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Minerals & Trace Minerals – A Clarification of Terms

Types of minerals seem to be confusing to many people. With terms such as trace minerals, ionic minerals, colloidal minerals and electrolyte minerals, understanding the differences can seem overwhelming. The following articles define minerals and describe the difference between ionic trace minerals and colloidal minerals.

Minerals & Trace Minerals
- A Clarification of Terms by Trace Minerals

What Are Ionically Charged Minerals?

An ionic mineral is an element that has a charge, either positive or negative. On the molecular level, that means the element has either one too many or too few electrons. This unstable ionic state allows the element to bond readily with water, making it possible for the body to absorb it. In this state, an element has specific positive or negative electrical signatures that cause a dynamic equilibrium to take place. The body can then assimilate minor changes to move nutrients to the areas that need them.

What Are Trace Minerals?

You may collect silver coins, wear a platinum ring, or have a gold filling. You've likely sipped tea poured from a copper kettle, eaten a cookie from a fancy tin container, or traveled on an airplane made of titanium. But did you know that these elements and many others -- in very small, balanced trace amounts -- are critical to your health? Although trace minerals are no longer as common in the foods you eat, they exist plentifully in their proper proportions in the mineral-rich waters of the earth's oceans and seas.

Where Have All the Minerals Gone?

Traditionally, eating fresh grains, fruits, and vegetables grown in nutrient-rich soil have been the primary supply for the full spectrum of ionically charged minerals.

Unfortunately in today's world, naturally occurring, nutrient-rich soil is becoming a thing of the past. Eons of vegetation growth and aggressive modern farming techniques have brought many of the earth's minerals to the surface where they have been washed away.

Synthesized fertilizers are routinely applied to farms and fields where minerals have been depleted. But man-made fertilizers provide only enough mineral substance to support basic plant life. Numerous trace minerals so essential to human life are never replenished.

Why Is Absorption so Important?

You cannot benefit from minerals unless you can absorb them. The absorption of minerals primarily takes place within the small intestines. As food matter passes through the intestines, minerals transfer into the blood stream through the walls of the intestines. This can only happen if the minerals are ionically charged. Although stomach acid helps ionize the minerals in foods, a mineral supplement should contain already naturally ionized minerals to be fully absorbed.

Why Ionic Minerals?

Minerals that are absorbed in their ionic form are in true liquid solution and have either positive or negative charges. They also have unique properties that distinguish them from each other and allow them to freely take part in biochemical communication throughout the body. These communications help nutrients move to those areas of the body that are in most need of their help. Imbalances of any of these ions or certain trace ions in the body . . . can lead to dysfunction in the conduction of electrical messages. This dysfunction quickly leads to a general body disturbance and loss of ability to maintain somewhat stable internal conditions.

ConcenTrace Trace Mineral Drops is an ionic, electrolyte solution of minerals and trace minerals. ConcenTrace® contains the full spectrum of all the minerals in a balance natural to the body.

Electrolyte Stamina Power Paks - Electrolytes are needed to maintain proper fluid balance and to optimize your energy levels so you can function at your best.

Mineral: Naturally occurring inorganic elements having a characteristic crystalline structure and chemical composition. Minerals or macro-minerals are those minerals which the body requires more than 100 milligrams of per day for proper maintenance of health. Micro or trace minerals are those minerals which the body requires less than 100 milligrams of per day.

Ionic: Of, containing or relating to an ion or ions . Some of the most essential minerals and trace minerals have shown a dependency upon being ionic in order to be absorbed in the intestinal lumen and/ or to be physiologically valid.

Through digestive processes, some of which are dependent upon sufficient stomach acid, the body is able to break down some other forms of organic or inorganic bound minerals and trace minerals to their ionic form so they can be absorbed. Minerals and trace minerals are capable of remaining in a free flowing non-bound ionic form in a balanced solution.

Ion: An atom or group of atoms than are inherently either positively or negatively charged due to either additional or missing electron(s). This charge causes the ions to interact, attracting or repelling each other in a search for another ion to join with or to give up an electron in order to make the charge neutral (Clayman, 605), (Dox, Melloni, Eisner, 227).

The fluids of the body are largely ionic solutions. The body uses the movement of ions through these fluids and across cell membranes as an integral part of many vital body processes. For example, ions regulate acid-base balance and water balance. Ions also serve essential roles in nerve conduction, muscle contraction, heart action, blood clotting, protein metabolism, bone and tooth formation, and enzyme activation. In fact, every body process is dependent on ions.

Electrolyte: A substance whose molecules split into individual ions when dissolved thus allowing it to conduct electrical energies (Clayman, 397).

Solution: A liquid made up of water and water soluble components.

Colloidal mineral: A suspension of tiny non-soluble mineral and trace mineral particles in water. Most colloidal minerals are held in suspension by their tiny size and/or a static electrical charge. Many colloidal minerals claim to be organic due to the fact that they come from prehistoric mineral deposits such as humic shale and that some of the minerals are bound to carbon.

Note: By this same definition, coal and many petroleum products are also organic.

Caution: Many colloidal trace mineral products, even though not represented on the label, have aluminum and phosphate as their two most prominent elements.

Chelate: A form of a mineral or trace mineral whereby it is bound, usually synthetically, to a carbon based or "organic" substance. Chelates can allow high concentrations of certain elements to be more readily broken down into ionic form and absorbed when compared to other minerals which are bound to other non-organic substances. Chelates, however, tend not to be naturally balanced.


  1. All minerals and trace minerals that are not negatively charged (or anions) are inherently metallic . This does not, however, mean that they are either toxic or non-toxic. For example, magnesium is a metallic element which is an essential nutrient and plays several vital roles in the body
  2. Metallic elements can be found in solid metal or metallic form such as a gold nugget, a copper penny or bronze, which is a combination of metallic minerals. Metallic elements can be found in the soil in tiny particles in this form but would be non-soluble and fairly difficult to assimilate. Only metallic elements are capable of conducting electricity in solid form.
    All metallic minerals are capable of also being in an ionic form and when in an ionic solution , are capable of conducting electricity through the solution . This is essential to human health. Metallic elements are also capable of being in several non-metallic forms.

Elemental Minerals:

  1. All minerals are elemental or elements when looked at and analyzed individually. Therefore, by this definition, all minerals could be referred to as elemental
  2. A pure mineral which is not balanced with other elements. This is usually accomplished through extensive processing such as extreme heat or electroprocessing. Examples would include magnesium metal, copper metal or tin metal or chlorine gas. There are several problems which make this type of elemental mineral unsuitable for supplementation including the fact that most, if not all, of the minerals in this form would either become such a tightly bound metal that it would be virtually impossible to digest and assimilate or it would be so highly reactive that the mineral would be extremely toxic. Even though several companies are now warning the public of the dangers and difficulties of taking this type of elemental mineral, Trace Minerals Research is not aware of any companies which are actually selling this type of elemental mineral as a dietary supplement.
  3. Minerals in an ionic solution such as found in ConcenTrace are free flowing and are not bound to the other minerals and trace minerals in the solution and could therefore be referred to as elemental minerals.
    The minerals and trace minerals in an ionic solution such as ConcenTrace are, however, balanced and in associations such as ion pairs which keep them from being reactive. For example, the chloride which is found in ConcenTrace is associated with many other minerals and trace minerals and is in the same form which is readily absorbed as one of the most abundant minerals in the body. This is very different from the highly processed and separated chlorine which is very reactive and toxic.

Clayman C. (1989). The American Medical Association's Encyclopedia of Medicine. New York, Random House.
Dox, I., Melloni, J., Eisner, G. (1993). Melloni's Illustrated Medical Dictionary. Pearl River, NY, Parthenon.
Griffith, H. (1988). Complete Guide to Vitamins, Minerals and Supplements. Tucson, AZ, Fisher Books.
Juo, P. (1996). Concise Dictionary of Biomedicine and Molecular Biology. Boca Raton, FL, CRC Press.

Further Readings:
Horne, M., Swearingen, P. (1993) Pocket Guide to Fluids, Electrolytes, and Acid Base Balance. St. Louis, Mosby.
Schauss, A. (1995) Minerals and Human Health: The Rationale for Optimal and Balanced Trace Element Levels. Tacoma, WA, AIBR.

Colloidal and Ionic Minerals: The Difference is in the Absorption
By Dr. Chris Meletis N.D.

Minerals can generally be found in two different forms. The first form is that of a colloid, where minerals are suspended in a stable form. In this stable form, the minerals are evenly distributed throughout the medium in which they are suspended. Minerals in this colloid state are held in large, organized patterns, whereby they remain in suspension without settling out. Colloidal minerals are not readily absorbed by the body due to the absence of an electrical charge and their relatively large size, unlike other mineral forms. In fact, one definition of a colloid is as a substance that when suspended in a liquid phase, will not easily diffuse through a living membrane.1 Colloid arrangements are unable to pass through the membrane which lines the digestive tract, from the mouth all the way out. It is argued that colloidal mineral forms are more easily dispersed in the body; however, this does not improve their absorption. In fact, it is necessary for the body to break these minerals down into smaller constituents in order for them to be absorbed.

Manufacturers claim that supplements made from these colloids are more balanced than other mineral supplements and are in a natural form that is easier for the body to use. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the American Dietetic Association, no scientific evidence supports these claims. Commercial colloidal mineral products are derived from clay or humic shale deposits and there is a tremendous amount of promotional claims for colloidal mineral products. There is no reliable medical evidence to support using these products.2

Ionic minerals, on the other hand, are easily transported across the highly selective cell membranes of the human digestive tract. Because ionic minerals are charged, the body has to employ less energy in order to absorb these minerals. Colloidal minerals must be dismantled, into smaller parts, and obtain an electrical charge in order to cross the intestinal membrane. This electrical gradient allows for the easy flow of ionic minerals from an area of higher concentration (intestines) to an area of lesser concentration (cells of the body). The body assists in this process by further charging ions during the course of the digestive process. The body absorbs ionic minerals with greater efficacy than colloidal minerals, as colloids must undergo the complete processes of digestion into smaller charged particles, and even after undergoing these processes; the body utilizes not all of the colloid mineral form, just as not all foods eaten are completely utilized.3

Ionic States

Ionic minerals are comprised of atoms or collections of atoms that retain their intrinsic electric charge, either positive or negative. This electrical charge exists surrounding the atom because it is either missing an electron or has additional electrons within its surrounding area. The addition or subtraction of electrons gives the atom, or ion, its electrical signature, or charge. This charge causes the ions to interact, attracting or repelling each other in a search for another ion to contribute or remove additional electrons, in a never-ending process to create a neutral electrical charge, which is important in maintaining the total concentration of ions in the body.

Various minerals, in their atomic form, link with other minerals to form ionic complexes. Nature has designed an intricate fit between atoms of different species. For instance, each atom has a particular number of electrons within its grasp that it constantly maintains. As this atom interacts with other atoms of the same type, or even different types, it enters into electron-sharing agreements with these different atoms, forming different mineral complexes. This association is highly important to the workings of all biological organisms, as the linking of many different types of atoms forms solid matter.

Sodium Chloride

However, on a smaller scale, minerals form relatively simple interactions with each other. These mineral complexes are necessary for various metabolic needs, and are vitally important to proper physiologic function, as well as optimal health. For instance, an atom of sodium and an atom of chloride are often found linked together, forming sodium chloride, commonly known as table salt. In recent years, many negative health effects have been attributed to salt, namely high blood pressure.4 However, in the absence of sodium chloride, no organism would be able to exist. Additionally, the dissociation between sodium and chloride contributes to physiologic functions such as kidney function, the formation of digestive enzymes, nerve transmission, and muscle function, to name a few. Chloride is another form of chlorine, a naturally occurring atom, which is a major mineral nutrient that occurs in body fluids. Chloride is a prominent negatively charged ion (anion) and a predominant ion (electrolyte) in the human body, where it represents 70% of the anions. The negative charge of chloride helps to balance the positive charge of sodium and potassium.

Potassium Chloride

There are multitudes of vital ionic mineral combinations that are necessary for optimal physiologic function. Potassium chloride is a mineral complex that is fast becoming more widely recognized for its important role in health. When potassium chloride is ingested, it also dissociates into its principle atoms of potassium and chloride. Potassium itself is vital in bone health, cardiac muscle function, cellular membrane transport, and is one of the principle electrolytes of the body, meaning that of the hundreds of physiological useful ions, potassium is found in large amounts in the body and is used for many diverse functions. Potassium performs many of the same functions inside of cells that sodium does outside of cells such as maintenance of acid-base balance and osmotic balance (the balance between negative and positive ions). Potassium is the major intracellular cation, providing approximately 75% of the total cations within the cell. Increased intake of potassium coupled with reduced sodium leads to greater control of blood pressure, a common problem in the United States.5

Importance of Ionic minerals

Minerals are found both in their single, unlinked form (such as a solitary potassium ion) and their ionic form in which they have joined with another atom to make a charged mineral particle. The large majority of minerals are found bound in some form or another, which is important for their utilization in human physiology. When the body absorbs ionized or electrically charged minerals, they can be readily absorbed through our selectively permeable intestinal membranes.6 In fact, the membranes lining our intestinal tract maintain their own specific electrical charge in the form of ionic receptors. The body maintains this charge on the lining of membranes in order to facilitate the absorption of food nutrients. Different receptor areas maintain different charge qualities, allowing for the attraction of the multitudes of diverse nutrients that pass through the intestinal tract. Because of this charge, ionic minerals are easily taken in to the cells lining the intestinal tract, whereby they may be readily employed in the many physiologic activities of the body.

Note: The content provided in this article is intended for informational and educational purposes only and is not intended to take the place of professional medical advice. You are encouraged to consult with your medical health care provider regarding any health concern or health-related condition you may have.

1 Dorland’s medical illustrated dictionary, 24th edition
2 Schauss A. Colloidal minerals: Clinical implications of clay suspension products sold as dietary supplements. Amer J of Nat Med 1997;4(1):5-10.
3 Dreosti IE. Recommended dietary intakes of iron, zinc, and other inorganic nutrients and their chemical form and bioavailability. Nutrition 1993 Nov-Dec;9(6):542-5.
4 Hegsted DM. A perspective on reducing salt intake. Hypertension 1991 Jan;17(1 Suppl):I201-4
5 Espeland MA, Kumanyika S, Yunis C, Zheng B, Brown WM, Jackson S, Wilson AC, Bahnson J. Electrolyte intake and nonpharmacologic blood pressure control.
Ann Epidemiol 2002 Nov;12(8):587-95
6 Fairweather-Tait SJ, Teucher B. Iron and calcium bioavailability of fortified foods and dietary supplements. Nutr Rev 2002 Nov;60(11):360-7


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