6 Reasons Why Nutritional Deficiencies are NOT the Root Cause

Jun 15, 2022

“I have white spots all over my nails,” a client said during our first online consult. She held her nails to the computer screen. “They’re riddled with white spots!”

“Yes, I can see. That’s a common sign of zinc and/or calcium deficiency,” I said. 

“Oh, so is that why I feel so fatigued and anxious?”

This is a common conversation I have with many new clients. They will jump to nutritional deficiencies as being at the root of their health issues. They ask to get all their nutrients tested. But the thing is…Nutritional deficiencies ARE NOT the root cause of your health issues.

Yes, low vitamin B’s, magnesium, iron, and the like can - and do - cause symptoms of anxiety, insomnia, fatigue, and more. And yes, supplementing with these nutrients can relieve symptoms. But they are NOT the root cause of those symptoms.


Root Causes of Nutritional Deficiencies

In our Functional Medicine system, we dig deeper, and ask: why do you have nutritional deficiencies in the first place? Some key things we think about are:

  • Are you eating enough nutrient-dense foods? If not, this could be the ROOT CAUSE.
  • Are you actually breaking down and assimilating those nutrients effectively in the gut? Or do you have insufficient stomach acid or bile or digestive enzymes to make this happen, or do you have a leaky gut or pathogenic overgrowth which is preventing absorption? Your poor gut function could be the ROOT CAUSE (but then you have to ask…what is the root cause of the gut breaking down…you get our point!).
  • Are you stuck in chronic stress of the body or the mind or life circumstances? If yes, this could be the ROOT CAUSE. Your body burns through nutrients when there is chronic stress and overwhelm - in fact vitamin C is used up 20x more in times of stress.
  • Are you exposed to too many toxins in your food supply, your drinking water, alcohol, skincare, cleaning products, petrol fumes, mould, etc? If yes, this could be the ROOT CAUSE of burning through required nutrients that aid in detoxification.
  • Do you have genetic issues which burn up nutrients too fast, or don’t metabolise nutrients sufficiently? This could be the ROOT CAUSE.
  • Do you have heavy periods which are dumping out nutrients? If yes, this could be the ROOT CAUSE (but like the gut point, you then have to ask…what is the root cause of the reproductive system being out of whack?).

How would you even know where to begin looking for your ROOT CAUSE? Testing is a great place to start! And by testing, we mean both functional lab testing AND ALSO a deep analysis of your current lifestyle, and even more importantly your recurring mental-emotional thought patterns, which are almost always at the very deepest root cause level. 


Nutrient Replacement - The Last Piece of The Puzzle

In our body systems map, nutrient replacement makes up the last piece of physical recovery. It’s the final piece of all the body systems. The reason why it’s the final piece is that nutrient deficiencies will only manifest, due to imbalances in one or more of the major body systems - neuroendocrine, gastrointestinal, or detoxification - as I mentioned above. 

Fix the imbalances in the other body systems first, then replace the missing nutrients.

This is the complete reversal of what you will experience when you go to see (most) GPs. They’ll run a few nutrient panels, usually vitamin D, B12, and iron. And if any of these nutrients are deficient they’ll likely tell you to take a supplement or get an infusion. There is rarely any investigation into why you’re deficient in the first place. If you have a more holistically-thinking GP, they might tell you to go sit in the sun as well or eat more red meat. The crazy thing is, many patients who have been given this advice, are already getting enough sun and nutrients from food - yet they still show up with nutritional deficiencies time and time again. 

Fix the body system imbalances, address the root causes, then (if needed), build deficient nutrient stores back up with targeted supplements and foods. 


Identifying Nutritional Deficiencies

Oh, and by the way, GP testing for vitamins D, B12, and iron are only three of hundreds of nutrients that make up and support a healthy body. If I want to get a really deep insight into a patient’s nutrient status, I will run an ION Profile, which looks at all your minerals, vitamins, amino acids, and fatty acids. 

Just like my client’s white spots on her nails, here are some common visual signs that you might be nutrient deficient (but remember, don’t jump to supplementing first - test and treat the underlying cause, then supplement if needed):

  • White spots on nails - zinc, calcium deficiency
  • Bleeding gums and slow-healing wounds - vitamin C deficiency
  • Brittle hair and nails - biotin deficiency
  • Mouth ulcers and cracks at the sides of the mouth - vitamin B12 deficiency
  • Poor night vision and white growth on the eyes - vitamin A deficiency
  • Muscle cramping and restless legs - magnesium deficiency
  • Hair loss, dizziness, fatigue - low iron

Are any of these showing up for you?

To learn more about getting to the root, and the types of testing and treatments that we do, check out our free 10-Part Hormonal & Gut Burnout Mini-Course.


Filipa Bellette is Co-Founder of Chris & Filly Functional Medicine. She is an accredited Clinical Nutritionist & Functional Medicine Practitioner. She is also a Ph.D. thought-leader, award-winning writer, and regularly published as a guest blogger & in the media. Together with her husband Chris Bellette, Filipa has worked with over 2,000+ busy, burnout clients in the last 10+ years, and specialises in producing healthy, balanced, and happy Mums & Dads...or as she calls it, a Power Parent! Filipa’s own passion for producing high-performance Power Parents came from her own personal experience of Mummy Burnout, after having babies and juggling the demands of business, family, and her failing health.

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