Hair tissue mineral analysis (HTMA) is a tissue level biopsy which can reveal a lot of very important data regarding the activity of the adrenal and thyroid glands. Additionally, HTMA and the study of minerals is highly complex and intriguing, and if used as a long-term lab test, can reveal information not obtained by any other laboratory biopsy.
What Is HTMA?
Hair tissue mineral analysis is a way to monitor the body’s tissue and cellular mineral activity, which in turn reveals information regarding the body’s energy and glandular systems. This includes the “effect” of thyroid and adrenal glandular activity in the tissues. This in many ways is a better biopsy to use to assess adrenal and thyroid activity than other lab tests such as blood or saliva, because HTMA is a 3-month biopsy, and also because blood levels of certain hormones do not always provide accurate data as to dysfunction of a specific gland.
In addition to the identification of mineral activity, HTMA is one of the best biopsies to detect toxic metals such as mercury, lead and aluminum. Not only can HTMA detect the presence of toxic metals, this test can monitor how efficiently your body is able to excrete toxic metals. This is arguably more significant than just observing the presence of a toxic metal. Toxic metal excretion depends heavily upon adrenal and thyroid functioning.
Much of the modern nutritional research of hair mineral analysis comes from the work of Dr. Paul Eck and Lawrence Wilson, MD. I have had the great pleasure to have been trained in HTMA by Dr. Wilson over the course of 4 years.
Adrenal & Thyroid Activity
The adrenal glands produce a variety of hormones in order for the body to function. These include catecholamines such as adrenaline, mineralcorticoids such as aldosterone and glucocorticoids such as cortisol. The thyroid secretes T4 and T3, hormones that have a major regulatory effect upon metabolic processes.
Many clinicians believe that low thyroid function (hypothyroidism) is becoming an epidemic. A very important parallel is that excessive, depleted or exhausted adrenal activity is oftentimes the underlying cause of low thyroid function. At the very least, adrenal function absolutely must be taken into account when thyroid issues are present, and the opposite applies as well.
The 3 mineral ratios on a hair tissue mineral analysis that identify the “effect” of adrenal and thyroid function are:
- Na/K (sodium/potassium): adrenals
- Na/Mg (sodium/magnesium): adrenals
- Ca/K (calcium/potassium): thyroid
The difference in a hair test is that the “effect” of adrenal and thyroid activity is a measurement through mineral activity. This is much different than a “free-fractioned hormone” in the saliva or a “protein-bound” hormone in the blood. Minerals are the “sparkplugs” of biochemical activity, and this includes hormones. Therefore a mineral pattern on a hair test is a much more accurate “predictor” of thyroid and adrenal activity than a blood or saliva test. The saliva test may show you a current hormone level now, but the hair shows you a 3 month trend and a pattern of where the body is headed.
The hair test above shows a very elevated Calcium/Potassium ratio. High levels of Ca/K are reflective of LOW THYROID activity. This person was diagnosed with hypothyroidism 3 months before this test was taken by their physician using blood chemistry. This hair test provides a very accurate confirmation of the trend for hypothyroidism, as well as mineral activity.
Notice also the elevated sodium/potassium levels. This indicates EXCESSIVE ADRENAL effect at the cellular level.
It is well known that excessive amounts of cortisol from the adrenal glands inhibits TSH production from the pituitary, as well as inhibits the conversion from T4 into T3.
Another interesting correlation is the elevated calcium and magnesium levels. Both of these cations tend to elevate when there is alkalosis present. This is due to cations tending to precipitate out of body fluids and into tissues.
Alkalosis is present when there is a loss of hydrogen. On a blood test this was verified with this patient, who had a diminished chloride level as well as an elevated anion gap.
Notice also the low levels of aluminum and mercury. This hair test does not reflect the total body load of these metals, only what has been deposited into the tissues over 3 months. In fact, these low metal levels indicate that this patient is doing a very poor job of eliminating these toxins.
What To Do About These Issues?
These are always the ultimate question with the hair analysis biopsy: what to do? First of all, by knowing a person’s Metabolic Type©, you are able to understand the most essential nutrient requirements. One thing that the hair test CANNOT identify, no matter what the lab says, is a person’s Metabolic Type or their “Oxidation rate”.
The hair mineral biopsy is simply not capable of detecting intracellular oxidation. No way, no how. This is a discussion for another time.
What the hair test CAN do is to help to prioritize a strategy. This person needs digestive support. The low phosphorous level indicates an inadequate breakdown of protein, and many of the low minerals indicate an HCL insufficiency. Some gentle thyroid and adrenal support would be helpful, as would supporting hydration with water, electrolytes and mineral salts.