobiology International, 29(4), 502-508.
Leptin is a hormone produced by our fat cells that regulates how much we eat and the amount of energy we burn. Its main function is to signal the brain when we have eaten enough and are satiated, thus promoting weight loss. However, sometimes the body becomes resistant to the effects of leptin, and this can lead to overeating and weight gain. This condition is known as leptin resistance.
Leptin resistance occurs when the body stops responding to the signal produced by the hormone. This can happen due to a number of reasons, but the most common is excess body fat. Excessive amounts of fat in the body lead to a constant release of leptin, and over time the brain becomes desensitized to the signal. When this happens, the body thinks it’s starving and sends signals to increase appetite and store more fat, leading to weight gain.
There are other factors that contribute to the development of leptin resistance such as poor diet, lack of exercise, poor sleep, and high-stress levels. A diet high in sugar, processed foods, and saturated fats has been shown to increase inflammation levels in the body, which can affect how leptin is produced and how it functions.
Another factor that contributes to leptin resistance is lack of sleep. Poor sleep can affect the production of leptin, making it difficult for the body to regulate food intake and energy expenditure properly.
The good news is that leptin resistance is reversible. By maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine, and reducing stress levels, you can gradually reduce the amount of fat in your body and restore proper leptin function. Studies have shown that consuming a high-fiber, low-fat diet can help reduce inflammation levels and promote weight loss, therefore improving leptin sensitivity.
Other interventions that can improve the body’s response to leptin include getting enough sleep, reducing stress levels through yoga or meditation practices, and starting a regular exercise routine. Resistance training, in particular, has been shown to be effective in improving the function of leptin.
In conclusion, leptin resistance is a condition that contributes significantly to overweight and obesity, and its prevalence continues to increase worldwide. Therefore, it is important to understand its causes and how to mitigate them. Maintaining a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and managing stress levels are ways by which you can address leptin resistance and achieve your weight loss goals.
Rosenbaum M, Leibel RL. Role of energy expenditure in the development of leptin resistance. J Clin Invest. 2014;124(2): 420-2.
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Halpern B, Mancini MC. Leptin reduction and its interactions with diabetes control after bilio-pancreatic diversion. Surg Obes Relat Dis. 2009;5(1):48-53.
Lopez-Jaramillo P, Gomez-Arbelaez D, Lopez-Lopez J, Lombana-Rodriguez HA, Paez-Canro C, Rueda-Quijano SM, et al. The role of leptin/adiponectin ratio in metabolic syndrome and diabetes. Horm Mol Biol Clin Investig.[Internet] 2014;19(3):167-176. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25403381
The scientific community is still in disagreement as to whether or not obesity is a disease. While some still consider obesity a self-inflicted disease caused by poor eating habits and lack of exercise, there is growing evidence to support the claim that obesity is a disease.
According to Pi-Sunyer (2002), not only is obesity a disease but within the United States it is considered to be a condition of epidemic proportions. Statistics show that, in our country, over 20% of adults are diagnosed as clinically obese (Pi-Sunyer, 2002). The rationale that obesity is a disease is due to the fact that it causes many different comorbidities such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, etc.
Has Obseity Reached Epidemic Proportions In Western Countries?
I agree with Conway and Rene (2004) who believe that obesity is not only a condition that has reached epidemic proportions, but it is a disabling, multifaceted disease that causes changes in organ function and can come with a host of comorbidities. The excess body weight puts a strain on the heart, leading to changes in anatomical structure and the function of the organ. Obesity has also repercussions on the immune system (de Heredia et al., 2012), endocrine system (Poddar et al., 2017), and pulmonary system (Dixon & Peters, 2018). These repercussions are caused by both mechanical and functional alteration of tissues and organs.
Data Suggests That Obseity Is Associated With Several Very Serious Health Concerns
Research studies show that obesity is associated with an increased risk of developing cancer in at least 13 different organs (Avgerinos et al., 2019). Obesity is also linked to type-2 diabetes (Maggio & Pi-Sunyer, 2003), arthritis (Moroni et al., 2020). At the same time, a systematic review of scientific data that was published in 2017 shows that weight-loss interventions in the obese adult population decrease all-cause mortality (Ma et al., 2017). The same review shows that weight loss has a positive impact on cardiovascular mortality and cancer mortality (Ma et al., 2017).
Lastly, obesity’s status and acceptance as a disease are pivotal in determining its treatment, reimbursement for treatment, and the development of widespread interventions. For these reasons, I believe that obesity should be recognized as a disease.
Avgerinos, K. I., Spyrou, N., Mantzoros, C. S., & Dalamaga, M. (2019). Obesity and cancer risk: Emerging biological mechanisms and perspectives. Metabolism: clinical and experimental, 92, 121–135. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.metabol.2018.11.001
Ma, C., Avenell, A., Bolland, M., Hudson, J., Stewart, F., Robertson, C., Sharma, P., Fraser, C., & MacLennan, G. (2017). Effects of weight loss interventions for adults who are obese on mortality, cardiovascular disease, and cancer: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 359, j4849. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j4849
Moroni, L., Farina, N., & Dagna, L. (2020). Obesity and its role in the management of rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis. Clinical rheumatology, 39(4), 1039–1047. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10067-020-04963-2
Over 2,000 years ago Hippocrates, the father of medicine said: “All disease begins in the gut”. Healthy digestion and a healthy microbiome are fundamental to health. The digestive tract is a long tube that goes from the mouth to the anus. It is composed of several organs and accessory organs that work together to intake, break down and absorb food as well as excrete waste material. Each organ of the digestive tract can be affected by dysfunction from gastroesophageal reflux to H. Pylori infections, leaky gut, malabsorption syndrome, maldigestion, food allergies, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, etc. It is important to know that digestive issues are not confined to the affected organ, but that they have repercussions for the entire system. Moreover, digestive dysfunction causes maladies that are not exclusively relegated to the organs of digestion. Research shows that several conditions are caused by or correlated with unhealthy microbiome and digestive dysfunction: obesity, type-2 diabetes (Fan & Pedersen, 2021), connective tissue disease (CTD) (Bizzaro et al., 2003), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), Grave’s disease (Shor et al., 2012), just to name a few.
What Laboratory Tests Are Available Today?
There are several laboratory tests available to test gastrointestinal function. Stomach acid can be measured with a Heidelberg capsule (Lord & Bralley, 2012). Pepsin can be tested via a saliva test (Strugala et al., 2015). Fecal and plasma tests can be used to measure pancreatic output of protease and lipase. A fecal fat test can reveal impaired liver or gallbladder function. Stool cultures, DNA stool test, comprehensive stool digestive analysis (CSDA), fecal butyrate testing are tools used to assess colon function (Lord & Bralley, 2012). Colonoscopy, barium enema, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed cosmography scan (CT scan), defecography, ultrasounds and other imaging tests are also available to assess colon health (Digestive Diagnostic Procedures). A hydrogen-methane breath test is used to diagnose small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).
Several tests are available to test for food allergies and intolerances: increased levels of IgA can be measured through feces, urine and serum analysis and can reveal the presence of gut inflammation, celiac disease, mucosal infection, food allergies, and other inflammatory conditions (Breedveld & van Egmond, 2019). Serum IgE and IgG levels can be checked to test for food allergies, infections and inflammatory diseases (Mayo Clinic Labs). According to the Genova Diagnostics website, high levels of IgG antibodies can also indicate the presence of leaky gut syndrome.
What Is The Helicobacter Test?
The test I chose for this essay is the Helicobacter Pylori Stool Antigen EIA. The American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) (Talley et al., 2005) and the American College of Gastroenterologists (ACG) (Chey et al., 2007) consider the H. Pylori stool antigen to be superior to the serum testing.
H. Pylori is a bacterium that inhabits the stomach, usually without causing any disease. According to Iisashi et al. (2015) H. Pylori can suppress inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and it is linked to a reduced incidence of asthma. A study from Talebi Bezmin Abadi (2014) even suggested that an eradication of H. Pylori contributes to an increase of GERD. It is still unknown why, in certain people, H. Pylori colonies wreaks havoc in the stomach, causing stomach ulcers, gastric inflammation, stomach cancer and gastric mucosa-associated lymphoid-tissue lymphoma (Yang it al., 2014). Symptoms associated with H. Pylori infections are burping, bloating, nausea, gastritis presenting with pain and a burning sensation, loss of appetite and weight loss (Mayo clinic, 2017). A patient that presents with these symptoms should be tested for H. Pylori infection. The stool antigen EIA test looks for the present of antigens that reveal the presence of H. Pylori. Certain medications like antibiotics and acid blockers can interfere with the test results; therefore, patients are asked to discontinue the use to these medications for one to two weeks prior to testing.
Bizzaro, N., Villalta, D., Tonutti, E., Tampoia, M., Bassetti, D., & Tozzoli, R. (2003). Association of celiac disease with connective tissue diseases and autoimmune diseases of the digestive tract. Autoimmunity reviews, 2(6), 358–363. https://doi.org/10.1016/s1568-9972(03)00055-7
Bravo, D., Hoare, A., Soto, C., Valenzuela, M. A., & Quest, A. F. (2018). Helicobacter pylori in human health and disease: Mechanisms for local gastric and systemic effects. World journal of gastroenterology, 24(28), 3071–3089. https://doi.org/10.3748/wjg.v24.i28.3071
Breedveld, A., & van Egmond, M. (2019). IgA and FcαRI: Pathological Roles and Therapeutic Opportunities. Frontiers in Immunology, 10. https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2019.00553
Chey WD, Wong BC; Practice Parameters Committee of the American College of Gastroenterology. American College of Gastroenterology guideline on the management of Helicobacter pylori infection. Am J Gastroenterol. 2007;102:1808-1825.
IGE – Clinical: Immunoglobulin E (IgE), Serum. (n.d.). Www.mayocliniclabs.com. https://www.mayocliniclabs.com/test-catalog/Clinical+and+Interpretive/8159
Iizasa, H., Ishihara, S., Richardo, T., Kanehiro, Y., & Yoshiyama, H. (2015). Dysbiotic infection in the stomach. World journal of gastroenterology, 21(40), 11450–11457. https://doi.org/10.3748/wjg.v21.i40.11450
Lord, R. and Bralley, J., n.d. Laboratory evaluations for integrative and functional medicine. 2nd ed. (2012), Metametrix institute.
Lu, P. J., Hsu, P. I., Chen, C. H., Hsiao, M., Chang, W. C., Tseng, H. H., Lin, K. H., Chuah, S. K., & Chen, H. C. (2010). Gastric juice acidity in upper gastrointestinal diseases. World journal of gastroenterology, 16(43), 5496–5501. https://doi.org/10.3748/wjg.v16.i43.5496
Mayo Clinic. (2017). Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection – Symptoms and causes. Mayo Clinic; https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/h-pylori/symptoms-causes/syc-20356171
Shor, D. B., Orbach, H., Boaz, M., Altman, A., Anaya, J. M., Bizzaro, N., Tincani, A., Cervera, R., Espinosa, G., Stojanovich, L., Rozman, B., Bombardieri, S., Vita, S. D., Damoiseaux, J., Villalta, D., Tonutti, E., Tozzoli, R., Barzilai, O., Ram, M., Blank, M., … Shoenfeld, Y. (2012). Gastrointestinal-associated autoantibodies in different autoimmune diseases. American journal of clinical and experimental immunology, 1(1), 49–55.
Strugala, V., Woodcock, A. D., Dettmar, P. W., Faruqi, S., & Morice, A. H. (2015). Detection of pepsin in sputum: a rapid and objective measure of airways reflux. European Respiratory Journal, 47(1), 339–341. https://doi.org/10.1183/13993003.00827-2015
Talebi Bezmin Abadi A. (2014). Helicobacter pylori: A Beneficial Gastric Pathogen?. Frontiers in medicine, 1, 26. https://doi.org/10.3389/fmed.2014.00026
Talley NJ; American Gastroenterological Association. American Gastroenterological Association medical position statement: evaluation of dyspepsia. Gastroenterology. 2005;129:1753-1755.
Yang, J. C., Lu, C. W., & Lin, C. J. (2014). Treatment of Helicobacter pylori infection: current status and future concepts. World journal of gastroenterology, 20(18), 5283–5293. https://doi.org/10.3748/wjg.v20.i18.5283
According to Dr. O’Neil-Smith, more than 20% of the population suffers from food allergies and intolerances. Elimination diets and IgG food antibody testing can be successfully used in clinical practice to address symptoms like bloating, constipation and diarrhea, fatigue, anxiety, asthma, joint pain, sleep disturbance, and headaches. As practitioners, we must relate this information to clients and patients in an easy-to-understand manner. When I introduce an elimination diet to my clients, I explain that eliminations diets are a great tool to identify food allergies and sensitivities. I would like the client to keep a food/symptom log for five days to see if there are patterns that can point to specific foods causing symptoms. The only downside is that not all reactions are immediate. Some foods can cause delayed reactions, meaning that an offending food can cause a reaction from several hours to several days after it has been ingested. This can make keeping a food/symptom log frustrating and confusing.
What Is The Difference Between An Allergy and A Sensitivity
I think that when we discuss elimination diets, it is important to understand the difference between a true allergy and a sensitivity. Food allergies can be life-threatening due to anaphylaxis. Food sensitivities can be caused by physiological and psychological issues. For example, leaky gut causes maldigested food particles to diffuse in the bloodstream, which causesimmune cells to mount an attack. Overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine (SIBO) can cause severe reactions to fermentable foods, and it needs to be addressed with a very specific elimination diet called low-FODMAP. Enzyme deficiency and irritable bowel can also cause food intolerances. Stress and psychological factors can also be responsible for food reactions. To this day, there are foods I was forced to eat as a child that will literally make me sick, even though I do not have a true immune reaction to them. We can also be sensitive to “added” substances like food coloring, preservatives, and sulphites (Li, J. 2019).
Elimination Diets Need To Be Tailored To Individual Needs
For these reasons, the elimination diet needs to be tailored to the individual and their specific symptom burden. We must understand that an elimination diet does not merely remove foods, but it also prescribes that the client eats specific foods. For example, if leaky gut is the cause of food intolerances, we need to make sure that their diet includes plenty of gut healing foods. The same applies when we are dealing with food intolerances caused by imbalanced gut flora or irritable bowel. We can’t just refrain from eating offending foods; we must ensure that our diet is nutrient dense and health-promoting (Rinninella et al., 2019).
The good news is that food intolerances usually resolve themselves in a matter of 3 to 6 months, when the client avoids offending foods completely, and we address the root causes of the intolerances. While implementing an elimination diet, we monitor progress closely. This allows us to fine-tune the diet, and it also helps us to decide when the client is ready to reintroduce and to test the foods that were triggering a reaction. The reintroduction phase of the diet is as important as the elimination phase. We must not rush through the process. When symptoms have resolved, we will decide together which foods to reintroduce in the diet and in
which order. It is important that the client tests one food at a time every 4 to 5 days. This allows us to see if there are any delayed reactions to the food that we reintroduce. Keeping a detailed food/symptom log is going to be very useful during the reintroduction phase.
Li, J. (2019). Food allergy vs. food intolerance: What’s the difference? Mayo Clinic; https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/food-allergy/expert-answers/food-allergy/faq-20058538
Rinninella, E., Cintoni, M., Raoul, P., Lopetuso, L. R., Scaldaferri, F., Pulcini, G., Miggiano, G., Gasbarrini, A., & Mele, M. C. (2019). Food Components and Dietary Habits: Keys for a Healthy Gut Microbiota Composition. Nutrients, 11(10), 2393. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11102393
Minerals are a vital component of our diet as they facilitate proper growth and development, and they are crucial cofactors in metabolism. Like vitamins, minerals have recommended daily allowance (RDA), and both deficiency in mineral intake and toxicity can cause problems.
This essay looks at iodine, selenium, zinc, and manganese. It will focus on their role in the body and the systems that they affect.
Iodine & Thyroid Function
Iodine is necessary to produce the thyroid hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). T3 and T4 regulate metabolism and body temperature; they affect growth and development, the nervous system, and even our mood. The thyroid is also responsible for the production of another hormone, calcitonin., which works with parathyroid hormone to regulate calcium level in the body. During pregnancy, iodine is crucial for fetal brain and bone development, and in the postnatal period it is necessary for proper growth of the infant. Iodine is found in fish, seaweed, and shellfish. In the American diet, iodized salt and dairy products are the major dietary source of iodine. Iodine is also found as a dietary supplement in the form of sodium iodide or potassium iodide.
Selenium: A Critical Trace Mineral
Selenium is an essential trace mineral needed in small quantities; without it we cannot live. Selenium is an antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage caused by oxidative stress. In addition to reducing oxidative stress, selenium supports proper immune function, and it seems to lower the risk of certain cancers. It is also necessary to produce enzymes. Brazil nuts are the best source of selenium. Other sources are fish, pork, beef, turkey and chicken, cottage cheese, eggs, brown rice, and sunflower seeds. Some processed foods are also enriched with synthetic selenium.
Zinc is a mineral found in cells throughout the body and is involved in cell division, cell growth, and wound healing. Zinc is necessary for immune system function, sperm production, and carbohydrate metabolism. It is also needed for our sense of taste and smell, and it plays an important role in insulin use. Zinc is essential for fetal development. It is also essential for growth and development of infants and children.
The Importance Of Magnesium
Lastly, manganese is a precursor to many enzymes, and it is needed for protein digestion and absorption as well as cholesterol metabolism. It is important for bone health, and, when taken with calcium, zinc and copper, it helps reduce spinal bone loss in older women. Manganese is necessary for blood sugar regulation, and it functions as an antioxidant. It is a key element for wound healing, and it does so by aiding in the production of proline, an amino acid necessary for collagen production. Manganese is found in a variety of foods including oysters, clams and mussels, nuts, legumes and unrefined grains, coffee, tea, and many spices. Our body stores up to 20 mg of manganese in the kidneys, liver, pancreas and bones.
What is the RDA level for each of the minerals? What is the upper limit for each of the vitamins? What are the signs or symptoms of deficiency and toxicity for each of the minerals? (300 words)
The recommended dietary amount for iodine is age dependent. A newborn requires 110 mcg of iodine daily. An infant between 7 to 12 months requires 130 mcg. Children between 1 and 8 years require 90 mcg, and children between 9 and 13 require 120 mcg. Teenagers between 14 and 18 require 150 mcg daily, which is the same for adult males and females. Pregnant women require at least 220 mcg daily, and lactating women require 290 mcg. Excess iodine intake causes fever, nausea, vomiting, weak pulse, stomach pain, and a burning sensation in the throat, mouth, and stomach, and coma. Chronic iodine toxicity is rare but can result in thyroid gland inflammation and even thyroid cancer. Iodine deficiency causes inadequate production of thyroid hormones which leads to hypothyroidism. Iodine deficiency can also cause the thyroid gland to enlarge, causing goiter. Iodine deficiency increases risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, and congenital abnormalities in babies. Tolerable upper limit intake level (UL) has also been established for iodine. This is the maximum amount of iodine that can be safely ingested without risking toxicity/overdose. The UL for iodine intake is as follows: children between 1 and 3 have a UL of 200mcg; for children between 9 and 13 UL is 600mcg; UL is 900mcg for teenagers between 14 and 18 years, and it is 1100mcg for adults.
Selenium deficiency is rare in the general population, but cases of selenium deficiency are often reported in patients who receive intravenous feeding therapy for extended periods of time. As a result, patients are likely to develop Keshan disease, a cardiomyopathy that presents with enlargement of the heart muscle resulting in congestive cardiac failure, cardiogenic shock and death. Another condition caused by selenium and iodine deficiency is Kashin-Beck disease. Kashin-Beck is prevalent mostly in China, Siberia, Korea and Tibet and is caused by mineral deficiencies associated with depleted soil.
It affects joints and bones to the point that limbs’ growth are stunted, joints are deformed, and the individual experiences loss of stature caused by necrosis of growth plates of the bones and of the cartilage in the joints. Cognitive function is also affected and mental retardation can be present. Excess selenium in the body results in selenosis, which causes fatigue, nausea, mild nerve damage, disrupted vision, nail problems, and hair loss. The RDA for selenium vary based on age, gender, illnesses, pregnancy, and they are as follows:
Units in mcg/day
Up to six months
7 – 12 months
1 – 3 years
4 – 8 years
9 – 13 years
Adolescents and adults
Above 14 years
Signs and Symptoms Of Zinc Deficiency
The signs and symptoms of zinc deficiency include poor appetite, stunted growth, alopecia, skin sores, wounds that do not heal easily, hypogonadism, poor olfactory and taste senses, and poor vision. Similarly, a high zinc intake (usually through supplements) causes vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps within three to ten hours. These symptoms generally stop once supplementation ends. Zinc toxicity has antagonistic effects on copper and iron. The RDA for zinc are established to prevent deficiency or toxicity and are as follows: infants between 0 and 6 months should take 2mg/day; infants and children 7 months to 3 years should take 3mg/day; RDA for children between 4 and 8 years is 5mg/day, and 8mg/day is recommended for children between 9 and 13 years. Males over 14 years should take 11mg/day, while females between 14 and 18 years should take 9mg/day. Females over 19 years of age require 8mg/day, 11mg/day during pregnancy and 12mg/day when lactating. Pregnant teenagers require 12mg/day, whereas those lactating require 13mg/day.
Manganese Deficiency Is Rare, But Its Absence Can Disrupt Healthful Living
Although rare, manganese deficiency is possible and manifests with retarded growth, infertility, skeletal abnormalities, low sugar tolerance, and altered fat and carbohydrate metabolism. Manganism or manganese poisoning results from chronic exposure to manganese and can manifest neurological disorders including tremors, facial muscle spasms or difficulty walking; these neurological symptoms are usually proceeded by hallucinations, reduced lung activities, and aggression. There is no RDA for manganese; however, the adequate intake (AI) is 1.8-2.3 mg/day, and the upper limit is 11mg/day for adults above 19 years.
What impact does the quality of the soil play in the role of the available minerals in our food supply? What types of chemicals in our environment impede mineral absorption?
Soil is an essential factor in healthy food and human and animal nutrition. While most of us are familiar with malnutrition that comes from lack or poor quality macronutrients, not everyone knows about another form of malnutrition called “hidden hunger”. Hidden hunger occurs when our diet is void of micronutrients, such as B vitamins, vitamin A, iodine, selenium, and zinc. Micronutrients are essential to health, being cofactors in metabolic functions, digestion, neurotransmitter production, eyesight, energy, and more. The Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that around 2 billion people worldwide suffer from hidden hunger; that is almost 1/3 of the world population. The quality of our soil is a key factor affecting micronutrient availability in food and nutrient quality.
Most the foods that we eat come from the soil: vegetables, fruits, grains and grains products. Hidden hunger is caused by lack of variety, consumption of crops that are not nutrient-rich, and soil depletion. Plants need 18 essential elements for proper growth and nutrient-density. Three of them (carbon, hydrogen and oxygen) are obtained through photosynthesis; the rest need to be present in the soil. Unsustainable soil management strips the soil of nutrients, causing the foods grown in it to have suboptimal nutrient profiles. We need to get away from mass farming procedures that encourage unsustainable soil management, and we need to embrace agricultural practices that are based on crop rotation and diversification which promote soil fertility; healthy soil leads to healthy food.
Healthy Soil Means A Healthy You
Another factor that plays an important role in soil health, and therefore the health of our crops, is exposure to chemicals, heavy metal pollution, and man-made fertilizers. Studies show that long-term use of man-made fertilizers causes a decline in soil quality and productivity. Particularly hazardous is long term exposure to heavy metals, insecticides and aromatic hydrocarbons. These substances have toxic effects on plants and humans; they prevent mineral absorption, disrupt vital enzymatic processes, change the microbiota, and compete with minerals for absorption. Cadmium, mercury, lead, arsenic and copper are the heavy metals most commonly found in the soil. They accumulate through disposal of high metal wastes, sewage sludge, wastewater irrigation, emissions from industrial areas, and spillage of petrochemicals.
How Cadmium Can Be Destructive For Healthy Living
Cadmium interferes with copper, iron and zinc. Mercury damages the nerves and interferes with cellular respiration. Lead ingestion can lead to anemia, kidney and brain damage and even death. Particularly problematic is exposure to lead by individuals whose diets are deficient in vitamin E, calcium, phosphorus, iron and zinc. Arsenic is a known carcinogen, which causes skin changes, nausea and vomiting, arrhythmia, and cramps. While there is no medication to combat arsenic poisoning, the use of vitamin E and selenium have shown to limit the symptoms and damage of arsenic poisoning.
Heavy metals do not only pose a risk to our health, but they are also harmful to soil regeneration and biodegradation of organic contaminants. Soil washing, immobilization, phytoremediation are all technologies available to clean up contaminated soils.
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