How To Test For a Mineral Deficiency
Benefits of Taking a Mineral Deficiency Test
Before you figure out how to test for a mineral deficiency, you need to understand the benefits of the test. Just like going to the doctor for a checkup and getting routine blood work done, taking a vitamin and mineral deficiency test is essential to your overall health. These tests help you determine whether or not you’re getting enough essential minerals, allowing you to make quick corrections for optimal health.
Take, for example, the benefit of a cholesterol test. There may be no indication that your cholesterol is high. And without knowing, you may continue doing the same things, assuming that everything was fine. You might even suffer a heart attack without realizing it. But if you had your annual blood work done, you would have known your cholesterol was high and could have made changes to improve your health.
A vitamin and mineral test is the same concept. Once you know you’re suffering from a mineral deficiency, you can make the changes required to improve your health.
It is possible any symptoms you’re experiencing may be due to aging or an underlying health condition. However, your symptoms may also simply be caused by a lack of nutrition.
There’s also the possibility that when you take a test to check vitamin and mineral levels, you find out you’re getting everything your body needs. And if you find out that there is no mineral deficiency, you can continue living your life knowing that all your choices are promoting your overall health.
What a Mineral Deficiency Test Will Tell You
Now that you understand the benefits of a mineral deficiency test, you know to understand how to conduct the test. You also need to know what sort of information you can expect to get from the test.
While there are plenty of tests available, the biggest difference is typically the comprehensiveness of the tests’ measurements. If you only want to measure a few key vitamins and minerals, you can, but you can also opt for a test that measures nearly every important vitamin, macro mineral and micro mineral.
Many of these tests are also available individually. If your symptoms indicate a possible deficiency in one vitamin or mineral, in particular, you may only need to test for that one vitamin or mineral.
That being said, a more in-depth test will provide a lot more information. However, if you are paying for the panel out of your own pocket, you will pay substantially more than doing individual tests. That’s why it is valuable to look at the various types of tests offered and see what works best for you.
Who Should Take a Mineral Deficiency Test?
Should everyone get a vitamin and mineral blood test? Not necessarily. It’s certainly ideal for everyone to know whether or not they’re getting enough nutrients, but extensive testing may not be required.
For example, if you are currently feeling well, have ample amounts of energy and aren’t dealing with any chronic illnesses, you might not see the value in taking a mineral deficiency test.
However, most people aren’t 100 percent satisfied with their current health. In fact, a large part of the population would benefit from taking a deficiency test.
A major cause of vitamin and mineral deficiency simply comes from poor nutrition. If you aren’t eating a balanced diet, you might choose to get a test to see what your diet may be missing.
Additionally, vegans, vegetarians, people on weight-loss programs, older adults with poor appetites, and people with digestive issues, may not be getting the nutrition they need. If you fall under one of these categories, it may be worth it to take a test and make sure you’re receiving what your body needs.
There are also health issues that can prohibit the absorption of vitamins and minerals. If you suffer from one of the following, you may want to consider a vitamin and mineral deficiency test:
- Gallbladder disease
- Liver disease
- Issues with the pancreas
- Intestinal trouble
- Kidney failure
- Surgery to the digestive tract
- Regular use of certain medications, such as antibiotics, diuretics, antacids and laxatives
Women who are pregnant, or who are experiencing menopause or heavy menstruation can be particularly susceptible to mineral deficiencies. A test could be especially valuable during those times.
Types of Mineral Deficiency Tests
As far as how to test for a vitamin and mineral deficiency, you’ll find several different options.
A venous blood test is done by a trained professional. A needle is used to puncture your vein, typically in the arm. This blood sample is then sent to a lab for evaluation.
There are also blood tests that only require a finger-prick. Instead of collecting blood from your arm, a small amount can be collected with a lancet to your finger. However, this style of testing won’t supply enough to do a comprehensive pane of vitamins and minerals.
If you don’t want to go to the lab or doctor, you can also use an in-home test for mineral deficiencies.
And, just like with lab tests, you have several options when looking at home tests for mineral deficiency.
One of the popular options is an at-home hair test. All you have to do is collect a hair sample and ship it to the lab for testing. The results are typically emailed or mailed back to you.
You can also choose from several urine tests. The first requires a specimen taken first thing in the morning. The sample is sent to the lab for analysis and the results are sent back to you.
It’s also possible to simply use a dipstick urine test for quick answers. However, these strips aren’t always the most accurate and often don’t test for every vitamin or mineral. Most strips only test a few specific minerals, like sodium, potassium, calcium and phosphate.
Mineral Blood Tests in a Professional Lab
To get a blood test for a mineral deficiency, you will need to make an appointment at a professional lab that offers testing. If you need to fast, it’s often best to schedule your appointment for first thing in the morning. Show up for your scheduled time and show your insurance information (if the test is covered).
In some cases, you’ll have to fast before getting your blood drawn. While you will be able to have water before the test, you should avoid all other drinks and food. And if it turns out that you will need a test fast, it’s often best to schedule your appointment for first thing in the morning.
At the appointment, a technician will draw blood, likely from your arm. The blood is stored in tubes that are sent to a testing lab, which is where they’ll actually analyze your blood.
Each test requires a specified amount of time to get results. Once the blood has been analyzed, the results will be sent back to the lab or directly to you. With these results, it will be clearly marked what levels are not within the optimal range so that you can make the appropriate adjustments.
At-home Mineral Deficiency Test Kits
It’s also possible to order your vitamin and mineral deficiency test online if you live in a state that allows it. In fact, more people prefer to stay at home and complete their tests with more privacy.
All you have to do is order your at-home test online and perform the test yourself. There are multiple ways to do this, and you will want to follow all of the instructions.
If you order an at-home blood kit, you will use a lancet to collect a small blood sample from your finger. Then, this sample will be sent into the lab for analysis.
There are also kits that require you to collect hair samples. Just like with a blood sample, the lab will be able to extract how much of a particular nutrient is in your body. However, the results of mineral deficiency tests using hair may not be as accurate as those that utilize blood analysis.
Whichever at-home kit you prefer, all of the results are reviewed by a medical professional, and the results will be sent to you in various forms. Some companies prefer to post the information online with an account you can log into. Others choose to send the data through your email or regular mail. These are factors you’ll want to look at before deciding which at-home nutrient kit to purchase.
Urine Tests To Check For Mineral Deficiencies
There’s also the option to get a urine test to measure your body’s minerals and vitamins. You have several options, depending on whether or not you want to go to a lab in person or you want to do it at-home. However, some studies indicate that urine testing might not be as accurate as blood tests.
Additionally, urine tests can be tainted by bacteria and other substances if the collection isn’t done right.
To ensure more accurate results, you want to:
- Clean the genital area with water, but avoid using soap
- Collect the urine midstream, not right when you begin urinating and not toward the end
As with blood tests, the lab will review the results and send them back to you electronically or by mail.
If you choose to use a urine dipstick test, rather than collecting a sample to send to a lab, you will get instant results. As mentioned before, these tests aren’t nearly as accurate as the other options and only test for a handful of vitamins and minerals. For more accurate results, choose another testing method.
What Are the Optimal Ranges for Each Mineral
Now that you know how to test for mineral deficiency, you need to understand the results and the differences between macro and micro minerals. If you have a blood test taken, here are the normal results you are looking for (note these are numbers are for adults):
- Calcium: 8.6 to 10.5 mg/dL
- Phosphorus: 3.4 to 4.5 mg/dl
- Magnesium: 0.65 to 1.05 mmol/L
- Sodium: 137 to 142 mEq/L
- Potassium: 3.5 to 5.5 mEq/L
- Chloride: 96 to 106 mEq/L
- Iron: 10.5 to 26 mmol/L
- Manganese: 4 to 15 µg/L
- Copper: 70 to 140 mcg/dL
- Iodine: 15 to 20 mg
- Zinc: 0.66 to 1.10 mcg/mL
- Cobalt: 0.9 and 3.4 μg/L
- Selenium: 70 to 150 ng/mL
The normal ranges may vary slightly between men and women. Age also has a lot to do with what’s considered optimal. If you have any questions about your results, it’s best to talk to your doctor.
Additionally, at-home urine and hair tests may measure each vitamin and mineral using different units. In that case, your results will likely be drastically different than the values listed above.
How to Correct a Mineral Deficiency
Treatment for a mineral deficiency depends on how severe the deficiency is. If you have an extreme deficiency, you may require more tests to find out whether or not it’s affected your overall health.
But in many cases, it’s possible to treat a mineral deficiency with dietary changes. For example, if you lack iron, you may simply need to add more iron-fortified foods, like meat and eggs, to your diet.
Research the mineral you are deficient in and look for ways to add foods that contain high amounts of that mineral to your diet. Then, get another test done to see how those changes affected the results.
If you are unable to keep up with what your body requires through diet alone, you may need to add supplements to your daily regimen. You can choose a high-quality multivitamin that includes the minerals you’re deficient in or choose a standalone supplement that includes exactly what you need.
Just make sure you take the recommended amount, minus what you’re already getting through your diet. You can find the recommended values from the Office of Dietary Supplements.