The Nutritional Link to Relationship Struggles

The Nutritional Link to Relationship Struggles

(A Guide to the Powerful Role Minerals Play in Regulating Emotions & Their Impact on Relationships)

There currently exists a gaping disconnect between the fields of mental health and nutrition, with neither side acknowledging in a mainstream way how one affects the other.  This is especially true when it comes to relationships, countless numbers of which have unsuspectingly fallen victim to the ravages of nutritional imbalances not understood by those counseling them.   Certainly, some relationships are not healthy in nature to begin with, with cheating, dishonesty, alcohol or drug abuse, violence, or misalignment in relationship or life goals all being very excusable reasons for leaving one’s partner.  However, there are also many relationships that, despite being founded on healthy love, respect and mutual goals, still fall apart, despite neither partner necessarily doing anything wrong.  One partner starts feeling less and less for their partner, while the other tries to understand what’s causing the growing apathy and disconnect they’re witnessing.  Perhaps the couple ends up in relationship counseling, given exercises to foster communication and help reignite the spark.  Often, these exercises fail, and the relationship, one which could have been meant to have lasted forever, ends; written off simply as irreconcilable, or as two partners who’s love simply faded.  

The tragedy here is that almost never are couples counseled on one of the most common causes of breakups in otherwise healthy relationships – this being the powerful role that mineral imbalances have on the mind and  emotions.  Relationship therapists and psychologists almost completely ignore this important connection, mainly because they themselves receive little training in this regard. This article aims to bring to light this vital ‘mineral connection’ so that couples may find a new awareness behind what may be causing their relationship struggles, understanding that it may not be their partner at fault that has caused the dampening of feelings, but rather a biochemical imbalance from which their relationship fell victim.

One of the most common nutritional epidemics affecting women today is that of copper toxicity. The birth control Pill and the copper IUD have played a major role in the accumulation of excess bio-unavailable copper in the bodies of women. As far back as 1975, Dr. Carl Pfeiffer, MD, PhD, warned of this dangerous rise in copper levels stemming from these contraceptive options and the physical and mental consequences associated with excess copper.  Anything that raises estrogen (and this also includes phytoestrogens and xenoestrogens) tends to increase copper retention in the body (especially if detox pathways aren’t working efficiently). Drinking water through copper piping, eating organic foods sprayed with copper sulfate, the vegan diet, stress, and multiple pregnancies are all further risk factors for copper accumulation.  Copper antagonizes zinc (and vice versa), so as one goes up, typically the other goes down.  Studies have shown that excess copper and zinc deficiency, individually as well as combined, are both closely associated with increased rates of depression. ‘A meta-analysis published in December 2013 in Biological Psychiatry analyzed 17 studies and found that depressed people tended to have about 14 percent less zinc in their blood than most people do on average, and the deficiency was greater among those with more severe depression.’ [1]  

Zinc deficiency in humans is associated with apathy, lethargy, amnesia, and mental retardation, often with considerable irritability, depression and paranoia.  ~(Prasad et al. 1978)

Not only does copper antagonize zinc, but it also antagonizes Vitamin B6.  Deficiencies of these latter two nutrients can increase PMS symptoms, while also impairing production of serotonin (our happy hormone). Low serotonin levels can lead to a loss of interest in one’s passions and relationships, while furthering feelings of worry, anxiety, and depression. Excess copper also impairs dopamine and GABA, deficiencies of which further increase depression.  In other words, extended use of the Pill or copper IUD, both of which lead to a cascade of changes in the body’s mineral system, despite being designed to bring couples closer together in intimacy can effectively play a major role in the destruction of the relationship by increasing depression, anxiety, and PMS reactions, among a list of other psychological changes we’ll also discuss here. 

New relationships may be especially vulnerable to these effects.  With the aforementioned drop in zinc as copper increases, so too drops the level of NGF (nerve growth factor).  Elevated NGF plays an important role in early stage romantic love (first 1-6 months of a relationship) [2].  Copper toxicity occurring to a partner during this early relationship phase can thus potentially play havoc as heightening copper lowers zinc and in turn NGF, suffocating those newly blossoming feelings of love.

“Anyone who becomes highly copper toxic will begin to experience a deadening
of his/her feelings.”  ~ Dr. Malter, PhD.

As copper accumulates, it tends to deplete magnesium and potassium at the cellular level.  Potassium and sodium need to be in balance.  However, as the ratio between sodium and potassium increases, a person becomes more vulnerable to negative stress reactions[3].  In other words, the person begins operating with a shorter and shorter fuse, becoming less tolerant of things that otherwise would not have caused emotional irritation.  Of course, we can’t only point the finger here at copper, as lifestyle stressors, by way of increasing aldosterone output, will also cause sodium to elevate relative to potassium, further increasing the negative stress response.  This stress response (and associated reactions) often operates at a sub-cortical level outside a person’s awareness, and attempts to reason with someone in this state may be futile until their mineral system is brought into better balance.  As Na/K rises, the body loses magnesium.  Magnesium is our primary anti-stress mineral, yet is also lost under stress.  As magnesium depletes, we further become less able to handle stressors – after all, magnesium has long been known as nature’s “original chill pill”.  Magnesium deficiency and copper toxicity are the two primary mineral causes behind stress overwhelm and associated fight or flight and panic reactions.   Magnesium also has a sedative effect on the central nervous system (CNS).  As magnesium depletes, the CNS is more stimulated, leading to heightened states of hyperactivity and anxiety.  In other words, the higher the Na/K ratio and lower the magnesium, the more the individual operates under an anxious fight or flight reaction, and with the wrong trigger they can easily go into a panic reaction and, in the context of this article, may decide to suddenly terminate their relationship. 

“Stress overwhelm in one person can often destroy relationships…money issues…school situations…health problems…insomnia and sleep disturbances exacerbate the problems related to stress overwhelm.” ~Dr. Malter, PhD.

Meanwhile, as stress increases, soft tissue calcification increases, potentially leading to the effects of a ‘calcium shell‘.  The calcium shell could be considered the body’s ultimate defense against stress.  Excess calcium not only blocks nutrients from entering the cell, but it can also block emotions, even awareness.  Calcium’s very nature is that of ‘hardening’. By hardening and blocking, it protects the individual from stress overwhelm, and it effectively does this by numbing the emotions and suppressing awareness so the person can more easily handle the stressor.  I teach this calcium shell effect, and its important connection with our pineal gland, more within the Mineral Mastery course.  Often, we might see the calcium shell in patients with a history of childhood or adult trauma, as well as in those raised in alcoholic or abusive families. Once again though, even the effect of excess estrogen and copper from the Pill or copper IUD, when combined with some of the other factors previously mentioned, can lead to the formation of a calcium shell. 

“As excess copper and calcium increase in the cells and tissues, a calcium “shell” will build that will tend to block more and more feelings until the person no longer is aware of what is being felt and experienced. Such a person often talks of “not feeling anything” or being “numb” and “dead” emotionally. As the calcium shell builds, a person’s perception and awareness diminish.  The overall psychological effect of excess copper is a loss of emotional control and awareness accompanied by diminished feelings and numbness.”  ~Dr. Malter, Ph.D.

It should be noted before proceeding that most of these imbalances are not always seen through typical blood testing, since blood is homeostatic and is always working to return to homeostasis.  This is a key reason why much of this information is not more widely understood, since our conventional medical approach tends to rely on blood levels while ignoring what’s happening in the cells and tissues – it is these cell and tissue levels, however, that provide greater insight into what is occurring with our body’s mineral biochemistry.

We’ve looked at how excess copper increases tissue calcium and depletes cellular potassium. Physiologically, this creates a suppressive effect on thyroid activity and, more specifically, the effect of T3.  Even if circulating thyroid hormones are fine, the cellular effect of excess calcium / low potassium is that of thyroid hypofunction “expression”.  One of the most common symptoms of hypothyroid is fatigue.  Fatigue / exhaustion is perhaps one of the most common reasons for an otherwise healthy relationship to fall apart.  When an individual barely has the energy to get through the day, there is very little left to give to their partner.  Depression is, effectively, a state of low energy, and as energy decreases, depression increases.  After all, it’s hard to be loving and happy in an otherwise depleted, low-energy state of depression.

 “A tired person is fearful, and an exhausted couple is more prone to doubt each other. As the fatigue settles in, the joy goes out of being together. You get so tired, you don’t want to be touched and you don’t enjoy touching – much less lovemaking. You are so tired you can’t enjoy anymore the little kindnesses you used to do for each other. You get too exhausted to even do them, and when totally exhausted, to even care.  Apathy replaces joy, and life becomes boring. People start wondering if they really are meant for each other. They wonder what happened to the original feelings that got them together. Fatigue and exhaustion can do all of this and more. It can help destroy a marriage that should have lasted forever.” ~Colin and Loren Chatsworth, with Dr. Paul Eck

Along with exhaustion also comes a lowered interest in sexual activity.  Sexually, the person is not only mentally, but also biologically, forced to withdraw when adrenal burnout occurs – the body is trying to preserve its energy and so the sex hormones, being not as critical, are put on the back burner. It can seem to that individual that they no longer desire their partner, not understanding that this feeling is simply a physiological survival mechanism and not their true self. The closer and more intense the relationship, and the more intense the copper-induced burnout, the more intense the opposing negative withdrawal reaction may be towards their partner.  Oxytocin levels also generally drop in the exhausted person, and the sexual arousal, recognition, trust and bonding that once existed between partners can become diminished.

Near adrenal burnout, when cortisol is low, the individual is ‘constantly going into hypoglycemia, which can result in depression, irritability, mood swings, poor concentration, poor memory, dizziness, fatigue, sleepiness and many more unpleasant effects.’ [4]   Also, as the body approaches adrenal burnout while facing hypoglycemia, adrenalin is increased in an attempt to correct the hypoglycemia. However, adrenalin is an anxiety and panic hormone.  If a burnt out copper toxic partner then too quickly increases their adrenal activity through exercise or adrenal support, or mobilizes their copper too rapidly through an attempt at quick detox or excessive use of antagonistic minerals such as zinc, that newly mobilized copper now enters the blood stream which then amplifies these anxiety and panic reactions.

Excess copper, as well as supplementing too much zinc, can also contribute to manganese deficiency.  Mentioned above was the close link between zinc deficiency and depression. Well, manganese deficiency can also contribute to increased depression (as well as schizophrenia).  In fact, Kimura and Kumura [5] found the brains of schizophrenics at autopsy to have only 50 percent of the Zn content of control brains. Also, Barlow (1979) found Mn to be significantly lower in the hair of schizophrenics compared to a control population”[6].  The implication here is that detox programs for copper toxicity that focus on giving zinc without adjunctively giving manganese can potentially make the manganese deficiency worse, exacerbating depressive and schizophrenic reactions which in turn can have dire consequences on relationships.  Studies as far back as 1929, as well as work done through the Brain Bio Center have shown clear improvement in symptoms of schizophrenia and depression when manganese is properly incorporated in the healing protocol.  Yet, when it comes to these symptoms, drugs are typically and liberally prescribed without any investigation into the individual’s mineral profile, and even less rare is the application of manganese, despite its importance. 

Inner Child work has long held important applications in clinical psychology and relationship counseling.  However, it was through the work of Dr. Malter, PhD (a pioneering psychologist who successfully integrated nutritional therapy and mineral balancing in his many decades of clinical psychology practice), where Inner Child work was further advanced by adapting it into a mineral-related stress model as can be viewed through HTMA (Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis).  Our inner child is the part of us that developed from conception to puberty, holding our beliefs, possibilities, innocence, programs, traumas, etc.  As we grow up, our ‘Judge’ inflates.  The Judge, as explained in the book ‘Shrinking the Judge Freeing the Inner Child‘ (Malter), is the part of us that suppresses our Inner Child…in a sense it is our “ego mind”.  In some ways it protects the individual (similar to the calcium shell), but it may also prevent self-opening and healing. The Judge is that negative, destructive, critical part of us that makes us believe we’re not lovable, we’re never good enough, we’re unworthy, etc. It feeds off sowing doubts and fears.

As an example, if a child grew up feeling unloved by one or both parents, an inflated Judge will subconsciously cement that belief in the adult, preventing the individual from recognizing or working through such an unnecessary and untrue belief.  The adult then creates situations in life that support the disempowering belief / program.  As humans we tend to create (and hold on to) not what we say we consciously want, but what we subconsciously believe we deserve; and if our Judge becomes dominant, then we operate from behind that Judge’s veil.

As psychologist Malter explains in his 2003 book, ‘The Strands of Health’, “If an individual with a high copper condition has unresolved  emotional issues with his/her Judge, under high stress conditions, the person may experience the threat of the Judge (ego mind), but without awareness of what is happening psychologically“.  This goes on to intensify feelings of fear, hopelessness, and depression, and a disconnect from one’s Inner Child and spirit-self.

Properly interpreted HTMA (Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis) provides a unique tool by which to measure the size of our Judge.  We can see on an HTMA how either stress and/or excess copper tend to increase sodium and deplete potassium.  As the Na/K ratio increases, the Judge personality inflates, suppressing one’s inner child.  From behind the Judge’s veil one may also be more prone to seek out, return to, or stay in destructive, unhealthy relationships.  Magnesium, zinc, and potassium, when used properly, can all help reduce the intensity of the Judge; however as we’ve looked at, excess copper depletes all three of those very nutrients.  This is why it’s so important to understand our mineral status, since doing so can provide one of the most important insights into human psychology and why we may react in relationships in the ways we do.  

Yet… the importance of minerals remains an area all but completely ignored in conventional medicine and psychology. This needs to change if we wish to do better.  How can we talk about having ’emotional intelligence’, or properly counsel couples on relationships, or fully address many of the mental health issues that plague society today without this pivotal role that minerals play being part of the conversation? When a couple goes in for relationship counseling because their mutual love has dampened or their sex life faded, would it not be a wise area of investigation for the therapist to inquire about the woman’s use of birth control while also providing an understanding to the couple of the ripple effect that happens when stress/diet/lifestyle-induced mineral imbalances occur?

These are all core concepts taught in greater depth within the Mineral Mastery course.  Mineral Mastery, while a mineral-based health and nutrition course, also builds the bridge between nutrition and psychology.  Further, my work at explain these nutritional links (especially in relation to copper) in much greater detail for those interested, including the calcium shell effect, and provides numerous cases testifying to the impact excess copper has had on emotions and relationships.  However, until this information begins to be taught in mainstream nutrition school, mental health training programs, and relationship counseling education, how many more loving couples will see their relationships or even families fall apart, not because of a lack of inherit love between them, but due to mineral imbalances that have a profound effect on emotional reactions which can easily sabotage even the healthiest of relationships – especially when those counseling one or both partners provide no guidance to this essential connection.

“Remember this one final thought: Emotions change minerals and minerals change emotions. Your emotional life is reflected in your minerals, just like moonlight is reflected on the surface of a lake. It also works in reverse. Your mineral balance will be reflected in your emotional life, and in your ability to give love.”  ~ Dr. Paul Eck






[5] Kimura K., Kumura J. (1965). Preliminary reports on the metabolism of trace elements in neuro psychiatric diseases. I. Zinc in schizophrenia. Proc. Jap. Acad. Sci. 41, 943–947