What your hair says about your body
HTMA (hair tissue mineral analysis) can give us SO MUCH JUICY INFORMATION on your health and wellness status! It's also noninvasive and easy to do, even on kids, where blood tests are invasive. It's a great screening tool for how well your nervous system and metabolism are working, if there is heavy metal toxicity, and how your thyroid & adrenal glands are functioning at the cellular level. It can also tell us if there is liver or kidney stress and even whether there is carbohydrate sensitivities.
As someone who has worked with individuals with a history of trauma, depression, obesity, anxiety, insomnia, chronic pain, exhaustion, thyroid issues that don't respond to medication, and other "difficult" cases, HTMA gives me so much information that blood tests just can't. It gives me a peek into the last 3-ish months of your health since it is over time (versus blood tests which are a snapshot in time).
Many times, for example, I see people who have ALLLLLLL the hypothyroid symptoms but their blood levels (even on advanced functional medicine tests) are totally normal, and even ideal. However, when we get an HTMA, we see the dysfunction at the cellular level and can balance the minerals so the hypothyroid symptoms ultimately disappear because the body is in balance!
Other times, we can see someone's body is laden with a heavy toxic metal load and we can customize the detox regimen based on metabolism and the body's ability to clear the toxins. Not everyone is ready to detox at a deep level! We have to balance the basic minerals - calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium - first, so the body can handle the detox without breaking or shutting down.
LIMITATIONS of HTMA
While HTMA is a tremendously useful resource, it has some downfalls (which is why I generally combine it with labs, and occasionally, other functional medicine testing). In general, HTMA is most useful to see patterns of healing as well as ratios. The isolated mineral value doesn't necessarily correlate with how it's being used in the body, however, in ratio to other minerals, we can get a good picture. For example, high magnesium on HTMA generally indicates loss of magnesium, not that it's high. And in relationship to sodium, we get the adrenal ratio. With regard to calcium, though, it's important to note that very high levels of calcium on HTMA is significant and causes a very slow metabolism which is becoming increasingly prevalent in our society (especially in light of excessive vitamin D supplements and low intake of other important nutrients like vitamin A and vitamin K).
Some experts disagree on the importance of certain elements and patterns. While some experts believe the Ca/Mg (calcium to magnesium) ratio is always about blood sugar/cardiovascular health, others believe it can signify spiritual issues when it gets above a certain point. This is why it is SO (I cannot stress this enough) important to have someone skilled at reading HTMA as well as intuitive and knowledgeable about medicine to help interpret your results and guide you.
When you work with me, I use ALLLLLLL the skills to help you: my knowledge of clinical medicine as a PA, your history (including trauma), your symptoms as they correlate, and my keen sense of intuition. This is also why I will NOT offer standalone hair tests without consultation. You can find those on the web. I've seen people order those and end up more confused than when they started.
A few HTMA Examples
HTMA (hair tissue mineral analysis)
● If your hair is bleached, highlighted, or dyed, it needs to be washed 5-6 times prior to taking sample.
● If you have well water or a water softener, you must wash your hair 2-3 times with distilled water prior to taking sample. It is best to use a purifying shampoo, especially if you have well water. One good example is Neutrogena Anti-Residue Clarifying Shampoo.
● No anti-dandruff shampoos for 2-3 washes prior to collection. These contain selenium or zinc and may cause artificial elevations in these minerals. Common brands to avoid are Selsun Blue and Head & Shoulders.
● Wash hair well prior to collection if it has been recently exposed to Epsom salt.
● Make sure hair is clean and dry, washed 6-24 hours prior to collection. After washing, let it air-dry without any products in it. No exercise or sweating prior to hair collection after the hair is washed.
If you are coming to the office, I can perform the test for you. Distance clients or those unable to complete the steps listed above prior to our visit, I will give you the kit to complete. Don’t worry; it’s easy!
Here are good videos showing how to do hair sample collection (please note, I cut from about 4-6 different places on longer/thicker hair, usually 4-8 places on thinner hair, and up to 15 places on very short hair so there is no discernible patchiness left in the hair).
Important: you only want the 1-1.5 inches of hair that is closest to the scalp. It should fit horizontally across the rectangular box on the scale.
How it should look
(keep it inside the rectangular box)