Determining a mineral deficiency: The diagnosis - Colonic Training

Determining a mineral deficiency: The diagnosis

Mineral deficiencies are more common than you might think. A lack of minerals can lead to chronic diseases. A mineral deficiency can also aggravate existing symptoms or prevent them from healing. A good mineral supply is therefore an important aspect of any holistic therapy or prevention. We explain the details of diagnosing a mineral deficiency, including how you can diagnose a mineral deficiency yourself.

How to determine a mineral deficiency

Minerals are vital and perform countless tasks in the body every day. A mineral deficiency can therefore massively impair health, aggravate minerals and trace elements, promote their formation and inhibit healing processes. A good supply of minerals is therefore always part of sensible prevention and therapy.

If you have any complaints, are feeling unwell, or have unexplained symptoms, then have your mineral supply checked. If a mineral deficiency becomes apparent, you can correct it in a targeted manner and not only improve your symptoms, but also prevent further complaints and improve your general health.

Minerals and trace elements

Minerals (also called bulk elements) occur in amounts of more than 50 mg per kilogram of body weight in the human organism.

The minerals include:

  1. Calcium
  2. Magnesium
  3. Potassium
  4. Sodium
  5. Chloride
  6. Phosphorus
  7. Sulfur

Sodium, chlorine and phosphorus deficiencies are almost never found since phosphorus is found in abundance in almost all staple foods such as meat, cheese, grains, and nuts. Sodium and chlorine, are also usually taken in excess from table salt (sodium chloride).

Trace elements occur in the human organism in amounts of less than 50 mg per kilogram of body weight. Iron is an exception. Although it should actually be one of the bulk elements at 60 mg per kilogram of body weight, it is counted as a trace element.

Trace elements include:

  1. Iron
  2. Zinc
  3. Selenium
  4. Iodine
  5. Copper
  6. Manganese
  7. Chrome
  8. Cobalt
  9. Molybdenum

Silicon and boron also belong to trace elements, although it has not yet been clarified whether these are essential for humans or not. In the following, we will go into more detail about the most important of these elements.

Acute deficiency are rare

Especially in today’s time of abundance, very few people suffer from an acute mineral deficiency. It is usually a permanently borderline supply of individual minerals or an imbalance between the supply of the individual minerals (e.g. too much calcium and too little magnesium at the same time), which can contribute to chronic diseases in the long term.

If there are already illnesses or if the body has to fight against infections or pollution, then the need for minerals (and other vital substances) increases, so it becomes even more difficult to cover this need day after day.

Check nutrition

Often just checking your personal diet can provide initial indications of your mineral supply. You can create a food diary, or download an app where the nutrients, minerals and vitamins are calculated automatically. Or you can use the services of a holistic nutritionist.

However, the nutritional value of the food alone does not show how well the nutrients can be absorbed and utilized by the individual. Therefore, in case of doubt (even if there are symptoms), a comprehensive diagnosis with the help of relevant laboratory values is the safer option. You can have the relevant examinations carried out by your family doctor (see below) ( * 3 ).

Mineral check with hair or nail samples

You can also get the first indications of chronic mineral deficiencies through a nail or hair analysis. You can purchase such an analysis here

After ordering, you will receive a letter with instructions for taking your own samples (hair or nails), put them in the enclosed stamped envelope and send the envelope to the laboratory. After a few days you will receive your results by e-mail.

Excess minerals in hair samples can indicate deficiencies

When analyzing hair and nails, it is always important to bear in mind that the mineral status in the hair or nail does not show the current status of the day, but rather that of the past few weeks and months. Hair grows 0.2 to 0.5 mm per day. If one examines the mineral status of a hair sample (e.g. from 2 cm of hair close to the scalp), then this reflects the supply of the last 6 to 8 weeks.

Also, an excess in the hair does not necessarily indicate an excess of the respective minerals in the other tissues and thus a deficiency. On the contrary. For example, if the diet contains too little calcium or magnesium, an excess of calcium or magnesium can appear in the hair. It is believed that when there is a deficiency, the minerals are released from the bones, get into the blood and some of these dissolved minerals are transported to the hair ( 5 ).

So whether a value is too high or too low in the hair analysis, always have it checked by your practitioner and checked for possible causes of this discrepancy, whereby of course your diet and its mineral content must also be taken into account.

Mineral levels in the hair can also vary depending on the disease

Certain diseases also have some minerals in higher or lower amounts than in healthy people, which does not necessarily indicate dietary deficiencies but is a result of the disease ( 9 ).

In Parkinson’s disease, for example, hair samples often show lower iron levels because the disease is closely linked to iron metabolism. Parkinson’s patients have excessively high iron levels in some areas of the brain. They seem to store the iron there due to illness, which could also contribute to the lower levels in other parts of the body and also in the hair.

In the case of anemia, the iron values ​​in the hair samples are also low – just like in the blood ( 8 ). At the same time, the heavy metal values, e.g. lead and cadmium can be high, so that an iron deficiency can lead to a stronger accumulation of pollutants on the one hand or on the other hand could be caused by pollution in the first place.

In the case of psoriasis, the zinc levels in the hair of those affected are low, while a higher heavy metal load can also be measured here (lead, cadmium, nickel, chromium). It is not clear whether psoriasis could also develop as a result of a zinc deficiency or whether the low value is due to a specific constitution in psoriasis. In any case, it can be seen that detoxification measures could be useful.

In the case of breast cancer, a study showed that the patients had a low zinc level in the hair analysis. In the serum, however, the zinc level did not differ from that of the healthy controls ( 10 ).

Mineral levels in the hair are often not comparable to blood levels

Furthermore, mineral levels in the hair cannot always be compared with or verified by blood levels. So for example, high serum magnesium levels indicate lower bone density, while higher hair magnesium levels may indicate higher bone density, according to a 2011 study of premenopausal women ( 6 ).

Mineral substance check and at the same time determine pollution

Pollutant levels can also be determined via a hair tissue mineral analysis. This is all the more sensible since exposure to pollutants can increase mineral requirements. If you know which pollutants you are exposed to, you can take measures to eliminate them and thus relieve your mineral balance in this way.

In the Hair Mineral Tissue analysis, the minerals calcium, magnesium, chromium, bromine, copper, iron, potassium, manganese, cobalt, molybdenum, sulphur, strontium, selenium, silicon and zinc are checked as well as possible contamination with heavy metals and other toxins like arsenic, aluminum, cadmium, mercury, uranium, lead, nickel, tin and titanium.

Mineral deficiency: often not diagnosed at the doctor

With the usual blood tests at the doctor, minerals are rarely taken into account. Even when people go to the doctor with complaints, a possible mineral deficiency is almost never included in the diagnosis. At most, the iron levels are checked from time to time. But not all other minerals and trace elements. After all, the majority of doctors still assume that there are no mineral deficiencies in industrialized nations.

In the meantime, however, various laboratories with which your doctor could work offer mineral substance analyses, so you could certainly have your mineral supply checked by your doctor.


Calcium is 99 percent in the bones. The remaining percent is distributed among the blood and the cells of the other organs. The blood calcium level is always kept the same by the organism if possible. If it falls because the calcium has been used up, calcium is released from the bones. If the blood calcium level rises because calcium-rich foods have been eaten, the bones receive the borrowed calcium back. A blood test is therefore not ideal for determining the body’s calcium supply.

Calcium deficiency: symptoms

Calcium deficiency can have numerous symptoms, including dry skin, eczema, tingling on the skin, cardiovascular problems, tooth decay and much more.

Adults need about 1000 mg of calcium per day.

Calcium deficiency: Diagnose

A calcium deficiency in particular is rare in the typical Western diet because many dairy products are eaten (unless a severe vitamin D deficiency prevents calcium absorption). A problem here is otherwise more of an excess of calcium with a simultaneous lack of magnesium.

With a purely plant-based diet, a calcium deficiency can occur if you do not pay attention to the regular consumption of calcium-rich foods (and of course to a good vitamin D supply).

If you decide to have the hair analysis described above, be aware of what has already been said above, namely that high calcium levels in the hair can also indicate a calcium deficiency – namely a low calcium intake through the diet and also a lower bone density ( 4 ).

A low calcium value in the hair analysis, on the other hand, can indicate increased calcification of the blood vessels and decreasing bone density – according to a study from 2016 in which researchers from Korea compared bone density, the degree of calcification of the arteries (CACS) and the calcium value in the hair ( 7 ).

If your analysis results show irregularities in terms of calcium, have them checked. But also look at your diet and of course at your vitamin D level. Vitamin D is necessary to be able to absorb enough calcium.


Magnesium is mainly found inside the cells and only 1 percent in the blood serum (blood fluid without blood cells). More than half of the body’s magnesium is also found in the bones, which is why magnesium is of great importance for bone health, but unfortunately is often forgotten.

Calcium, on the other hand, is usually taken in large amounts for the bones. However, this leads to a calcium-magnesium imbalance, which is anything but beneficial for the bones in particular, so that a sole calcium supplement rarely makes sense and can even be harmful.

Magnesium deficiency: symptoms

A typical magnesium deficiency symptom is muscle cramps (in the calves), since the mineral is responsible for healthy muscle and nerve functions, among other things. Cardiac arrhythmias can also occur, because the heart is “only” a muscle. If you also have digestive problems, such as constipation, for example, this could also indicate a magnesium deficiency.

The daily requirement for magnesium is around 300 to 400 mg.

Magnesium deficiency: diagnosis

Doctors usually have the magnesium level in the serum determined. There, however, a mineral deficiency and in particular a magnesium deficiency usually only becomes apparent when it is already very pronounced. An analysis of the magnesium value in whole blood is therefore more sensible. If you have a hair mineral analysis carried out, note what has already been said above, namely that an excess in the analysis result can also indicate a possible magnesium deficiency.


Potassium is a mineral that is often prescribed by orthomolecular physicians in connection with cardiac arrhythmia or high blood pressure. High blood pressure patients in particular often suffer from a mineral deficiency, including a potassium deficiency – because some blood pressure medication can promote excessive potassium excretion (diuretics), but it has also been found that potassium deficiency in high blood pressure is also present when no diuretics are taken.

In March 2013, researchers from the Helmholtz Centre Munich also announced that a potassium deficiency could be an early marker for the onset of diabetes, so measuring potassium levels should actually be a routine part of health checks.

Potassium deficiency due to laxatives and liquorice

Potassium deficiency is also common when laxatives are taken regularly or large amounts of caffeinated beverages are consumed. Those who like to eat licorice can also develop a potassium deficiency, but this would require consuming a 100-gram pack every day for weeks.

Potassium deficiency: symptoms

In the body, potassium is mainly (90 percent) found in the cell. Potassium is therefore only minimally represented in the extracellular space (outside the cells). But it is precisely this concentration gradient between inside and outside that forms the basis for the excitability of nerve and muscle cells. If there is a lack of potassium, this mineral deficiency can, in extreme cases, manifest itself in muscle weakness and even paralysis.

Until January 2017, the recommended daily intake of potassium was officially given as 2000 mg. Now it is recommended to take twice the amount, namely 4,000 mg of potassium per day. This spontaneous increase is explained by the fact that the minimum amount was previously specified, while the new values refer to an “appropriate intake”.

A potassium deficiency is hardly possible with a plant-based wholefood diet made of fruit, vegetables, salads, dried fruit and whole grains. On the other hand, if you eat fewer vegetables and instead eat more sausage, cheese, milk and white flour products, you will not be able to absorb the recommended daily amount of potassium.

Potassium deficiency: diagnosis

The potassium level is usually measured in the serum. However, the measurement in whole blood is much more meaningful, since the potassium content of the cellular components of the blood is then also measured, and potassium is known to be present almost exclusively in the cells.

Sodium, Chloride and Phosphorus

Sodium and chloride together form table salt – and since far too much salt is generally consumed, there is no fear of a deficiency here. Since our organism is still very sparing with both minerals due to evolution, today we tend to struggle with an excess.

Salt was not part of the human diet in prehistoric times, so our bodies still treat it as if it were a rare substance. Potassium, on the other hand, is abundant in green leafy vegetables – and these made up a large part of the primeval human diet. Potassium can therefore not be stored well, because for millions of years the body was used to the fact that it received large amounts of potassium regularly.

Phosphorus is also found in excess in the modern diet, so care should be taken not to consume too much of it. Phosphorus is mainly found in cheese, sausage, canned fish, baked goods, pasta and meat.

It is also found in soft drinks (cola & co), sweets, and many finished products in the form of artificially added phosphates. Too much phosphorus is suspected of being able to trigger or intensify hyperactivity symptoms in children who are already exposed to it.

Vegetables and fruits, on the other hand, are low in phosphorus.

The phosphate level is usually determined by the doctor in the serum – especially if kidney diseases are present or to check the function of the parathyroid glands, which are involved in the regulation of phosphate metabolism. However, dietary mineral deficiencies rarely affect phosphorus as well ( 2 ) .


Iron is responsible for transporting oxygen in the body. For this purpose, 70 percent of it is in the hemoglobin (blood pigment) of the red blood cells.

Iron deficiency: symptoms

With an iron deficiency, the organism can no longer be supplied with sufficient oxygen.

Those affected are therefore always tired and exhausted. Dizziness, hair loss, bad nails and headaches can also occur. With acute iron deficiency, you get out of breath even with the smallest physical exertion.

Contrary to the usual prophecies of doom, vegans do not suffer from iron deficiency more often than normal eaters. A list of iron-rich foods often helps to consciously improve the iron supply. If necessary, one can resort to natural iron preparations.

The iron requirement is 10-15 mg per day, and 20-30 mg for pregnant and breastfeeding women.

Iron deficiency: diagnosis

If you suspect a mineral deficiency, and here in particular an iron deficiency, you can first check your symptoms:

Group 1:

  1. states of exhaustion

Group 2:

  1. difficulty concentrating
  2. Depressive moods
  3. sleep disorders

Group 3:

  1. dizziness
  2. headache
  3. neck tension

Group 4:

  1. hair loss
  2. nail brittleness
  3. Restless Legs Syndrome

Now give yourself a point for each group that applies to you.

The evaluation

  1. 1  point: unlikely iron deficiency
  2. 2 points: possible iron deficiency
  3. 3 points: probable iron deficiency
  4. 4 points: very likely iron deficiency

For example, if you often feel exhausted (group 1), sleep poorly (group 2), have frequent headaches (group 3) and your hair is thinning (group 4), then you have 4 points and an iron deficiency is very likely.

If you are always tired (group 1) and feel depressed (group 2), but do not notice any of the other symptoms mentioned, then you only have 2 points and it could be that you have an iron deficiency, but it is not certain.

Iron blood test

The doctor will take a blood count and determine the storage iron (ferritin). In the blood count, an already pronounced iron deficiency would result in a very low hemoglobin value (hemoglobin = red blood pigment) and hematocrit value (proportion of red blood cells in the blood).

The ferritin value, which can provide early information about the body’s actual iron status, is more reliable. Other values ​​(MCV, MCHC) help the doctor to fathom the possible cause of the anemia.

The iron value in the serum, on the other hand, is not of much use. On the one hand, this is often still normal if there is already an iron deficiency. So it only drops when the deficiency is already severe.

Iron also decreases with every inflammation that is currently in progress. In this case, the iron in the blood is converted into storage iron. Free iron in the blood would disrupt the immune system. However, a powerful immune system is very important when it comes to inflammation. In this case, it would be unfavorable to take iron because then you would deliberately weaken your own immune system.

Iron has a very close relationship to copper and often increasing your copper will also increase your iron – in particular, if you take a lot of zinc – which lowers copper.


Iodine is considered “THE” trace element for the thyroid because iodine is an important component of the thyroid hormones. Therefore, 99 percent of the body’s own iodine is found in the small butterfly-shaped gland in the neck.

Iodine deficiency: Symptoms

Since the thyroid hormones keep the entire metabolism running, an iodine deficiency quickly becomes noticeable in a slowed-down metabolism. One speaks of an iodine deficiency-related hypothyroidism. The typical symptoms are fatigue, obesity (even if you eat little), loss of appetite, depression, constipation, slow heartbeat, etc.

In children, iodine deficiency leads to slower physical and mental development.

The daily iodine requirement of an adult is 150 – 200 µg. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should consume 200 – 230 µg. 

If you have an overactive thyroid, you should be careful about your iodine supply and not take in more iodine than necessary.

Iodine deficiency: Diagnosis

The iodine status can be measured in the urine. If the iodine values are low, an iodine deficiency or a low iodine content in the food can be assumed. Of course, you should not take any iodine-containing food supplements before the urine sample and also not use any iodine tincture.

In addition, the thyroid values ​​are usually checked, which can help to assess the iodine status. The TSH value can be elevated and indicates that there is not enough iodine to produce enough thyroid hormones. Of course, a high TSH value can also have other causes.


Zinc is important for our immune system. For example, it takes care of the immune system, so that a deficiency can lead to an increased susceptibility to infections. As a component of antioxidant and detoxifying enzymes, it improves the body’s defenses and protects against oxidative stress caused by toxins and pollutants.

Zinc is also found in the sexual organs and is therefore essential for fertility. Bone health also depends on a good supply of zinc.

Zinc deficiency: symptoms

A zinc deficiency can manifest itself in skin problems (acne, dry skin, dandruff, poor wound healing, etc.), nail changes and hair loss. An increased susceptibility to infections and limited fertility can also be the consequences of a zinc deficiency.

The zinc requirement of an adult is about 10 mg per day.

Zinc deficiency: diagnosis

Determining the zinc value in whole blood is recommended since 98 percent of the body’s own zinc is located inside the cells.

Since there is a zinc deficiency in a number of chronic diseases, it would be good to check the zinc level in the case of existing complaints. Optimizing the zinc supply would then significantly improve the general condition of those affected and also their chances of recovery.


Copper has many different jobs. Among other things, it is involved in the proper functioning of the immune system and in blood formation. A deficiency can therefore manifest itself in anemia. If the administration of iron is of no use in the case of anemia, one could also think of a copper deficiency. The same applies to rheumatism since some arthritis patients experience an improvement after taking copper for several months.

Anyone who takes high amounts of zinc should also think about copper, since large doses of zinc inhibit the absorption of copper so that in this case a self-made copper deficiency could occur. However, this is rarely the case with normal zinc supplementation. At the same time, a good supply of zinc can protect against excess copper.

Copper deficiency: symptoms

The most common symptoms of a copper deficiency include the above-mentioned anemia (low blood count) and fatigue as well as nerve damage, which can lead to tingling in hands and feet and to coordination disorders.

The daily copper requirement for adults is 1 – 1.5 mg. Cocoa and cashew nuts are the front runners when it comes to copper. Both provide about 3.7mg of copper per 100g. But whole grain products, nuts and legumes are also extremely rich in copper.

Copper deficiency: diagnosis

Copper can be determined in serum or whole blood. The value in whole blood is slightly more meaningful.


Selenium is involved in protecting the body from oxidative stress as it serves as a building block for antioxidant enzymes. It is therefore important in all chronic diseases that either arise as a result of excessive oxidative stress or lead to an increase in oxidative stress themselves.

It is also necessary for the formation of detoxifying enzymes, which is why you should pay attention to a good selenium supply during detoxification cleanses.

Selenium is also part of an enzyme that converts T4 (the inactive thyroid hormone) into the active form T3. A selenium deficiency can therefore lead to reduced thyroid function.

Selenium deficiency: symptoms

Since the selenium supply is borderline in western countries, it is worth checking your personal selenium supply. Because a permanently low selenium status can promote the development of many diseases, e.g. cancer, Hashimoto, rheumatism, heart diseases, etc.

The recommended intake of selenium in this country is 30 – 70 µg. However, the WHO recommends up to 200 µg. Brazil nuts are considered to be particularly rich in selenium, but they can often be contaminated with mold toxins, so that in the event of a deficiency and for a targeted selenium supply, food supplements are often the safer method. However, overdosing should also be avoided, which is why supplementing more than 200 µg per day is not advisable.

Selen deficiency: Diagnosis

As with copper, the whole blood value is also somewhat more reliable for selenium. But the serum value is also useful.

Normal values ​​vary from country to country. Although one should avoid excessively high selenium levels, it seems to be optimal if one could level off in the upper normal range, since then the selenium-dependent detoxification enzymes (glutathione peroxidase) work best.

Checking selenium levels every three months prevents selenium levels from rising too high.


Chromium appears to have important functions in carbohydrate metabolism. It is said to improve the effectiveness of insulin and improve the conversion of sugar into its storage form glycogen, both of which help regulate blood sugar levels.

Chromium is also said to have a beneficial effect on lipid metabolism so that a chromium deficiency is suspected to be related to high cholesterol levels and the development of arteriosclerosis.

An adult needs 30 – 100 µg of chromium, whereby the more carbohydrates you eat, the more chromium you need. While foods rich in carbohydrates (cereals, sugar beet, sugar cane, etc.) naturally contain sufficient chromium, the chromium content is removed during the production of white flour and industrial sugar!

Chromium deficiency: Diagnosis

The chromium status is determined in the serum. However, the diagnostics are not yet really mature, since there is no minimum limit, for example.

Diagnosis of a mineral deficiency important for therapy and prevention

Based on the numerous possible consequences of a chronic mineral deficiency, it is easy to see how important it is to detect and remedy it as early as possible.

Unfortunately, our food can only give us what it gets from the soil, and in Australia that is very little.  So if you already suffer from health problems, ask your practitioner for the appropriate diagnostic tests so that a possible mineral deficiency can be detected in good time.

Of course, you can get the most out of your food if your digestive system is working at its optimal level and we are here to help you with this.