Phosphorous in a nutshell:
Phosphorous in the form of phosphate is found in every living cell, both within the cell membranes and in every base in your DNA. A phosphorous compound even hardens your bones and teeth.
Best source of Phosphorous for Juicers
We don’t recommend a juicing program for phosphorous as it’s in most of the food we eat and you are extremely unlikely to be deficient..
Phosphorus is a mineral that is essential to life for all living things. Because it is in all the food we eat, phosphorus deficiencies are extremely rare.
Alternative names: Phosphorus is the noun describing the element. Phosphorous is an adjective used to describe a chemical compound.
What Is Phosphorus?
The first form of pure phosphorus was produced in an early scientific lab in 1669. This white phosphorus glowed in the dark, that is, it was phosphorescent, which gave the element its name.
Phosphorus may be white, red, violet, or black. White phosphorus is the form of the element that has no crystalline structure. It easily catches on fire, usually igniting without being exposed to heat or spark, and burns with an intense yellow flame. It's also extremely toxic.
Red phosphorous is formed when white phosphorus is exposed to sunlight but not oxygen. It is a plastic form of the element that is more stable when exposed to the air. Freshly formed red phosphorus may ignite when exposed to the air but aged red phosphorus does not.
Violet phosphorus is a stable form of the element that can be smelted at high temperatures out of ores that contain phosphorus. Black phosphorus is a metallic form the phosphorus that can be created at high temperatures.
White, red, violet, and black phosphorus are all toxic, but phosphorus in the form of phosphate, a chemical combination of phosphorus and oxygen, is essential for all known forms of life. There is phosphate in every molecule of the bases that make up DNA and RNA. Cells use phosphates in the the form of ADP (adenosine diphosphate) and ATP (adenosine triphosphate) to store energy. They also use phosphates in the form of ATP for phosphorylation, a process that activate or deactivate genes and enzymes.
Phospholipids form a double layer in the protective membrane around each cell in almost all living organisms. The ability of phosphate to form bonds with oxygen allows it to serve as a molecular buffer between the outermost and innermost layers of the cell membrane, stabilizing it and making it easier for the cell to maintain an electrostatic charge that moves nutrients and oxygen in and hormones and metabolic byproducts out.
In animals and in people, the phosphorus compound apatite hardens bones and teeth.
What Does Phosphorus Do in the Human Body?
Like other animals, humans get their phosphorus from the DNA, RNA, and phospholipids in the foods they consume. The human body uses about 90% of the phosphorus it receives from food to make bone and dental enamel. About 90% of the rest is in soft tissues and about 1% of all the phosphorus in the body is various body fluids, just 0.1% in the bloodstream itself. Most of us absorb more phosphorus from food than our bodies need, and excrete about 1,000 to 3,000 mg of phosphorus in urine every day. Certain abnormalities in diet, however, can cause the body to excrete much more.
What Happens When Don't Get Enough Phosphorus in Our Diets?
Deficiencies of phosphorus are very rare but very serious. Even though just about 0.1% of all the body's phosphorus is in the bloodstream, but deficiencies of readily available phosphates can interfere with the function of the central nervous system. There can be disorientation, instability of mental status,seizures, and various neurological “quirks” that produce strange symptoms that cannot be connected with a specific injury to a nerve.
The reduced ability of the intracostal muscles and heart muscle to make ATP can lead to difficulties with breathing and congestive heart failure. A low-level of phosphorus deficiency for a long time can cause failure of bone growth in children and bone pain in adults.
The most common initial symptom of phosphorus deficiency, however, is muscle weakness. Usually this is not an all-over kind of muscle weakness. It can be a weakness in a single muscle group. The muscles that control the sphincter at the bottom of the esophagus may allow acid to flow up into the throat. Or one foot or one hand may become “floppy.” Or the eyes may not focus properly.
Another common symptom of phosphorus deficiency is anemia. Red blood cells break down because they do not have enough phosphorus to stabilize their membranes. Further complicating the problem is the appearance of neutropenia, in which white blood cells lose their ability to fight infections.
Alcoholics and diabetics receiving massive amounts of insulin to treat a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis sometimes develop a condition known as rhabdomyolysis due to phosphorus deficiency. The muscles cannot make the ATP they need and they begin to rupture. There can be intense muscle pain and the kidneys may not be able to keep up with acid production of the bloodstream as proteins break down.
Are You at Risk of Phosphorus Deficiency?
Any individual suffering phosphorus deficiency can experience any or all of the symptoms of the condition in any order and for any length of time. Short-term phosphorus deficiency is a surprisingly common condition, affecting 2 to 3% of people sick enough to be admitted to a hospital for any condition and about 30% of people in intensive care units. People who have either HIV or malaria often develop phosphorus deficiencies. And short-term phosphorus deficiencies are not unusual in people who try to lose weight on vegan diets.
But if phosphorus is in all our food, why should anyone become deficient in phosphorus? It turns out that there are a number of conditions that can cause insufficient intake of phosphorus.
- Vitamin D deficiency causes phosphorus deficiency by limiting the ability of the small intestine to absorb phosphorus compounds from food and by limiting the ability of the kidneys to prevent their excretion in the urine. It's not a good idea to take high doses (more than 1,000 IU per day) of vitamin D without seeing your doctor because
- A condition called hyperparathyroidism can cause the kidneys to make too much of the active D3 form of vitamin D which forces them retain too much calcium and to release too much phosphorus.
- Chronic diarrhea can interfere with phosphorus absorption.
- The inability to absorb fats from food can interfere with phosphorus absorption.
- People who take large amounts of antacids can become phosphorus-deficient because phosphorus forms insoluble compounds when it comes in contact with the active ingredient in the antacid. This is especially a problem with antacids that contain aluminum compounds. The intestine “senses” the presence of phosphate and sends a hormonal signal to the kidneys to release phosphates even through the intestine cannot absorb the phosphorus compounds.
- Successful treatment of wasting diseases can result in phosphorus deficiencies as the body switches from catabolic (break-down) mode to anabolic (build-up) mode.
There are also conditions that cause phosphorus to shift from the bloodstream into cells. They can cause short- or long-term neurological complications.
- Stress hormones cause cells to take phosphates out of the bloodstream.
- Administration of epinephrine for allergic anaphylaxis can cause temporary but severe deficits in phosphorus compounds in the bloodstream.
- Certain kinds of cancer “feed” on phosphates.
- Hyperventilation can cause phosphates to move from the bloodstream into cells. Chronic, severe pain is the most common cause of hyperventilation.
- Heavy use of insulin can cause phosphorus compounds to accumulate inside cells and to become deficient in the bloodstream.
There are also conditions that cause the kidneys to remove too much phosphorus from the bloodstream. Consuming more than 20% of the calories in the form of fructose (the equivalent of drinking 20 or 3 North American soft drinks per day) causes the kidneys to excrete more phosphorus than the body can absorb. This effect is worse when the diet is also deficient in magnesium, and it is a major cause of chronic phosphorus deficiency that can cause osteoporosis and chronic psychological problems.
The most common cause of acute phosphorus deficiency, however, is a phenomenon known as refeeding syndrome. When dieters start eating normally again, or when starving people are finally fed, or when anorexia is successfully treated or people who have had surgery on the gastrointestinal tract are able to start eating normally again, insulin starts moving both glucose and phosphate into previously starving cells.
The more glucose is released from food, the more insulin the body makes, and the more of both glucose and phosphate is taken out of the bloodstream. If the diet is too high in carbohydrate, so much phosphate can be taken out of the bloodstream that the neurological symptoms listed above can result.
All of this means that you can be at risk for unexpected phosphorus deficiency if:
- You drink a lot of soft drinks sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup.
- You can have a chronic digestive problem.
- You lead a high-stress lifestyle.
- You lose weight on a low-protein diet.
- You are unable to eat food or digest food for a long period of time.
- You take too much vitamin D, or if you don't take enough, or
- You end a fast or a diet with foods that are high in carbohydrate and low in phosphorus.
Does Anyone Need to Take Supplemental Phosphorus?
While some bone health formulas contain phosphorus, and it certainly doesn't hurt, most people don't really need them. For people who do not have health conditions that interfere with intake or normal excretion, just 1,000 mg per day for just 10 days usually restores the body's supply.
It's far more important to avoid soft drinks that are sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup (it's the combination of carbonation and fructose that is the problem, but it's also a good idea to avoid other foods made with high-fructose corn syrup), to take care of digestive problems without using antacids, to get the right amount of vitamin D (usually 1,000 IU a day—too much vitamin D is a problem, too), and to make sure you break a fast or end a diet with a high-protein meal, not a high-carbohydrate meal.
If you follow a strict raw foods diet, you may benefit from taking up to 1,250 mg of supplemental phosphorus per day, since the phytates in nuts, seeds, and fibrous vegetables bind to phosphates and make it difficult for the body to absorb them. If you are vegetarian, consider eating most of your grains as bread. Yeast contains phytases that break down the phytates in bread so the phosphorus compounds they contain are more completely absorbed. Otherwise, just check to see that the diet contains:
- 1,250 mg of phosphorus per day if you are pregnant or breastfeeding and you are under 19 years of age.
- 700 mg of phosphorus per day if you are pregnant or breastfeeding and your are 19 years of age or older.
- 700 mg of phosphorus per day if you are a man or woman over the age of 18.
- 1,250 mg of phosphorus per day if you are a male or female aged 14 to 18.
- 1,250 mg of phosphorus per day for children aged 9 to 13.
- 700 mg of phosphorus per day for children aged 4 to 8.
- 450 mg of phosphorus per day for children aged 1 to 3.
- 275 mg of phosphorus per day for infants six to twelve months.
- 100 mg of phosphorus per day for infants up to six months old.
Children and teens need more phosphorus than adults because their bones and teeth are still growing. They need the most phosphorus in meals consumed just after they are getting over a stomach upset or as they are ending a diet.
How can you be sure you are getting enough phosphorus in your diet? Here are some common foods and their phosphorus content.
- A 3-1/2 oz (100 gram) serving of any kind of instant pudding mix except chocolate contains 2368 mg of phosphorus.
- A 3-1/2 oz (100 gram) serving of cocoa mix or chocolate instant pudding mix contains 1680 mg of phosphorus.
- A 3-1/2 oz (100 gram) serving of KRAFT Velveeta-Light contains 1024 mg of phosphorus.
- A 3-1/2 oz (100 gram) serving of KRAFT Cheeze-Whiz contains 934 mg of phosphorus.
- A 3-1/2 oz (100 gram) serving of Kellogg's All-Bran with Extra Fiber contains 900 mg of phosphorus.
- A 3-1/2 oz (100 gram) serving of corn meal contains 804 mg of phosphorus.
- A 3-1/2 oz (100 gram) serving of most seeds and nuts contain 800 to 1300 mg of phosphorus but it is in a form that is poorly absorbed.
- A 3-1/2 oz (100 gram) serving of most non-processed cheeses contain 500 to 800 mg of phosphorus.
- A 3-1/2 oz (100 gram) serving of most red meats contain 300 to 550 mg of phosphorus. Cured meats like bacon are higher in phosphorus.
- A 3-1/2 oz (100 gram) serving of most cuts of poultry contain 250 to 350 mg of phosphorus.
We really don't recommend instant pudding or Kraft Velveeta on a regular basis if you aren't seeking to prevent phosphorus deficiency. If you prefer to get your phosphorus from plant foods, either eat small servings of seeds and nuts as a snack, chewing them well, or make a point of getting more servings of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, Brazil nuts, cashews, almonds, almond milk, and dried carrots, tomatoes, peppers, and mushrooms.
Don't Take Too Much Phosphorus
No one should get more than 3,000 mg of phosphorus per day. Toxic levels of phosphorus can occur in people who take daily enemas with due to absorption of phosphates through the colon, and in people who consume unnecessary phosphorus supplements. No one who has kidney failure should take phosphorus supplements and most must limit their consumption of foods that are rich in phosphorus.