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The Importance of Tissue Mineral Analysis Using Hair

The analytical assessment of minerals using hair tissue samples has been an effective diagnostic tool for over 30 years. We know that minerals are very important for biological functions of the human body. With the devitalization of our food and the manner in which our foods are grown (pesticides, chemical fertilizers etc), mineral deficiency has become a growing problem. Tissue mineral analysis (TMA) is a test that measures the mineral content in hair. A hair sample is taken and sent to a processing lab that through extensive laboratory procedures assessments are determined and sent back in a detailed report of mineral residues present. Thirty six mineral are tested. They are broken down by essential nutrient minerals, toxic minerals and additional non-essential minerals that have not yet been established as nutritive or toxic.

How did the use of hair become a diagnostic tool? Human hair has been accepted as an effective tissue for the monitoring of heavy metal toxicity by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency since the early 1980’s. It is ideal for the following criteria:

  • Hair accumulates all the important trace elements.
  • It is commonly available tissue
  • It is widespread geographically.
  • Hair is easily collected, stored, and transported.
  • Samples can be resampled.
  • It is present in polluted and non polluted areas.
  • The content of the hair correlates with the environmental gradients of metals.
  • The use of hair has advantages over other tissues.

When comparing the mineral status with the use of hair analysis in relationship to blood analysis and urinalysis ; hair shows the past metabolic activity, the blood shows the current level that are appearing in the blood and urine show what is being excreted or already metabolized. All are very effective in a total assessment of a persons state of health.

Why test for minerals and what can cause a mineral imbalance? According to the late Dr. Henry Schroeder “trace elements 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 possible excess.” He further states that “minerals are the basic spark plug in the chemistry of life, on which the exchanges of energy in the combustion of food and the building of tissues depend.” Many disease conditions can be attributed to mineral deficiency for example zinc is necessary for production of growth hormone, proper insulin levels and certain immune functions. Magnesium is necessary for proper muscle functions especially the heart. Potassium is needed for nutrient transport of nutrients into the cells.

There are many factors that can contribute to mineral deficiency or excess.

The following have been established:

  • Diet- the standard American diet is good example. Overly refined, containing chemical additives etc.
  • Stress- physical and emotional can deplete nutrients while reduce capacity to absorb and utilize nutrients.
  • Medications- both prescription and over the counter medicines can deplete stored mineral and can increase toxic metals for example, diuretics, antacids and aspirin.
  • Pollution- the numerous toxins found in water and air and our environment.
  • Nutritional supplements- taking the incorrect type of supplements or improper amounts can produce mineral excesses or other biochemical imbalances.
  • Inherited patterns-they can be inherited form parents.

As in nature there is balance so it is with the nutrients in our bodies. We call these relationships synergistic or antagonistic. Synergism means that the nutrients work together in cooperation. Antagonistic relationships exist when nutrients work against each other. TMA reveals when this relationship is present. A few examples of this are:

  • Zinc can reduce the beneficial effects of vitamin D
  • Calcium can reduce beneficial effects of vitamin A
  • Excessive vitamins can affect mineral balance.
    • Vitamin C can reduce effects of copper.
    • Vitamin D can cause deficiency of magnesium.
    • Too much iron can contribute to symptoms as arthritis, high blood pressure, and headaches.
    • Frontal headaches are associated with too much copper.
    • Taking too much calcium alone can contribute to osteoporosis, weight gain and fatigue.
    • Toxic metals can contribute to learning and behavioral problems in children.

Another aspect of the role of testing minerals in our bodies is understanding our metabolic type. Biochemical individuality is what separates us from each other like a set of fingerprints. As humans we all operate basically the same but we all have our own program. TMA establishes and separates our metabolic type into two categories; the fast metabolizer and the slow metabolizer. The neurological and endocrine systems largely govern cellular metabolism and nutritional status so it is important to know your type. The fast metabolizer will have accelerated cellular activity and be governed more by overworked thyroid and adrenal function. Basically a type A personality. The slow metabolizer exhibit a slowed down metabolic activity. The thyroid and adrenals under produce their hormones and accumulations of sedative minerals can contribute to certain symptoms like low blood pressure, dizziness, reduced circulation and feeling of coldness. Approximately 80 percent of the American population is of the slow type.

Vitamin and minerals can also be classified according to their stimulating or sedating effects upon the neuro-endocrine system. Stimulating nutrients include vitamins A, B’s, vitamin E, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, iron, manganese, and selenium. Sedative minerals include vitamin B2 and B12, vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, and chromium. There are established health conditions attributed to the effects of each classification of sedative or stimulatory mineral patterns. These effects correlate with your metabolic type.

Once an assessment has been made the report makes recommendations with changes in diet and nutritional supplements to help to correct imbalances in the body. The nutritional program is intended to be followed for a period of 60-90 days and then another sample retested to see if the presenting conditions have improved. Hair analysis is a very effective tool when designing a nutritional supplement program. Ask your health care professional when considering this testing.

For more information read Trace Elements and Other Essential Nutrients-Clinical Applications of Tissue Mineral Analysis by Dr. David Watts.

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