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7 Common Micronutrient Deficiencies—And How to Increase Absorption

Micronutrients are essential nutrients that play a vital role in energy production, hemoglobin synthesis, maintenance of bone health, adequate immune function, and protection against oxidative stress and cellular damage.  

We all need micronutrients to function at our peak. But a range of factors can lead to micronutrient deficiencies and malabsorption—even in those following a healthy diet and lifestyle. 

Patients can be deficient in a number of micronutrients, leading to chronic symptoms such as a weakened immune system, neurological symptoms, and digestive abnormalities. 

Nutrient deficiencies can also signify serious illnesses, like digestive disorders and autoimmune diseases. 

Use this guide to understand factors that influence micronutrient status, learn seven of the most common nutrient deficiencies, and clinical strategies to increase absorption.  

Factors That Influence Micronutrient Status


Factors that can influence micronutrient levels include:  

  • Genetic variations, which can affect nutrient absorption, transport, and assimilation in the body. For example, mutations in the FUT2 gene can affect the absorption of vitamin B12, leading to a deficiency that can cause weakness, numbness, and neurological problems. 
  • Restrictive diets can cause nutrient deficiencies because many micronutrients are primarily available in specific food groups. For example, meats, poultry, and seafood are all high in iron. 
  • Digestive disorders such as celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and other conditions that affect nutrient absorption in the gut, causing malabsorption, which can lead to deficiencies. 
  • Lifestyle factors: Behaviors such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and stress can interfere with nutrient absorption and increase the risk of deficiencies. 
  • Age-related changes: As we age, our ability to absorb certain nutrients, such as vitamin B12 and calcium, may decrease, leading to deficiencies. 
  • Medications: Certain medications, such as antibiotics and diuretics, can interfere with nutrient absorption and lead to deficiencies. 
  • Soil depletion: Nutrient depletion in the soil due to overuse of fertilizers, intensive farming practices, and soil erosion can lead to a decrease in the nutrient content of crops.  
  • Food processing: Food processing techniques such as cooking, canning, and freezing can destroy or reduce the nutrient content of foods. Additionally, preservatives and common processed food additives can interfere with nutrient absorption. 

Common Micronutrient Deficiencies

The following are common micronutrient deficiencies, plus clinical strategies to address them.


1. Iron

Iron is an essential mineral that is necessary for the formation of hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. The mineral also plays an important role in temperature regulation and DNA synthesis.  

Iron deficiency can be caused by inadequate dietary intake, increased demand during pregnancy or breastfeeding, blood loss due to injury, menstruation, or gastrointestinal bleeding, or genetic conditions. 

To improve iron absorption:  

  • Increase dietary intake of iron-rich foods such as red meat, poultry, fish, beans, lentils, and fortified cereals. 
  • Pair iron-rich foods with foods high in Vitamin C to enhance iron absorption- citrus fruits, strawberries, and peppers. 
  • Consume heme iron found in animal products such as red meat, poultry, and fish. Heme iron is more easily absorbed by the body than non-heme iron (found in plant foods). 
  • Avoid consuming iron inhibitors such as phytates found in whole grains, legumes, and nuts, and calcium and tannins found in tea and coffee.  
  • Cook with cast-iron cookware to help increase the iron content of your meals. The iron from the cookware leaches into the food during cooking, providing a source of dietary iron.  
  • Supplement with a high-quality iron product to increase absorption. 

2. Vitamin D 


Vitamin D is a nutrient that helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorus, maintains bone health, and supports immune function by controlling infections and reducing inflammation. 

Vitamin D deficiency can be caused by limited sun exposure, inadequate dietary intake, digestive disorders that impair nutrient absorption, obesity, and certain medications.   

To improve Vitamin D absorption: 

  • Consume foods rich in vitamin D, such as fatty fish, egg yolks, and fortified foods like cereals. 
  • Get sufficient sun exposure to synthesize Vitamin D in the skin. 
  • Supplement with a high-quality Vitamin D. Vitamin D3, sourced from animals, is more easily absorbed than vitamin D2, sourced from plants. 

3. Vitamin B12 


Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin used for the production of red blood cells and DNA and to help maintain nerve function.   

Vitamin B12 deficiency can be caused by inadequate dietary intake, malabsorption due to digestive disorders, and use of certain medications.   

To improve Vitamin B12 levels:  

  • Consume foods rich in vitamin B12, especially animal products, such as meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, and eggs. 
  • Consider fortified foods such as plant-based foods like cereals and plant milks. 
  • Supplement with a high-quality vitamin B12 product. Both sublingual and oral supplements have been shown to be effective in raising vitamin B12 levels. 
  • Consider intramuscular injections to ensure adequate absorption. This method bypasses the digestive system and delivers vitamin B12 directly into the bloodstream. 

4. Magnesium 


Magnesium is an essential mineral important for nerve and muscle function and also helps maintain bone health.   

Magnesium deficiency can be caused by inadequate dietary intake, excessive loss of magnesium through the kidney or gastrointestinal tract, digestive disorders that impair nutrient absorption, and certain medications.   

To increase magnesium levels:  

  • Consume magnesium-rich foods, including leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains, and legumes. 
  • Supplement with a high-quality magnesium product.  
  • Manage digestive disorders such as celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and others that can impair magnesium absorption. 

5. Zinc 

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Zinc is a trace mineral important for immune function, wound healing, and the synthesis of DNA and proteins.   

Zinc deficiency can be caused by inadequate dietary intake, malabsorption due to digestive disorders, and increased demand during growth and development or pregnancy.   

To increase Zinc levels in the body:  

  • Consume zinc-rich foods including red meat, poultry, seafood, beans and legumes, and nuts and seeds. 
  • Supplement with a high-quality zinc product. When supplementing with zinc, it's important to monitor the zinc to copper ratio with micronutrient testing due to the synergistic relationship between zinc and copper. 
  • Consume protein-rich foods to help increase zinc absorption; protein binds to zinc and helps transport it to cells for use. 
  • Avoid consuming foods high in phytates such as whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Phytates can bind to zinc and prevent its absorption. Soaking, sprouting, or fermenting these foods can help reduce their phytate content and increase zinc absorption. 
  • Manage digestive disorders such as celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and others that can impair zinc absorption. 

6. Vitamin C 


Vitamin C is an instrumental vitamin important for immune function, wound healing, and the synthesis of collagen, a protein that supports skin and joint health.   

Vitamin C deficiency can be caused by inadequate dietary intake, smoking, and chronic diseases that lead to malabsorption. 

To improve vitamin C levels:  

  • Consume vitamin C-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables, particularly citrus fruits, berries, kiwi, pineapple, mango, papaya, cantaloupe, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, peppers, and tomatoes.  
  • Cook foods properly to avoid destroying vitamin C in food. Steaming or microwaving vegetables can preserve more of their vitamin C content than boiling or frying. Use minimal cooking water and cook for shorter periods of time to retain more vitamin C in your food.  
  • Avoid excessive heat and air exposure for your food. Vitamin C is sensitive to heat, light, and air exposure. To preserve vitamin C in foods, store them in a cool, dry, and dark place and avoid prolonged exposure to air.  
  • Supplement with a high-quality Vitamin C product.  

7. Omega-3 fatty acids 


Omega-3 fatty acids are “healthy” fats that are an essential component of cell membranes across the body, important for brain and heart health, and have anti-inflammatory effects.  

Omega 3 deficiency can be caused by inadequate dietary intake, especially of fatty fish and other seafood, and chronic disorders that lead to malabsorption such as pancreatic insufficiency. 

To improve omega 3 levels in the body: 

  • Consume fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines, as well as other sources of omega-3s such as flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts. 
  • Supplement with high-quality fish oil.  
  • Pair omega-3's with high-fat meals to increase their bioavailability and enhance absorption.   

Detecting Micronutrient Deficiencies with Precision Testing 

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The best way to uncover micronutrient deficiencies, overload, or toxicity is through advanced precision testing, like the Vibrant Wellness Micronutrients and NutriPro panels. 

The Micronutrients Panel assesses direct measurement of nutrient status of common vitamins, minerals, co-factors, amino acids, essential fatty acids, and more to reveal nutrient deficiencies.  

The NutriPro Panel measures genetic variations in the body as well as nutrient levels to gauge how genetics could be affecting nutrient absorption. The NutriPro panel looks at single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) to identify genetic abnormalities that impact nutrient absorption, transport, and assimilation, as well as current nutrient levels measured across serum. 

The Micronutrients and NutriPro panels work by assessing the absorption of nutrients at both the extra- and intracellular level:  

  • Extracellular nutrient levels are measured using serum to obtain a patient’s most recent nutritional status. 
  • Intracellular nutrient levels are measured using white and red blood cells to obtain nutritional status over a longer period. 

By directly measuring micronutrients over short-term and long-term periods, this method is the only way to objectively determine the root causes of malnutrition and inflammation for the most comprehensive picture of nutrient status available. 

Additional Testing Options  

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You can gain richer insights into micronutrient deficiencies with gut, wheat, food sensitivity, and toxic burden testing.  

  • The Gut Zoomer detects microbiome, inflammation, and digestion-related influences on nutrient status.  
  • The Wheat Zoomer measures markers associated with increased intestinal permeability (leaky gut), celiac disease, and gluten and wheat sensitivity, all of which can impact nutrient status via malabsorption. 
  • Food Sensitivity testing measures markers for various food sensitivities, which may indicate leaky gut and poor digestion, increasing the risk of malnutrition.  
  • The Total Tox Burden reveals heavy metals, mycotoxins, and environmental toxins that may accumulate due to the increased intestinal permeability and impaired detoxification pathways that can result from nutrient deficiencies.

Precision testing allows you to monitor your patients’ nutrient levels and discover genetic predispositions that may put them at greater risk of deficiency and chronic disease. 

Guide your patients toward optimal health and longevity with Vibrant precision testing.  

Regulatory Statement:

The general wellness test intended uses relate to sustaining or offering general improvement to functions associated with a general state of health while making reference to diseases or conditions. This test has been laboratory developed and its performance characteristics determined by Vibrant America LLC and Vibrant Genomics, a CLIA-certified and CAP-accredited laboratory performing the test. The lab tests referenced have not been cleared or approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Although FDA does not currently clear or approve laboratory-developed tests in the U.S., certification of the laboratory is required under CLIA to ensure the quality and validity of the tests.