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. For those who are familiar with hair mineral analysis testing, we use Trace Elements Inc. (TEI) exclusively as our hair testing laboratory. This is for two main reasons: 1) they do not "wash" the hair with certain chemicals that negatively affect the levels of multiple minerals in the hair sample, primarily sodium and potassium, and 2) they test more minerals than Analytical Research Labs. ICP-Spectrometry testing is then performed to achieve the most accurate and precise results.
Hair Analysis Test Results
Hair mineral analysis results are provided to our clients electronically, along with Dr. Smith's treatment recommendations. In addition to the interpretation of the hair mineral analysis that TEI provides, Dr. Smith also includes his own general interpretation of the analysis called the "Master Report of Findings".
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:
- Calcium contamination can come from hard water used in bathing.
- Magnesium contamination can come from magnesium baths (Epsom salts, magnesium chloride flakes).
- Sodium contamination can come from softened water in bathing.
Because it is the results of the hair mineral analysis that determine the interpretation and treatment, Dr. Smith considers it of utmost importance to recognize contamination and modify treatment accordingly. Many hair mineral analysis practitioners do not regularly look for contamination and incorrectly address their clients based on falsely elevated (contaminated) mineral levels. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of any medical test is critical, so that incorrect ASSumptions are not made by the practitioner or client.
Hair Mineral Analysis Interpretation
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 or even harmful. Dr. Smith fully acknowledges that hair mineral analysis has the most complex interpretation of the widely used nutritional tests available, and that this is also how it can give the greatest results for the lowest investment.
Dr. Smith came to his interpretation approach for hair mineral analysis through many avenues, including
- running his own hair tests every 5-6 weeks (normal is 3-6 months),
- continuing education on hair mineral analysis,
- skills in pattern recognition,
- reverse engineering the lab's food and supplement recommendations,
- "trusting but verifying" all theories he came across,
- learning about the activity of each mineral and vitamin on the whole of the body,
- looking to medical research to confirm or deny what he was observing in his clients and himself,
- and always prioritizing his client's health improvements over everything else.
Dr. Smith's interpretation approach and its results led many practitioners (many who were his clients) to request he teach seminars on hair mineral analysis, which he began offering in 2017.
Here's a webinar introduction to what is involved in the analysis of hair minerals: