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The biological role of minerals

This table shows the approximate quantities of some of the minerals in the body

Metal Total body stores (g)
Zinc 1.8
Iron 3.7
Calcium 1,000



Zinc is found in all of your bodily tissues but its concentration is especially high in the liver, kidney, bone and muscle. It is recommended that you eat between 4-10 mg each day because you lose approximately 2-3 mg/day. Men need more zinc than women do.

Zinc can be found in:

  • dairy products
  • meat
  • shellfish.

Zinc plays a vital role in maintaining enzymes. Enzymes are small biological molecules that carry out most of the chemical reactions that keep you alive.

A deficiency of zinc can cause delayed wound healing and poor growth. An excess of zinc, on the hand, you may feel nauseous, develop cramps and experience diarrhoea.


Iron is one of the most important minerals in your body. It is a vital component of red blood cells. It helps carry oxygen around your body and delivers it to all of your cells. You are advised to eat between 8.7mg per day as a male and 14.8 mg per day as a female. The reason women need more than men do is because they menstruate each month. Because of this they lose red blood cells, and hence iron.

Iron can be found in

  • red meat
  • nuts
  • dark-green vegetables.

If you have too much iron you can become constipated and nauseous. You may also get achy joints. If you have too little iron you can feel quite tired and have heart palpitations. These are heartbeats you can feel within your chest, as you might do when feeling nervous.


Calcium is the most abundant mineral in your body. It is found in your bones and teeth and is vital for maintaining their strength. It also plays a very important role in ensuring your heart pumps properly and that your blood clots properly when you cut yourself.

Thankfully you can find calcium in a variety of products such as:

  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Fish-bones
  • Green vegetables.

You are recommended to consume about 700 mg of calcium a day, although this number may vary depending on your age and gender.

If you do not consume enough calcium in your diet, you may not experience any noticeable symptoms at first. However, if the deficiency becomes too severe you may experience hallucinations, memory loss and muscle spasms. Too much calcium (over 1500 mg), however, can cause stomach-ache and diarrhoea. Most people do not need to worry about being calcium deficient if they eat a healthy, balanced diet.

Why is this important for IBD?

In a scientific study published in 2013 (here) it was shown that people with inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are at increased risk from mineral and vitamin deficiency because of increased inflammation in the gut and reduced eating habits. The consultants at LGC (London Gastroenterology centre) are experts in managing IBD as well as other digestive complaints. They offer endoscopy and colonoscopy which may be needed for diagnosing these illnesses. If you are concerned about your digestive health, why not book an appointment with us. We would love to help you!

In this article, we have discussed common minerals.


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