Updated: Sep 1, 2019
You hear it all the time, and you supplement your lifestyle with all the varieties. But why? Are they even necessary? Do they even work? We'd like to introduce you to the Law of the Minimum. Justus von Liebig, the German chemist responsible for popularizing its principles, writes of it:
“The development of living beings is regulated by the supply of whichever element is least bountifully provided.”
Quite curious. The society we live in today promotes the idea that excess and luxury and ease-of-use are the essential ingredients to our development. But according to Liebig's Law, our development necessarily depends on those things we do not have in great supply, being the limits of what we can achieve in terms of health and well-being. Maybe it's an argument of wants versus needs?
A rather interesting application of the Law of the Minimum is used in traditional health practices. Deficiencies in nutrition are supplemented with roots, stems, leaves and flowers in order to stimulate physiologic activity. Here's an example: Gastric acid, responsible for breaking down foodstuffs, is composed primarily of hydrochloric acid, potassium-chloride and sodium-chloride. However, potassium and sodium in different forms are also important electrolytes contributing towards the proper function of the nerves (the nerve signals, or the action potential of the nervous system). This necessarily means in order to produce gastric acid, the potassium and sodium will be leached from the blood, recomposed and re-purposed, and excreted into the stomach to digest food. This may create a less than minimum electrolyte balance in the bloodstream. On account of this, physiologic activity in other systems is now put on hold until the minimum electrolyte count is once again reached. When this minimum is consistent over a period of time, cellular and tissue deficiencies begin to occur; here becomes the beginning of fatigue and indigestion, and any number of other symptoms of illness.
This Law of the Minimum applies to macro-nutrients (proteins, fats, carbohydrates), micro-nutrients (minerals and vitamins), phyto-nutrients (phenols, glycosides, terpenes, etc), exercise, stimulating mental activity, breathing.
Are you getting your minimum?