Micronutrient Testing

Micronutrient Testing

If you’ve been feeling like something is a little off – i.e. less pep in your step, energy levels not up to par, or perhaps you’re often finding yourself in dire need a nap and/or some caffeine to get through your afternoons (despite getting a relatively *normal* amount of sleep)… and yet your doctor is insisting that everything is “fine”… chances are you’re a great candidate for micronutrient testing.

Say what?! 

Micronutrient testing: aka a comprehensive blood test panel which provides a detailed analysis and snapshot profile of your body’s vitamin, mineral, antioxidant and amino acid levels.

While that may sound super fancy and intimidating, I’ve come to realize this specific functional nutrition lab test is one that most people don’t even know they need. (After all, we don’t know what we don’t know!)

That’s why I felt compelled to spill the tea on micronutrient testing for you!  My goal is for you and those you care about to be able to make more informed choices and give yourself the opportunity to live optimally and feel amazing (versus just “fine”).

Let’s begin with the most obvious question… 

What are micronutrients?!

Quite literally, micronutrients are micro (extremely small) nutrients (“substances that provide nourishment essential for growth and the maintenance of life,” per the Google dictionary!).

The main categories or types of micronutrients include:

  1. Vitamins
  2. Minerals
  3. Antioxidants
  4. Amino acids (building blocks of protein).

While we only need these types of nutrients in “micro” quantities, micronutrients are essential and vital in order for us to live, function, and thrive.

Micronutrients vs. macronutrients

Our body requires only very small quantities of micronutrients (usually in micrograms or milligrams) on a daily basis, compared to their counterpart, “macronutrients.”

Macronutrients are “large” nutrients which we need in much larger quantities (i.e. hundreds of grams of each type per day) in order to function and sustain life.

There are three different types of macronutrients:

  1. Carbohydrates (“carbs”)
  2. Proteins
  3. Fats

Macronutrients are also the only way we can get energy from calories.  There’s no other possible way for us to get energy directly from food.  (Contrary to popular belief, micronutrients – vitamins, minerals and antioxidants – actually don’t provide us with more energy!)

However, micronutrients are intimately involved in the process of energy metabolism (converting food into energy in every cell in the body) which is why you’ll likely feel fatigued and run down if your vitamin/mineral/antioxidant levels are low or suboptimal.

Micronutrient list and panel

If you’re under the care of conventional healthcare providers you’ll likely go your entire life without ever knowing your own micronutrient levels or how they’re impacting your health!

Not knowing your micronutrient levels is a huge disservice to your health and wellbeing, since the majority of chronic ailments are usually linked in some way to a nutritional deficiency.  (More on that very soon!)

But first, below is a list of micronutrients which we can measure and assess directly via “micronutrient testing”, aka a micronutrient panel.

Vitamins

Vitamins are naturally occurring “organic” (carbon-containing) biochemical compounds which are involved in almost every type of chemical reaction in the body. They’re mostly found in food, but we can also sometimes receive vitamins with help from the sun and/or probiotic (healthy) gut microbiomes.

Vitamins are truly vital for our health, and sadly most people are walking around with a slew of vitamin deficiencies without ever knowing it.  (So much unnecessary suffering, if you ask me!)

The vitamins we most often need from food (or supplements) day-to-day and which we can measure via a micronutrient panel include:

  • Vitamin A 
  • B1 (Thiamin)
  • B2 (Riboflavin)
  • B3 (Niacin)
  • B4 (Adenine)
  • B5 (Pantothenate)
  • B6 (Pyridoxine)
  • B7 (Biotin)
  • B8 (Inositol)
  • B9 (Folate)
  • B12 (Cobalamin)
  • Choline
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D,25-OH & D3
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K1 & K2

Minerals

Minerals are naturally occurring inorganic substances which have a crystalline structure (chemically speaking).  There are lots of different types of minerals out there naturally occurring in nature (i.e. rock formations and crystals), but the minerals that we can actually absorb and use in the body come from food, salt, herbs and spices.

Minerals are also “elemental” in that they can’t be broken down into a smaller unit.  (For my fellow nerds: you can actually find all minerals listed on the Periodic Table of Elements in case you’d like to learn more about them!)

From a nutrition standpoint, below is a list of some of the most common minerals we need and which can be measured in a micronutrient panel:

  • Calcium
  • Chromium
  • Copper
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Manganese
  • Potassium
  • Selenium
  • Sodium
  • Zinc

Note:  Iodine isn’t usually included in micronutrient testing… not because iodine isn’t a vital mineral, but because it’s actually more accurate and clinically sound to measure iodine via a urine test versus a blood test! (1)

Antioxidants

Antioxidants are a special class of micronutrients which help to protect our cells from damage caused by free radicals and oxidation. These nutritional allies help us by combating inflammation and delaying the aging process on an invisible cellular level. 

While there are many hundreds of types and derivatives of antioxidants out there, certain antioxidants are more necessary and impactful (and easier to measure) than others.

(Certain vitamins, minerals and amino acids also act as antioxidants, so you’ll likely notice some overlap in the list below.)

The antioxidants we can measure in your blood via a micronutrient panel include:

  • Alpha-lipoic acid
  • Beta-carotene
  • Cysteine
  • Coenzyme Q10
  • Glutathione
  • Selenium
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E

Amino Acids

While amino acids are the building blocks of protein (a type of macronutrient), on an individual level, amino acids also support us as micronutrients.

For example, L-glutamine (“glutamine”)  and arginine help support a healthy gut lining, while N-acetyl-cysteine (aka “cysteine”) is a precursor to our body’s production of the antioxidant glutathione.

Here’s a list of the amino acids which can be measured via micronutrient testing in my clinic:

  • Arginine
  • Asparagine
  • Carnitine
  • Cysteine
  • Citrulline
  • Glutamine
  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine
  • Methylmalonic acid (MMA)
  • Serine
  • Valine

Why test micronutrients?

Your vitamin, mineral, antioxidant and amino acid levels can and will make-or-break how you feel day-to-day, and sometimes even moment-to-moment, in your body and also from a mental, emotional, energetic standpoint.

While your micronutrient levels are constantly in flux, ebbing and flowing with life (which is dynamic by nature), measuring them can give you a glimpse or snapshot of your baseline which will stay relatively consistent, based on your day-to-day lifestyle patterns and choices.

From a holistic and functional nutrition perspective, it’s better to get the full picture of everything versus to just cherry-pick a few micronutrients to test.  Since all the micronutrients in our body work in tandem with one another to keep us in a state of balance or “homeostasis”, flooding the body with just a few micronutrients and ignoring the rest will disrupt our natural synergy.  

  • For example, when you overload your body with zinc (which is what many people have done since 2020), it can create copper and iron deficiencies.
  • When you over-supplement with glutamine (such as in cases of IBS or leaky gut), it can create a tryptophan deficiency over time which can lead to symptoms of depression if left unchecked.

(In my field of holistic nutrition, these examples clearly demonstrate how everything is interconnected; the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.)

Micronutrients and inflammation

Did you know that most types of micronutrients actually help to keep inflammation levels at bay? All the antioxidants, B vitamins and certain minerals play key roles in anti-inflammatory pathways in every cell in your body, 24/7.

This means stopping oxidation (cell damage) in its tracks, helping your immune system fight off diseases at the invisible level (before you even know you notice it’s happening), prolonging youth (by preserving the length of your telomeres), and even clearing out inflammatory proteins (such as homocysteine) via a special detox pathway called methylation.

When you’re low in these types of micronutrients that are responsible for keeping inflammation at bay in one way or another, you’re setting yourself up to feel crappy all the time.

Clinical vs. subclinical deficiencies

Before moving onto the signs and symptoms of micronutrient deficiencies, I wanted to point out there are different reference ranges which could indicate a “clinical” deficiency (in which you’re presenting with symptoms that aren’t considered clinically stable) versus “subclinical” or “functional” deficiencies (in which you can function but feel chronically unwell).

  • In clinical nutrition and conventional medicine, labs will determine the acceptable reference ranges based on an average of clinically stable patients that go to that particular lab each year. (2)
  • In functional nutrition, the standards set for lab reference ranges are higher and narrower, based on serum micronutrient levels which would allow you to feel great and function more optimally.  
    • Functional nutrition lab reference ranges have been established and determined based on small studies which take averages of lab values from participants who denied having symptoms of chronic illness such as fatigue, brain fog, pain, digestive issues, inflammation, etc.

Case study example: subclinical zinc deficiency

An “acceptable” or “normal” serum zinc level at a healthcare facility is between 60 to 120 micrograms per deciliter. (3)  

However, if your zinc level is on the lower end of normal, you may still be prone to subclinical zinc deficiency symptoms which could include compromised immunity, undermethylation, poor sense of taste, leaky gut, or even impaired brain function. (4)

In my field of functional nutrition, I’ve been taught via many accredited continuing education hours that an optimal zinc level will generally fall within the range of 101 to 130 micrograms per deciliter. 

A quick real-life case study example of this was a past client who was struggling with unintentional weight loss; she wasn’t eating enough because could not taste her food for many years.  Her doctor had tested her zinc level, and it came back “normal” / “fine” within the allotted reference range of 60-120. (It was 64.)  

I then proceeded to treat her for a subclinical zinc deficiency, via zinc supplementation, until her serum zinc level was above the functional nutrition cutoff of 101.  

Low and behold, my client got her taste back and was able to enjoy food again!  This snowballed into other benefits like regaining back the weight and overall strength she had lost from not eating enough.

That’s just one of hundreds of examples I could share around why it’s so darn important to have healthy micronutrient levels. 

Long story short… Being clinically stable is not the same as being WELL and living optimally.

Now that you’re clear on the different levels of micronutrient deficiency, let’s dive further into the signs and symptoms to look out for!

Signs and symptoms of micronutrient deficiencies

Micronutrients are involved in virtually every aspect of life, on the cellular level.  From brain function to mood regulation, hormone production, skin integrity, gut function to immunity, it’s no surprise that people can turn their entire quality of life around when they pull back the curtain and address micronutrient imbalances head-on!

That said, you’ve likely got some underlying subclinical micronutrient deficiencies if you’re dealing with any of the following:

  • ADHD (5, 6)
  • Acne (7
  • Autoimmune disorders (8)
  • Bipolar disorder (6)
  • Brain fog
  • Brittle nails that break easily
  • Bruising easily
  • Cancer (9)
  • Chronically cracked, dry skin
  • Chronic fatigue / afternoon energy slumps, despite normal sleep
  • Cravings for salt
  • Depression or apathy (6, 10
  • Diabetes 
  • Digestive issues 
  • Feeling “inflamed” often
  • Hair loss (alopecia) or hair thinning
  • High homocysteine (11)
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • High blood pressure (12)
  • Infertility (13)
  • Insatiable hunger despite eating “normal”
  • Low exercise endurance despite regular training
  • Low tolerance to cold
  • Macular degeneration
  • Night blindness
  • OCD (6, 14)
  • PICA (cravings for non-food substances like ice, chalk, clay or dirt)
  • Plummer-Vinson Syndrome (esophageal web)
  • Psoriasis (15)
  • Restless leg syndrome (16
  • Schizophrenia (6
  • Slow wound healing
  • Tingling in extremities
  • Vertigo
  • Weak immunity (8

Now at this point, if any of the above resonates (and I suspect at least one or two will, if not more), you’re probably wondering… how does this happen, and what can I do about it?!

What causes micronutrient deficiencies?

This list of possible underlying causes of micronutrient deficiencies is the tip of the iceberg – it’s not exhaustive.  Nonetheless, it explains a LOT about what is going on in our modern-day chronic illness epidemic!

  • An unbalanced diet 
  • Medications (17)
    • Antidepressants (serotonin reuptake inhibitors / “SSRIs”)
      • Calcium
      • Vitamin D
    • Proton pump inhibitors and antacids
      • Vitamin B12
      • Vitamin C
      • Iron
      • Calcium 
      • Magnesium 
      • Zinc
      • Beta-carotene 
    • Bronchodilators: beta2-agonists and inhaled corticosteroids (ICS)
      • Calcium
      • Vitamin D
    • Calcium channel blockers (blood pressure lowering drugs)
      • Folate
      • Potassium
    • Chemotherapy
    • Methotrexate
      • Folate
    • NSAIDs
      • Vitamin C
      • Iron
    • Diuretics
      • Calcium
      • Magnesium
      • Potassium
      • Thiamin
      • Zinc
      • Folate
    • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors (blood pressure lowering drugs)
      • Zinc
      • Potassium
    • Statins (cholesterol-lowering drugs)
      • Coenzyme Q10
      • Vitamin D
      • Vitamin E
      • Beta-carotene
    • Metformin
      • Vitamin B12
    • Thiazolidinediones (TZD’s)
      • Calcium
      • Vitamin D
    • Oral corticosteroids
      • Calcium
      • Vitamin D
      • Potassium
      • Chromium
    • Oral contraceptives (birth control pills)
      • Vitamin B6
      • Vitamin B12
      • Folate
      • Calcium
      • Magnesium
      • Vitamin C
      • Vitamin E
  • Digestive issues
    • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
    • Irritable bowel disease (IBD)
    • Leaky gut
    • Dysbiosis
    • Acid reflux
  • Eating disorders
    • Anorexia
    • Bulimia
    • Binge-eating disorder
    • ARFID
  • Genetic mutations (i.e. the MTHFR gene mutation)
  • Alcoholism / drug abuse
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Stress
  • And lots more!

Benefits of micronutrient testing

To be clear, running this test and actually knowing your micronutrient levels isn’t enough to reap all the potential benefits!  

  • Once you have your test results, you’ll need to follow up with a functional dietitian nutritionist to help you translate & decode your results, and craft your custom plan accordingly. 😉

As long as you’re willing to take informed action based on what you uncover (and based on the recommendations of your functional nutrition practitioner), there’s a plethora of amazing benefits waiting for you on the other side!

Uncovering and repleting subclinical micronutrient deficiencies is not just proactive and preventive; it can help support the following:

  • Clarity around what’s going on in your body!
  • More energy
  • Improved mood
  • Better focus and memory
  • Increased exercise endurance
  • Enhanced sports performance
  • More resilient immunity (less sick days)
  • Healthier hormones
  • Stronger bones
  • Greater stamina 
  • Better digestion
  • A sense of personal empowerment
  • Feelings of freedom and relief from pain (in some cases)
  • Overall better quality of life

Who is a good candidate for micronutrient testing?

Speaking as a functional dietitian and holistic nutritionist, I find most people are walking around with subclinical micronutrient deficiencies without even realizing it.  (I know… to a hammer, everything is a nail – but I’m usually right about this!) 🙂

I find in my clinic that the people who are most in need of micronutrient testing are those experiencing any of the above symptoms of micronutrient deficiencies, and/or any of the following chronic health conditions:

  • An autoimmune disorder
  • Cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease (CKD)
  • Diabetes
  • Eating disorders / disordered eating
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Irritable bowel disease (IBD)
  • Leaky gut syndrome
  • MTHFR gene mutation
  • Multiple dietary restrictions
  • Osteopenia / osteoporosis
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
  • Psychiatric conditions of any kind

Micronutrient testing: next steps

If you live in Texas or Massachusetts, and you’d like to work together to rule out, uncover, address, and resolve any underlying micronutrient deficiencies keeping you from living your best life, feel free to enroll in the Micronutrient Testing package through our clinic using the check-out page below!

Package includes:

  • Micronutrient blood test requisition form, test kit, & PDF instructions for coordinating your local blood draw
  • 90-minute 1:1 functional nutrition & holistic health consultation
  • Comprehensive custom treatment plan recommendation and protocols (recipes, meal ideas, functional foods, and vitamin/mineral/nutraceutical supplements)

Micronutrient Testing with Jenna Volpe RDN LD CLT - Order Now How it works: step-by-step process

  1. Purchase the micronutrient panel and consultation (via this checkout page).
  2. You’ll be prompted via email to complete some intake forms and set up your account within our secure online client portal, Healthie.
  3. Once your intake forms are completed, someone from our team will get the ball rolling on the backend, completing and submitting requisition form to the lab.
  4. You’ll receive a copy of the signed requisition from via the shared documents folder of your Healthie account (our client portal).
  5. A micronutrient test kit with the vials and a print-out of your requisition form will be shipped to your address on file within 1 to 2 business days once you’ve received the requisition form.  
  6. PDF instructions will be sent to you regarding the setting up of the blood draw appointment with a local lab that provides services for this test.
    1. There may be a blood draw fee at the local lab; blood draw fees are not covered in this package.
  7. Once we receive your test results (within 2 to 3 weeks of your blood draw), someone from our team will reach out to you to set up the 1:1 clinical, functional, and holistic nutrition consultation where we’ll discuss customized recommendations and protocols based on your lab test results & goals.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ’s)

Is it possible to get all the micronutrients I need from a healthy diet?

If you’re relatively healthy, it’s technically possible to get everything you need from a balanced diet; however, it would likely feel like a fulltime job (since you’d need to be consuming literally dozens of servings of fruits and veggies and functional foods daily).

In most cases, however, things often interfere with the way your body absorbs and uses certain nutrients. For this reason, it isn’t usually easy or possible to get everything you need even from food alone, even when eating a very balanced diet.

Taking supplements and/or incorporating certain nutritive herbs or functional foods as needed (based on your bloodwork) as part of a holistic lifestyle will help you to replete deficiencies exponentially quicker and more efficiently.

Can you get energy from micronutrients?

Contrary to popular trends, simply flooding your body with megadoses of extra micronutrients (i.e. B vitamins) won’t give you anymore energy! 😉

The only way to get more energy via micronutrients is to correct any underlying deficiencies that are causing your chronic fatigue in the first place (if applicable).

Can’t I just take a multivitamin to supplement any micronutrient deficiencies?

Taking a good quality multivitamin with bioavailable (easily absorbed by the body) sources of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants is a great way to prevent and reduce the likelihood of micronutrient deficiencies, but this should still be alongside a balanced diet.

In many cases, even when people are taking a multivitamin, I find they still end up having certain deficiencies. 

  • This is because most multivitamins aren’t very bioavailable (easily absorbed and used by the body), and/they don’t include everything we need (especially within the scope of antioxidants and amino acids).

Can I receive this test through your clinic if I live outside the United States?

We’re only able to run micronutrient testing for residents in Texas / Massachusetts at this time, due to licensing restrictions.

I recommend looking online for micronutrient testing options offered in your country of residence.

How can I get a micronutrient test if I don’t live in Texas or Massachusetts?

The two companies I prefer and recommend for micronutrient testing as a functional nutrition provider are Vibrant America and SpectraCell, since they’re the most helpful and comprehensive.

That said, you’ll need to go through a provider who works one of these labs in order to run a micronutrient panel.

Feel free to use either of the links below to find and select a local provider near you:

Is it okay to get this test through my doctor, chiropractor or acupuncturist?

There are many types of providers who have access to this type of functional nutrition testing, and it really doesn’t matter who orders your micronutrient test! (That won’t affect your results.) 😉

But when it comes to reviewing your results and discussing your treatment plan, next steps and nutrition protocols… call me biased, but I believe it’s in your best interest to consult a functional dietitian, at least for this part of the journey.

  • Registered dietitains are the only health professioals who receive a bachelor’s degree in nutrition.  (Believe it or not, doctors only get ONE semester of ONE introductory level nutrition class throughout their entire 10 years of medical school and residency!)

Do your research either way, and make sure you’re choosing to work with someone who is highly qualified to help you.

Is this test covered by insurance?

Nope.

In mainstream healthcare, unfortunately health insurance plans only pay for tests that are deemed “medically necessary” from a clinical standpoint.

  • Since micronutrient testing is preventive, functional, and wellness-promoting (it detects subclinical nutrient imbalances before they spiral into full-blown medical issues, and it helps address and resolve chronic problems at a root-cause level), insurances don’t cover it at this time. 
    • Totally messed up, but sadly this is the world we’re currently living in and we must work around it.

You may still be able to use a health savings account (HSA) card or a flexible spending account (FSA) card to pay for your micronutrient test, if that’s an option for you.

Either way, I find micronutrient testing is well worth the investment if you want to live a better quality of life.  (The return on investment also means less doctor visits, pharmaceuticals, invasive procedures, copays, deductibles, etc. in the long-run! Your future self will thank you.)

Can I go to any lab for the blood draw?

Nope!

Since this is a specialty test, you can only go to certain labs that offer this type of blood draw.  

You’ll receive information on how to find a lab near you in the PDF instructions via our secure online client portal, Healthie, once you’ve enrolled in our Micronutrient Testing package.

Can I do my own blood draw?

Nope!

You can’t do your own blood draw, for safety reasons and because the samples are time- and temperature-sensitive.

You’ll  need to go to a licensed phlebotomist at a local lab near you for this blood draw.  

  • The phlebotomist and other staff on site will handle your blood samples, packaging, and shipment back to the lab. 
  • There may be a blood draw fee which is not covered in this package, but the shipping for this test is covered.

Do I need to fast before this test?

Luckily you don’t need to fast for a micronutrient panel! Feel free to go about your morning routine however you normally would (whether you “break the fast” or not). 🙂

Do I need to stop my medications or supplements before this test?

Medications need to be continued based on recommendations from your doctor. We don’t provide pharmaceutical consultation.  

However, nutritional supplements taken for reasons outside of medical necessity should be discontinued for at least 1 week prior to your micronutrient test in order to get an accurate baseline of what’s going on in your body without supplements.

How long does it take to get my results back?

Once you’ve completed your blood draw, it will take about 10 to 15 business days (so usually about 2 to 3 weeks) for my clinic to receive an encrypted electronic PDF file of your test results from the lab.

When and how will I receive a copy of my test results?

Once we receive your test results, we’ll upload them into your Healthie documents folder the following business day. 

  • You’ll receive an email notification when this document has been shared with you in your Healthie shared documents folder.
  • You’ll also receive a Healthie chat notification from someone on our team, prompting you to book your 90-minute deep-dive clarity consultation via the Appointments (calendar) section of your Healthie dashboard.

How long should I follow my micronutrient supplement protocol after this test?

It takes time to build up and replete nutrient levels in your blood, bones, and organ tissue.  That said, while the timeline will vary individually case-by-case, if deficiencies are present, I find most people need to follow a repletion protocol for at least three to six months. 

In some cases, I’ll recommend that we follow up a few times a year to tweak and update their diet and supplement protocols based on clinical changes which are bound to happen over time.

How often should I get a micronutrient test?

If you’re looking to live optimally, running this test at least once every few years is a great way to ensure your vitamin, mineral, antioxidant and amino acid levels are optimal and in balance. 

More resources

If you found this article helpful, and you’d like more where that came from, I’ve got you covered! Feel free to check out all the different avenues and directions you can go with micronutrients in the articles below, which I’ve either written or been featured in.

Vitamin D

Iron

Miscellaneous

Final thoughts

Micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and amino acids) impact virtually every aspect of our health and quality of life, on all levels. The degree to which our micronutrient levels are optimal plays a huge role in the level of energy, joy and vitality we’re capable of experiencing.

Micronutrient testing is a cutting-edge functional nutrition test which allows you to assess and address your micronutrient levels from a proactive and preventive standpoint.  

While it’s going to require a bit of extra effort and investment on your end, if you value your quality of life and you want to escape the merry-go-round of chronic health issues, micronutrient testing could be your gateway into a much better quality of life!

Enroll in my clinic’s Micronutrient Testing package, or reach out to learn more.

Micronutrient Testing Package - Link to Checkout Page Cheers to a better quality of life!

XO – Jenna