Absorption of positively-charged minerals, especially iron, zinc, and magnesium, is blocked by the phytates of grains. It means that every time you include a grain in your meal–as advised by our own USDA and other health agencies–you effectively turn off absorption of essential minerals. Obviously, with frequent grain consumption, nutritional deficiencies develop.
You could try and remedy this situation by consuming grains while supplementing minerals, hoping to overcome the effect, but this usually does’nt work to fully compensate for blocked absorption, while also exposing you to all the other destructive effects of wheat and grains. This is how it is done, of course, in conventional circles, or deficiencies are simply overlooked or ignored.
The phytate content of a bagel or two slices of whole wheat bread is enough to block iron absorption by 90%. Iron deficiency results in fatigue, lightheadedness, feelings of being cold, and poor physical performance. The second most common worldwide cause for iron deficiency anemia is grain consumption, second only to blood loss (e.g., menstrual cycles). (The World Health Organization knows all about this phenomenon, as they must contend with iron deficiency that develops when grains are shipped in to relieve hunger in Third World regions.) Wheat and grains are very common causes for “unexplained” iron deficiency anemia that fails to fully respond to iron supplementation, rebounding back to normal with grain elimination.
Zinc deficiency can manifest in myriad ways, but most commonly results in skin rashes (often misdiagnosed as seborrhea, eczema, or other rashes), itchiness, a white coating on the tongue, impaired growth and impaired learning in children, reduced sense of taste and smell, and gastrointestinal distress. Magnesium deficiency shows as muscle cramps in the fingers or “charlie horses” in the calves, higher blood pressure and blood sugar, loss of bone density, and heart rhythm disorders.
Mineral absorption improves dramatically with wheat and grain elimination–that is the essential first step. (You now appreciate the folly of bread “fortification” and the futility of taking mineral supplements in the presence of grains in the diet.)
Iron is best managed by checking a blood level of ferritin (reflecting stored iron) and a complete blood count (CBC) to diagnose anemia. While grain elimination may often be sufficient to allow increased iron absorption, iron supplementation may need to be undertaken if iron deficiency anemia is identified. Iron supplementation should not be undertaken blindly without monitoring ferritin and the hemoglobin value on the CBC, as iron overload can also occur.
Magnesium can be safely supplemented by the majority of people. (People with impaired kidney function can accumulate magnesium and should only supplement if levels are monitored.) I recommend taking the magnesium malate form, 1200 mg twice per day (180 mg “elemental” magnesium twice per day). This helps reverse muscle cramps, reduce blood pressure and modestly reduce blood sugar, increase bone density, and quiet abnormal heart rhythms. Including plentiful pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame seeds, as well as green leafy vegetables, further augments magnesium intake. In my experience, given the consumption of filtered water and the low magnesium content of modern produce, it is best to supplement magnesium for a lifetime.
Zinc can also be safely supplemented, 10-15 mg once per day, without monitoring levels. As gastrointestinal absorption improves and you include zinc-rich animal products, long term supplementation is probably not necessary.
Note that we are talking about how to reverse adverse health effects of wheat and grain consumption, i.e., how to undo the harmful effects of awful advice to eat plenty of “healthy whole grains,” the most disastrous dietary advice ever offered, particularly when coupled with “cut your fat, cut your saturated fat” fictions. Modern dietary advice is not only ineffective, but harmful. But once you understand this fundamental issue, health on a scale you previously thought you’d never achieve becomes possible.
More about these issues can be found in Wheat Belly Total Health.