Hair tests can reveal a lot about your health. They measure key minerals, metals and toxins that can lead to a range of conditions such as depression, fatigue, and hypertension amongst others.
In my experience there are many reasons why our bodies don’t always work the way we want them to, and many ways to find out what has gone wrong. There are lots of different types of test but we need to narrow in on what your body is complaining about most, what are your primary complaints that we need to initially direct our focus and then what is the best way to uncover what is the underlying cause.
Some will exercise more when they want to lose weight and they can go to an “expert” that will support and advise on how best to do that. Maybe both the client and the “expert” are believers in the power of exercise that might be from prior experience of success or it might be that is the level of their understanding of the problem whether the person is an expert or not.
However after many years and experience with hundreds of clients I have learned to question each person as to what their symptoms and problems are, what they have tried before, what works what doesn’t, what are the related issues that have brought about this particular issue to be seen as their primary complaint.
Taking the example of exercise for weight loss – if you have low stress hormones then choosing high intensity exercise is unlikely to be a good long term strategy. If your hormones are low, your capacity to adapt is low and after a few days or weeks your body will start to complain likely with new symptoms. For example, disrupted sleep and the inability to wake up in time for your early morning personal training sessions.
In other cases because you don’t believe your alcohol is that big an issue you keep the nightly glass of wine or two in your diet whilst adding the exercise unaware poor blood sugar control, lack of B vitamins for detoxification or breakdown of alcohol as well as inflammation in your gut caused by bacteria or fungal imbalance are fighting against your calories in, calories out, burn it all off strategy.
Again the workouts continue but its probably not even two steps forward and one back. This situation adds up to more stress, stress is about balancing and managing your resources.
Exercising if your body is to adapt has to be stressful but one of those resources, nutrient resources used up during stress are B vitamins. Your water soluble B vitamins are not made or stored in the body so have to come from diet and/or supplementation.
In this example if we were aware of the other stressors on the body making alcohol more a challenge then whilst adding exercise we also support your bodies ability to cope and adapt by adding B vitamin supplements or by eating more fish, beef liver, chicken, eggs, dairy, beans, oats as well nuts and seeds.
By asking the right questions and then testing as opposed to guessing what you have going on we can better plan what to prioritise. We can agree together whether to start personalising your diet or developing an exercise program or investigate gut function and develop a gut repair supplement program. Going on a fast when your adrenal gland, stress hormones are low isn’t always a successful approach. Starting a heavy metal detoxification program when you don’t have daily bowel movements, don’t sweat very well, don’t exercise or at least be active are also likely to bring about less results or even make you worse.
I’m not a big fan of running a test to just look at a specific factor in isolation, but prefer to run lab tests that have more of a whole body, multiple system view. If your run a stool test looking for an explanation for your symptoms of indigestion and you’ve noticed that a big juicy sits in your stomach forever you may or may not find a bacterial infection such as H.Pylori. In fact you might find levels of that bacteria but they might not be elevated enough to explain the symptoms.
However if you run a stool test that highlights the bugs; bacteria, parasites, fungi, viruses, and even worms you also want to see the effect on your digestive capacity, is it diminished. Also is there inflammation, are the bugs overgrown and causing damage. Is the presence of these bugs sucking up your resources to repair the gut when you want your resources, dietary nutrients, to be repairing aching thighs from those nasty lunges?
Therefore the right test or tests are so vital to the approach for the right person at the right person. After spending years learning how the body works and I am still doing this now, learning how tests work and what they can show helps me from not just giving a client what they want and what they want to hear and certainly not to just keep giving them what the have always done or obviously you will always get the same lack of results or become more unhealthy and develop more and more severe symptoms.
Hair tests – spread the net wide
It’s so easy to see someone overweight and they say they want to lose weight so the advice is exercise and/or to restrict their diet. Digging deeper with a lab test can show so much more and finally change the story and help formulate a plan to reverse the trend. The first lab tests I got into were blood tests for thyroid function. However, I soon realised I needed to look wider at overall function of the body as a whole and not try to be an alternative to a medical doctor that instead offered, exercise, nutrition and lifestyle advice.
So, I started adding genetics, hormones, stool and urine tests. However a test I still love using but not that many people use it as its not got a sexy, modern look to it is the hair tissue mineral analysis. The hair is just a teaspoon of hair, so not loss of blood, assuming sharp scissors shouldn’t be painful however it is a fantastically detailed and to be fair complicated lab test that is a screen for pretty much whole body function. Looking wider before going narrow can pay dividends to help link different aspects of function together and be clearer on further work that might need to be done or areas to test.
A hair test measures the macro and trace minerals or electrolytes (calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, copper, zinc, selenium, iron etc) and heavy metals (mercury, lead, aluminium, arsenic etc) excreted in your hair. Getting the mineral system back into balance which improves mitochondrial (the wee energy houses in every cell) function, thyroid health, adrenal function, blood sugar regulation, balances the nervous system, improves mood, supports digestion also allows the body to naturally detox chemicals and heavy metals from the body in a way that is both gentle and safe.
There are 38 minerals in hair tissue that can be measured. Hair is a rapidly-growing tissue that provides a unique, biopsy type of reading of metabolic activity. What you see on a hair test depending how fast your hair grows is representative for how your body has been functioning roughly over the last 12 weeks or so. The test is performed by burning samples of hair strands at a high temperature in a mass spectrometer. This technique has been used in laboratories for about 80 years.
Hair tissue mineral analysis is supported by an impressive body of literature in a variety of respected national and international scientific publications. There are over 200 studies on the use of hair tissue mineral analysis.
What can a hair test find?
The minerals involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates include manganese, zinc, chromium and vanadium. Ratios of sodium to potassium and calcium to magnesium also provide information about glucose tolerance. Toxic metals interfere with glucose metabolism. Inefficient carbohydrate metabolism drastically reduces energy production, leading to many serious health conditions.
If you are consuming more plants in your diet that may not always be the best idea based on how you function and for one aspect your mineral balance, looking at that sugar or carb tolerance ratio and the level of calcium and magnesium can help show you what you need to change and go part of the way to explain poor mood, low energy, sugar cravings, disrupted sleep and weight gain. Digestive enzymes might be required as well as magnesium and in some cases a change in diet with a shift away if not grains and processed carbs possibly less veg and relatively more animal fats and proteins. This is a good reason to show that picking a diet that isn’t based on the science and current function of your body is unlikely to succeed long term or even short term.
Detecting Toxic Metals
Hair mineral analysis also detect chronic toxic metal poisoning in the body that causes heart disease, cancer, diabetes, fatigue, depression, anxiety, infections and many other conditions. Metals that are deeply buried may require a year or more before they are revealed on repeated mineral analyses.
Assessing Organ and Gland Activity
Mineral levels and ratios reflect the activity of thyroid and adrenal glands. By calculating these ratios on a tissue mineral test, organ and glandular activity can be assessed. Low thyroid and over or even under active adrenal glands can impact energy, immune function, mood and weight gain.
Measuring The Energy Level
Hair analysis helps in assessing low energy efficiency that breaks down many body systems and an improved cellular energy production for resolving many symptoms and conditions. When your ability to generate energy is poor you typically experience over eating, sugar cravings or an increased need for stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine and alcohol – although it has a stimulating but overall depressive effect.
Identifying Disease Trends
Through proper interpretation of hair tissue mineral analysis, over thirty disease trends can be identified which can reveal tendencies long before the results comes out in x-rays and blood tests.
Reducing the guesswork in Nutritional Therapy
The precision nature of hair mineral analysis offers a method of reducing the guesswork in recommending diets and supplement dosages. For instance, very low hair calcium and magnesium levels indicate acute stress and inflammation in which the body excretes these minerals as part of the fight-or-flight response. In this stage of stress, one needs more calcium, magnesium, copper, zinc, choline, inositol and vitamin A.
Magnesium is a really important mineral involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions within the body and very commonly with its high use we are deficient. Over 80% of the US population is deficient. You also need adequate magnesium for using vitamin D in the body which at this point in world history immunity is a key subject for many clients to be working on. However you can be taking magnesium but not enough and not enough in the right form, there are 7 types we can benefit from. Stress also sucks up magnesium in spades so again right now its hard to keep up with the magnesium we need. A hair test can identify the need magnesium and be used to track progress in re-balancing and at the same time keep check on magnesium’s relationship with other important minerals eg calcium, sodium. There is no point in trying to reverse one deficiency and in turn create another or for that matter an excess.
Oestrogen levels are a key aspect we look at through hormone testing and investigating stress, inflammation and detoxification. In many cases oestrogen’s relationship with copper, a mineral assessed on a hair test, is the crucial factor required to unlock detoxification challenges. In addition some people really struggle to detox when their lithium levels are not balanced and this can be evaluated from a hair test. So we can analyse different systems within the body and a variety of inter-related factors by knowing what tests to use together especially when unravelling more complex cases.
Tissue mineral analysis is a powerful tool to identify and correct biochemical causes of mental and behavioural conditions. Minerals control neurotransmitters and other neuro-active chemicals. All the toxic metals are neurotoxic. Conditions that often respond include depression, anxiety, epilepsy, phobias, insomnia, fatigue, mood swings, attention-deficit disorder and learning disorders.
Replacing less-preferred minerals
When mineral deficiencies occur, toxic metals replace the missing vital minerals in enzyme binding sites. This allows the body to survive in the face of nutrient deficiencies. Nutritional balancing science involves reversing this process, replacing the toxic metals with the preferred vital minerals.
Hair tests versus blood tests
Blood tests do not provide the same information as a properly performed hair test. Hair analysis measures a different body compartment. Minerals are shifted from the tissues to maintain blood levels. This means that deficiencies or excesses often show up earlier in the hair than the blood.
Toxic metals rarely remain in the blood for long, but often deposit in the hair where they can be measured. Blood levels of minerals vary very little, while hair values may vary 10-fold, providing information not available from the blood. Blood tests give an instantaneous reading while hair analyses give a long-term reading unaffected by different factors.
By correcting tissue mineral levels and ratios with proper diet, supplementary nutrients and lifestyle modifications, many physical and behavioural health conditions, including those of long standing, will improve.
Thirty to 40 days following an acute exposure, elevated serum levels of lead may be undetectable. This is due to the body removing the lead from the serum as a protective measure and depositing the metal into such tissues as the liver, bones, teeth and hair.
Calcium loss from the body can become so advanced that severe osteoporosis can develop without any appreciable changes noted in the calcium levels in a blood test.
Symptoms of iron deficiency can be present long before low iron levels can be detected in the serum.
Why test for minerals?
If you want to know whether your multivitamin and mineral tablet is doing you any good a hair test is a great way to look at all the relationships and their levels to help answer that question, it may be helping and may actually be further supporting an imbalance. Minerals are essential in countless metabolic functions in all phases of the life process.
- Zinc is involved in the production, storage and secretion of insulin and is necessary for growth hormones.
- Magnesium is required for normal muscular function, especially the heart. A deficiency has been associated with an increased incidence of heart attacks, anxiety and nervousness.
- Potassium is critical for normal nutrient transport into the cell. A deficiency can result in muscular weakness, depression and lethargy.
- Excess sodium is associated with hypertension, but adequate amounts are required for normal health.
In the words of the late author and noted researcher, Dr. Henry Schroeder, trace elements (minerals) are “…more important factors in human nutrition than vitamins. The body can manufacture many vitamins, but it cannot produce necessary trace minerals or get rid of many possible excesses.”
What can cause a mineral imbalance?
There are many factors to take into consideration, such as:
Diet – Improper diet through high intake of refined and processed foods, alcohol and rancid processed fat diets can all lead to a chemical imbalance. Even the nutrient content of a “healthy” diet can be inadequate, depending upon the soil in which the food was grown or the method in which it was prepared.
Stress – Physical or emotional stress can deplete the body of many nutrients while also reducing the capability to absorb and utilise many nutrients.
Medications – Both prescription and over-the-counter medications can deplete the body stores of nutrient minerals and/or increase the levels of toxic metals. These medications include diuretics, antacids, aspirin and oral contraceptives.
Pollution – From adolescence through adulthood the average person is continually exposed to a variety of toxic metal sources such as cigarette smoke (cadmium), hair dyes (lead), hydrogenated oils (nickel), anti-perspirants (aluminium), dental amalgams (mercury and cadmium), copper and aluminium cookware and lead-based cosmetics. These are just a few of the hundreds of sources which can contribute to nutrient imbalances and adverse metabolic effects.
Nutritional Supplements – Taking incorrect supplements or improper amounts of supplements can produce many vitamin and mineral excesses and/or deficiencies, contributing to an overall biochemical imbalance.
Inherited Patterns – A predisposition toward certain mineral imbalances, deficiencies and excesses can be inherited from parents.