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5 Reasons to Test for Nutrient Deficiencies

by: Jamie Foti MS, RDN, IFNCP  |  July 31, 2023


Nutrition is not one size fits all. One of the most effective ways to get results is to better understand your personalized needs which are influenced by your genetics, microbiome, nutrient deficiencies and more.

Our team of functional medicine dietitians typically start with testing for nutrient deficiencies. This is because nutrients are needed as cofactors to every single chemical reaction in your body, including how you convert the food that you eat into usable energy, produce neurotransmitters, support blood sugar balance, balancing hormones and support detox. 

Nutrient deficiencies can manifest as subtle symptoms like fatigue or brain fog, or play a role in even more severe dysfunction like hypothyroidism or autoimmune conditions. 

That being said, it’s important for everyone to test for nutrient deficiencies. Here’s why: 


1. Nutrient Status is Unknown Without Testing

Even if you’re eating a “healthy” diet, you still can have a host of nutrient deficiencies. That’s because everyone is different in terms of how they digest and absorb each nutrient. You may be in a stressful state that requires more nutrients. Or, you could have genetic SNPs—single nucleotide polymorphisms, essentially deviations from the “norm” that make you genetically unique—that can impact how you absorb and utilize different nutrients. While SNPs are something that we can test for as well, you always want to look to the nutrient deficiency test to see if those SNPs are actually impacting your nutrient status or if your diet is enough in spite of those genes.


Even if your needs are that of the “average” person, you may not actually be optimally absorbing all of the nutrients that you’re taking in. There are a few reasons for this:

1.  You absorb the majority of your nutrients through the walls of your small intestine. If there is inflammation or leaky gut present within your digestive (or GI)  tract, it makes it very hard to absorb all of the nutrients that you’re taking in.

2.  If you have issues with production of stomach acid or digestive enzymes, you won’t be able to optimally break down the food that you’re taking in. If you’re not able to adequately break down the food you eat, it can travel through your system partially undigested and unabsorbed.


2. Many Things Deplete Nutrients

While you may be getting in plenty of nutrients, you could also be burning through them at too rapid of a rate. Many things cause increased nutrient needs with one of the most prevalent ones being stress. Stress increases the amount of minerals such as magnesium and zinc that you need, as well as antioxidants like vitamin C. Even bouts of intense training can have a similar effect, so if you have been working hard in the gym, it may be time to assess nutrients. Having proper nutrient stores can also make those gains or endurance goals even easier to achieve as muscle function and recovery increase. Other reasons for an increased rate at which you use nutrients include certain medications, how your food was grown, and even certain disease states. While we always want to address the root of why you’re burning through nutrients, repleting them in the meantime is the best way to ensure that you start feeling your best.


3. Nutrient Deficiencies Could Be the Missing Link 

Are you dealing with unexplained symptoms or having trouble healing from a chronic condition? Nutrient deficiencies could be the missing link. As an example, certain B vitamin deficiencies can lead to peripheral neuropathy (tingling or numbness in your extremities), vitamin A deficiencies can perpetuate skin conditions such as keratosis pilaris, and magnesium deficiencies can lead to muscle cramping and restless leg syndrome. These are only a handful of the consequences that can result from nutrient deficiencies since nutrients are needed in every single reaction in your body. When trying to heal from a more significant chronic illness—think autoimmune conditions, thyroid disorders, or gastrointestinal issues—getting your nutrient status to an optimal place is paramount. Cells need nutrients to function and if they aren’t getting what they need, they cannot function at an optimal rate to heal.


4. You’re Preparing for Conception (both males and females!) or You’re Postpartum  

Conceiving a healthy child starts with making sure both parents have optimal nutrients. Having adequate nutrients increases the quality of both sperm and eggs, leading to a healthier fetus and improved birth outcomes. Because both pregnancy and breastfeeding—if you are able to do so—demand so many nutrients, it can be easy to deplete your nutrient status. Assessing for nutrient deficiencies postpartum can ensure that you are getting exactly what you need to recover optimally and return to feeling your best postpartum. More on this topic here



5. Tailor Your Diet, Supplements, and Further Care to Your Needs

Understanding your specific nutrient needs allows you to consciously choose foods that are rich in the nutrients you need and choose supplements that are targeted just for you rather than simply popping a multivitamin in the hopes of getting what you need. Also, seeing your specific nutrient deficiencies can provide us with information to see if you may benefit from further testing such as a stool test to assess gut health or a nutrigenetic test to see how your genes may be impacting the nutrients you need.

We run nutrient deficiency testing on every client that goes through our My Food is Health program. We always start with this test because addressing nutrient needs is like picking the lowest hanging fruit—if your nutrient status isn’t great, any other interventions won’t be as effective. If you are interested in completing a nutrient deficiency test and getting a personalized plan,  checkout our My Food is Health program.

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