Zinc is a crucial mineral that is found in every cell in the body. It's involved with growth, cell division, the immune system, bones and teeth, skin, the brain, the nervous system not to mention hormones – and yet over a third of people appear to be deficient in the Western world!
12 signs you may be deficient in zinc
- White spots or lines on your fingernails
- Pale skin
- Stretch marks
- Dry hair
- Loss of appetite
- Poor immune system
- Low sex drive
- Weight loss
- Loss of taste and sense of smell
So if you’re suffering from sleep issues, frequent infections, eczema, psoriasis, frequent diarrhoea, hair loss, low sex drive or infertility – perhaps it’s worth checking your zinc levels? Those deficient in zinc may also find their sense of taste and smell affected, which isn't great when you want to explore lots of new foods on your Paleo diet!
How to get more zinc in your diet
There are lots of great natural, Paleo food sources of zinc. Oysters are one of the best sources, but red meat and seafood (especially crab) will also keep your zinc levels topped up. Of course, supplementing is always an option, but always try to get sufficient levels from natural food sources first. Also, don’t forget about vitamin D, as being deficient in vitamin D makes zinc less effective. It’s all about balance, as so many vitamins and minerals work together.
Several things can inhibit your bodies ability to absorb zinc, particularly phytates found in grains and legumes – yet another reason to stick to a Paleo diet and avoid processed neolithic foods!
Have you had your zinc levels checked? How did they fair? Do you eat lots of natural food sources of zinc, or do you supplement?
Concluding my focus on common deficiencies, this week turns to CLA.
CLA stands for Conjugated Linoleic Acid and is the good trans-fat that occurs naturally in dairy and meat products – especially when animals have been grass-fed, another plus for the Paleo diet. In the stomach of animals such as the goat, sheep or cows millions and millions of tiny pieces of bacteria help the animal to digest its food. They also help to covert dietary linoleic fatty acids into saturated fatty acids. While this conversion takes time and several steps, one of those steps is to create CLA, some of this never actually gets fully saturated and will show up instead in the animals milk fat and body.
28 different CLA isomers – or structural arrangements of the molecules show in CLA rich animal fat. This is very complex and different from the trans-fats created by partially hydrogenating vegetable oils. It is those lab created trans-fats that have a negative metabolic and health effect, while the CLA isomers you get from grass fed dairy and meat is more beneficial.
CLA has been touted as the “belly busting” trans fat with research in 2007 showing that in rats, supplementing their diets with CLA did not cause them to lose whole body fat, but it was found they became more insulin sensitive. When it came to supplementing CLA in mice diets it did cause rapid weight loss, but the increase in hepatic fat accumulation left the mice insulin resistant.
Many people have taken CLA as a supplement and it did seem to work for weight loss, but while the weight loss was good, at the moment we are not really sure what else it does to the body. Research into this further on different animals may help us better understand if there are any additional effects on humans. Are we more like mice or rats?
The one thing that these studies did show was that hepatic fat accumulation or loss and body fat accumulation or loss is not always in the same direction. We are seeing hepatic fat loss but no weight loss and hepatic fat gain with rapid weight loss. Those who follow low carb diets insisting that this metabolic advantage allows them to eat thousands of calories and lose weight will love the little mouse’s result! While the study on the mouse is quite well known amongst those in the carb circle with the mouse eating as much as it wants without losing or gaining weight, this metabolism does come at a price – profound liver damage.
Tests were carried out to see what effect dietary supplements of CLA would have on the body mass index, and body fat distribution. 40 volunteers participated in a 12 week double blind study some received a CLA while other received olive oil. Body fat and abdominal and hepatic fat content was assessed with an overall finding that showed CLA supplements did not show any significant change in the volunteers BMI index or in their total body fat.
Have you considered supplementing with CLA? If you have, did it have good results for you? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments, below.
Have you had your iron levels checked? Women especially need to be careful to ensure their diet contains sufficient levels, as deficiency can be dangerous.
What Does Iron Do?
As part of hemoglobin, iron plays an important role in the transport of oxygen around the body from the lungs to the other organs. It is also part of the process to produce new blood cells within the body and helps to remove carbon dioxide from the organs.
As well as these important functions, it helps to convert blood sugar to energy and is essential for the production of enzymes within the digestive system. Iron also plays an important role in the immune system and the recovery process after illness or strenuous exercise.
Food Sources of Iron
Most red meats are very good sources of iron particularly beef and lamb. However, the best meat to boost your supply is liver. A 100g serving of liver will provide over 100% of your recommended daily amount of the important dietary nutrient.
Mollusks are another great source of iron, with even higher concentrations than liver. You have a choice of several tasty mollusks, including:
Animals are not the only good sources of iron. Plenty of dark leafy vegetables contain good quantities of this important element. Spinach is the best, with 100g providing 20% of your daily value. Swiss chard, turnip greens and kale are other vegetables that can help to boost your iron levels.
Another source that is easy to overlook is dark chocolate. Nuts and pumpkin seeds are also great sources of iron, and make tasty snacks. You can use these to beat your chocolate cravings!
Problems Associated with Iron Intake
One of the main symptoms of iron deficiency is anaemia. This occurs when the stores of iron in the body deplete and it is no longer possible to maintain haemoglobin levels in the blood. This particularly affects children and pre-menopausal women. The common symptoms of anaemia include:
- Hair loss
In extreme cases, deficiency can be fatal so it is important to ensure you consume sufficient quantities of this essential nutrient. Usually though, an increase in iron intake will restore your iron levels to normal.
Iron overdose is also potentially fatal, and often the first symptoms are stomach ulcers, followed by nausea and vomiting. The pain can then abate before the iron passes into the internal organs, particularly the brain and liver.
Iron is an extremely important nutrient that plays an important role within your body. Avoid the risk of anaemia and deficiency by making sure you eat plenty of the great iron-rich foods. This will keep your body in top shape and you will certainly feel better for it.
Have you ever had your levels checked? How were they?
Do you get enough Vitamin D? Luckily we seem to be coming out of the sun-fearing era slightly, but even so, with so many of us in office jobs, it can be really hard to get enough vitamin D.
Whilst some foods are fortified with vitamin D, they aren't natural whole foods-and even so, the amount they provide is tiny compared to the levels you can get naturally, from the sun.
There’s no substitute for getting regular blood tests to find out exactly where your vitamin D levels are sitting, but did you know certain symptoms may indicate a deficiency?
How’s your mood?
Sunlight boosts serotonin levels, which are associated with our mood. If you’re feeling inexplicably blue, vitamin D is definitely worth investigating.
You have darker skin
The darker your skin, the more sun exposure you’ll need to get sufficient vitamin D levels. This means if you have darker skin and live further from the equator – or spend a lot of time indoors, you’re more likely to be deficient
You’re in pain
If you have bone or muscle pain, this could also point to low vitamin D levels. In fact, most muscle weakness appears to be linked to low levels of vitamin D.
If you’re generally feeling fatigued, this could be because you don’t have enough of the vitamin D required for its role in energy production.
Another potential symptom is chronic respiratory problems such as asthma – it’s been observed that higher vitamin D levels can decrease the severity of asthma attacks.
Being overweight means you need move vitamin D in your system, since its fat soluble – whilst decreased levels also make it harder to lose weight.
You get every infection and bug going around
Vitamin D plays an important role in your immune system – so if you’re catching one thing after another, get those levels checked!
When did you last get your levels checked? Were you deficient?
If you've been following my series on my weight loss struggle – and discoveries, you’ll have read how I’ve struggled to lose weight (despite my paleo diet and exercise), the tests I had done and experts I saw, my DXA body scan and how wildly out my metabolism turned out to be. This week it’s time for the results of those tests!
In Australia the test results all seem to be delivered to you at home – which is great as you don’t have to wait until your next appointment to get the results from your doctor.
Because I’d had genetic testing and various other tests, they all arrived at different times. The blood tests show your result, against a reference range which shows the range of average results they receive. This is great, but who tends to have blood tests? People who aren't well. So in theory this means you’re comparing your results to people who aren't in optimal health, which is perhaps not an ideal marker…
I quickly saw from my results that my SHBG (Sex hormone-binding globulin) result looked high, so distracted myself by researching this. Apparently a high result means the SHBG binds with testosterone, which means a low free testosterone count. Everything else looked fine, to my didn't-go-to-medical-school-mind, so I assumed the problem was hormonal and eagerly awaited my appointment to see what the doctor would suggest to remedy this.
I didn't get the result from the stool samples sent to me at home, but I knew that test was a complete waste of time, so wasn't worried about that….
The doctor’s surgery
My doctor’s appointment finally came round and I knew exactly what we were going to talk about. The SHBG result and how to change it.
I couldn't have been any more wrong.
I was completely floored when she said “You have a parasite, you must be exhausted!” I only took that test to tick all of the boxes. I've had no symptoms to indicate a parasite (especially not the sudden unexpected weight loss symptom. Why couldn't I have had that symptom?), so would have bet my life savings on not having had one. It turns out the test results detected moderate numbers of a parasite called Blastocystis hominis which has apparently been living in my intestines. It’s contracted by accidently swallowing something that’s been contaminated with it. Perhaps even organic produce that hasn't been washed properly? Or touching a door handle after someone else? Or drinking contaminated water or ice?
It can linger for many years, during which time I've backpacked around a lot of Asia, swam in rivers and lakes, eaten from street Vendors, shared food with other travellers – I could have got it from numerous places. I could just as easily have got it from a posh restaurant. I guess I’ll never know…
In terms of treatment, I could go the herbal route (through my naturopath) or take a specific antibiotic based treatment. The herbs take a long time and had a 50% success rate. The success rate of the drugs was over 90% and takes 10 days. Given that I just want to fix things and have more energy, I opted for the antibiotics – something I’m usually very against and haven’t taken for years. I also found out about a drug called Biofilm defence, which if taken just before the antibiotic apparently helps attack the parasite wall making the antibiotics more effective.
Are you a vegan?
Moving onto the blood test results, the doctor’s next comment was “Are you a vegan?! I only ever see Vitamin B12 and Iron levels this low in Vegans!” Whilst she was speaking she got a vitamin B12 injection out of the freezer to give to me then and there… Of course I'm not a vegan! I eat a decent amount of good quality meat – how can this be?! I do tend to eat more white meat and fish over red meat, but I would say I still have red meat a few times a week. It just makes no sense! Again, she commented on how I must be so tired all the time with not only the parasite, but being so deficient in Iron and Vitamin B12. Yes, I am always tired and worn out, but I'm always very busy too – isn't this how everyone feels? I also think perhaps you get used to how you feel, and it can be hard to realise it isn't normal. Wouldn't it be interesting to swap places with your friends for a day, just to see what their version of normal feels like…
It doesn’t stop there…
There were also a few other items of interest from the test results….
My Homocysteine level also seems slightly elevated. Would you believe this can result in clots – i.e. pulmonary embolisms! This seems to be strongly linked to my vitamin B12 deficiency, interesting…
Ferritin was also low, given that this is related to iron storage – and my iron is low, this is hardly a surprise.
My copper levels were also high, and zinc low. These are inversely correlated, so increasing my zinc should help. After the antibiotics, I'm going to be taking the supplement Zinc piccolinate, which should help address this imbalance.
Once I finish the antibiotics I am also going to be starting a course of liver detox & immune herbs that the nautropath has prepared for me.
Quite a lot and I haven’t even got to the genetic results yet (I’ll open that can of worms next week….)
An expert at aiding your body to convert carbohydrates into energy, Vitamin B3 or Niacin plays an important role in the metabolic functions. Good digestive function, detoxification processes, and the creation of hormones – all of these have to say a word of thanks to Niacin as well.
But how do you know if you’re missing this important vitamin in your paleo diet? Niacin deficiency can be characterised by digestive problems, skin infections, lack of appetite, and generalised weakness or muscular weakness. In addition, you might be prone to Niacin deficiency if you’ve suffered from stress, physical trauma, long-term fever, and excessive consumption of alcohol.
It’s quite impressive how Vitamin B3 can benefit your body in adequate amounts. Just look at this list of medical conditions that it may help to prevent or treat – Alzheimer’s, depression, diabetes, gout, hallucinations, headaches, hyperactivity, hypothyroidism, insomnia, inflammatory bowel disease, menstrual pains, multiple sclerosis, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, pellagra, smelling and taste disorders, vertigo. Let’s focus on Alzheimer’s for a moment – in a research from 2004 it was found that elderly subjects who consumed most Niacin in their food were 70% less likely to have Alzheimer’s than those who consumed the least. What an illustration for the power of food in achieving good health until old age. This is what makes the Paleo Diet so fantastic – it shows that delicious whole foods can be the best medicine for your body.
How much Vitamin B3 should you consume?
The recommended daily amount is 20mg, and there are no toxicity symptoms reported to be connected to Niacin consumption from whole foods. However, a tolerable upper limit from supplements is set at 35mg.
Which foods can you get Niacin from?
Now, your body can produce some Vitamin B3 from an amino acid called tryptophan, but this is really inefficient. The Paleo Diet is a great source for adequate Niacin consumption, since it includes a variety of natural food sources. Here are some of the best!
- Liver – If you’re looking for a “comprehensive health supplement”, liver is one of the best, and Vitamin B3 is no exception here. A portion of 100g of lamb liver will provide you with 83% of your daily Niacin need, with other animal livers providing just slightly less than that.
- Chicken – Lean meats are a great source of Niacin, with chicken at the top of the list. A serving of 100g provides you with 68.6% of your daily need.
- Tuna – A protein-rich portion of tuna is another good source for Vitamin B3, as a 100g portion covers 15.7% of your daily intake need. Tuna salad, anyone?
- Turkey – Another lean meat, turkey provides 37% of your daily need of Vitamin B3 in a serving size of 100g. If you’re used to preparing a lot of chicken, try turkey on some of the nights instead for a slightly different micronutrient profile.
- Venison – Yes, Vitamin B3 seems to be all about lean meats… Venison provides you with 37.1% of your daily Niacin need in a 100g portion. Might be time to ring up that hunter you know!
- Halibut – This fish that makes for a lovely dinner along with some veggies provides 35.6% of your daily Niacin need in 100g.
- Shiitake mushrooms – These mushrooms that provide a rich taste for any dish cover 19.4% of your daily Niacin need in a 100g portion. That’s a good enough reason to search for some Asian recipes for your next dinner!
- Sweet potatoes – Not just a source of carbs to fuel your activity, sweet potatoes also provide some great nutrition. One cup of baked sweet potatoes will cover 8.5% of your daily need of Vitamin B3, so feel free to add them to your preferred piece of meat or fish.
What else should you know about Vitamin B3 consumption?
One of the most stable water-soluble vitamins, Niacin is only minimally influenced by air, light, and heat, and thus you shouldn’t be worried about losing the vitamin B3 content of the food you are cooking or storing.
So, what do you think? Are you planning a meaty (or fishy) Niacin-rich dinner already? Share your thoughts about this vitamin in the comments!
Cobalt forms part of the structure of vitamin B12, which makes it an essential dietary mineral. In its inorganic form, cobalt is also an active nutrient for bacteria, algae and fungi, which means that it can help to maintain the balance of the natural bacteria within your body, as well as all of the other bodily functions that it is involved with.
The human body can only absorb cobalt in the form of vitamin B12.
What Does Cobalt Do?
Cobalt is one of the constituent elements of vitamin B12, which makes it essential for us to consume. It is an enzyme catalyst, important for the nervous system and healthy blood cells. Vitamin B12 is also involved with the production of DNA in the body, ensuring that new cells form correctly. Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to megaloblastic anemia, which makes sufferers tired and weak, and some mental problems, such as mania and depression.
Some cobalt is stored in the blood supply within the body, where it helps iron absorption and the building of red blood cells. One of the signs of cobalt deficiency is high concentrations of iron in the serum. People suffering from anemia can help their condition by increasing their cobalt intake.
Food Sources of Cobalt
Cobalt is available from both plant and animal sources. Some of the best plant food sources are green leafy vegetables and apricots. Organ meats are a better source of cobalt than muscle, so hearts, kidneys and livers are good foods to boost your cobalt intake. Other cuts of meat do contain cobalt, but in lower quantities.
As cobalt is present in vitamin B12, you can also boost your natural resources with foods that are high in this vitamin. Some of these include:
- Clams, Oysters and Mussels
- Crabs and Lobster
Another, possibly surprising, source of vitamin B12 is the human digestive system. When the bacteria in the human gut has a supply of cobalt and certain other nutrients it can produce vitamin B12. In some cases, this could be sufficient to fulfill the dietary requirements.
Problems with Cobalt Intake
It is difficult to overdose on vitamin B12 – as a water-soluble chemical; any excess will generally pass out of the body. However, it is occasionally possible to ingest too much and this can lead to numbness or tingling in the arms or face. Other symptoms include insomnia, anxiety or rashes. High levels of vitamin B12 can exaggerate certain medical conditions, such as hyperthyroidism or mitral valve prolapse.
Cobalt is an essential nutrient that is vital for the health of your body and is a major part of vitamin B12 that is all essential to your health. Make sure you eat enough of the foods that contain these to keep your body in its prime. Eat plenty of red meat and seafood to top up your cobalt levels and you will certainly feet better for it.
How are your mineral levels? Have you ever had them checked?
Probably the most effective antioxidant known to function in the human body, Vitamin E is worth learning about. By counteracting free radical damage, it can help to protect you from cardiovascular disease and cancer. In addition, it can raise your skin’s ability to resist UV damage, and it may contribute to the prevention or treatment of a number of medical conditions, including Alzheimer’s, asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, male infertility, psoriasis, PMS, Parkinson’s, migraines, menopause, acne, multiple sclerosis and pregnancy-induced hypertension.
Vitamin E is not just one compound, but actually a collection of eight water-soluble vitamins. Why is this important to know? While supplements usually provide a limited range from this collection, it is possible to get a more beneficial combination of E vitamins from whole foods. For example, research about the influence of Vitamin E in the prevention of Alzheimer’s and prostate cancer both argue for the superiority of a whole food approach for greater effects. This is an illustration of the great benefits of the Paleo Diet that promotes consumption of whole foods for comprehensive health and longevity.
But, how do you know you might be deficient of Vitamin E? A deficiency can be characterised by liver or gallbladder problems, digestive problems (especially poor nutrient absorption), and tingling or loss of sensation in the legs, feet, arms, or hands. Deficiency can be detrimental to the central nervous system and lead to neuromuscular disorders that cause impaired reflexes, loss of balance, muscular weakness. So, especially if you think you might be deficient, read on for recommendations to include more Vitamin E in your diet.
How much Vitamin E do you need in your diet?
The recommended daily amount of Vitamin E is 20mg.
Which foods can you get Vitamin E from?
There are a number of great sources for Vitamin E that you can add to your meals under the Paleo Diet. Here are some of the best!
- Sunflower seeds – Great as a snack or as an addition to your everyday salads, sunflower seeds provide 222% of your daily Vitamin E need in 100g.
- Almonds – Whether you prefer to snack on almonds by themselves, or indulge in almond butter, you’ll be getting a good serving of Vitamin E. In a 100g serving there is 175% of your daily Vitamin E need.
- Paprika – If you wish to add Vitamin E to your food through seasonings, go for some paprika. In a simple tablespoon, there is 14% of your daily intake need.
- Pine nuts – Another delicious snack or addition to salads, pine nuts provide 62% of your daily need of Vitamin E in 100g.
- Dried apricots – If you’re craving a sweet treat, dried apricots provide a number of beneficial micronutrients, including Vitamin E. In a serving of 100g there is 29% of your daily need.
- Pickled green olives – Whether you prefer olives as an indulgence by themselves or add them into salads, they are a great source for Vitamin E. 100g of pickled green olives will provide you with 25% of your daily need. Have you tried tapenade sauce made from olives yet?
- Spinach – Another reason for adding it to your diet – there is 18.7% of your daily Vitamin E need in cup of cooked spinach.
- Papaya – For a fruity dessert, go for a papaya that provides you with 11% of your daily Vitamin E need.
What else do you need to know about Vitamin E consumption?
Vitamin E content of foods can lower with exposure to air and factory processing. Therefore, it is good to store prepared food in airtight containers to not lose its Vitamin E content, tightly cap your olive oil bottles, and always choose fresh whole foods instead of processed ones. Of course, minimally processed foods is what the Paleo Diet is about – to improve and maintain your health in a natural way.
So, what do you think – are you going to include more Vitamin E-rich foods in your diet? Or do you already focus on the Vitamin E content of your food? Share your thought is the comments!
Growth and development – this is what Vitamin B9 is most vital for. Growth and development actually comprise a whole set of processes in the human body, with cell division and DNA production perhaps the most important ones, and so Vitamin B9 becomes especially important during pregnancy, lactating, and early growth stages. What is more, it promotes nerve function, helps to prevent osteoporosis-related bone fractures, and can play a role in the prevention or treatment of a number of medical conditions: anaemia, cervical tumours, depression, glossitis, insomnia, myelopathy, ovarian tumours, restless leg syndrome, schizophrenia, uterine tumours.
Unfortunately, Vitamin B9 deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies, suffered often by pregnant women, by chronic alcohol abusers, and by those with poor nutrient absorption disorders like ulcerative colitis. How can you recognise a deficiency? This can by characterized by muscular fatigue, insomnia, depression, forgetfulness, irritability and gingivitis or periodontal disease.
Vitamin B9 actually comprises two compounds – Folate which is found in natural foods, and Folic Acid which is synthetic. Though similar, Folic Acid that is used for fortifying processed foods is absorbed to nearly half the level of Folate. Therefore, it makes much more sense to focus on whole foods to get adequate Vitamin B9 consumption, and for this the Paleo Diet is a great solution, as it promotes a natural way of eating in the name of long-term vitality and health.
How much Vitamin B9 do you need in your diet?
The daily recommended amount of folate is 400μg. Since it is easily excreted from the body, excessive intakes are very difficult to reach.
Which foods can you get Folate from?
- Liver – Whichever your preferred choice of animal, you’ll get a great amount of Vitamin B9 from it. Turkey liver, however, is the richest source, with 173% of your daily need of Folate in just 100g.
- Spinach – leafy greens are another fantastic source for Vitamin B9, with spinach as the forerunner. In 1 cup of cooked spinach, you’ll get 65% of your daily need of Folate.
- Beets – If you’re looking for a Folate-rich vegetable, beets are your best friends. 1 cup of raw beets covers 37.1% of the daily need of Vitamin B9. Beet salad, roasted beets, beet soup – the choices are endless!
- Romaine lettuce – When preparing a green salad, opt for romaine lettuce. 2 cups of this crunchy salad will provide 32% of your daily Folate need.
- Asparagus – In springtime, one of the best sources for Vitamin B9 is asparagus, providing 37% of your daily need in a 100g serving.
- Papaya – For an exotic dessert, reach for a papaya. In just one fruit, you will get 28.9% of your daily intake need of Vitamin B9.
- Avocado – Yet another reason for having a daily avocado is its Folate content. One cup of mashed avocado (time for guacamole?) amounts to 29.6% of your daily need of Vitamin B9.
- Cauliflower – For a Folate-rich change to those beets, reach for cauliflower. In 1 cup of raw cauliflower, there’s 15.2% of your daily Folate need. And it’s a delicious snack when eaten raw!
What else do you need to know about Vitamin B9?
Vitamin B9 is not very stable, and its content undergoes a relevant loss in the case of non-airtight storage, overcooking and reheating of food. In addition, green and black teas counteract the absorption of the vitamin and thus should be minimized if you focus on Vitamin B9 consumption. However, animal products that contain folate are more stable when it comes to cooking than plant products, so you shouldn’t have a problem if you focus on those. Luckily there’s no lack of them in the Paleo Diet!
So, do you think you should focus more on Folate consumption in your food? Maybe you have some experience related to it? Please share it in the comments!