Regain Your Nutritional Balance
A deficiency or excess of any nutrient can cripple the system.
Three Important Questions
The body needs homeostasis — balance at all times — between hormones, neurotransmitters, and nutrients.
When the body is weakened by the inflammation of chronic illness, the body struggles to maintain homeostasis.
In illness and aging, nutritional balance becomes an important pathway toward recovery.
“The presence of a certain amount of one nutrient often increases or decreases the amount of other nutrients needed.”Ray Peat, PhD
…All nutrients must be in relative balance — always.
A healthy gut quickly and easily absorbs food’s nutrients into the bloodstream.
These nutrients swiftly absorb into cells and are well-balanced throughout the system.
The body keeps a tight rein on nutrients in the blood, using hormones to balance nutrient levels at all times.
These processes allow the body to maintain homeostasis — balance.
Fluid-Balance Is Good
The body is mostly water and, as such, fluids must constantly be balanced throughout the body.
For excellent cellular and organ function, each drop of water in the body requires a certain amount of all nutrients — with little tolerance for toxins and waste.
Fluids are naturally and easily balanced by a healthy person.
In poor health, puffiness, dehydration, cramps, and edema are signs of poor fluid balance. These symtoms are quite rare in a young and healthy system.
The gut is certainly a key regulator of all of these processes, and thereby, a primary controller of fluid balance throughout the body.
In a healthy body, nutrients are properly absorbed in the gut, then delivered to cells, where they stay balanced throughout the body.
In chronic illness, the system struggles to maintain its nutritional balance.
Nutrients Aren’t Absorbed Well
In poor gut health (dysbiosis), nutrients are not absorbed efficiently.
The intestinal lining performs two important tasks:
In dysbiosis, neither of these functions works properly — because the gut lining is damaged and inflamed.
Nutrients are poorly absorbed, and toxic waste is high.
In fact, in chronic illness, the entire digestive process loses efficiency, which translates into a) fewer nutrients absorbed and b) higher inflammation due to toxicity & pathogenic load.
The body is kept in a low-energy state because food — even healthy food — no longer nourishes as it can and should.
Fortunately, gut health can be improved and restored over time. In fact, gut health restoration is essential for the correction of energetic and nutritional deficiencies we see in chronic illness.
Nutritional Immunity Means Deficiency
In poor health, the body is overburdened by multiple, low-grade pathogenic infections.
These almost always manifest in the gut (as dysbiosis of the gut flora) but also present throughout the body — especially in other microbiomes such as the mouth, nose, or skin.
The body fights these low-grade infections by many avenues. One such process is known as nutritional immunity, where the intestines slow nutrient uptake and nutrients in the bloodstream are “hidden” from pathogens.
This also makes nutrients unavailable for use by the body.
Nutritional immunity may be beneficial in acute infections, but it is detrimental and counterproductive when illnesses become chronic.
Ultimately, the body is forced to fend off long-standing infections in a state of perpetual nutrient deficiency — a losing battle.
As a result of this lack of nutrients, the body’s metabolism even slows down, creating conditions like hypothyroidism — with all of its symptoms.
Pernicious nutrient deficiencies are a common occurrence in the chronically ill.
“While sequestering zinc is considered a protective response to restrict pathogens, the resulting decline in serum zinc levels may compromise the immune cell functions resulting in adverse effect.”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6340979/
“Nutritional problems in chronic disease are a significant cause of increased morbidity, mortality, and psychosocial consequences of growth failure.”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6340979/
Poor gut health — with nutritional immunity — perpetuates chronic illness by reducing the absorption of nutrients from the gut. Inflammation blocks nutrients from entering cells even further.
The resultant nutrient deficiencies ultimately lead to more compound problems than the initial infection or disease state — chronic illness.
“In this process, intestinal assimilation of minerals is reduced, and free minerals are sequestered in storage tissues, primarily the liver, thereby rapidly limiting the circulating minerals available for uptake and use by pathogens.”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6124953/
Deficiencies Cause Deeper Problems
One downstream effect of nutrient deficiency is that it compromises immunity even further.
Thus, weakened immunity directly leads to rising levels of pathogens that call the body home — the body’s pathogenic load to increase.
A higher pathogenic load means rising systemic inflammation and rising toxicity. Both work to impair the liver and gut, as well as to blunt the metabolism.
When the body is chronically ill, many factors work together to cause nutrients to become scarce.
Inflammation Disrupts Nutrition
On top of hiding nutrients from pathogens, chronic inflammation further stops nutrients from entering cells — and from being absorbed in the gut.
This can even induce energetic deficiencies — where the body can’t get enough calories from food, regardless of intake.
“Mere increased inflammatory burden can increase the caloric need and, thereby, the risk of protein-calorie malnutrition.”https://pedsinreview.aappublications.org/content/21/1/29
What’s worse, pathogens, particularly in the gut, release toxins known as “endotoxin” which are quite harmful and readily absorb into the bloodstream.
In poor gut health, normal metabolic waste is not cleared very well.
This means daily toxicity builds up in the gut and is reabsorbed into the bloodstream and transported throughout the body. This overwhelms every bodily system — which cannot function optimally in a state of high toxicity — and inflammation rises high.
Chronic toxicity — and inflammation — burdens the liver to excess.
In response to the threat, the liver uses nutrients more quickly. High toxicity causes excessive demand for nutrients in a system that is already starved of nourishment.
This situation can be slightly compounded in genetic situations like MTHFR — where detoxification in the body is effectively slowed down.
Rapid Use & Loss Of Nutrients
In hypothyroidism, minerals are wasted rapidly.
As the metabolism slows, the body is less able to retain minerals in cells (because doing so requires energy), and they are lost via urine.
A healthy body doesn’t waste nutrients this way, but an unhealthy body does — and it’s a big deal. Rapidly losing nutrients wrecks energy metabolism in the short term, and worsens health outcomes in the long-term.
All of these effects accumulate in the system in a chronic feedback loop. The body needs nutrients more than ever — yet fewer and fewer nutrients are absorbed and available to the body.
Modern Foods Are Less Nutritious
Soil quality is plummeting, and modern farming practices are to blame.
Poor soil means food is less nutritious, too.
Remarkably, few diets on their own provide adequate nutrition.
In a 2010 study, researchers found that several popular diet plans were remarkably deficient in micronutrients.
“These selected diet plans are presented to the public as sound, healthy, balanced diets.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2905334/
They recommend their followers eat a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins, and yet, not a single plan was able to provide RDI sufficiency of the studies selected 27 essential micronutrients at the calorie intake level suggested by their respective sample menus.
It was found that 100% sufficiency was possible for all 27 essential micronutrients only when daily calorie intake requirement averaged 27,575 calories.”
Vitamin D is almost non-existant in modern diets — even with fortification — in part because modern animals are often kept indoors, but also because humans have historically received most Vitamin D from sunshine, not food.
Real, preformed Vitamin A (not carotenes) is even more absent from the diet than Vitamin D — if organ meats are not consumed.
Carotenes are not real Vitamin A and, as a result, they must be converted to Vitamin A in the liver — a processed which is commonly compromised in chronic illness and aging.
Vitamin C intake can easily be too low if it’s not a focus in the diet via fruit and greens.
Most vegetables don’t have Vitamin C, meaning it’s possible to eat nots. ofvegetables and still be quite deficient in Vitamin C.
Multivitamins are often a flawed way to address nutrient deficiencies in foods due to inferior, imbalanced, and limited ingredients. That magnesium deficiency that’s rocking the 1st world? Most multi-vitamins contain virtually no magnesium to speak of.
Plummeting soil quality and modern research suggest it’s becoming increasingly difficult to receive adequate nutrition from food alone.
Imbalanced nutrition can cause disease states — all by itself.
Imbalance Is Disease
Every bodily function is weakened by nutrient imbalance.
The energy of the system is reduced, which impairs energy metabolism, immunity, and more.
- Sleep often suffers
- Gut health worsens
- The thyroid slows down to conserve nutrients
When nutrients are not present and are not balanced the defenses against disease become frail.
No nutrient acts alone in the body.
In fact, all nutrients work together to facilitate energy metabolism and health.
Keep in mind, nutrients exist within a family of other nutrients, and balance is essential within — and across — these families.
To some extent, every nutrient is a cofactor for every other nutrient.
All nutrients interact with each other. On some basic level, every nutrient is a “weak co-factor” with all others to help the metabolism turn food into energy.
But some nutrient relationships are especially important, and the term cofactor typically refers to these special relationships between nutrients.
Each nutrient has a small handful of other nutrients that are considered its primary cofactors.
Supplementing one nutrient without its cofactors, or in optimal ratios, can directly result in imbalance over time.
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin K2
- Vitamin C
Most nutrients have a single most important cofactor. This might be considered its ‘partner’ nutrient.
Partner nutrients must be well-balanced with each other.
Any supplementation of one nutrient will “use up” or “drive down” its partner’s levels more than any other relationship.
Partners often exist in a 1:1 relationship — but not always.
Examples of Major Partners:
Three Micronutrient Families
Macronutrients are food. Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals.
Minerals are mostly metals, with a few exceptions.
They are often very conductive, which makes them electrolytes utilized in both batteries and the human body (which is, in fact, a walking battery).
Electrolyte (defined): A chemical that conducts electrical current. (Metals are made of chemicals).
We need electrolytes (minerals) to help us hydrate and to conduct electricity throughout the body.
Biological uses for minerals:
Each mineral needs to be balanced with all other minerals, as well as with all other nutrients.
The Most Important Minerals
There are 12 B-vitamins, and they are all crucial for the body to extract energy from food, a process known as energy metabolism.
B-vitamins are both absorbed from animal products, and created by the beneficial microbes in the gut.
A primary risk of poor gut health is the lack of B-vitamins supplied by the gut. This is also a prime risk of imbalanced diets.
Imbalance and deficiency of B-vitamin levels can cause a wide-range of symptoms: poor digestion, weak cognitive & motor function, blood sugar unregulation, insomnia, and chronic fatigue.
The B-vitamins are essential for nervous system function. You won’t feel like you if deficient in B-vitamins.
As is always true, B-vitamins need to be balanced with all other nutrients.
There are only 4 Fat-Soluble Vitamins, but they’re important in health recovery.
The Fat-Solubles each interact with minerals, impacting various mineral levels when supplemented.
Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the body’s fat tissues, meaning they can accumulate when supplemented in excess.
These nutrients absolutely must be balanced with each other, and none should be supplemented daily.
The Fat Solubles
Whether you’re recovering from illness or interested in optimizing great health, nutrient balance represents an expansive field of exploration and — when done right — results.
Unfortunately, when done unwisely, nutrient balancing can also become a field of landmines, causing harm to your health.
Nutrient supplementation should almost never be undertaken for the drug-like effects of a nutrient or collection of nutrients.
This approach to supplementation will almost always lead to over-supplementation, imbalance, and unwanted side effects. These side effects are especially likely in illness, when the body is already weakened, imbalanced, and nutritionally deficient.
3 Rules Of Nutrient Supplementation
In this blog post, we discuss nutrient supplementation from a bird’s eye view — and three simple concepts to prevent a majority of pitfalls.
This completes ‘Understand Nutrients.’
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