What you might be doing to rob yourself of essential nutrients might surprise you!
We all know that getting enough nutrients is important for general health and normal functioning of the body. But it’s not just about eating a healthy diet (as nutrients in food may be lower than you think). Even if you are getting the nutrients from your food, something in your diet or lifestyle may be stealing them away before your body can use them. Some of these Nutrient Thieves are obvious, and some less so.
Alcohol depletes almost every nutrient from the body. Drinking alcohol makes you need more B-vitamins, magnesium, potassium
Coffee, Tea and Other Caffeine Sources
Unfortunately, coffee increases your need for all of the B vitamins, magnesium, and potassium.
Many medications have an effect on nutrient levels in the body, and the established adverse effects probably only represent a small portion of the nutritional impact on the body. Anti-epilepsy drugs increase need for vitamin E, antibiotics and methotrexate increase need for folate, antacids increase need for iron and phosphorus. The negative effects of proton pump inhibitors on nutrition is an issue I have addressed in a separate post.
While the oral contraceptive Pill is, of course, a medication, it is often not recognised as such (many women leave it off the list when I ask them for medications). Taking the Pill makes you need more vitamin B2, magnesium, vitamin C, folate, zinc and more.
Even taking supplements can be a problem: vitamin D can deplete the other fat-soluble vitamins A, K and E for example, and calcium, zinc and iron can all block each other.
Even additives hidden in our food increase the need for particular nutrients. One example is tartrazine, the green colour found (inexplicably) in Tim Tams, which increases the body’s need for zinc.
Malabsorption can be due to many causes from coeliac disease to inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis) to low gastric acid to small intestinal bacterial overgrowth and irritable bowel syndrome. Malabsorption increases your need for all nutrients because fewer are finding their way into the cell where they are required. Most common nutrients at risk include vitamin B12, zinc and iron.
Don’t forget that while pregnancy requires only a small increase in calorie intake, almost all nutrients are required in higher amounts – and this is tricky when you weren’t managing to get them beforehand, and now you are constantly feeling queasy! It’s important not to take this lightly, as levels of some nutrients, such as omega 3 fatty acids, can have a far-reaching impact on your child’s health and behaviour for years down the track.
Battling stress throughout the day relies on a constant demand of B-vitamins, magnesium and vitamin C to support the adrenals.
Sugar and Refined Carbohydrate
It’s a cruel double-whammy: not only is sugar and excessive carbohydrate bad for us, but it also makes us need more nutrients. These include the B-vitamins, chromium, magnesium and potassium
The high-fibre diet: it seems to be the pinnacle of good health. A healthy diet is by definition high in fibre, but there is a downside. Phytic acid, present in all plant foods, binds important minerals to form phytates. These phytates remove minerals from the body, including zinc, iron and calcium. Bran cereal for breakfast? Forget about any nutrients for that meal!
This is only the beginning. Nutrient thieves aren’t the only issue. Genetic variability is another major reason why the nutrients you are getting in your diet may not be enough for you – and this is the topic of another blog post.