Nutrient deficiencies are very common on a gluten-free diet regardless if you have celiac, gluten-sensitivity, or are gluten-free for another health reason.
Depending on the vitamin or mineral and its specific roles, correcting a deficiency could support your…
- Digestive function
- Energy levels
- Cognition and brain function
- Hormone production
- Tissue repair
If your labs come back and you find certain nutrients are lacking, here are four essentials to cover to make sure you resolve it.
For many nutrients, it’s important to get labwork and look at clinical signs and symptoms BEFORE making any interventions. That way, you know where you’re starting from.
There are several “Goldilocks” nutrients that you don’t want too much or too little of. For instance, two common deficiencies I come across in my practice are iron and Vitamin D. However, these are two nutrients that can become toxic past a certain threshold, and need to be monitored every time you get blood work.
When evaluating your labs, make sure to work with a practitioner who understands “functional ranges.” Functional ranges are narrower than the standard ones and are designed to show OPTIMAL levels, rather than just the level needed to avoid frank disease. What appears to be in “normal” range for some labs might not be ideal for you.
Ever heard the phrase, “you aren’t what you eat; you’re what you digest”? It’s true. You can be eating a nutrient-dense diet and taking supplements but if your gut lining is damaged or you’re not making enough digestive juices, you won’t be able to utilize all the goodness you’re taking in.
This is why it’s so important to remove gluten. Gluten is one of the major triggers of damage and inflammation in the gut for those with gluten-related disorders. Once you go COMPLETELY gluten-free, the intestinal lining can begin restoring its ability to absorb nutrients. If this is where you’re feeling stuck or you are often getting “glutened,” my Gluten-Free Jumpstart Program could be the next step.
When I see clients who have gone solidly gluten-free but are still struggling with nutrient deficiencies, I recommend other types of testing that can look for bacterial overgrowth or pathogens in the gut, such as parasites and H. Pylori. All of these can greatly interfere with the ability to absorb nutrients. Some can even hoard nutrients like iron and use them to their advantage. Certain types of stool testing can also give us more information about how well one is absorbing fat and making digestive enzymes, as well as how inflamed the gut is.
Once we have this information, we can start re-balancing the gut and creating a healthy environment that is primed to utilize the food we eat.
Food first! Food is where our body is expecting to get nutrients from first, so let’s deliver. For some vitamins and minerals, there are also ways to optimize absorption. For instance, one of the best ways to boost the bio-availability of plant-based sources of iron is to pair them with foods rich in Vitamin C. Some example of this are:
- Lentils (iron) with tomatoes (Vitamin C)
- Hummus (iron) with red bell peppers (Vitamin C)
- Leafy greens (iron) with lemon juice (Vitamin C)
Finding ways to maximize the nutrient content in your food can be helpful if you find you’re deficient.
Supplements (if needed)
Food is foundational, but supplements can be an extremely helpful tool to give us a “leg up” when correcting deficiencies. They are especially important when we can’t get enough via food, as well. For instance, Vitamin D is not found in many foods, and most people need to supplement. Similarly, vegans should take Vitamin B-12, as animal foods are the only sources of B-12.
Again, please work closely with a practitioner to make sure you’re taking the right amount and to monitor your levels via blood work. Some supplements, if taken in overly large doses, can pose a risk of toxicity. Tailoring them to your unique needs can make them both a safe and valuable part of your healing process.