I am so excited to bring you this guest post today from my fellow Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, Carrie Thienes.
This post today will introduce you to Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis, which is an excellent test to use in helping practitioners like me learn more of the underlying issues going on in our clients health. Hear more about hair analysis from Carrie who has been working with this test and has the expertise to teach further on the subject.
Your Hair Tells a Story
by Carrie Thienes, BS, MA, NTP
Our hair. We dye it, shave it, curl it, and fuss over it—but did you know that your hair tells your metabolic story? A sample of unadulterated hair biopsied from the nape of your neck can tell any experienced interpreter of HTMA (Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis) more than you ever thought possible. Properly prepared at certain laboratories such as Analytical Research Labs and Trace Elements, Inc, a hair sample is an actual tissue sample that reflects your stress physiology. About 1” worth of newly grown hair is a virtual printout of the last 3 months’ metabolic activity and stress physiology.
Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis (hereafter HTMA) is considered the gold standard for detecting heavy metal exposure, and in most conventional Naturopathic or Holistic medical practices, that is the extent of its use. However, the late Dr. Paul Eck (considered the “Father” of Nutritional Balancing Science) and his successor, Dr. Larry Wilson have poured over 50 years of clinical research into Hair Tissue Mineral Patterns and have had astounding results, resulting in a program known as “Nutritional Balancing Science”. Dr. Wilson, an MD who worked as a Nutritional Consultant in private practice for 30 years, now trains and mentors practitioners who offer this science all over the world.
In their years of research, Drs. Eck (who founded Analytical Research Labs) and Wilson discovered a multitude of patterns that appear on a hair test, and their associated symptoms, tendencies, and stress response in the patients they were testing. Through their study of over 100,000 patient hair charts over the years, their method of interpretation can predict (and more importantly, correct) with relative fluency the following:
- A patient’s adrenal status and state of adrenal burnout (based on assessment of the Sodium to Magnesium ratio)
- Thyroid hormone uptake at the cellular level (from examination of the Calcium to Potassium ratio)
- Protein catabolism and protein assimilation (as indicated by the Phosphorus level)
- Cortisol production (by evaluating the Sodium and Potassium levels)
- Carbohydrate tolerance (a function of the Calcium to Magnesium ratios)
- Kidney health, diabetic tendencies, cardiovascular health, and immune status (all reflected by the sodium to potassium ratio).
- Toxic metal exposure, and scores of underlying causes contributing to unexplained mental symptoms such as brain fog, anxiety, anger, and depression.
- Female and Male hormone issues (The Zinc to Copper ratios and levels give us insight here).
- Nervous system health, and whether one is Sympathetic Dominant or not.
- Liver health and overall detoxification pathway health (with some general insights into methylation patterns based on poor elimination of toxic metals).
A properly prepared and interpreted hair test can also tell one’s metabolic type and can help us fine-tune the diet appropriate to them. A fast oxidizer thrives on a high fat, low-carbohydrate diet while a slow oxidizer may not be as ready to fully transition into a high-fat “paleo-type” diet. Addressing the oxidation rate first will allow the client to then move into a more balanced state of oxidation.
A properly prepared hair sample (which involves NOT washing the hair in any kind of chemical solution prior to analyzing the sample) provides critical information in how to properly supplement an individual who is looking to heal their adrenals, for example. Adrenal healing does NOT have “one size fits all” approach as some natural health experts would have you believe. Taking Licorice or Ashwaganda or even simple Pantothenic Acid can be detrimental to an individual whose mineral test shows adrenal burnout. Giving high dosages of Vitamin C, another oft-recommended remedy for “sluggish adrenals” is a very bad idea for someone in Fast Oxidation.
As a Nutritional Therapist, I find that I simply cannot truly target a client’s underlying condition without seeing a properly prepared hair analysis. The method of assessment, along with a thorough health history and often accompanying blood work allows me to get a comprehensive picture of not only what is going on with the client, but the underlying mechanisms that are in need of repair and balancing.
As for heavy metal detoxification, which is the most common use for HTMA in most holistic practices, the best antidote to decreasing the heavy metal burden that Drs. Eck and Wilson found is NOT chelation therapy but rather what is known as “displacement therapy”. Instead of pulling out metals indiscriminately (as chelation therapy does), displacement therapy offers the needed minerals in sufficient dosages to allow the body to displace the toxic mineral at the enzyme binding site with the mineral that is preferred by that enzyme. This process takes a lot more time and patience, but in the end removes toxic metals more deeply and completely than chelation.
The interpretation of a properly prepared HTMA is crucial. One first glance at an HTMA, it’s easy to get caught up in the high or low individual values. Drs. Eck and Wilson learned early on that the overall patterns and ratios between the minerals were much more important than the individual minerals themselves. Therefore, proper HTMA interpretation does not simply rely on “replacement therapy” if a mineral is low.
This may all sound very simplistic compared to what is going around the Natural Health world today. As a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner with over 200 hours of post-certification training to date in all of the latest research on the conditions that plague modern man, I understand why the simple HTMA gets little attention in most circles. Talk of epigenetic variants, the drastic increase of autoimmunity and expensive tests to assess them can leave us forgetting about what lies at the foundation of our health: Minerals!!!
We cannot produce minerals on our own—we must get them from either our diet or the environment. Given the toxic and mineral-depleted and imbalanced world we live in, it’s no wonder we’ve experienced a surge in epigenetic mutation-related disorders and autoimmune conditions! A simple HTMA can uncover SO much information on what mechanisms in the body must be corrected in order for deep healing and correction to occur. In my years of private practice overseeing hundreds of client hair charts from all over the world, I can honestly say that I’ve never seen a hair chart that gave us NO indicators of what was at the heart of the patient’s condition.
You are reading this blog because you believe in the power of healing and restoring Divine Health from the Inside Out. I can’t think of a better way to describe the Nutritional Balancing approach to healing. I encourage anyone who has not found satisfying answers as to the underlying issues affecting their health to get an HTMA and find out what story your hair has to tell!
Wishing you all Divine Health from the Inside Out,
NW Holistic NutritionPortland, Oregon. Trained and mentored directly by Dr. Larry Wilson in the science of Nutritional Balancing, she works with clients all over the world and also trains and mentors doctors, naturopaths, and nutritionists in the science of proper hair analysis interpretation. She lives with her husband and three vibrantly healthy children, and blogged for many years at Organic and Thrifty, where her archives on healthy eating and frugal living can still be read. When not nerding out over minerals and hair charts, Carrie can be found puttering in her garden or making kale chips in the kitchen! If you would like more information about Carrie’s Nutrition Practice, please visit: www.nwholisticnutrition.com.
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