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6 Common Nutrient Deficiencies + Exactly What To Do About Each

Photo by Xunbin Pan
November 7, 2017

When you first consult an integrative or functional medicine expert—whether that be a medical doctor, chiropractor, naturopathic physician, or osteopathic physician—it’s very likely that one of the first things they’ll do is check you for nutrient deficiencies. This means running blood work to check whether you are low in any key nutrients—which could be contributing to your health concerns and making you feel fatigued, cranky, or lethargic.

Even if you are super health-conscious, busy schedules and the demands of modern life can make it hard to get all the nutrients you need in three meals a day. Because of this, some deficiencies are more common than others. Here’s what they are and exactly how to correct them:

1. Vitamin D.

Vitamin D is important for way more than healthy bones. In fact, research suggests that it also plays a central role in your immune function, insulin resistance, and blood pressure.

This is a common deficiency, especially if you live in a colder climate or you don’t spend much time in the sun. There are some foods that contain vitamin D, but if you’re deficient, you’ll probably want to consider supplementing with vitamin D. Look for vitamin D3; research suggests that is the most effective form.

2. Iron.

Iron deficiency feels a little old-school, but there are still a ton of people who don’t get enough of this key nutrient—particularly young children and pregnant women. In fact, it’s the most common and widespread nutritional disorder in the world. Iron is essential for your body to make hemoglobin (Hgb), which is what makes your red blood cells red. Iron supplements can be tricky, since they can cause digestive upset or nausea, but if you look for a form called iron bisglycinate, you’ll know you’re getting a well-tolerated and well-absorbed form of iron.

3. Magnesium.

Magnesium has gotten a lot of attention lately—and for good reason! This mineral is used in hundreds of biochemical reactions in the body and plays a role in the health of your heart and blood vessels, brain, bones, skeletal muscles, lungs, and pancreas, just to name a few. Many people take this "relaxation mineral" to help the body handle stress and promote GI regularity. The form magnesium bisglycinate has glycine that helps with the solubility and absorption of Mg in the GI tract. Plus, the better absorbed it is, the less likely it will cause a laxative effect.

4. B vitamins.

Photo: Diego Cervo

There are a lot of B vitamins, so it can be confusing to know which ones are the most important and what combo you might need to take. Each one is different, but they all work together in the body to support energy production and neurological function. Taking a blend, like Thorne’s Basic B-Complex takes out all the guesswork. It contains the right balance of all eight essential B vitamins, plus choline (which is usually grouped with the B vitamins).

5. Vitamin K.

Most of you are familiar with the importance of vitamins C, D, and maybe even E, but what do you know about vitamin K? If you’re like most of the world, probably not a lot. This underrated nutrient is important for everything from artery elasticity and bone mineral density to metabolism. Taking a high-quality vitamin K supplement can support all of these aspects of your health and more.

6. Omega-3s.

The war on fat is officially over. More scientists and health experts are getting behind the health benefits of the wonderful fats in avocado, coconut oil, nuts, and seeds every single day. But of all the beneficial fats we should be consuming, omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (found in fish oils) might be the most important. Eicosatetraenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are the two primary omega-3s that support healthy heart and brain function, a healthy inflammatory response, and healthy blood sugar and triglycerides—just to name a few.