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How to Know If You Are Not Absorbing Your Vitamins & Minerals

By Leah Webber

Absorption of vitamins and minerals can be a complicated and complex thing for the average person to understand. Many factors, including how well a person chews his food, what time of day he takes his vitamin supplements and what kind of prescription medications he takes, can contribute to vitamin malabsorption. Self-diagnosis may be difficult, but there are some ways for the average person to get clues about vitamin and mineral absorption in his body.

  1. Examine your fingernails. There are many telltale signs present in the fingernails that can show internal deficiencies. If the tip of the nail is spooned, it may indicate low iron or B-12. Pitting brown spots may indicate vitamin C or folic acid depletion. Longitudinal striations are often recognized as a sign of general malabsorption. White spots or marks can indicate low zinc or calcium. Nails that are thin and splitting can suggest magnesium, copper or essential fatty acid deficiency. These indications are not absolute but can provide some clues for malabsorption issues.

  2. Look at the scalp and face. Dryness and dandruff in the scalp and hair areas can indicate that there is low omega-3 intake, depleted vitamin A, B-6, zinc, sulfur or inadequate protein intake in the diet. Acne and edema in the face are often associated with a vitamin B-2 depletion, protein malabsorption or conditions such as hypothyroidism and allergies.

  3. Inspect the lips, tongue and gums. Canker sores or dry lips can be a sign of low vitamin B-2, B-3 or essential fatty acids. If the tongue appears red and irritated, it is also associated with a B-2 or B-3 problem, as well as B-12 and folate. Tender or bleeding gums can be a symptom of low vitamin C or coenzyme Q10.

  4. Tip

    If you suspect nutrient malabsorption, have a physician confirm your condition and proceed to create a plan to correct the issue.


    Do not attempt to self-diagnose vitamin and mineral malabsorption. Talk to a doctor or nutritionist regarding your concerns.

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