When I first tried hair tissue mineral analysis (HTMA) over two years ago, I have to admit I was a huge skeptic. While I’m no stranger to losing hair from coloring, breakage, and hair loss in my early twenties due to poor nutrition, purposely cutting off a piece of my hair at the root to send in for testing was a slightly different story. I was terrified even though it was only about one tablespoon of hair from the root, but I did it anyways. Now I’m here to tell you about it.
I tried out hair analysis testing for almost nine months before I was blown away by what I learned about the science of HTMA, my body, and the results I saw. There were certain health issues I’d seen 70-80% improvement with nutrition alone, but by using hair analysis to provide a glimpse of what was going on inside my body, I could actually see the mineral deficiencies and imbalances I needed to address. No more guessing or assuming! Once I knew what my deficiencies and imbalances were, I was able to target them with a specific supplement plan and see another 10-15% improvement pretty quickly. By this point I knew I had to study hair analysis myself and use it with my own clients.
Hair analysis is an absolute game changer for optimizing your nutrition and getting (and keeping) yourself out of nutritional debt. However, because supplements are a main part of the protocol (real-food supplements whenever possible), I do see it as “icing on the cake” to an already stellar, nutrient-dense diet.
Because, let’s face it, you can’t supplement yourself out of poor eating habits.
What is hair analysis?
Hair analysis provides a unique snapshot into your body, showing you a stress and energy profile. A hair analysis can help indicate where you are on the energy continuum while assessing your mineral status. It can also detect imbalances sooner than blood tests identify them and show you early trends toward health problems.
I see hair analysis as a prevention tool of the future, examining and correcting mineral levels as an early line of defense against disease. Here are just a few studies that show correlations between certain hair minerals levels and disease:
- Hair Analysis and Cancer:
A 2014 study looking at hair mineral levels in 399 polish women revealed lower concentrations of selenium, zinc, copper, germanium and boron, iron, and magnesium along with an increased level of aluminum, potassium, and molybdenum in all of the cancer patient groups (digestive tract cancers, hormone-dependent cancers, and high glycolysis cancer) in the study when compared to the healthy control group. Based on these findings and others, the researchers concluded “that these trace elements in hair may be regarded as tumor biomarkers and prognostic factors for various cancer groups. Moreover, our results suggest that analysis of trace element levels should be taken into consideration to optimize prevention and may be helpful to individualize therapies of various cancers in women on the basis of the analysis of hair trace elements. All in all, our results allow for the conclusion that hair element analysis is useful in screening tests for the biomarkers of various cancer diseases in female populations.”
- Hair Analysis and Breast Cancer:
This study examining hair mineral levels of 40 newly diagnosed cancer patients prior to anti-cancer chemotherapy found that “Breast cancer patients had low calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, manganese, and zinc, whereas they had high arsenic, sodium, and potassium compared with the normal control.”
- Hair Analysis and Metabolic Syndrome or Syndrome X:
According to the Mayo clinic, Metabolic Syndrome is “a cluster of conditions that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.” This study of 343 individuals showed that “the optimal calcium and magnesium concentrations in hair tissue may reflect decreased risk of metabolic syndrome, whereas high mercury concentration in hair tissue may indicate increased risk of metabolic syndrome.“
How do mineral imbalances occur?
- Diet – Processed food, fad diets, eating too little, and depleted soil can all contribute to mineral imbalances.
- Stress – Stress causes your body to not only waste certain minerals, but also have difficulty absorbing and assimilating nutrients from your food.
- Medications – Medications can deplete your body of certain minerals.
- Nutritional supplements – Did you know that taking one mineral supplement can have a cascading effect on other minerals? Hair analysis can help to bring your mineral levels back in balance after abusing nutritional supplements.
- Environment/pollution – Throughout your lifespan, you’re exposed to countless toxins, particularly toxic metals like cadmium (cigarette smoke), lead (hair dyes, cosmetics), nickel (hydrogenated oils), aluminum (antiperspirants, cookware), mercury (amalgam fillings), and copper (cookware).
- Inherited imbalances – Mineral deficiencies and/or excesses can be inherited from your parents.
10 Things Hair Analysis Can Teach You
Enough of the back story of hair analysis testing! Today I want to share with you 10 of the most important things that hair analysis can teach you:
1) Hair analysis can tell you if your current supplement plan is screwing you up (especially regarding calcium and vitamin D)
About five years ago, I was on the vitamin D bandwagon just like everyone else. I had low serum vitamin D levels and naturally I took vitamin D supplements to bring it back up in the normal range, as this is what I had learned in nutrition school.
Little did I know at the time, I actually have a slow metabolic type (like 75-85% of the population) and taking vitamin D supplements can have disastrous results for people like me. This is because vitamin D increases calcium absorption from the gut, which raises calcium levels while lowering potassium levels, and thus increases the calcium/potassium ratio—slowing your thyroid further! This will really ring true to anyone who’s noticed more stress, exhaustion, and/or cold hands and feet sometime after starting vitamin D supplementation. Read more about how Vitamin D supplements can screw up your mineral balance and how hair analysis can give you the data to fix it here.
2) Hair analysis can tell you what your metabolic type is
Do you know if you are a fast oxidizer (fast metabolic type) or a slow oxidizer (slow metabolic type)?Do you know what you can do to balance your metabolic type with food and high quality supplements? Those with a fast metabolic type tend to have high energy patterns and often have low calcium and magnesium levels. On the other hand, those with a slow metabolic type (75-85% of the population) have a low energy pattern that puts them at high risk for depression and a sluggish thyroid. Knowing your metabolic type can help point out where your body is currently at, and what nutrients can be therapeutic to pushing your body in a better direction.
3) Hair analysis can tell you if you have thyroid or adrenal insufficiency
By assessing the ratio of your calcium to potassium levels, you can see how well your thyroid hormones are doing their job. This allows you to make supplemental adjustments to bring the ratio into better balance, supporting healthy thyroid function. If your thyroid hormones haven’t been doing their job well for some time, you may know about it by experiencing unfavorable symptoms like: constipation, cold sensitivity, low energy, depression, and the list goes on.
Examining your sodium to magnesium ratio can show you how much adrenal stress you are experiencing so you can provide appropriate nutritional support.
4) Hair analysis can show you what supplements you should actually take to help balance your own minerals, so you can stop taking stuff you don’t really need
One of the things I love about hair analysis is that you get a custom supplement plan for you, and nobody else. This means you’re spending money on supplements that your hair indicates you need and not taking a bunch of extra stuff that could cause further imbalances, or just taking the trendiest new supplements. By only taking supplements you truly need, you can see results faster and save money in the long run.
5) Hair analysis tests for 36 elements and provides you with a comprehensive report of findings
Hair analysis tests for the following elements: calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, copper, zinc, phosphorus, iron, manganese, chromium, selenium, boron, cobalt, germanium, molybdenum, sulfur, uranium, arsenic, beryllium, mercury, cadmium, lead, aluminum, barium, bismuth, rubidium, lithium, nickel, platinum, thallium, vanadium, strontium, tin, titanium, tungsten, and zirconium.
The report that accompanies your results tells you all about your metabolic type, information for understanding your mineral levels and your mineral ratios, plus critical details about any toxic metal levels that are present in your hair.
6) Hair analysis can show you how the ingredients in your personal care products are being absorbed by your body
When I first started testing other people’s hair, my boyfriend was naturally my first guinea pig. I immediately noticed his zirconium levels were off the charts. Antiperspirants are often the cause of high zirconium levels because mainstream brands contain aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex. So if you know someone who thinks their skin doesn’t absorb what they put on it, hair analysis can be a reality check. It absolutely does!
7) Hair analysis helps you assess the accumulation of toxic heavy metals like uranium, arsenic, beryllium, mercury, cadmium, lead, and aluminum
Are you a vegetarian who eats a lot of fish and could be taking in higher levels of mercury? Or could your tap water have unhealthy levels of arsenic or lead? Hair analysis can also provide a screening of your home environment by showing you toxins you might have exposure to.
8) Hair analysis reveals if your magnesium supplement is really working by showing you your magnesium level
Magnesium supplementation is all the rage—and for good reason, considering it’s a requirement for healthy muscular function; specifically the heart, but a deficiency is also linked to anxiety, nervousness and heart attack risk. If you want to know if your magnesium supplementation plan is making a difference, hair analysis is the ticket.
9) Hair analysis shows you what your stress profile is
By examining your sodium to potassium ratio, you can identify how much stress is influencing your energy production and your mineral balance. You can learn if your body is in the alarm stage of stress, or if you have more prolonged stress that has pushed you toward the exhaustion stage.
Stress severely impacts your digestion and depletes your body’s magnesium and zinc. By understanding your stress profile, you can provide more nutritional support (such as anti-stress nutrients like sodium and potassium) to help your body cope with stress, while adjusting your diet and lifestyle to better mitigate the stress in your life.
10) Hair analysis can help you understand how your diet and lifestyle are impacting your health, which can help you commit to making real change
In the last six years of working as a Nutritional Therapist, I’ve seen the one thing that really makes the difference between a client who commits and follows through and one who doesn’t stay the course.
What is that, you ask?
The client who gets results is the one who is excited to learn, and wants to understand the why behind what they are doing with their protocol. The understanding and education empowers long-term change and compliance. This is a big component of why I typically only work with clients in programs and courses; it allows me the time to deliver the educational understanding that fuels change and gets results.
How does the hair analysis process work?
Here’s how the hair analysis process works whether regardless of where you live:
- Receive a hair analysis test kit in the mail and complete the intake paperwork (health history + disclaimer)
- Collect your hair sample for the lab and drop it in the mail (ladies – don’t worry, it’s only about 1 teaspoon of new hair growth)
- Get your hair analysis results + your custom mineral balancing recommendations + 30 minute one-on-one consultation to make sure you understand everything in your plan
As you can see, hair analysis is an amazing and widely available tool to use in your arsenal to help you achieve optimal health. I love using it with my clients to help them find their own nutritional “secret sauce” for looking and feeling great!
You can learn more about my current hair analysis packages and learn more about the process here.
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Have you ever tried hair analysis testing or do you have any questions about it? Please share in the comments below!