Vitamin Deficiency: What You Can Learn From Testing for Mineral + Vitamin Deficiencies
Vitamins and minerals are micronutrients, a type of nutrient that your body needs in small amounts. These micronutrients influence and/or participate in nearly every process in your body and are essential for keeping you healthy.
What causes vitamin deficiency?
Our diets are the single most significant source of vitamins and minerals in our bodies, so it stands to reason that regularly eating a diet rich in vitamins and minerals will increase our intake of these micronutrients and thus ensure that we aren’t deficient. Unfortunately, this isn’t always true. There are three underlying reasons why even if you’re eating the world’s healthiest diet, you may still find yourself deficient in vitamins or minerals.
1. Absorption issues
Problems with absorption can affect those who do and do not eat a micronutrient dense diet. Absorption issues will reduce an individual’s ability to absorb the nutrients they have digested. The absorption of nutrients occurs in the small intestines. Any impairments such as Coeliac or Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) within this part of the gastrointestinal tract will negatively impact nutrient absorption, increasing the risk of vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency.
Several common medications can increase vitamin deficiency, including oral contraceptives, anti-inflammatories and diabetes medications. Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) can reduce the intrinsic factor produced. Intrinsic factor is a protein needed for vitamin B12 absorption.
As we age, our bodies may be less able to function as effectively as they did when we were younger. Often older adults will produce less stomach acid. Stomach acid is crucial for activating protein digestion and intrinsic factor, which, as we learnt above, supports vitamin B12 absorption.
What are the symptoms of a vitamin deficiency?
Vitamin deficiency symptoms can vary considerably from vague and subtle to obvious and unambiguous.
Classic symptoms of iron deficiency, for example, include feeling weak, tired and short of breath. Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include mouth ulcers, pins and needles, blurry vision and feelings of extreme tiredness. At the same time, a vitamin D deficiency can also leave you feeling fatigued, susceptible to infections, anxious and depressed, and experiencing weak bones and muscle pain.
Other, less noticeable symptoms of micronutrient deficiencies may easily be mistaken for other issues. These symptoms include:
thinning, dull or brittle hair
cracked, dry skin
fatigue and irritability
Why is testing necessary?
Testing to identify any vitamin or mineral insufficiencies or deficiencies ensures that the body can function normally, carrying out all its daily processes as designed and without compromise and ensuring that we look and feel well.
A vitamin D deficiency can have profound effects on immune and bone health. It may explain why vitamin deficient individuals suffer from recurring infections and are at greater risk of osteoporosis with age. More importantly, long-term micronutrient deficiencies can cause chronic problems. Without testing, we’re groping in the dark, applying solutions that potentially never resolve mineral and vitamin deficiencies or, at best, are only a temporary fix.
How to get tested
Many GPs will test for a specific vitamins (e.g. B12, D) or minerals (e.g. iron or calcium) if you ask for it and explain why you’d like to get tested. If you take this path, it’s essential to know precisely which vitamin or mineral may be deficient or insufficient, which may not be possible in many cases.
There are many direct to consumer testing options available now for people who would like to test at home. Although these tests will vary in quality, these are valuable options. It is however, advisable to thoroughly investigate, compare, and contrast this before ordering your test kit. You’ll also want to ensure that the company you’ve chosen will interpret your test results and provide you with appropriate and personalised recommendations.
At The Thrive Practice, we provide our clients with in-depth testing through certified laboratories that assure the quality of the tests we use. Nutritional deficiencies form part of our comprehensive baseline tests. We then interpret our client’s test results. Using our expertise, we can disentangle the dietary deficiencies and symptoms or conditions to reveal the root cause of health concerns. Once we’ve unravelled the root cause, we work with you to create a personalised therapeutic plan that focuses on diet and lifestyle to address the root cause of your health issue(s) and improve any mineral and vitamin deficiency or insufficiencies.
Are you interested in decoding your wellness? Get tested with us.