HAIR MINERAL ANALYSIS OVERVIEW
Hair tissue mineral analysis or HTMA is a soft tissue mineral biopsy that uses hair as the sampling tissue. A biopsy is an analysis of a body tissue. Hair is considered a soft tissue, and hence hair mineral analysis is a soft tissue biopsy.
The test measures the levels of 20 or more minerals in the hair with an accuracy of plus or minus about 3%. This is about the same level of accuracy as most blood tests, or a little better. For the best accuracy, especially of the water-soluble elements, the hair sample must not be washed at the hair testing laboratory. The preparation of the hair sample at the laboratory is a debate that exists among the laboratories that offer hair mineral testing. Most laboratories, unfortunately, wash the hair with powerful detergents and toxic solvents such as acetone or alcohol.
BENEFITS OF MEASURING MINERALS
Minerals are sometimes called the ‘sparkplugs’ of the body. They are needed for millions of enzymes as co-factors, facilitators, inhibitors and as part of the enzymes themselves. As a result, they have a great deal to do with the health of our bodies. By analyzing mineral imbalances in the body, one can learn a lot about the causes and correction of hundreds of common physical and mental health conditions.
A specific class of minerals, the toxic metals, are also extremely important today due to a nutritionally depleted food supply and the presence of environmental toxicity almost everywhere on planet earth. Studying toxic metals is thus very important today to monitor their spread and learn about their many damaging effects upon the bodies of human beings, animals, plants and other organisms.
WHY USE HAIR MINERAL ANALYSIS FOR MEASURING MINERALS
Hair makes an excellent biopsy material for many reasons:
- Sampling is simple and non-invasive.
- Hair is a stable biopsy material that remains viable for years, if needed, and requires no special handling.
- Mineral levels in the hair are about ten times that of blood, making them easy to detect and measure accurately via hair mineral analysis.
- Hair is a fairly rapidly growing tissue.
- The body often throws off toxic substances in the hair, since the hair will be cut off and lost to the body.
- Mineral levels are kept relatively constant in the blood even when pathology is present. Hair mineral values often vary by a factor of ten or much more, making measurement easier and providing a tremendous amount of accurate knowledge about the cells and the soft tissue of our bodies.
- Toxic metals are easier to detect in the hair than in the blood. They are not found in high concentrations in the blood except right after an acute exposure. However, most tend to accumulate in the soft tissues such as the hair, as the body tries to move them to locations where they will do less damage.
- Hair mineral analysis provides a long-term reading, while blood tests and urine tests provide a more instantaneous reading of the body. Both types of readings have value in some circumstances. For example, blood tests can vary from hour to hour, depending upon one’s diet, activities, the time of day and many other factors. This is beneficial in some instances, but is often less helpful when seeking an overall metabolic reading. The mineral content of the blood is also kept fairly constant. These problems are not present with hair mineral analysis. At times, of course, an instantaneous reading such as the blood provides is needed, especially in emergencies, which is an area in which hair testing is not used. however, for nutritional balancing, blood testing simply will not work for the reasons given above.
- Hair is a non-essential, excretory, storage, soft tissue of the body. This causes the body to deposit dangerous toxic metals here more than in most other tissues of the body. It also means that the readings obtained from hair will be different than, for example, a DMPS challenge test, and often more accurate to measure what is in the body.
- Finally, advancements in computer-controlled mass spectroscopy and other technologies have rendered the hair mineral biopsy an extremely cost-effective, accurate and reliable test when it is performed well.
- Macrominerals include calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium and phosphorus. Some labs also read sulfur.
- Trace Minerals include iron, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium, chromium, and some labs measure others.
- Toxic Minerals include lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, aluminum, and nickel. Some labs read others as well. Toxic metals are discussed at length in a separate article entitled Toxic Metals.
- The metabolic type. This is an important fact of body chemistry. It is most helpful to understand dozens of symptoms, and to guide the dietary and supplement recommendations. It also helps to understand many emotional and mental symptoms as well.
- The energy and vitality level. Energy is a common denominator of health. This means that if one’s energy is low, hundreds of symptoms can occur. Restoring one’s biochemical or adaptive energy is a key to healing. This is one of the most basic healing principles. Hair mineral analysis is fabulous to evaluate the reasons for lowered energy and vitality, and guiding exactly how to increase real energy production rather than just stimulate energy, as most healing program do.
- Gland and organ insights. Hair mineral analysis provides indirect and direct indicators for the cellular effect of the thyroid and adrenal hormones, and at times the ovarian hormones as well. It can also be used indirectly to assess the activity of the liver, kidneys, stomach, intestines and perhaps other organs as well.
- Assessing carbohydrate tolerance. Hair mineral analysis can be used to quickly screen for hypoglycemia and, at times, diabetes, although a glucose tolerance test (GTT) should be done if one suspects diabetes. Hair mineral analysis can, however, usually guide a practitioner to correct Type 2 diabetes and some Type 1 diabetes without the need for most drugs. Mineral imbalances and chronic infections are often involved with these conditions.
- Toxic metal assessment. No method of testing can detect all the toxic metals in the body. Hair analysis is sometimes helpful, however, to assess the levels of the major toxic metals in the body. Other mineral levels and patterns on the test provide indicators of the presence of hidden toxic metals.
- Reducing guesswork in recommending diets, nutritional supplementation and detoxification methods.
- Trends or tendencies for over 60 common health conditions. This is a great benefit because it enables a practitioner to predict health problems that may arise in the future, and thus help prevent their occurrence. This is much less costly and more effective than waiting until a disease such as cancer or heart disease occurs.
- Monitoring Progress. Hair mineral analysis can help monitor a person’s healing progress. Symptom changes alone are often not a good way to know if a person is progressing on a healing program. However, the hair test will often detect subtle changes in body chemistry, which is another wonderful benefit of this test.
- Stress patterns. A properly performed hair mineral analysis is superb to assess the stage of stress and some 20 to 30 stress response patterns of the human body. This type of analysis and interpretation is based on the stress theory of disease, first put forth by Hans Selye, MD some 60 years ago and still not well accepted by the medical profession. However, it is most useful to help reverse many types of pathology that do not respond well to other methods of care, either traditional medical care or holistic health care.
- Autonomic nervous system assessment. A properly performed hair mineral test can assess many aspects of the functioning of the autonomic nervous system. This is critical imbalance today in thousands of people and leads to hundreds of symptoms from digestive disturbance and inability to eliminate toxic metals, to sleep disturbances, blood sugar problems and even cancers.
WHAT MINERALS ARE TESTED WITH HAIR MINERAL ANALYSIS?
HTMA provides a measure of the chemical elements deposited in the cells and between the cells of the hair. It provides a reading of the deposition of the mineral in the hair during the 3-4 months during which the hair grew. It does not measure the total body load of any mineral, as some claim.
At least 20 elements are measured, depending on the laboratory. The three classes of these elements are:
WHAT CAN HAIR MINERAL ANALYSIS REVEAL?
Analyzing hair tissue for chemical elements is quite different from testing blood, urine or feces, although all have great value in the right situation. Hair mineral analysis can reveal the following:
HOW ARE THE HAIR MINERAL ANALYSIS READINGS REPORTED?
The mineral values are usually reported in three ways:
1. Milligrams per 100 grams, often written as mg%.
2. Micrograms per gram or ug/g. This gives numbers that are 10 times higher than milligrams per hundred grams or mg%. To convert the reading to mg%, simply move the decimal point one space to the left. For example, if calcium is reported as 1210 ug/g, it is the same as 121 mg%
3. Parts per million or ppm. This is another reporting method. The actual readings are the same as when they are reported in ug/g.
WHAT DOES THE HAIR MINERAL ANALYSIS MEASURE?
The minerals listed above are the most important chemical elements used in the body. They are locked into the hair as it grows.
One can assess:
- Levels of all the 20-40 or more minerals.
- Ratios between the minerals, of which there are four major ones and some 50-100 minor ones. This adds significant complexity and a great deal more information.
- Simple patterns consisting of combinations of the levels and/or ratios.
- Changes over time of all these, and the rate of change in all parameters. This part of interpreting the test requires retests and comparisons between tests over time when a person has followed a nutritional balancing program.
- Physical or biochemical interpretation of all the above.
- The way the body is responding to stress in its environment.
The test is also useful to monitor overall health and changes in health status, no matter what therapy is being employed by the practitioner. The reason for this is that hair mineral analysis is not a therapeutic intervention, but simply a way to monitor the body at a very deep cellular level.
HAIR MINERAL ANALYSIS DOCUMENTATION
Mineral analysis by mass spectroscopy-ICP and related methods is a standard testing procedure used in laboratories and universities throughout the world. Hair mineral testing on human and animal populations has been carried out for over 80 years.
Well over two million analyses have been performed. Several thousand papers and other research have been published on this method of biological monitoring.
Regarding toxic metals, the United States Environmental Protection Agency published a 300-page study in August 1979. They reviewed over 400 journal articles about hair mineral testing. The authors concluded that hair is a “meaningful and representative tissue for biological monitoring for most of the toxic metals”.
PREPARING THE HAIR FOR TESTING
Accurate results depend on cutting hair samples correctly. Here are basic rules for sampling the hair.
1. Cut the sample from anywhere on the head. The nape of the neck is excellent but other areas are fine as well. Hair can be cut from other parts of the body, although these are not as accurate in most cases.
2. Cut the hair as close to the scalp as possible for the most recent and therefore the most accurate readings.
3. Then measure about one inch or two centimeters from where it was cut on the head. Cut off the rest of the long hair and throw it away. Using even shorter hair is excellent. The only problem is with long hair.
4. The best way is usually to cut several little samples and combine them until the paper scale tips or until you have filled a small spoon or have 125 mg of hair. (This is not a lot of hair.)
5. Hair that has been tinted, dyed, highlighted, bleached or permanent-treated may be used. If it has been bleached or permed, please wash the hair several times after the hair treatments before cutting the sample to remove the chemicals and allow the hair to grow out a little.
6.Thinning shears or even a razor may be used if the hair is short. It must be an electric razor, as we do not want the hair mixed with shaving cream or soap. If thinning shears are used on long hair, it may be hard to tell which end was cut.
7. Use a clean paper (not plastic) envelope to collect the hair. Plastic is okay, but the hair tends to stick to it and is harder to remove easily.
8. The sample must be sent to a licensed clinical laboratory for analysis. The best labs are Analytical Research Labs in Phoenix, Arizona (my first choice) or Trace Elements, Inc. (a very poor second choice because they read more minerals, but results may not be as accurate and worse, their corrective programs are terrible).
Do not use a lab that washes the hair, which includes all the other laboratories in the world, as far as I know. These labs may be okay to measure toxic metals. However, they are not good at all to get accurate readings of sodium and potassium, which is required for nutritional balancing science.
SUMMARY OF HAIR MINERAL ANALYSIS
Hair tissue mineral analysis has been available for about the past 80 years or so. It is widely used in biological monitoring of animal species throughout the world and is being used more and more for human metabolic assessment as well. When understood properly, it offers great potential to improve human and animal health at the deepest levels. It can also be used preventively and for prediction of illness.
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We hope you enjoyed reading about the benefits of Hair Mineral Analysis