Natural Health and Wellness for the Whole Family

Most Common Nutrient Deficiencies I See In My Practice

By Sarah Axtell, ND June 18, 2015

Many patients come to me on a multivitamin. I am actually not a big fan of supplementing with multivitamins because they contain small amounts (and often poorly absorbed forms) of vitamins and minerals. Rather than supplement with multivitamin, I am an advocate of a colorful diet rich in vitamins and minerals (think color of the rainbow on your plate). And what you don’t get enough of in your diet, I recommend patients supplement with individual nutrients in which they are deficient-the best forms and adequate dosages of the nutrients of course. Most common deficiencies I see in my practice are:

1. Magnesium

Signs of magnesium deficiency:

  • Irregular or fast heart beat
  • Muscle cramps (Charlie horses!)
  • Chocolate cravings
  • Restlessness
  • Headaches
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety

Food sources- Dark chocolate, tofu, black eyed peas, millet, red beans, beet greens, seeds, nuts, green leafy vegetables, buckwheat

2. Zinc

Signs of zinc deficiency:

  • White spots on fingernails
  • Ridged nails
  • Poor sense of smell or taste
  • Decreased immunity
  • Acne
  • Fatigue
  • Poor wound healing
  • Poor appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Hair loss

Food sources- Pumpkin seeds, red meat, potatoes, soy, oysters, legumes, wheat germ

3. B12

Signs of B12 deficiency:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Fatigue
  • Sore  or inflamed red tongue
  • Cracks at the corner of the mouth
  • Mouth sores or ulcers
  • Weakness
  • Irritability

Food sources- Animal products, such as eggs, meat and dairy. Vegetarian source- nutritional yeast.

4. Vitamin D

Signs of vitamin D deficiency:

  • Frequent illnesses/poor immune status
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Osteoporosis
  • Bone pain

Food sources- Tuna, dairy products, sardines, tuna, salmon, egg yolks all contain some vitamin D. But the best source is the SUN!

5. Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)

Signs of EFA deficiency:

  • Excess ear wax, especially the dark wax
  • Seborrheic dermatitis (forehead shiny & scaly, c yellow greasy look which extends into eyebrows, down nose, cheeks, chest
  • Dry, brittle hair
  • Itchy, dry skin
  • Eczema
  • Dandruff
  • Poor memory or cognition

Food sources- Salmon, sardines, walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds

Testing for Micronutrient Deficiencies

Unfortunately, routine serum testing for micronutrients is inadequate. I recommend intracellular micronutrient testing.

I routinely test for micronutrient deficiencies in patients that struggle with fatigue, malabsorption/digestive issues (such as Crohn’s, IBS or Ulcerative colitis), and infertility. Once we have the results I can make recommendations on the most bioavailable form of the nutrient as well as appropriate dosages for supplementation and associated food sources.

Here is the micronutrient test I have found to be an invaluable part of my practice.

Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.


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