The many roles of Magnesium

Woman sitting on beach – The many roles of magnesium article

The many roles of magnesium

We should never underestimate the importance of magnesium, and the roles it plays in our general wellbeing. It is one of the more well-known and most available minerals available in supplement form, but there are still widespread deficiencies across the population, particularly among older adults.

Although there a no comprehensive studies monitoring the New Zealand population and its magnesium status, we know that our soils are low in magnesium. In the USA it’s estimated that two-thirds of all adults, and up to 90% of the elderly are not getting their Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) of this essential mineral.

There are a number of reasons for this. These include the depletion of minerals in the soils through intensive farming, the prevalence of processed foods which further strip away the mineral content, inadequate diet and lack of exercise, and increases in stress and anxiety. The increased use of antibiotics, antacids and prescription medication can also have a detrimental effect in terms of magnesium absorption.

✔️ Calm nerves and anxiety

✔️ Reduces inflammation

✔️ Helps regulate blood sugar levels

✔️ Supports deep sleep patterns

✔️ Relieves muscle aches

✔️ Heart regulation

Magnesium is required for many biological functions within the body, including more than 300 enzyme reactions. Below are some of the benefits of magnesium and the crucial roles it plays in the health of our heart, our muscles and our brain. There are reasons why we need more magnesium when pregnant or when placing significant demands on our bodies in terms of physcial activity. It also explains how we can get more magnesium into our diet through the foods we eat and what we should consider when looking to supplement.

Magnesium for your heart

Adequate levels of magnesium are required for maintaining the function of the nervous system and neuromuscular transmission and activity. It helps with heart muscle contraction-relaxation and regulating the heartbeat. Along with other macro minerals such as calcium, sodium and potassium, magnesium affects the muscle tone in the blood vessels, which enables optimal blood pressure control, with a decreased risk of erratic heartbeat and coronary artery disease.

Man looking out at ocean
Populations with high intakes of magnesium have a much lower rate of cardiovascular disease.

Our nerves depend on magnesium to help keep our arteries relaxed, and free from inflammation, which is the main cause of cardiovascular disease. This allows for good circulation, healthy arteries, and to ensure sufficient blood flow to all parts of the body, including our brain.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that one in three deaths are attributed to cardiovascular disease. Populations with high intakes of magnesium have a much lower rate of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arrhythmia and hypertension compared to those with insufficient levels. Magnesium supplementation programmes have shown to have a significantly postive effect on the treatment of patients with cardiovascular disease, and researchers have advocated for a higher RDI of this essential nutrient for many years.   

Magnesium for muscles and sleep

Magnesium can relax the muscles, our nerves and the mind. It also helps to avoid muscle cramps, headaches and can lessen the effects of stress, leading to a better quality of sleep. 

People with low magnesium status can be tense and irritable, and suffer from cold hands and feet due to poor circulation. They can find it hard to calm the mind and relax, and get a proper night’s sleep.

Woman sleeping in a bed. Magnesium can assist with alleviating muscle cramps at night.
Magnesium is best taken at night as it contributes to physical and mental relaxation.

The best I’ve had. I feel the difference almost immediately. No digestive problems with this. Helps me sleep and relax in general.”


Common symptoms of magnesium deficiency include muscle cramps, especially at night, as well as fatigue, insomnia, high blood pressure and heart disturbances.

Magnesium is best taken at night as it contributes to physical and mental relaxation, lessens the effects of stress, and when paired with a consistent night-time routine it can greatly assist with getting a restful night’s sleep.

Magnesium for your brain

Along with metabolic health and muscular function, magnesium is critical for brain health. It can help support cognitive function, especially among older adults who are at greater risk of deficiency.  

It is also essential for both short and long term memory, enables concentration and learning, and helps with mood, behaviour and healthy aging.

Our brains require an enormous amount of energy – up to 20 percent of all the body’s energy. This requires a constant supply of magnesium, and the trillions of neural networks and synapses within the brain need magnesium to process information. 

Magnesium is essential for brain function.
Magnesium is essential for brain function and acts on receptors which help brain development.

Magnesium has been shown to regulate the receptors in the brain associated with learning, memory, mood regulation. Abnormal NMDA receptor activity has been present in patients presenting with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease as well as depression and anxiety.

“Brilliant product. Sleeping much better compared to other magnesium products that I’ve tried. And my few muscle cramps have disappeared. Though the taste isn’t great, I choose to swallow it straight as the taste soon disappears, so it’s no problem.”


Low magnesium status has been linked to anxiety, fibromyalgia, age-related memory loss and depression. In addition, the various medications used to treat depression can further contribute to decreased magnesium levels.

In 2017, to assess the effects of magnesium supplementation, an open-label, randomized, cross-over trial was done with 126 adults who had been diagnosed with mild-to-moderate symptoms of depression. (6) Supplementation was undertaken with 248mg of magnesium chloride per day for 6 weeks, compared to 6 weeks of no supplementation. It led to a clinically significant improvement in mood and anxiety scores, and positive effects were observed within two weeks. The magnesium chloride was also well tolerated, and 61% of participants reported they would use magnesium in the future.

In another study of more than 1,000 older individuals who were followed for 17 years, those with higher intakes of electrolytes such as calcium, potassium and magnesium had a lower risk of developing dementia. (7)

Magnesium for performance

As magnesium helps with regulating the heart and muscle contraction and movements, it is crucial for physical performance, and should be a part of any sports nutrition progamme. 

Woman running on New Zealand beach. Iron for energy.
Supplementation can avoid muscle cramping and even migraines during exercise.

Along with potassium, sodium, chloride and calcium, magnesium is an electrolyte, and is able to hold an electrical charge to supply these macro minerals to our cells accordingly.

Magnesium is depleted in the body through excessive sweating, and supplementation can be required to avoid muscle cramping and even migraines during exercise. As good quality sleep is so important to performance, maintaining sufficient levels of magnesium in the cells is necessary for athletes to enable recovery of both mind and body.

Athlete stretching on running track. About 60% of the magnesium in your body is found in bone, with the other 40% found in muscles.
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body. About 60% of the magnesium in your body is found in bone, with the other 40% found in muscles, soft tissues and fluids. 

Magnesium when pregnant or breastfeeding

When pregnant or breastfeeding, your body requires even more vitamins and minerals, especially iodine and selenium, and also magnesium, all of which are in short supply in the New Zealand soils. Magnesium plays a big part in the baby’s development and growth, and the health of the mother during this important time.

Higher amounts of magnesium have been shown to relieve pre-eclampsia and hypertension in women during the latter stages of pregnancy, and pregnancy-induced leg cramps.

The RDI for Magnesium in women is 310mg per day, but increases to 360mg when pregnant or breastfeeding.

How to get more magnesium into your diet

Through eating a balanced, whole-food diet, you can obtain good levels of magnesium from food sources. The less processed foods you eat the better. For example, approximately 80% of magnesium is lost when wheat is refined into white flour, and all magnesium is lost in the refining of white sugar.

Green leafy vegetables and raw, unsalted nuts (almonds, walnuts) and seeds (pumpkin/sunflower) sweetcorn, dates, beans and bananas are the best plant-based sources of magnesium. Other foods such as wheat bran, quinoa, dark chocolate and seafood such as shrimps and pipis contain good levels of the mineral.

How to get more magnesium into your diet with these foods. Green leafy vegetables, pumpkin seeds, sweetcorn, bananas, dark chocolate and almonds are all good sources of magnesium.
Green leafy vegetables, pumpkin seeds, sweetcorn, bananas, dark chocolate and almonds are all good sources of magnesium.

Gut health plays a significant part in the absorption of minerals and vitamins from our food, and so too with magnesium. If you experience digestive issues, your body may not be able to utilise the magnesium found in your foods.

“Couldn’t be without it. Have used this for years now. Great for headaches and deep sleep. Take it in a small amount of water just before bed and I always sleep peacefully.”


Stress, excessive alcohol intake, excessive sweating, the use of prescription drugs, and advancing age are all factors that can lead to magnesium deficiency. If you’re unable to access sufficient levels from your diet, supplementation may be an option. Magnesium supplements can be found in many forms – capsules, tablets, epsom salts, and liquid mineral formulas.  

Supplementing with magnesium

When considering supplementation, you should look for highly bioavailable options. These inlude organic forms such as magnesium citrate, or ionic liquid mineral supplements, which are more easily absorbed and tolerated by the body.

To generate magnesium ions, the compound must dissolve in water, but common supplements such as magnesium oxide do not dissolve and therefore cannot deliver magnesium ions into the bloodstream, and then into your cells and bone where it needs it most. 

The RDI for magnesium is 310mg for females, increasing to 360mg when pregnant or breastfeeding. The RDI for adult males is 420mg.

When should I take it?
While it’s best taken at night as it contributes to physical and mental relaxation, it can be taken at any time.

Individuals with kidney disease, severe heart disease or on prescription medication should consult their health practitioner before taking a magnesium supplement.  


Most of us could benefit from topping up our magnesium stores, and the health benefits it provides. Whether we’re taking it for our heart, our brain, to get more energy or improve the quality of our sleep, magnesium is responsible for more than 300 enzymatic reactions in the body, so there’s hardly any part of the body that doesn’t benefit.

The information in this article is not intended as a medical prescription for any disease or illness. Nothing stated here should be considered medical advice. Use as directed. If symptoms persist, consult your healthcare professional. 

Selenium to support your immune system

Middle-aged woman smiling. Takes Selenium to support her immune system.

Selenium to support your immune system

Selenium is an important trace element. It plays a positive role in supporting immune system function by helping fight off bacterial infections and viruses.

Selenium is known as a micronutrient and is required in very small amounts by the body. As a component of the enzyme glutathione peroxidase, which is a powerful antioxidant, it can help protect the brain, heart, and kidneys against free radicals and environmental toxins.

It maintains the health of male and female reproductive systems, regulates mood, blood pressure and assists with optimal thyroid function as well as cardiovascular health.

There is growing research to suggest that it can help with anti-ageing, by preserving skin elasticity and supporting brain function as we age.

As with zinc and iodine, New Zealand soils have been shown to have low levels of selenium, leading to deficiencies and predisposing us to certain illnesses, especially as we age. Selenium is now often added to foods such as bread in the form of imported selenium-rich wheat as well as added to animal and poultry feed on the farm.

Woman embracing young grand-daughter. There is growing research to suggest that selenium can help with anti-ageing.
There is growing research to suggest that selenium can help with anti-ageing.

Selenium was only recognised as an essential trace element for human health in 1990. Since then, we have learnt a great deal about its role within the human body, and the benefits it can provide.

The lack of selenium

New Zealand soils have low levels of a number of important minerals, including zinc, iodine and selenium. If these nutrients are not in our soils, they are not in the foods we eat.

In the NZ Nutrition Survey in 2009, the average dietary intake of selenium had improved, and was measured at 67mcg, up from 52mcg from the previous survey. Men and women over 71 years of age, and young women aged between 15-18 years had the lowest selenium intakes.

Essential as we age

Selenium activates the antioxidant enzyme glutathione peroxidase, which help mitigate the effects of ageing by removing environmental toxins from the body.

These toxins, or ‘free radicals’, can lead to inflammation, cardiovascular disease, cataract formation and a higher risk of various cancers.

A selenium-rich diet can also protect against premature ageing of the skin, by preserving the elasticity of arteries and our skin as we get older. It alleviates sun damage and age spots, helping to maintain a youthful appearance to the skin.

In females, research suggests adequate selenium status may reduce menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes.

What are free radicals?

Free radicals are often a product of our lifestyle, (such as excessive alcohol or smoking) or exposure to heavy metals and toxins in our environment. This exposure can occur through the water we drink, the foods we eat, or the air we breathe, as well as substances that come into contact with our skin.

These free radicals are molecules that have lost an electron and have become unstable. They go looking for an electron by attacking other cells within our body.

This causes damage to our cell walls and cell tissues, which impairs the function of the cell. This damage can then lead to degenerative diseases such as heart disease, autoimmune disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, and decreased thyroid function.

The antioxidant glutathione peroxidase attaches to the free radicals, providing the missing electron they need – which can prevent lasting damage to the body.

Woman drinking Skybright Selenium liquid mineral supplement.
Our body doesn’t produce selenium, so we must access it through our diet.

Maintaining mineral levels

As our body doesn’t produce selenium, concentrations of the mineral decline with age. Therefore, we must continue to access it through our diet, or look to supplement.

Low levels have been associated with age-related declines in brain function, possibly due to decreases in selenium’s antioxidant activity. More evidence is required to determine whether supplementing with selenium may help prevent or even treat cognitive decline in elderly people, which is a big issue facing this growing segment of the New Zealand population.

How much is needed?

In New Zealand, the recommended daily intake (RDI) for selenium is 60mcg for women and 70mcg for men. However, some nutritionists suggest a much higher RDI of 200mcg, temporarily increasing to 400mcg when fighting a viral infection, inflammation or a known heavy metal build-up.

While supplementing with selenium, other minerals such as iodine (from fish, shellfish) as well as vitamin E (sunflower seeds, almonds, peanuts) should also be part of the diet, as these nutrients all work well together to fight infection and inflammation.

Man drinking water with Skybright Selenium liquid mineral. In New Zealand, the recommended daily intake (RDI) for selenium is 60mcg for women and 70mcg for men.

In New Zealand, the recommended daily intake (RDI) for selenium is 60mcg for women and 70mcg for men. 

It’s important to remember that like some minerals, excessive selenium can be toxic, especially when supplementing in large quantities. When consuming more than 800-1000mcg (inorganic selenium) per day for long periods, you may experience symptoms of selenium toxicity, such as numbness in the hands and feet, a metallic taste in your mouth and bad breath.

In extreme cases, it can also cause skin rashes, gastrointestinal disturbance, brittleness and loss of fingernails, alopecia, irritability and nervous system abnormalities.

How to get selenium into your diet

It is well known that you can get your daily requirements of selenium from eating just a few brazil nuts. But this obviously depends on the selenium content in the soil in which they grow. The mineral content of the nuts can vary from as little as 10mcg to up to 100mcg in selenium-rich soil.

As with iodine, seafood provides a good source of selenium. Organ meats, poultry, eggs, dairy, cereals and unrefined grains are also good.

Unrefined grains, and Brazil nuts are good sources of dietary Selenium.
Unrefined grains and brazil nuts are good sources of dietary selenium.

Fruits and vegetables such as broccoli can contain selenium but again, only if they are grown in selenium-rich soils, which is often not the case in New Zealand. Soil pH, the amount of organic matter in the soil, geographic location and whether the selenium is in a form that is conducive to plant uptake are all factors.

For those on vegan, gluten-free, ketogenic or low-protein diets, selenium can be even harder to access. Selenium levels are often low if you suffer from malabsorption, diarrhoea or inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS). Eat a whole-food diet where you can and try to limit foods and drinks that are high in sugars, saturated fats, and salt.

For those on vegan, gluten-free, ketogenic or low-protein diets, selenium can be even harder to access.

A hair mineral analysis test or a blood test can provide you with not only information on your current selenium status, but a range of other minerals that may be at low levels, due to diet or pre-existing conditions.

Iodine and selenium for thyroid health

Due to changes in diet and environmental factors, there has been an increase in thyroid disorders.

Both iodine and selenium are required for optimal thyroid function and work well together to support the health of the thyroid gland.

The antioxidant glutathione peroxidase is highly active in the thyroid gland, protecting it from oxidative damage. Low levels of selenium have been associated with reduced thyroid glutathione peroxidase activity and supplementation has in turn been shown to increase glutathione peroxidase activity. This protects the thyroid from excess iodine, and its potentially toxic effects.

Glutathione peroxidase is highly active in the thyroid gland, protecting it from oxidative damage.
Glutathione peroxidase is highly active in the thyroid, protecting it from oxidative damage.

In cases of iodine deficiency, selenium supplementation may too be of value, as deficiencies of selenium and iodine commonly co-exist.

There have been suggestions that selenium be added to table salt along with iodine, but table salt is not recommended as part of a healthy diet.Instead, unrefined sea salt is a better option as it contains many minerals and elements your body needs in trace amounts.

For more information, see our article Are you getting enough iodine?

Vitamin C to aid absorption

Vitamin C, often taken to assist our immune system, is another nutrient that works well with selenium. An intake of 600mg of Vitamin C has been shown to increase dietary selenium by nearly 100 percent.

Woman eating oranges while pregnant. An intake of 600mg of Vitamin C has been shown to increase dietary selenium by nearly 100%.
An intake of 600mg of Vitamin C has been shown to increase dietary selenium by nearly 100%.


Selenium works with a number of other nutrients, including iodine, vitamin E and vitamin C, to support our immune system and help tackle infections and inflammation.

It is an essential cofactor for glutathione peroxidase, an enzyme and antioxidant that helps protect us from damage caused by a range of pollutants and toxins that can be present in our environment, our food, and the water we drink. Our soils often have low levels of selenium, long with zinc and iodine, especially here in New Zealand.

Man holding glass of water. Taking selenium in liquid form increases bioavailability, enabling effective absorption of the mineral.
Taking selenium in liquid form increases bioavailability, enabling effective absorption of the mineral.

If we are unable to access the required amount of selenium due to diet or other factors, we can look to supplement, by taking just a few drops in a glass of water.

Taking selenium in liquid form increases bioavailability, meaning your body can quickly and effectively absorb the mineral. This can help boost your immune system and support your natural defences when tackling an infection.

It’s best to consult with your health professional before undergoing supplementation. They can also help you with assessing your mineral status through a blood test or by hair mineral analysis.

Coory, David. Stay Healthy by supplying what’s lacking in your diet. 1992
Schauss, Alexander G. Minerals, Trace Elements, & Human Health. Life Sciences Press. 1995
Christine D Thomson,  Jennifer M Campbell,  Jody Miller,  Sheila A Skeaff, Vicki Livingstone. Selenium and iodine supplementation: effect on thyroid function of older New Zealanders. 2009
Fairbairn, K. Serious about Selenium. Otago Daily Times. 2018
Medsafe. Selenium, Prescriber Update. 2000
National Institutes of Health (NIH) Selenium. Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. Updated 2021

The information in this article is not intended as a medical prescription for any disease or illness. Nothing stated here should be considered medical advice. Use as directed. If symptoms persist, consult your healthcare professional. 

Organic Apple Cider Vinegar FAQ’s

People holding up glasses of water containing Organic Apple Cider Vinegar.

Organic Apple Cider Vinegar FAQ’s

Here are some FAQ’s on ACV. There are hundreds of uses for Apple Cider Vinegar, and almost as many health benefits.

See our other articles on how to Love your gut with our Organic Apple Cider Vinegar, or try out one of our Recipes with Organic Apple Cider Vinegar.

Don’t take it straight – Organic Apple Cider Vinegar can be harsh on your oesophagus if you take it as a shot.
Don’t take it straight – it can be harsh on your oesophagus if you take it as a shot.

Young woman holding her stomach.

“Eat fermented foods, sleep a lot, fill up on fibre, and maintain a healthy weight. Your belly and your brain will thank you.” 

The Beginner’s Guide to Better Gut Health

Have another question for us?

We’d be happy to help. Send us an email, phone us on 0800 200 707 or message us on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

Dark-haired woman smiling

“Gorgeous ACV… will be buying it again and again 🙂 ”

— Michelle

The information in this article is not intended as a medical prescription for any disease or illness. Nothing stated here should be considered medical advice. Use as directed. If symptoms persist, consult your healthcare professional. 

Love your gut with Organic Apple Cider Vinegar 

Love your gut with Skybright Organic Apple Cider Vinegar. Woman making heart with hands.

Love your gut with Organic Apple Cider Vinegar 

Skybright Organic Apple Cider Vinegar is made from from delicious, organically-grown New Zealand apples. Unlike other brands that have come halfway around the world, by buying this product you are supporting local farmers, growers and producers, and organic production methods.

It is raw, unfiltered, unpasteurised, and aged for at least 12 months to give it a noticeably smoother taste. The sediment contains naturally occurring amino acids and antioxidants and gives the product a cloudy appearance. It is known as the ‘mother’ – strands of proteins and friendly bacteria that promote digestive health, immune support and overall wellbeing.

Organic Apple Cider Vinegar contains pectin, a soluble fibre found in high levels in apples.
ACV contains pectin, which is a soluble fibre found in high levels in apples.

Packed with goodness

Organic Apple Cider Vinegar contains pectin, which is a soluble fibre found in high levels in apples. It is a storehouse of essential amino acids and enzymes and important minerals including potassium, chlorine, sodium, magnesium, calcium, sulphur, iron, fluoride and silicon. You’ll get a good dose of the fibre which is great for proper digestion as it will slow down sugar release, leading to a steady stream of energy. It also has cleansing properties, and can help to lower blood sugar levels and boost energy levels.

Buy local 

By buying local, you’re supporting local growers, producers, and their families. Aotearoa is the perfect place to grow an apple, and then process into Organic Apple Cider Vinegar. So that makes it great for the local economy, great for the environment, and great for your health.

Organic Apple Cider Vinegar is aged for at least 12 months to give it a noticeably smoother taste.
Aged for at least 12 months to give it a noticeably smoother taste. 🍎

Dilution is good

Organic Apple Cider Vinegar is of course very acidic. It’s best to always dilute it in a large glass of water – and you could always drink it through a (reusable) straw to avoid too much contact with your pearly whites. Then rinse your mouth with water afterwards.

✔️ With the ‘mother’

✔️ Promote gut health

✔️ Smooth digestion

✔️ Balance cholesterol

✔️ Boost energy

✔️ Gluten free

✔️ Vegan friendly

✔️ BioGro certified organic

“Absolutely delicious – This is by far the nicest Organic Apple Cider Vinegar I’ve ever tasted!”

– Jude

Using Organic Apple Cider Vinegar everyday

A zesty salad dressing 
Get some zesty flavour into your salad by adding little bit of Organic Apple Cider Vinegar to the dressing. The acetic acid in the vinegar also increases your body’s absorption of important minerals and nutrients from the leafy greens and salad vegetables.

Green smoothie containing Organic Apple Cider Vinegar

Add it to your smoothie
Take a good handful of spinach, 1 peeled orange,  ½ banana, (sliced into chunks), ½ avocado, 1 tbsp Organic Apple Cider Vinegar, some frozen berries, and a blob of plain greek yoghurt. Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.  

Home made bone broth containing Organic Apple Cider Vinegar.

Homemade bone broth
Sipping on bone broth is a great way to improve your gut health. Add Organic Apple Cider Vinegar to the bones, the water and seasonings half an hour or so before boiling. This helps pull more minerals from the bones and enhances the nutrition of the broth.

Hand holding teacup containing Organic Apple Cider Vinegar with lemon and ginger.

Organic Apple Cider Vinegar tea
Try adding a tbsp of Organic Apple Cider Vinegar to some hot water (or green tea for added antioxidants) with sliced lemon and ginger. Delicious and nutritious.

Athlete drinking Organic Apple Cider Vinegar to help turn carbs into energy.

ACV for athletes
Athletes often drink Organic Apple Cider Vinegar before they carb-load prior to competition, as the acetic acid can help your muscles turn carbs into energy. ACV provides the gut with a healthy mix of electrolytes that can help in preventing muscle and gastrointestinal cramping. 

 “I have tried several different brands of ACV. Then I tried Skybright ACV. OMG!! This is amazing. Its smooth taste is a delight. The BEST by far of all the ACV’s I have tried and tested. Highly recommend this 100%”

– Josie
BioGro Certified Organic Logo

BioGro certified Organic
Our Organic Apple Cider Vinegar is BioGro certified Organic. BioGro is New Zealand’s largest and best-known certifier of genuine organic products and the world’s most secure and impermeable traceability system. Every single BioGro Certified Organic product can be traced back to its origin. ⁠

⁠Our certification process involves an Organic Management Plan, annual audit, and visits to our facility to ensure our practices meet BioGroʻs organic standards and requirements. Many products claim to be organic but when it carries the BioGro logo you know you’re really buying organic.

The Organic Apple Cider Vinegar Daily Tonic

Take the daily tonic each morning. Just add a couple of teaspoons to a large glass of water. Dilution is good!

We don’t recommend you take it straight – as Apple Cider Vinegar is very acidic, it can be harsh on your oesophagus if you take it as a shot.

Take it first thing in the morning before breakfast, or before any meals to aid digestion, regulate blood pressure, balance cholesterol, help lower blood sugar levels, boost nutrient absorption and increase your energy levels.

Woman drinking Organic Apple Cider Vinegar daily tonic. Love your gut
Try The Daily Tonic for a month and feel the effects of its amazing health benefits.

For more information, try these other resources: Find the answers to your questions in Organic Apple Cider Vinegar FAQ’s, or try one of our Recipes with Organic Apple Cider Vinegar.

The information in this article is not intended as a medical prescription for any disease or illness. Nothing stated here should be considered medical advice. Use as directed.

Swedish Bitters: A herbal tonic

Young woman stretching outdoors. Better digestive health with Swedish Bitters.

Swedish Bitters for digestive health

Swedish Bitters is a 400 year-old European herbal formula made popular through the well-known Austrian herbalist Maria Treben in her book “Health through God’s Pharmacy”. It is well proven over the years to be an outstanding digestive, liver and gallbladder tonic and is capable of supporting a huge range of body systems.

The bitter taste has a very important part to play in the effectiveness of the formulation. The liver, the keeper of balance in the body, is stimulated by the bitters in Swedish Bitters and will then produce fluids required for proper and complete digestion and drive toxins out of your system. 

It is very important to cleanse your body of toxins and unwanted substances. This helps to revitalise the entire circulatory system, which may help to regulate blood sugar levels, improve blood pressure and strengthen the immune system.

Skybright Swedish Bitters. Woman and herbs.
Swedish Bitters is made from medicinal herbs and taken in small doses.

What are Swedish Bitters?

Swedish Bitters is a herbal tonic made from medicinal herbs and alcohol which helps extract the benefits of these plants. This tincture has a bitter taste, and is taken in small doses.

Why the bitter taste?

Bitters are an important class of botanicals that help support efficient digestive, assimilative, and eliminative functions. The primary function of Swedish Bitters is to help with digestive complaints like bloating, flatulence, sluggish digestion and constipation. Bitters stimulate the flow of bile from the liver, which in turn stimulates intestinal peristalsis and promotes nutrient absorption. By enhancing digestion, Swedish Bitters are a great help in cases of bloating, flatulence and gas.

“These bitter substances have almost been completely eliminated from the modern diet. This has caused some disturbance with our digestive system.”

Austrian herbalist Maria Treben in her book “Health Through God’s Pharmacy

Bitters have the ability to improve kidney and liver function, reduce bloating and improve metabolism. They can encourage toxin elimination, restore natural acid balance in the stomach, stimulate circulation and act as a gentle laxative.

When used externally, it can alleviate inflammations of all kinds if applied to spots, wounds, bruises, and scars.

The ingredients in Swedish Bitters:

As the herbs in Skybright Swedish Bitters are sourced from different countries around the world, all herbs are tested in a pharmacy lab to make sure they are free from contamination before they are used in the formula. It is a gluten-free formula, and suitable for people with lactose intolerance.

Skybright Swedish Bitters – Aloe Vera plant & Carline Root
Aloe Vera (left) and Carline Root

Aloe Vera & Carline Root
Aloe Vera soothes and cleanses and helps decrease irritation in the stomach and intestines, aiding proper digestion. Carline Root supports healthy immune, respiratory, reproductive muscular systems, and normal bladder function.

Skybright Swedish Bitters – Myrrh and Saffron
Myrrh (left) & Saffron

Myrrh & Saffron
Myrrh helps to build up the body’s defence mechanisms and is effective in keeping the digestive, sinus and respiratory organs healthy. Aids in maintaining healthy skin. Saffron supports healthy sleep patterns. It’s also good for the health of the uterus and digestive tract.

Skybright Swedish Bitters Camphor and Rhubarb Root
Camphor (left) & Rhubarb Root

Camphor & Rhubarb Root
Camphor is a bitter herb that can reduce inflammation and help to ease pain and spasms by supporting joint mobility and normal muscle function. It can also enhance digestion and kill intestinal parasites. Rhubarb Root aids healthy intestinal motility, and assists the skin’s natural barrier.

Skybright Swedish Bitters – Zedoary & Angelica Root
Zedoary (left) & Angelica Root

Zedoary & Angelica Root
Zedoary supports healthy digestive organs and is commonly used for colic, spasms, loss of appetite, and indigestion. Angelica Root aids proper digestion by flushing out toxins and maintains the respiratory system. It supports a healthy bladder, joint mobility and helps the skin eliminate toxins.

Skybright Swedish Bitters – Gentian & Theriaca Venezian 
Gentian (left) & Theriaca Venezian 

Gentian, Manna & Theriaca Venezian 
Gentian is used for digestion problems such as loss of appetite, bloating and heartburn. Manna helps to maintain proper bowel movement. Theriaca Venezian has diuretic, digestive and antiseptic properties.

One teaspoon (5ml) contains:
Aloe Vera 33.3mg, Gentian 33.3mg, Camphor 33.3mg, Manna 33.3mg, Theriaca Venezian 33.3mg*, Rhubarb Root 33.3mg, Zedoary Root 33.3mg, Angelica Root 33.3mg, Carline Root 16.5mg, Myrrh 16.5mg, Saffron 0.7mg. In a base of 40% medicinal alcohol and purified water.

*Theriaca Venezian is a herbal blend that contains Angelica root, Diptam Root, Cardamom Seed, Cinnamon (Cassia), Bistort Root, Myrrh, Zedoary Root & Valerian Root.

How to take it

Shake bottle well, and take 1-2 teaspoons or 10ml in a shot glass after meals. May be taken in water, herbal tea or juice to dilute it. It will help soothe the stomach after eating, stimulate digestion and alleviate indigestion.

In Europe, bitters are taken in a shot glass before or after meals to stimulate digestion, settle the stomach before eating and neutralise the damages of alcohol. After a heavy meal, Swedish Bitters can be quite helpful against indigestion, as well as to relieve bloating and gas. 

Keep out of reach of children. Do not use if pregnant, breastfeeding, or if vomiting, nausea, diarrhoea or abdominal pains are present.

Skybright Swedish Bitters. All-natural, Vegan-friendly and Gluten-free.

Warning: Contains alcohol

Swedish Bitters is produced in a base of 40% alcohol. This helps extract as much as possible from the herbs, while also preserving the shelf life of the tincture. To evaporate the alcohol, add 5-10ml to a cup of hot water and allow to cool.

The alcohol used in Swedish Bitters is gluten free. It is sourced from whey protein and is made in New Zealand. It is medicinal alcohol.

The information in this article is not intended as a medical prescription for any disease or illness. Nothing stated here should be considered medical advice. Use as directed. If symptoms persist, consult your healthcare professional. 

Deer Antler Velvet

Skybright Deer Antler Velvet to strengthen, protect and restore

Deer Antler Velvet to strengthen, protect and restore 

Deer Antler Velvet comes from the antlers of male deer, and is the name  given to the softer new growth that is covered in velvety hair. It’s been used in Chinese medicine for over two thousand years for its health giving properties. 

It is rich in amino acids, essential fatty acids, collagen, glucosamine, chondroitin, omega 3 and omega 6, and many other important vitamins and minerals. These work together to help strengthen the immune system, support healthy blood pressure, boost energy levels, aid joint mobility, promote recovery, reduce inflammation and improve cardiovascular health and function.

Deer antlers can grow up to 2cm per day.
Deer antlers can grow up to 2cm per day.

A renewable resource
The antlers regenerate swiftly every spring (up to 2cm per day), and because of this quick growth, they are a rich source of essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients. The antlers are removed before they harden into bone. The Deer Antler Velvet is made from the middle section of the antler (brow tine and bez tine offcuts).

Made in New Zealand
This process is done by trained and accredited farmers and veterinarians here in New Zealand, who ensure minimum discomfort to the deer. The velvet is then freeze dried to preserve the nutrients and ground to a fine powder.

Traditional uses
The uses of Deer Antler Velvet are many and varied, but they tend to fall into the general categories of support for: body strengthening, blood cell production, the immune system, healthy joint function and cardiovascular health.

Our Deer Antler Velvet capsules are an authentic 100% natural, sustainable New Zealand product of the finest quality. 

Immune system support
Deer Antler Velvet has the ability to strengthen the body’s natural immune system, counter the effects of stress, and promote rapid recovery from illness. It is also used at the onset of winter to ward off infections.

Preliminary research led by AgResearch, which is co-funded by Deer Industry New Zealand (DINZ) and AgResearch, focused on the effects of deer velvet extracts on both innate and adaptive immunity. This early stage work is encouraging, with promising results, but there is still a long way to go before we can verify claims to support Deer Antler Velvet’s effect on the immune system.

Sore joints?
Deer Antler Velvet is a natural source of anti-inflammatories such as chondroitin and glucosamine sulphate. It helps inhibit the breakdown of cartilage, and supports healthy joint structure and function.

Recover faster
Widely used by athletes to support improved sports performance, Deer Antler Velvet is an excellent promoter of recovery after physical activity and aids injury recovery time along with also being an injury preventive.

“I’m 68 years young and have been taking this product for four years and I have not noticed any reduction in suppleness in my joints”

— John

Blood circulation
Research has shown that Deer Antler Velvet supports the oxygen carrying capacity of blood, facilitating healthy blood pressure and circulation. Blood pressure reduction is due to its ability to increase dilation of the peripheral blood vessels.

Back into balance
Men and women of all ages can benefit because it supports the body’s ability to adapt to and resist stress, diseases, degeneration and toxins. Deer Antler Velvet helps bring the body’s systems back into balance.

Are there any concerns?
As with all dietary supplements, you should not exceed the recommended daily dose and should consult your healthcare professional if you are on prescription medication.

Skybright Deer Antler Velvet 500mg capsules are Made in New Zealand from the finest grade Deer Antler Velvet.
Each capsule contains 500mg of pure, finest grade Deer Antler Velvet.

Is Deer Antler Velvet WADA compliant?

Deer Antler Velvet can contain low levels of the naturally occurring substance insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), which is banned. These levels of IGF-1 are not measured routinely. As it’s a natural product with potential variability we are unable to offer any assurances.

Organisations like WADA do not offer any approvals or certification process regarding supplements, and we do not actually test the Deer Velvet Capsules directly for the type of chemicals that WADA would screen for.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) does not explicitly prohibit Deer Antler Velvet, but because some Deer Velvet products might contain the prohibited substance IGF-1, WADA advises that “athletes exercise extreme caution with this supplement because it could lead to a positive test. Athletes who use these types of products do so at their own risk.

In short, Skybright doesn’t endorse the use of Deer Velvet Supplements for athletes subject to WADA testing protocols.

Man lifting weights – Skybright Deer Antler Velvet
Supports healthy joint function, body strengthening and immune system support.


Take two high-strength 500mg capsules daily or as directed by your healthcare professional. All doses to be taken with food. Not for use in pregnancy. Use as directed. If symptoms persist, see your healthcare professional. Each jar contains 100 Capsules. Store in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.

Each capsule contains 500mg of 100% Grade A Deer Velvet from farmed New Zealand Red Deer (Cervus elephus). There are no artificial colourings, flavouring or preservatives. Encapsulated in a bovine hard gelatin capsule. With the bovine capsule, it is not certified Halal, so we wouldn’t be able to support that claim.

The information in this article is not intended as a medical prescription for any disease or illness. Nothing stated here should be considered medical advice. Use as directed. If symptoms persist, consult your healthcare professional. 

Effervescing Anti-Uric Salts

Man drinking Skybright Anti-Uric Salts from a glass of water

Effervescing Anti-Uric Salts

Effervescing Anti-Uric Salts can assist in balancing uric acid levels and support your body’s natural pH. It’s a popular blend of natural minerals that can assist joint mobility and reduce swelling and discomfort in the joints.

Uric acid is a naturally occurring chemical produced when the body breaks down purines – a type of protein found in the body, and in most foods. Increased levels of uric acid from excess purines may accumulate in your tissues, and form crystals. This can cause high uric acid levels in the blood. Purines are found in high concentrations in foods such as red meat, organ meats, seafood, game meats, and sugary and alcoholic drinks.

In normal quantities, uric acid is a natural and healthy antioxidant, helping to prevent damage to blood vessels. Although uric acid levels are mostly increased through diet, other factors such as age, gender, ethnicity, weight and genes can all play a part.

✔️ Helps eliminate uric acid

✔️ Assists with joint mobility

✔️ Supports your body’s natural pH

It can also assist with:

✔️ Arthritis

✔️ Rheumatism

✔️ Urinary tract infections

✔️ Indigestion & Heartburn

✔️ Inflammation of the joints

Hyperuricemia (High Uric Acid)

Hyperuricemia is an excess of uric acid in the blood. Uric acid passes through the liver, and enters your bloodstream. Most of it is excreted in your urine, or passed through your intestines to maintain normal levels. However, if your body produces excess uric acid or if it isn’t excreted it accumulates in your body in the form of urate crystals. 

X-ray showing high uric acid and urate crystals in the joints.

Uric acid and urate crystals in the joints
These needle sharp crystals irritate and inflame the cartilage around the joints. It occurs most often in the big toe but it can strike other joints such as the knees or the elbows. It is more commonly found in men than women by a factor of 10 to 1.

Avoid long-term damage to joints with Skybright Anti-Uric Salts

Avoid long-term damage
This inflammation can lead to excruciating pain, swelling, redness, heat and stiffness in the affected joint. If untreated, these crystals can form knobby, chalky lumps in the joints or under the skin called tophi and can cause long-term damage.

High uric acid levels are more commonly found in men than women by a factor of 10 to 1.

Supports your natural pH

An imbalance of pH in the body can interfere with uric acid balance, with levels may increasing causing considerable discomfort in the joints of the hands and feet. Anti-Uric Salts may assist by supporting an optimum pH level.

Man drinking water from water bottle.
Drink plenty of water to help reduce and remove uric acid from the body.

Drink plenty of water

In order to aid the elimination of uric acid in the body drink plenty of water, to dilute uric acid and flush it from your body. Try to decrease your intake of refined carbohydrates (grains, sugars, starches) and alcohol.

Man clutching knee with inflammation.

“Excellent stuff, it helped the swelling go down in my knees, I have told friends about it as they had swelling in the knuckles in their hands.”

— Vanessa

Directions for use:

Take 1 teaspoon (5g) in a glass of water in the morning. 1 x 165g Glass Pot = 33 Servings. Uric acid levels are at their highest in the morning so by taking them before breakfast, they are flushed out of the system before food intake. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to help reduce and remove uric acid from the body.

Skybright Anti-Uric Salts next to a glass of water.
Take 1 teaspoon (5g) in a glass of water in the morning.

One teaspoon contains: 

Sodium bicarbonate 2.25g, Acid tartaric 2.25g, Potassium hydrogen tartrate 275mg, Magnesium sulphate 225mg. Store in a warm, dry place. People on medication should consult their doctor before using Anti-Uric Salts.

Sodium bicarbonate: Used as an antacid, for short-term relief of stomach upset, to correct acidosis in kidney disorders, to make the urine alkaline during bladder infections and to minimise uric acid crystallisation during gout treatment.

Acid tartaric: An antioxidant which occurs naturally in many plants, particularly grapes, bananas, and tamarinds, and is one of the main acids found in wine. 

Potassium hydrogen tartrate: A byproduct of wine making and an acid used to activate sodium bicarbonate.

Magnesium sulphate: A naturally occurring mineral. Magnesium is important for many systems in the body especially the muscles and nerves. 


People on medication, with high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, kidney disease or pregnant or breastfeeding women should consult their doctor or healthcare professional before using Anti-Uric Salts. Excess consumption may have a laxative effect.

Anti-Uric Salts has high sodium content per dose due to the sodium bicarbonate. This means it may be inappropriate for someone with high blood pressure, on a sodium restricted diet or concurrent use with antacids (also high in sodium).

Sodium bicarbonate inhibits folic acid absorption therefore supplementation with folic acid is advised for people taking Anti-Uric Salts long term. 

It may inhibit the absorption of iron supplements if taken at the same time. It should be taken more than 2 hours before of after iron supplementation.

The information in this article is not intended as a medical prescription for any disease or illness. Nothing stated here should be considered medical advice. Use as directed. If symptoms persist, consult your healthcare professional. 

Electrolytes and hydration

Woman drinking Skybright Performance Electrolytes from water bottle.

Electrolytes and hydration

Hydration should be simple. If you feel thirsty, drink some water. But while drinking enough water on a daily basis can be half the battle against dehydration, electrolytes, carbohydrates and other minerals are important when it comes to helping your body to retain fluids and to promote recovery.

Staying hydrated is important to keeping yourself healthy, helping your both your mental and physical performance. Chronic dehydration is common, and if you suffer from severe vomiting, diarrhea, or fever, mineral and electrolyte imbalances can occur that can compromise your health. 

Drinking water is especially important as we get older. At birth, our body is about 75 to 80% water. By the time you’re an adult, the percentage drops to approximately 60%. The volume of water in your body continues to decrease as you age.

Man drinking Skybright Performance Electrolytes from water bottle.
Drinking water is especially important as we get older.

With our increased consumption of distilled, filtered or purified water, coupled with the depletion of minerals from the soil used to grow the fruits, vegetables and grains we eat, it is harder to get the nutrients our body needs to function properly. That is why we often need to supplement our water with added electrolytes to optimise our hydration, enable our muscles to function properly and convert our food to energy. 

A simple remedy is to add sea salt to your water, which contains sodium obviously, but is also enriched with iodine and other minerals found in sea water. You can also try coconut water, which contains a variety of electrolytes and is low in sugar. If it’s more than water you’re after, cow’s milk is a rich supply of electrolytes, and also contains carbohydrates and protein, which will help muscle recovery and refuelling after a workout. Try to avoid commercial sports drinks that are marketed as electrolyte drinks, but are often packed with sugar, flavours and other filler ingredients that can actually be detrimental to your health.

Woman running
Sodium and chloride are the main electrolytes lost in sweat.

The key electrolytes 

Electrolytes are the charged substances that result when dissolved in water. These positive and negatively charged ions can conduct electricity, and are therefore referred to as “electrolytes.” The most important electrolyte for the human body is salt — also known as sodium chloride — but the body also uses potassium, and magnesium to regulate its recovery process.

Sodium and chloride

Sodium and chloride are the major extracellular electrolytes in the human body, sodium providing the positive charge and chloride the negative charge. In addition to providing balance to one another, these ions are essential for maintaining blood volume and pH (Schauss). Sodium and chloride are the main electrolytes lost in sweat. Outdoor activities such as long-distance running, cycling and construction work will require replacing not only fluids but also electrolytes (especially sodium and chloride) to maintain a healthy balance.

Therefore, adding sodium and chloride to the water of individuals who regularly sweat a lot will not only replace the these essential electrolytes, but will also help maintain proper blood osmolality, assuring thirst and kidney mechanisms to maintain adequate blood volume and hydration (Maughan and Shirreffs, 1997). 


Potassium works with sodium, magnesium and calcium to support the regulation of normal blood pressure, proper heart rhythm, blood sugar regulation and transmission of nerve impulses. It is necessary for cellular contraction and for the proper balance and delivery of glucose into cells.

The normal functioning of the human body depends on an intricate balance of potassium and sodium concentrations. Potassium plays a critical role in nerve impulse transmission, maintaining cellular fluid volume and pH, muscle contraction, heart function and tissue growth and repair. 

Additionally, potassium helps our body hold onto calcium, while excessive sodium leads to both potassium and calcium loss.


Magnesium is involved in over 300 enzyme actions in the body. It is necessary for supporting normal heart function, nerve impulse transmission, muscle relaxation and calcium management. 

Symptoms of deficiency include muscle tiredness, stress and anxiety, mood imbalance, tension and fatigue. Magnesium can support a restful night’s sleep and can help alleviate muscle cramps at night. 

We need a large amount (more than 100mg) of magnesium per day to keep healthy. But it can be hard to get enough magnesium since it is not as prevalent in our diet as other nutrients. Our water supply is often lacking in this mineral, and significant food sources such as green leafy vegetables and legumes are not as prevalent in our diet as they used to be.

These key electrolytes are involved in countless activities essential for life, including energy production, heart rhythm, nerve transmission and muscle contractions. The human body is great at self-regulation and has a number of mechanisms in place to maintain proper electrolyte balance, but if you’re exercising often, working in hot environments or prone to sweating a lot, you may need to take more of these key electrolytes on board, as well as drinking water, to stay properly hydrated.

Man cycling and cooling himself from water bottle
If you’re an athlete or you exercise often, or in hot conditions, you’ll need to add minerals and electrolytes to your water to replenish what’s lost in sweat, which will enable a faster recovery.

How much water should you drink per day?

The amount of water we need can vary by individual, but it’s generally recommended to drink between 8-10 glasses, or more than 2 litres of water a day. Some people require more or less fluid for hydration depending on various factors, such as body mass, food intake, how much they exercise and the intensity of the training, temperature and other environmental conditions.

Drinking plain water on its own isn’t the most effective way to hydrate. When compared to other beverages like orange juice and milk, our bodies aren’t able to retain plain water as well.

Woman drinking Skybright Performance Electrolytes from water bottle
Some people require more hydration depending on factors such as body mass, food intake, how much they exercise and the intensity of the training, temperature and other environmental conditions.

Macronutrients and electrolytes play a role in helping our body absorb and retain any of the water we take in. If you’re trying to stay hydrated, drink your water with a meal or a snack so that there are other nutrients present to help you retain more of the water.

Keep a track of how much water you drink, or fill up a large (reusable) water bottle or two to sip on. It serves as a constant reminder throughout the day. If you’re an athlete or you exercise often, or in hot conditions, you’ll need to add minerals and electrolytes to your water to replenish what’s lost in sweat, which will enable a faster recovery.

It’s also best to spread out your water consumption to help your body with absorption. Start your morning off with a glass of water, maybe with added sea salt and lemon, and make sure you’re consistently drinking water throughout the day. Consistency is key; it’s not a good idea to drink more than a litre in an hour since your kidneys can only remove about a litre of water per hour from the body. Drinking too much water can also lead to what is known as hyponatremia, a condition where the sodium levels in the blood become dangerously low.

For athletes, optimal hydration will help with performance and recovery. For everyone else, hydration is key to health and wellness, and simply feeling good.

Skybright Performance Electrolytes. 50 servings per bottle. No sugar, more energy.
Skybright Performance Electrolytes. No sugar, more energy.


As we increasingly drink filtered or purified water, and consume convenient, processed foods, we are struggling to meet our body’s need for electrolytes, both for performance, and everyday health and wellbeing. This combined with the depletion of minerals from the soil in which we grow our food, has even seen imbalances and dehydration in people who eat a wholefood diet, drink water and lead a healthy lifestyle. Be sure to add things like leafy greens, tomatoes, watermelon and cucumbers, which contain a high water content, this will all count toward your fluid intake and help to restore and replenish electrolytes.

By making good habits with hydration, drinking water enriched with electrolytes, and including more water-rich fruits and vegetables in your diet, you can avoid dehydration and the negative impacts it can have on your health.

Schauss, Alexander G. Minerals, Trace Elements, & Human Health. Life Sciences Press. 1995
Maughan, R. J. and S. M. Shirreffs (1997). “Recovery from prolonged exercise: restoration of water and electrolyte balance.” J Sports Sci 15(3): 297-303.
Rhoades, R. and R. Pflanzer (1996). Human Physiology. Ft Worth, Saunders College Publishing.

The information in this article is not intended as a medical prescription for any disease or illness. Nothing stated here should be considered medical advice. Use as directed. If symptoms persist, consult your healthcare professional. 

Why is Zinc essential?

Why is Zinc essential?

There are more roles for zinc than any other nutrient. It is one of the most important elements for our health, yet one of the most deficient in our diet, especially here in New Zealand.

The chronic lack of zinc in Aotearoa is due to the quality of our soils and the impact of the foods we eat, and the water we drink.

Here’s an overview of the critical roles this mineral plays in our bodies. Also see our handy guide: A to Zinc.

Zinc’s Role

Zinc is involved in hundreds of processes within the body, and it helps us absorb and utilise nutrients from our food.

It plays a role in immune function, helping repel and overcome bacterial and viral infections like the common cold. It assists with growth development, protein and DNA synthesis, and is effective in wound healing.

Zinc is essential for the brain and neurological function as well as the maintenance of vision, taste and smell. It nourishes the scalp and helps maintain strong and healthy gums, hair, skin and nails. It can help avoid hair loss, which can be a symptom that you may be deficient. Zinc can control the production of oil in the skin and help balance some of the hormones that can lead to acne. Many skin disorders can be attributed to insufficient zinc.

Zinc is important to our health and wellbeing throughout our life. It supports normal growth and physical development during pregnancy, and this support continues through childhood and adolescence.

There is almost no part of the body that zinc doesn’t benefit, either inside or out.

It is key to both male and female reproductive health and is vital as we grow older, as it helps maintain bone density and muscle bulk.

However, zinc can be harder to access through diet for both women and men as they age, as the body doesn’t have the ability to store minerals. New Zealand surveys have shown that 52% of middle-aged men aren’t getting enough zinc each day, and that figure increased to 90% for men aged over 70.

Zinc has been shown to reduce the severity and duration of cold symptoms.

Zinc and the Common Cold

Much research has been done around zinc and its capacity to combat the common cold. Although studies examining zinc treatment on cold symptoms have shown varied results over years, it appears to be beneficial under certain circumstances.

The Cochrane Report concluded that taking it within 24 hours of developing symptoms has been shown to reduce the severity and duration of cold symptoms in healthy people by up to a third. It does this by directly inhibiting the rhinovirus binding and replicating and suppressing inflammation.

More research is needed to determine the optimal dosage, formulation and duration of treatment before a recommendation for zinc in the treatment of the common cold can be made.

Some of us need zinc more than others.

Studies have shown that New Zealand men have lowered zinc status, especially as they age. Men require an RDI of 14mg just to prevent deficiency.

Several New Zealand studies have suggested that many adolescent girls aren’t getting enough zinc and this may be affecting their growth and development. This could be due to changing diets, less red meat and seafood being consumed, as well as the prevalence of processed foods, which are often refined and lacking minerals and other nutrients.

New Zealand surveys have shown that 52% of middle-aged men aren’t getting enough zinc each day, and that figure increased to 90% for men aged over 70.
52% of middle-aged men aren’t getting enough zinc, increasing to 90% for men aged over 70.

Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers also require bigger intakes, as there are high foetal requirements for zinc, and lactation can also rapidly deplete mineral stores. Breast milk provides enough zinc (RDI 2mg) for baby for the first six months, but zinc needs to be acquired from food sources as the child grows. Supplementation of zinc has been shown to improve the growth and development of some children who have exhibited a mineral deficiency.

Zinc has limited storage capacity with our body, so a deficiency can develop quickly if we’re not restoring and replenishing.

Diagnosing Deficiency

Blood tests are not a reliable method for detecting zinc deficiency as most of the zinc in our bodies is retained in our cells rather than in our blood. However, there is a simple test you can take to measure your zinc status, which can often be provided by your local health shop.

It involves taking a tiny amount of zinc sulphate, dissolving it in water and then tasting as little as a spoonful. This test works because zinc is required for your taste buds to function.

If you notice a bitter, astringent taste you are not deficient. If this bitter taste is delayed by more than a few seconds, you need more zinc in your diet. If there is a much longer delay or if you don’t notice the bitterness or it tastes like water, you may have a deficiency and will need to restore your zinc levels.

In this case, you may already be experiencing some common symptoms of a low zinc status such as frequent colds or infections, weak sense of smell and taste, hair loss, slow wound healing or skin disorders and inflammation.

You may be advised to supplement with zinc for a period and look to include more zinc-rich foods in your diet, such as lean red meat, dairy, seafood, poultry, or whole-grains, beans and legumes.

Getting Zinc into Your Daily Diet

The best source of zinc is rock oysters, which contain significantly more zinc than red meat and grains but are often not a regular part of our diet. Fats, which contain very little zinc, also tend to dilute zinc from the diet.

Lean red meat is an excellent dietary source, and it is also highly bioavailable, meaning your body can absorb it much more readily. Green leafy vegetables and fruits contain modest sources of zinc.

There is almost no part of the body that zinc doesn’t benefit, either inside or out.

Some animal-free options include whole-grain breads, cereals, nuts, seeds, beans and legumes, but these foods also contain phytates, which can bind zinc and therefore inhibit its absorption. While these plant-based options are good dietary sources, the bioavailability is often lower than animal- based products.

Vegetarians often require as much as 50% more of the RDI for zinc than non-vegetarians.

Note that techniques such as soaking beans and grains in water for several hours can reduce this binding of zinc by phytates and thus increase bioavailability. Vegetarians often require as much as 50% more of the RDI for zinc than non-vegetarians.

Studies from New Zealand nutrition surveys and overseas research suggest most of us are accessing only half of the daily zinc we require from our diet.

Zinc Deficiency Inhibits Absorption

Once you become zinc deficient, it can be very difficult to improve zinc levels purely through food alone, as your body’s absorption often depends on having enough zinc in the first place.

In addition, if you are recovering from an operation, have suffered emotional stress, or been over-exercising, your body will look to use all the available zinc on offer in an effort to heal. Zinc is one the few minerals lost rapidly in the urine after suffering acute psychological stress.

Gastrointestinal surgery and digestive disorders such as Crohn’s disease can decrease zinc absorption. Other illnesses associated with zinc deficiency include chronic liver disease, alcoholic cirrhosis, anorexia nervosa, chronic renal disease, diabetes, malignancy and sickle cell disease. Diarrhoea can also lead to excessive loss.

Supplementation may then be required to achieve good zinc status and you will then be able to maximise your zinc from food sources once again.


While we should be getting our important vitamins, minerals and other nutrients from the food we eat, there are often factors that prevent this from happening.

Soil depletion, the prevalence of processed food and bouts of illness can lead to mineral deficiencies that prevent the nutrients reaching the cells in our body and enabling the hundreds of processes that keep us healthy.

It is important to be aware of some simple things we can do to restore and replenish these minerals, to maintain optimal levels and supplement when needed to avoid larger health problems.

Coory, David. Stay Healthy by supplying what’s lacking in your diet. 1992
Schauss, Alexander G. Minerals, Trace Elements, & Human Health. Life Sciences Press. 1995
Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic, Boron, Chromium, Copper,
Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silicon, Vanadium, and Zinc. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2001
Singh M, Das RR. Zinc for the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011
Prasad AS. Zinc deficiency: its characterization and treatment. Met Ions Biol Syst 2004

The information in this article is not intended as a medical prescription for any disease or illness. Nothing stated here should be considered medical advice. Use as directed. If symptoms persist, consult your healthcare professional. 

Are you getting enough Iodine?

Woman holding mug and looking out to sea. Are you getting enough iodine?

Are you getting enough iodine?

When you hear the word iodine, you may think of the tablets used to disinfect water on camping trips or the yellow liquid used for disinfecting cuts and grazes when we were younger. Or you may just remember it from the periodic table in chemistry class.

Iodine is one of the most important life-sustaining elements. For more than 100 years, it has been known as the element that is necessary for thyroid hormone production. However, it is so much more than that.

Iodine is found in each and every one of the trillions of cells in the body, and responsible for the production of all the other hormones in the body.

It is a powerful antibiotic, and has potent antibacterial, antiviral properties.

It has strong anti-inflammatory effects by neutralising free radicals and is necessary for proper immune system function. Working together with other minerals like Selenium, it has many therapeutic benefits for a range of modern illnesses and diseases.

It is estimated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that more than half of the world’s population live in an area of iodine deficiency, and that this has risen 400% in the last few decades due to soil depletion and an increase in environmental contaminants that have replaced it.

Our body does not make iodine, so we need to access it from the foods we eat. But if the nutrients are not in the soil to begin with, it cannot be in the food we eat, and this can lead to common deficiencies.

Iodine deficiency in New Zealand

Soil in coastal areas are naturally iodine-rich, as are the dairy products produced by the cows that graze there. Fresh produce such as fruits and vegetables that are grown in coastal areas are also rich in iodine.

Despite being a coastal nation, New Zealand soils are low in iodine, and this is reflected in our locally grown produce.

This can be due to intensive farming, lack of crop rotation and the use of fertilisers. Coupled with changes to our diet, the reduced use of iodised salt in the household, the prevalence of processed foods, many New Zealanders are now lacking important nutrients such as iodine that are key to good health.

The WHO’s research has suggested deficiencies in both Australia and New Zealand are re-emerging, when they were previously thought to be iodine sufficient.

This research suggests that we may be consuming less than 60% of what is recommended. While we all need iodine, it is especially important for women who are trying to fall pregnant, are currently pregnant or who are breastfeeding, as the body demands more during this time due to increased thyroid hormone production, and the requirements of the developing baby.

Woman smiling and leaning on fence in countryside.
Research suggests that we may be consuming less than 60% of what is recommended.

Properly evaluating and treating iodine deficiency will help people support thyroid health and immune system function, increase their energy levels, and help improve general health and wellbeing. This can be achieved by some simple changes to their diet or daily supplementation in consultation with their health practitioner. It can be as little as a couple of drops of potassium iodide in a glass of water each day to get you feeling better, and help you avoid some of the common but serious health problems we are seeing today in New Zealand and around the world.

The best results are seen with a holistic approach, and increasing the intake of important vitamins, minerals and electrolytes through a wholefood diet.

The hungry thyroid

The thyroid is often referred to as a ‘hungry’ part of the body, in reference to its high nutritional demands.

This butterfly-shaped endocrine gland surrounds the windpipe and is important for metabolism, regulating digestion and your heart rate. It facilitates energy production and mental agility. The thyroid also helps with fat burning too, by determining how quickly and efficiently kilojoules are burned up, and it assists in the breakdown of proteins. Thyroid function also assists the suppleness and strength of our hair, skin and nails.

Iodine is an essential ingredient in all thyroid hormones, including T4 (thyroxine) and T3 (triiodothyronine). It is important to maintain sufficient amounts of iodine, and they are required to be synthesised in adequate amounts. In a low thyroid state, known as hypothyroidism, the thyroid gland can’t make enough thyroid hormone to keep the body running normally. The metabolic state is therefore reduced which can lead to weight gain.

When the thyroid gland is releasing excess amounts of thyroid hormone, it is known as hyperthyroidism, which is an overactive or elevated metabolic state which can result in fatigue, irregular heartbeat, unexplained weight loss and brain fog.

When you have an adequate intake of iodine, your body contains 20-50g, and 75% of that amount is stored in the thyroid. However large amounts are also stored in other parts of the body, including the salivary glands, the breasts, ovaries, and the brain. In the brain it concentrates in the substantia nigra, the part of the brain that is associated with Parkinson’s disease.

One of the first signs of deficiency is an enlarged thyroid gland.

The lack of iodine causes the gland to expand in an attempt to extract as much iodine in the bloodstream as possible. If your iodine intake is low, this will be reflected in low levels of thyroid hormone. You may then experience fatigue, dry skin, constipation, systemic inflammation, a hoarse voice, delayed reflexes and some cognitive impairment.

It is best to consult your doctor or health professional should you identify any of these symptoms. Anybody taking thyroid medication should always discuss their condition with a health professional before taking supplementary iodine.

The role of selenium

Selenium, another important mineral and antioxidant, plays a significant role in regulating thyroid function and iodine metabolism. The thyroid contains more selenium by weight than any other organ in the body.

Selenium is a required component for the production of the enzyme glutathione peroxidase, which protects the body from damage with antioxidant capabilities.

Without this enzyme, the thyroid gland is susceptible to damage from oxidants, there would be no activation of thyroid hormone without selenium.

Pregnant woman lying on bed. Pregnant and breastfeeding women require more iodine.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women require more iodine.

The need for iodine before pregnancy

The consequences of iodine deficiency are most serious for women who are trying to fall pregnant, who are currently pregnant or are breastfeeding.

Thyroid hormones balance the function and development of the body’s major organs and influence the progress of the developing baby.

Research has shown that a lack of iodine can cause fetal and neonatal mental disabilities and growth problems, along with speech and hearing issues. Cognitive function and neurological development can be impaired when iodine levels are low.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women also require more iodine due to increased thyroid hormone production.

It is recommended that women take iodine supplements from the point of planned pregnancy and through the full duration of pregnancy as well as breastfeeding. Avoid kelp or seaweed supplements as they may be contaminated with heavy metals such as mercury. Multi-vitamin, multi-mineral and pre-natal supplements may or may not contain enough iodine, so it’s best to check.

Women with pre-existing thyroid conditions should always check with their health professional before taking a supplement.

How do I know if I’m deficient?

Under most states of iodine sufficiency, approximately 90% of dietary iodine eventually is excreted in the urine, with exception being the lactating female due to iodine excretion in the breast milk. Because of this, urine is the best biological fluid to use for assessment of deficiency.

If you are concerned there may be deficiency, you could undertake an iodine-loading test, otherwise known as a urinary iodine concentration (UIC) where you take a prescribed dose of iodine, then collect 24 hours of urine to undergo analysis with a health professional.

The principle of this test is that if you’re iodine sufficient, most of the dose will be excreted, and if there is a deficiency present, it will be instead be absorbed by the body.

Can I get enough iodine from salt?

Iodised table salt was implemented in many regions and countries around the world when iodine deficiency was recognised. In New Zealand in the 1920’s, the government allowed manufacturers to voluntarily add iodine to table salt. This was mainly to safeguard against thyroid enlargement (goitre) and the severe mental retardation of cretinism, although the incidence of these conditions was very rare in New Zealand.

Closeup image of unrefined, unprocessed sea salt. A better option than table salt.
Unrefined, unprocessed sea salt is a better option than table salt.

In recent decades we have seen people consume less salt due to health concerns, while some avoid salt entirely. Salt used in processed foods is often non-iodised to save on costs, so is not a source of iodine despite the sodium content.

In recent times we are seeing a prevalence of sea salt, or kosher salt, promoted as a healthier alternative. However, sea salt is a poor source of iodine, and we should look for unrefined, unprocessed sea salt, with some products now enriched with New Zealand sea kelp. The iodine in salt is not very bioavailable in our bodies, it is better absorbed through liquid and food sources. 

Other sources of dietary iodine

It can be difficult to identify sources and the quantity of iodine in most foods. However, it is naturally present in seawater, so therefore seafood is a good source, especially seaweed, shellfish and saltwater fish. It’s also naturally present in soil, and found in eggs and dairy, including yoghurt, cow’s milk, ice cream and cheese.

If you don’t have access to shellfish or other seafood, or if the soil is deficient due to intensive farming, you’ll need to access it from other sources.  

Iodine levels in milk can vary according to the soils in which the animals have grazed and factors such as the groundwater used in irrigation, fertilisers used and the feed for the livestock. Interestingly, organic milk is estimated to contain roughly 30-40% less iodine than conventional milk, owing to alternative processing methods.

It is difficult for most people to obtain adequate iodine by eating foods that are natural sources of iodine.

That said, in 2009, Iodine fortification of bread became mandatory with the exception of organic bread, non-yeast-leavened bread and bread mixes. When salt was iodised in the 20th century, this significantly improved the iodine levels within the New Zealand population, but recently deficiencies have again become apparent, hence the need for the fortification of foods.

Iodine dosage guidelines

There is no single dose of iodine that is effective for everyone. The best approach is working with a health professional that is knowledgeable about iodine.

If you eat seafood and other iodine-rich foods, use iodised salt, take a multi-vitamin or mineral supplement, you may be able to obtain adequate levels.

Recommended daily allowances range from 100-250mcg a day, with the exception of pregnant or breastfeeding women, who may require more than 300mcg per day due to increased hormone production in early pregnancy, increased urinary iodine excretion, and the transfer of iodine to the fetus or the nursing infant when feeding.

Some leading iodine experts suggest significantly larger daily doses, even up to 12mg. In Japan, the average daily intake is 12-13 milligrams due to increased consumption of seaweed and other seafood.

Iodine Liquid Mineral: Just 2 drops a day = 255mcg of Potassium Iodide


Iodine is one the most basic elements of all life on earth, it is present in the ocean, marine life and in every one of the trillions of cells in our body. The role it plays in our everyday wellbeing cannot be overstated. As our bodies can’t produce iodine, there are simple steps we can take to make sure we can rebalance and replenish our mineral levels, and avoid deficiencies.

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Schauss, Alexander G. Minerals, Trace Elements, & Human Health. Life Sciences Press. 1995
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Smallridge RC, Ladenson PW. Hypothyroidism In Pregnancy: Consequences To Neonatal Health. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2001
Iodine. Ministry of Health Manatū Hauora Website.
Editors: de Benoist, Bruno. Andersson, Maria. Iodine status Worldwide. WHO Global Database on Iodine Deficiency. World Health Organisation, Geneva. 2004
Ministry of Health Manatū & Australian National Health and Medical Research Council. Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand Including Recommended Dietary Intakes. 2006, updated 2017.

The information in this article is not intended as a medical prescription for any disease or illness. Nothing stated here should be considered medical advice. Use as directed. If symptoms persist, consult your healthcare professional.