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Hair & Blood Tests
Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of any medical test is critical.
“All the tools, techniques and technology in the world are nothing without the head, heart and hands to use them wisely, kindly and mindfully.”
There are many medical tests available these days. While medicine is figuring out more ways they think people are “broken”, are people generally getting better (or worse)? Are fancier, more invasive, more costly, and/or more esoteric tests really necessary?
Unfortunately, many practitioners insist on utilizing tests that can only show symptoms and are entirely incapable of showing root cause(s). Examples include blood tests for anemia or cholesterol…if these blood tests are out of range (low red blood cells or high cholesterol, for example), they are merely showing a symptom of something else, a deeper cause that has to be uncovered. Why are the red blood cells low? Why is the cholesterol high? Something caused that issue, and that is the difference between tests that show symptoms versus tests that show causes. Trying to “force” out-of-range medical tests into the “normal” range often results in unintended consequences, often called side effects.
All of us need proper nutrition for health. All of us need to avoid or minimize toxicities for health. These can and should be tested and addressed, as they are the true root causes behind most human disease! Through the proper use and interpretation of hair mineral analysis and nutrition-related blood testing, we can get to the bottom of these true root causes of many people’s health issues.
Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis (HTMA), also referred to as hair mineral analysis, is the process of scientifically analyzing hair for its content of various nutritional (good) and toxic (bad) minerals. Head hair – taken from the back of the head and/or upper neck – provides the most accurate and best researched samples for testing. In certain situations, axillary (armpit) or pubic hair can be used, however, this is inferior for several reasons (contact our office beforehand if you ever felt you needed to use any location other than the head for your hair sample). The hair sample is derived from the 1.5 inches (~4 cm) of hair closest to the skin (not the ends). It is then prepared in a licensed clinical laboratory through a series of chemical and high temperature digestive procedures. ICP-Spectrometry testing is then performed to achieve the most accurate and precise results.
For those who are familiar with hair mineral analysis testing already, we use Trace Elements Inc. (TEI) exclusively as our hair testing laboratory. This is for two main reasons. They do not “wash” the hair with certain solvent chemicals that negatively affect the mineral levels in the hair sample, primarily sodium and potassium. They test more minerals than Analytical Research Labs (ARL). Some useful minerals not tested by ARL that are tested by TEI include boron, uranium, and sulfur.
Hair mineral analysis results are provided to our clients electronically (password- protected PDF), along with my treatment recommendations. In addition to the interpretation of the hair mineral analysis that TEI provides, I also include my own general interpretation of the analysis in the online client-access-only folder.
One weakness of hair mineral analysis results is that the hair sample itself can be externally contaminated with minerals, similarly to how blood tests can be greatly impacted by mild dehydration. A sampling of hair contamination possibilities includes:
Because it is the results of the hair mineral analysis that determine the interpretation and treatment, I consider it of utmost importance to recognize contamination and modify treatment accordingly. Many hair mineral analysis practitioners assume the test is always correct (many doctors do this with blood tests as well) and do not regularly look for contamination. This results in them incorrectly addressing their clients true needs based on mineral levels.
I have always strived to recognize these external effects and figure out how to treat a person properly even when the test results are not accurate.
Put simply, it is in the proper interpretation of any medical test – and the actions taken based on that interpretation – that determines whether a test is useful or not. Poor interpretation can make the best test (of any type) worthless and could make treatments based on that poor interpretation harmful. I fully acknowledge that hair mineral analysis has the most complex interpretation of the widely used nutritional test, and through proper interpretation it can give the greatest results for the lowest investment.
I came to this interpretation approach for hair mineral analysis through many avenues, including
My interpretation approach and its results led many practitioners request that I teach seminars on hair mineral analysis, which I began offering in 2017.
The key to using any tool is to know what jobs it is best suitable for, and to know what jobs it should not be used for.
Hair mineral analysis is amazing for many assessing many minerals. Hair mineral analysis is also limited to minerals and does not measure any vitamins. As an example Vitamin A toxicity can only practically be assessed with blood tests.
There are several extremly important minerals that hair mineral analysis should definitely not be used for. These minerals are iron, copper, and zinc. One of the most obvious examples of the uselessness of hair mineral analysis in one of these minerals is the dogmatic obsession of the general hair mineral analysis world with “hidden copper toxicity”. What that “hidden” term means is that they are assuming it is possibly there, but they can’t see it! If a test can’t show something, then a different test should be used that actually can see it, correct? Blood tests show copper toxicity quite obviously when one knows what to look for.
The main reason that these minerals need to be tested in the blood is because each of them have multiple binding proteins that cause an improper representation on hair mineral analysis. Quite simply, I found that I get the best results with clients when combining blood tests for Vitamin A, iron, copper, and zinc, with the hair mineral analysis for all the other minerals.