Micronutrient Testing: Find Out if You Are Deficient in Vitamins & Minerals

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“Dear Pharmacist,

I started taking 5 new supplements but I’ve been noticing occasional butterflies in my chest, hair loss, heartburn and muscle twitching. I think it’s related to my vitamins because when I stop them, the symptoms goes away. Should I stop?”
–T.E., Manhattan

Answer: Yes, and then find out what specific nutrients your body needs -don’t just use a shotgun approach. I’ve been very supportive of nutraceuticals over the years, but moderation is key. The problem is that most doctors don’t know how to test a patient for nutrient deficiencies, so you are forced to guess what you need. Misinformation abounds.

Nutritional deficiencies can actually be tested with special “micronutrient” blood tests. There are three tests that I’ve taken myself: “Comprehensive Nutritional Panel” by SpectraCell Labs, “NutrEval” by Genova Diagnostics and the “Cardio/ION” from Metametrix. Practitioners with appropriate health licensure can become providers with these companies and order tests immediately.

Why the big deal? I’m talking to doctors now: Your patients are taking vitamins, minerals and antioxidants behind your back and they email me seeking guidance “because my doctor doesn’t believe in vitamins!” If your patients are supplementing indiscriminately, they could be harmed. You can help them with micronutrient testing. Here are some examples which demonstrate the value of the information provided by this type of testing:

Zinc- A trace mineral. Too much can cause metallic taste sensations, nausea and copper deficiency. Too little could cause shortness of breath, hearing loss, infertility and prostate/erectile problems.

Copper- A trace mineral. Overload is sometimes tied to the use of estrogen drugs or low zinc levels. It can lead to cause migraines, mental racing, anxiety, depression, frequent colds and interestingly, chocolate or avocado cravings. Deficiency can cause anemia, fatigue, arthritis and reproductive problems.

L-Serine- An amino acid. Deficiencies are sometimes related to a rare metabolic disorder and have been associated with cerebral palsy, epilepsy, seizures, stiffness/weakness or muscles. Excessive serine can cause immune suppression or psychological symptoms.

Vitamin K- A vitamin that you need to keep from bleeding to death as it allows blood to clot. An excess can cause health problems, as the liver can only store so much of it. Inadequate K results in bleeding gums, easy bruising, bone loss and higher cancer risk.

Niacin- A “B” vitamin. Too much causes diarrhea, itching or nervousness. Deficiencies may be associated with high cholesterol, indigestion, burning mouth syndrome, canker sores, fatigue or anemia.

Glutathione- An antioxidant. Too much can cause stomach upset, but more often, a person has too little which may contribute to liver damage, joint pain, neurological symptoms like Parkinson’s and higher cancer risk.

Glutamine- An amino acid which protects the brain and gut. Having too much is rare. Low glutamine however, can lead to leaky gut, food allergies, Crohn’s disease, poor wound healing, skin rashes and arthritis.

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