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Why Are My Vitamins Low?

Updated: Jan 15, 2023







What if we could solve your health issues by paying close attention to your nutrient status?


Hold tight, we may have some answers coming your way.


Nutrient depletions are more common than you think.


When someone says the term nutrient depletion, my guess is that you think of someone who isn’t eating fruits and vegetables regularly or someone that doesn’t have a “healthy” diet. But what if I told you nutrient depletions are caused by more than just inadequate dietary intake?


The unfortunate truth is that much of our current way of living can contribute to our nutrient cup being half empty. Whether this is nutrient availability, absorption, or disadvantageous interactions, we’re seeing nutrient deficiencies affect a much broader population.


Let’s take a step back and think about how we get nutrients in the first place. It all starts with the food, right? But it goes deeper than did you eat your fruits and veggies. That food needs to be grown or fed and we need to consider the individual ability to then eat, digest, extract and absorb the nutrients out of those foods. The best-case scenario is that everything from start to finish is optimally working, leaving us with an influx of nutrients to utilize. However, there are numerous points along the way where things can become less than ideal.


We could be losing out on nutrients because of our soil, the way animals are fed, the foods we eat, cellular health, genetics, how well our guts function and if we have the ability or not to absorb the nutrients we’ve eaten. As you can see, there’s a lot of room for error.


Clinically, we see most nutrient depletions connected to stress, gut health, medication, and soil. Let’s dive into them, shall we?


Stress

Stress is a subject we all avoid, but almost everyone should be talking about. It’s a real elephant in the room. Stress is an underlying cause of numerous health discrepancies and has been linked in scientific literature to mood disorders, nervous system discrepancies, microbiome alterations, and nutrient deficiencies to name a few.


The stress response (perceived or otherwise) involves a shift in the nervous system to signal the release of the hormones adrenaline (epinephrine) and cortisol. These hormones are meant to prepare the body to allocate resources for survival. Ultimately, the stress response results in an increase in heart rate, an increase in lung dilation (breathing), decreased digestive capacity, and increased glucose release for available energy.


This is an incredibly efficient system meant to keep you safe and alive. But, remember those resources that the stress response uses up? Well, the stress response utilizes many of the critical nutrients your body requires to function at its best, potentially leaving you nutrient deficient in these oh-so-important micronutrients.


Common micronutrients depleted due to stress:


Magnesium- involved in 300+ reactions in the body. Magnesium helps increase levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in managing stress and anxiety. Magnesium deficiency is linked to lower mood and depression (source).

Zinc- mineral necessary for immune function and mood regulation. Stress depletes zinc and may be linked to depression

Calcium- necessary for bone health, muscle contraction, nerve conduction, and enzyme activation. It’s depleted with a rise in cortisol, which is the main hormone released as a response to stress.

Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps mitigate the impact of free radical damage and oxidative stress. High cortisol = depleted vitamin C

Iron- helps carry oxygen. Increased stress can deplete iron levels, causing fatigue, shortness of breath, and thinning hair.

Niacin and other B vitamins- essential for energy and neurotransmitter production; also required for a properly functioning nervous system. B vitamins are water-soluble, and are not stored in the body, meaning you don't really have a reserve of these vitamins


Gut health

Your gut impacts nutrient absorption as it’s the main site for digestion, or the breaking down of food. What we eat, how we eat, and how well we absorb food will play a role in how many nutrients we have available to us. We are more than just what we eat. It’s what we absorb that’s the real kicker. Anything that disrupts the gut (structural irregularities, disease, dysbiosis, infection, etc.) can have a significant impact on nutrient status.


To really understand how many many ways your gut health can impact your nutrient absorption, let’s briefly review some anatomy.


The digestive system includes the mouth, stomach, pancreas, small and large intestine, lymphatic system, and colon. Every section mentioned has a specific role as it relates to the breakdown of food. The small intestine is the site of most nutrient absorption, meaning most vitamins and minerals are absorbed here. Additionally, the bacteria lining your entire digestive tract play a role in nutrient absorption. For example, the bacteria in your colon allow for vitamin K to be formed and thus utilized by the host (you). So, it would behoove you to have a healthy microbiome.


People currently experiencing SIBO, IBS, or IBD (Chron's or Ulcerative colitis) are at a greater risk for nutrient deficiencies for the reasons mentioned above. Any discrepancy in your body’s ability to digest and absorb nutrients may be cause for concern.




Medication

One of the most unfortunate aspects of health care is the overutilization of prescription medications without adequately educating people on the possible interactions. This is not limited to physiological responses to medications, but to nutrient depletion or interactions with specific medications as well.


Medications are utilized with the intent to change something presently occurring in the body. That being said, it’s worth considering that there may be adverse reactions, or compensations accordingly.


Listing every medication would be exhaustive (and boring for us both), but we’ve highlighted some of the most common medication-nutrient interactions. If you want to look into your medication specifically to identify if there may be a nutrient depletion, we recommend using a database like mytavin.com.


Birth control- DHEA, Folate, Magnesium, Melatonin, Riboflavin, Selenium, Thiamin, Vitamin A, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, Zinc, Beneficial gut flora


Acid Blockers- Vitamin A, Boron, Calcium, Chromium, Copper, Folic Acid, Iron, Phosphorus, Gut flora, Selenium, Thiamin, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Zinc


Antibiotics- B vitamins, Calcium, Magnesium, Iron, Beneficial Gut Flora



Soil

Soil is the organic material on the surface of the earth that allows for plant growth. Essentially, soil is the material our food is grown in- dirt, particles of minerals, rock, liquids, and gasses. Soil has a relationship with the health of the plants, water availability, as well as the naturally occurring process of turnover and regrowth. The health of the soil can be measured by soil respiration. This is a measure of CO2 released from the soil during the decomposition of the plants and other organic matter by the microbes in the soil. This respiration rate depends on things like the amount and quality of the soil organic matter, temperature, salinity, pH, the circulation of air, and moisture. The health of the soil (and the aforementioned factors that impact it) is vital to the plants grown within it. The microbial activity, nutrients available, and ability to sustain plant growth is imperative to how our food is grown (and the nutrient density of it).


To summarize, the health of the dirt we plant in has a huge role in the health of the foods consumed. These plant foods are consumed by both humans and animals alike, which may be cause for attention for the quality of our animal products as a downstream effect on our populations' health.


As the demand for food and agriculture rose, so did the rate of turnover of the soil. Current methods to meet this demand do not replenish the nutrients appropriately and have resulted in nutrient depletions in the next round of crops. Nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur (all required for the health of the plant) are notably declining. Ipso facto, the nutrient density of our foods is also declining and contributing to nutrient depletions for the majority of the population. Yes, this can hold true for even those individuals that consume an adequate amount of fruits and vegetables.


As you can see, nutrition goes far past what we put into our mouths and at Gut Honest Truth we emphasize truly understanding your nutrient status and how it may impact your health- particularly if you’re experiencing health issues. Correcting nutrient deficiencies isn’t always a difficult task, but you’ve got to know which ones you’re looking for and how to properly replenish them (hint hint: that multivitamin won’t always do the trick).


Fortunately, there are advanced micronutrient panels available that test your nutrient status down to the cellular level. Practitioners can make a world of difference in our patients when we just test a little deeper and curate a plan based on their actual needs versus what vitamin or mineral you heard might be good for something. The body can’t fully do it’s jobs (i.e; create hormones, energy, digestion etc) when it doesn’t have the tools (nutrients) necessary to carry out the task at hand. This is why making sure nutrient availability is optimal is highly advantageous to overall healing.


Katie Morra MS, RD, LDN, IFMCP is an Institute for Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner and Registered Dietitian Nutritionist specializing in gut and hormone optimization. Katie runs a fully virtual functional medicine practice, Gut Honest Truth, based out of Maryland. Katie focuses on the root causes of inflammation, autoimmune disease, irritable bowel syndrome, food sensitivities, hypothyroidism, hormone imbalance, adrenal dysfunction as well as other chronic disease states.​

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