1) What is hair tissue mineral analysis?
Hair tissue mineral analysis (HTMA), is an analytical test which measures the mineral deposits in the hair, which are influenced by the neuro-endocrine function, nervous system, toxin exposure and stress. The hair is prepared in a licensed clinical laboratory through a series of chemical and high temperature digestive procedures. Testing is then performed using highly sophisticated detection equipment and methods to achieve the most accurate and precise results. A hair tissue mineral analysis can provide pertinent information about your metabolic rate, energy levels, carbohydrate tolerance, stage of stress, immune system and glandular activity. This screening test can also be used to reduce the guesswork involved when recommending nutritional supplements and dietary modifications.
2) Why use the hair and not just a blood sample?
Hair is ideal tissue for sampling and testing because it can be cut easily and painlessly and can be sent to the lab without special handling requirements. Clinical results have shown that a properly obtained sample can give an indication of mineral status and toxic metal accumulation following long term or even acute exposure.
The hair is the one part of the body that is exposed to the internal environment before growing out into the external environment, having locked in the information it received from the blood and lymph it was exposed to. It reveals a unique metabolic world: intracellular activity, which cannot be seen through most other tests. This provides a blueprint of the biochemistry occurring during the period of hair growth and development.
Hair is used as one of the tissues of choice by the Environmental Protection Agency in determining toxic metal exposure.
3) Why test for minerals?
Trace 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 abnormal heart conditions, anxiety and nervousness.
- Potassium is critical for normal nutrient transport into the cell. A deficiency can result in muscular weakness, mild 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."
4) What can cause a mineral imbalance?
Many things can contribute to a mineral imbalance, such as:
- DIET - Improper diet through high intake of refined and processed foods, alcohol and fad diets can all lead to a mineral 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.
- SELF PRESCRIBED 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.
Is Hair Tissue Mineral analysis supported by research?
Hair tissue mineral analysis is supported by an impressive body of literature in a variety of respected national and international scientific publications. Over the past twenty-five years hair mineral testing has been extensive. Each year in the United States alone, federally licensed clinical laboratories perform over 150,000 hair mineral essays for health care professionals interested in an additional screening aid for a comprehensive patient evaluation. This does not take into consideration the thousands of subjects used in numerous continuing research studies conducted by private and government research agencies.