How Micronutrient Deficiencies Could Be Holding You Back from Your Optimal Health

Spark Lifestyle Services

By Dr. Samantha Larkin, ND- Associate Doctor and Manager of the Spark Health IV Program

Micronutrient Deficiencies

Sometimes eating healthy, exercising and taking a multivitamin isn’t enough to support optimal health.

If you are doing those things but still feel fatigued, stressed, or otherwise out of balance, testing for micronutrient deficiencies should be considered. Micronutrient deficiency refers to having a low amount of the vitamins and minerals your body requires for daily biological processes.

Approximately 40 micronutrients are required in the human diet. Inadequate intake of micronutrients is known as an important contributor to increased rates of illness. (1,3)

In developing countries, micronutrient deficiencies are widespread, and cause very serious symptoms and even death. In the U.S., deficiencies can be less obvious and can cause silent issues that accumulate over time, such as DNA damage.

In fact, micronutrient deficiencies can damage DNA in the same way that radiation does. Micronutrient deficiencies have been associated with cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, weight gain and obesity, cognitive issues, and lowered immunity. (3)

Common Micronutrient Deficiencies

  • magnesium
  • zinc
  • vitamin B12
  • vitamin D
  • selenium
  • vitamin A
  • calcium
  • folate

Am I at Risk Of Having A Micronutrient Deficiency?

Those particularly at high risk of micronutrient deficiencies are:

  • patients on a low calorie diet
  • smokers
  • patients following a vegetarian or vegan diet
  • those who eat few fruits and vegetables
  • patients who have undergone gastric or bariatric surgeries, and those recovering from illnesses.

However, anyone can be affected by micronutrient deficiencies. (2)

Micronutrient Testing

Micronutrient testing provides information on how well the body utilizes vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids, and antioxidants. The micronutrient test that we use at Spark Health functionally measures how nutrients are used inside the cells, specifically lymphocytes.

The lymphocytes are placed in various nutrient conditioned media, and are observed for growth. Since the life span of a lymphocyte is approximately four to six months, this micronutrient test provides an average of nutrient status over a longer period of time.

This is very different from simply testing blood levels, which are constantly changing. Furthermore, the micronutrient panel we run does not require any fasting or specific preparation. Patients do not need to stop taking their medications or supplements, and can even receive IV nutrient therapy without it affecting their results.

IV Nutrient Therapy

Based on this micronutrient test, we are able to make personalized recommendations.

We can make a customized IV bag based on what your micronutrient test says you are deficient in. We can deliver concentrated levels vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and amino acids directly into the bloodstream through an IV.

With certain nutrients, IV therapy provides up to 10 times the absorption of oral supplementation. By administering the nutrients directly into the bloodstream, our cells are able to effectively metabolize the nutrients they require for optimal function and healing.

Spark Health’s IV Nutrient Therapy Program

For more information about how micronutrient deficiencies could be holding you back from your optimal health, give us at a call at 858-228-4188 or email us at

Spark is conveniently located so we can serve patients in San Diego, and all of North County such as Del Mar, Solana Beach, Rancho Santa Fe, Encinitas, Carlsbad, Escondido, San Marcos, and Poway.

Thank you,
The Spark Team


1. Black, R.E. Micronutrient deficiency – an underlying cause of morbidity and mortality. Bull World Health Organ. 2003;81(2):79

2. Shankar, P, Boylan, M, Sriram, K. Micronutrient deficiencies after bariatric surgery. Nutrition 2010; 26: 1031–1037.

3. Ames, B.N. Micronutrient Deficiencies A Major Cause of DNA Damage. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1999;889:87-106

Sun Safety and Skin Health

Spark Lifestyle Services

Summer is just around the corner which means our exposure to sun will increase. Whether it’s laying out on the beach or walking to and from our cars, we are constantly exposed to the sun.

We recommend some amount of sunlight in order to support optimal Vitamin D levels, hormones, and a healthy mood but for optimum skin health, you want to avoid too much exposure to sun.

Sun Safety Tips

  • Choose your sunscreen wisely.
  • Pay attention to the inactive ingredients.
  • Reapply every 2 hours.
  • Support your sunburn.
  • Increase your antioxidants.
  • Take care of sun-damaged skin.

What sunscreen should I use?

Aim to use a mineral based sunscreen like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide instead of a chemical sunscreen in order to reflect the harmful rays. Many of the chemical sunscreens have been shown to have hormone disrupting effects and high rates of allergic reactions. Not all chemical sunscreens are created equal and the Environmental Working Group has put together an easy chart to help you navigate sunscreen ingredients.

Here are some of our favorite mineral sunscreen brands:

  • MyChelle
  • W.S. Badger Company
  • Goddess Garden
  • All Terrain

Pay attention to the inactive ingredients.

Stay away from sunscreens that contain retinyl palmitate (Vitamin A) and keep your Vitamin A use to at night.

How often should I apply sunscreen?

Despite the number of your SPF, you still need to reapply sunscreen every 2 hours to ensure you are continuously protected from the sun.

What do I do if I get sunburned?

In the case you are overexposed to too much sunlight here are some of our favorite after-sun soothing products.

  • Goddess Garden After-Sun Gel with Aloe Spray
  • W.S. Badger After Sun Balm
  • All Terrain Aloe Gel Skin Relief
  • MyChelle Cucumber Cooler Soothing Spray

Increase your antioxidants.

Increasing your dietary and supplemental antioxidants will help protect you from the inside out.

Focus on antioxidant rich foods like berries, leafy greens, carrots, red bell peppers, salmon, chocolate, green tea and high quality coffee.

Talk to your Spark doctor about adding in specific antioxidant support during these months of higher sun exposure.

Take care of sun-damaged skin.

Sometimes we don’t notice the after-effects of our sun exposure until years later. Here are some of our favorite ways to reverse the signs of aging due to sun exposure:

  • Sunscreen.
  • Vitamin.
  • Alpha Hydroxy Acids.
  • Vitamin A.
  • Growth Factors.


Apply sunscreen daily to any areas of sun damage no matter what. This includes your neck, chest, and don’t forget the back of your hands!

Vitamin C.

For added sun protection in the morning use a topical Vitamin C serum for its antioxidant benefits. We love Skin Authority’s Super-C Serum and Devita’s C-Pro Plus for a 20% Vitamin C content that will help to brighten dark spots and increase collagen production.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids.

AHAs are exfoliants that are used to get rid of dead skin cells and can improve the appearance of sun damaged skin. We love Skin Authority’s Resurfacing Accelerator and Suki Skincare’s Resurfacing Enzyme Peel.

Vitamin A.

Whether you can tolerate a retinol or need a gentler version like retinyl palmitate, vitamin A is one of the best anti-aging nutrients around. Remember to only use in the evening! Our favorites are Skin Authority’s Vitamin A Cell Renewal and AllVia’s Retinol Cream.

Growth Factors.

With sun damage comes fine lines and wrinkles and one the best ways to nourish sun damaged skin is with Skin Authority’s Skin Growth Factor Technology (SGF-4). Using the Wrinkle Reversing Serum and Dramatic Eye Lift in the morning will tighten and brighten those areas that have had a little too much sun.

Is My Sunscreen Safe?

If you are curious about the safety of your sunscreen you have at home, use the Environmental Working Group Cosmetics Database to search for the safety of your products.

Learn More About Spark Health

For more information about Sun Safety and Skin Health, give us at a call at 858-228-4188 or email us at

Spark is conveniently located so we can serve patients in San Diego, and all of North County such as Del Mar, Solana Beach, Rancho Santa Fe, Encinitas, Carlsbad, Escondido, San Marcos, and Poway.

Thank you,
The Spark Team

Acne and IV Nutrient Therapy

two people receiving IV therapy treatments

Acne is one of those conditions that can have a multitude of causes. At Spark Health, it is always our goal to be able to identify the root cause of your acne so that we can prevent it from happening in the first place.

The triggers can be multifactorial which is where a functional lab evaluation with a Spark doctor can help to identify your personal acne triggers. Whether the cause is coming from dysregulated hormones or a poor functioning digestive system, nutrient deficiencies are almost always involved.

Since it can be a challenge to achieve proper nutrient absorption from our food and/or supplements, IV nutrient therapy is a great way to ensure you are getting 100% absorption of those key nutrients.

IV Nutrient Therapy for Acne

Our Acne Support IV bag provides comprehensive support for our patients suffering with acne breakouts.

Here is a breakdown of my favorite acne fighting nutrients that are highlighted in our Acne Support IV bag:

  • Vitamin B3: Acne prevention, lowers sebum production, down regulates inflammation
  • Vitamin B5 : Acne prevention, balances oil production
  • Vitamin B6: Acne prevention associated with hormonal fluctuations
  • Carnitine: Works together with vitamin B5 to balance oil production, supports the immune system, increases cellular repair
  • Vitamin C: Antioxidant, supports collagen formation, boosts immune system, increases wound healing
  • Selenium: Antioxidant, reduces inflammation, thyroid supportive
  • Glutathione: Antioxidant, liver supportive, decreases inflammation, collagen supportive

Learn More About IV Nutrient Therapy and Acne

For more information about Acne and IV Nutrients, give us at a call at 858-228-4188 or email us at

Spark is conveniently located so we can serve patients in San Diego, and all of North County such as Del Mar, Solana Beach, Rancho Santa Fe, Encinitas, Carlsbad, Escondido, San Marcos, and Poway.

Thank you,
The Spark Team

The Benefits of a Ketogenic Diet for the Brain

Detox Basics

By Dr. Samantha Larkin, ND- Associate Doctor and Manager of the Spark Health IV Program

The Ketogenic Diet

A ketogenic diet is low in carbs, high in fat and moderate in protein. The body produces ketones for fuel instead of burning sugars and carbohydrates for fuel.

Ketones are a fuel source that the liver produces when we break down fat. Evolutionarily speaking, we would produce ketones in a fasted state, when food was scarce.

Benefits of the Ketogenic Diet

There are plenty of health benefits of a ketogenic diet, but the benefits for the brain are particularly striking.

The ketogenic diet was originally designed to help decrease the frequency of seizures in patients with epilepsy. The diet has been studied to be especially effective in children and adult patients who have refractory seizures (seizures that do not respond well to anti-seizure medications). (1,2,7)

There is evidence that ketone bodies not only act as molecules for fuel, but also act as cell signaling molecules. These signaling molecules have strong anti-inflammatory actions and have been shown to reduce oxidative stress in the brain. (4)

Ketones have been shown to help reduce the damage that free radicals create in brain cells. Ketone bodies also support the vagal nerve, therefore increasing parasympathetic tone.

When our bodies are under parasympathetic tone, we are in a more rested and relaxed state. Having better parasympathetic tone can lead to stress reduction, improved sleep, and improved mood.

A ketogenic diet (or any diet that mimics a fasting state) increases levels of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor). BDNF is responsible for increasing connections between neurons in the brain. Low BDNF levels have been associated with neurodegenerative disorders.

In animal models, a ketogenic diet has been shown to decrease amyloid beta plaques, which have been associated with Alzheimer’s disease. (3) Furthermore, the administration of ketones have been shown to improve memory in humans with Alzheimer’s disease. (5)

Additionally, in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, the brain has trouble utilizing glucose for fuel. Therefore, switching its energy source to ketones results in improved cognition.

There is also some evidence that a Ketogenic diet may have therapeutic value in treating the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Researchers usually study Parkinson’s disease with an animal model that utilizes the neurotoxin MPTP.

They use this neurotoxin to create injury to the brain that creates symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease. Beta-hydroxybutyrate was shown in mouse models to decrease the toxicity that MPTP created. (8) Effects of a ketogenic diet are promising in some case studies and human studies with smaller sample sizes. (6)

It is evident that a ketogenic diet can also benefit patients that experience stroke or traumatic brain injury (TBI). The destruction of brain cells that results from strokes and brain injury involves cell death from glutamate. It is thought that Ketone bodies can actually prevent cellular death in the brain in cases of high glutamate. (9)

Overall, it is clear in the research that a ketogenic diet is not simply a means of weight loss, but a powerful therapeutic tool that can be utilized to help treat many different brain-based disorders.

Learn More About Ketogenic Diets

For more information about the benefits of a ketogenic diet for the brain, give us at a call at 858-228-4188 or email us at

Spark Health is conveniently located so we can serve patients in San Diego, and all of North County such as Del Mar, Solana Beach, Rancho Santa Fe, Encinitas, Carlsbad, Escondido, San Marcos, and Poway.

Thank you,
The Spark Team


1. Paoli et al. Beyond weight loss: A review of the therapeutic uses of very-low-carbohydrate (ketogenic) diets. Eur. J. Clin. Nutr. 2013;67:789-796.

2. Kossoff et al. Ketogenic diets: An update for child neurologists. J. Child Neurol. 2009;24:979-988.

3. Van der Auwera et al. A ketogenic diet reduces amyloid beta 40 and 42 in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease. Nutrition & Metabolism. 2005 2:28

4. Gasior et al. Neuroprotective and disease-modifying effects of the Ketogenic diet. Behav Pharmacol. 2006: 17(5-6):431-439

5. Reger, et al. Effects of B-hydroxybutyrate on cognition in memory-impaired adults. Neurobiology of Aging 25 (2004) 311-314

6. T. B. VanItallie et al. Treatment of Parkinson disease with diet-induced hyperketonemia: A feasibility study. Neurology Feb 2005, 64 (4) 728-730

7. Freeman JM et al. The efficacy of the ketogenic diet – 1998: a prospective evaluation of intervention in 150 children. Pediatrics. 1998;102:1358-1363.

8. Tieu K et al. Beta hydroxybutyrate rescues mitochondrial respiration and mitigates features of Parkinson disease. J Clin Invest. 2003;112:892-901

9. Stafstrom CE, Rho JM. The ketogenic diet as a treatment paradigm for diverse neurological disorders. Front. Pharmacol., 09 April 2012

Micro Needling for Acne Scars

Spark Lifestyle Services

One of the best indications that you might be interested in the Spark Health Level 1 micro needling treatment with hyaluronic acid is acne scars.

Micro needling is a non-invasive technique that uses tiny needles to stimulate collagen production and is safe for all skin types. Micro needling has proven to be a safe and effective treatment for those suffering from acne scars looking for a non-invasive option.

What is Micro Needling?

Using the Eclipse MicroPen™, tiny needles are used to create micro channels in the skin. These channels allow for hyaluronic acid to penetrate the skin deeper than traditional applications.

When topical hyaluronic acid is combined with micro needling it accelerates the collagen deposition to be able to fill in acne scars and improve overall texture of the skin.

Acne scarring not only can affect a person’s physical appearance but can take a toll emotionally as well. Patients often feel frustrated that they are unable to leave the house without makeup despite their active acne being under control.

When working with acne scarring, we typically recommend 3 micro needling sessions spaced about 4 to 6 weeks apart for best results. The initial treatment is stimulating the immune response in the body and over 4 to 6 weeks is when the collagen is being produced to even out the skin’s tone and texture.

The procedure itself starts with cleansing and applying numbing cream to the face to make it a comfortable and pain free experience for patients.

Once your face is numb and cleansed, the hyaluronic based serum is applied to the face and micro needling begins. The actual micro needling only takes about 30 minutes for the face.

Patients will experience redness right after the treatment and look like they had a mild sunburn over the next 24 to 48 hours. There can be some mild peeling of the skin a few days after micro needling which is a normal part of the healing process. Keep your skin properly hydrated to minimize peeling.

Micro Needling for Acne Scars

The advantages of micro-needling over other more invasive treatments is that it is very well tolerated, involves minimal downtime and has little to no side effects.

A key benefit when it comes to treating acne scarring is that the micro-needling results are permanent once the scar has filled in.

Micro needling is often performed on the face but can be done safely anywhere on the body including neck, chest, and back as well.

What Skincare to Use After Micro Needling

An important component of any micro needling treatment is having the proper products for right after the treatment and during the weeks that the collagen is being produced.

We encourage patients to bring in all their current skincare and makeup products so that the proper after care regimen can be personalized for you and your skin type.

Some of our favorite key ingredients to use during the healing process days after the treatment include a hyaluronic acid based serum for cellular hydration and a moisturizer with growth factors to speed the healing process and collagen promotion.

Once the skin has fully healed, your more active ingredients can be reintroduced like alpha hydroxy acids, beta hydroxy acids or salicylic acids, vitamin C, and vitamin A.

Micro Needling at Spark Health

For more information about Micro Needling and Acne Scars, fill out our Contact Us form, give us at a call at 858-228-4188 or email us at

Spark is conveniently located so we can serve patients in San Diego, and all of North County such as Del Mar, Solana Beach, Rancho Santa Fe, Encinitas, Carlsbad, Escondido, San Marcos, and Poway.

Thank you,
The Spark Team