Nutrient testing, whether done through a conventional or functional lab, can provide some key clues as to causes of disease. Whether a patient has low Vitamin D that’s impacting their energy, mood and bone health, or B12 deficiency that’s causing neuropathy or dementia, or low ferritin (iron stores) that’s contributing to fatigue, restless leg or difficulty focusing, there’s a clear correlation between low nutrient levels and various chronic conditions.
While it’s important to identify deficiencies and obtain appropriate supplementation to correct it, it’s even more important to go a step further and ask why the deficiency is there to begin with. If you’ve been told you have low levels of one or more vitamins and minerals, it’s important to consider the following potential causes:
You may not be getting enough nutrients from food. This can be for various reasons. Some people don’t eat enough. Some people eat “enough”, but favor processed foods that are considered nutrient-poor. Whole foods are ideal to get the most nutrient-dense nourishment. If you reflect on your food intake and routine and see that there’s room for improvement, dietary modifications alongside supplementation may do the trick.
You may be taking a medication that depletes the body of nutrients. This is a very common, yet overlooked factor, especially for people on multiple medications. I encourage individuals taking one or medications to discuss options to address nutrient depletion with their provider. A few examples include:
Long-term use of proton-pump inhibitors (i.e. Prilosec) will prevent calcium, iron, Vitamin C, zinc, and B12 absorption, thus increasing risk of premature development of osteoporosis and dementia
Oral contraceptives deplete the body of Calcium, Magnesium and B vitamins
Diabetes medications like Metformin can deplete B12
Statins deplete the body of Co10
You may be exposed or have had previous exposure to environmental toxicants like metals (lead and mercury), chemicals and mold. Chronic exposure to chemicals, mold, and metals results in more stress on the body, requiring a higher demand for nutrients that provide us energy, and help repair tissues and cells. Over time, this increased demand can deplete our nutrient stores.
You may have a chronic gastrointestinal condition, like Celiac or Non-Celiac Gluten-Sensitivity, Food Intolerances, Crohn’s, colitis, or IBS/SIBO. These conditions impact the body’s ability to absorb nutrients via the gut. In order for supplementation to effectively restore healthy levels, it’s important to make sure these potential issues are being managed so that your body can get what it needs from food in the future!
One final note: If your provider recommends a blood draw for nutrient testing, make sure to avoid vitamin supplementation (Iron, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, etc) for 5 days prior to your blood draw. I’ve commonly seen patients and their conventional providers fully bent out of shape over an elevated Serum B12 level, only to find out the patient had taken their B12 supplement the morning of the test!