How To Assess Thyroid Health Through Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis

by lydia on June 14, 2016

I decided to offer a thyroid assessment because many of my clients are on thyroid hormone of some kind as well as getting labs done a couple times per year. Instead of relying solely upon hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to deal with thyroid issues, I feel it’s optimal to correct the biochemistry and heal the adrenals. If possible, it’s best to steer clear of HRT in the first place as it can impair the long-term healing, even though it may help in the short-term.

In order to create a more complete game plan to help a client recover from thyroid issues in the long-term, it’s important to see both a hair tissue mineral analysis and a more complete thyroid panel. Often times doctors do not look at enough markers to either diagnose a person or to give them complete support to improve. The standard is still just to start by testing the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and not much more, if anything. This one marker only tells you what your brain is asking for, nothing else. The Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) is what the brain sends to the thyroid to make more or less hormone.

A fuller picture is really warranted here for optimal treatment to be put in place.

Thyroid 101

The thyroid gland is the butterfly-shaped gland located within your throat. It regulates the metabolic rate.


Thyroid hormone affects every cell in your body, and you have trillions. Thyroid hormone regulates all your activities. It is one of your main energy producing glands alongside the adrenals.

The major function is to speed up the metabolic rate.

It helps to break down what you eat and create energy for you; therefore, you must eat plenty of clean and optimal fuel to keep your thyroid healthy. When your thyroid is less than optimal (which, truth-be-told, that is the case for most people), you will need to eat quicker burning sources of fuel to get energy. Starchy carbs will be a key part of your diet, eating good real food sources at every meal. Quantities will vary from person to person.

What thyroid hormone does specifically:

  • regulates your heartbeat
  • warms you up
  • speeds metabolism so you lose weight
  • improves muscle strength
  • replenishes dying cells with healthy ones
  • grows your hair and nails
  • gives you regularity
  • improves your ability to conceive
  • reduces sensations of pain
  • makes you feel happy and content

If there is any difficulty with thyroid hormone production, transportation into the cell or activation and problems arise.

In order to make thyroid hormone, your gland needs tyrosine, which is an amino acid and it needs iodine atoms. T4 hormone means a tyrosine attached to 4 iodines. T3 means a tyrosine attached to 3 iodines.

The thyroid is a complex endocrine gland that works in concert with many other endocrine glands with hormonal mediators. We must always support the whole body and endocrine system as well as the specific organ or gland. The current model for thyroid care is to just give thyroid hormone.

When addressing any endocrine dysfunction, we must always support the key essentials to normal function first (nutritional deficiencies, fatty acid metabolism, protein digestion/protein catabolism, liver activity, hidden infections etc.). This is what nutritional therapy is set up to do.

Liver conjugation problems can significantly impair hormone levels from the thyroid, gonads, or adrenal cortex. Optimizing liver function prior to exhausting specific endocrine causes or treatments is imperative.

In order for T4 (inactive) to become T3 (active), it has to be converted in a biochemical reaction. This is where selenium comes in. The conversion takes place in your liver primarily, but also your kidneys, brain, gut and other organs. You need selenium for the enzyme to work and activate your thyroid. You need selenium to make the enzymes in the first place that convert the inactive T4 to T3.

Minerals are crucial for the thyroid to function optimally. Mineral deficiency can cause a sluggish conversion of T4 to T3 (take selenium for example). You specifically need B complex, vitamin D (but this can be improved by magnesium alone in most cases), magnesium, folate (eat liver and uncooked or steamed leafy greens or in folks with MTHFR get methyl-folate), selenium, zinc and adaptogenic herbs can often be quite helpful.

Thyroid Concept Wooden Letterpress Type

Mineral Patterns to Detect Issues with Thyroid Health

Ca/K: Calcium-to-Potassium Ratio [ greater than 16:1 indicates sluggish thyroid activity at the cellular level ]

In the fast oxidizer, Ca/K ratio drops below normal (4.0-4.2) – this tends to represent a hyperthyroid trend.

In the slow oxidizer, Ca/K ratio increases above normal (4.0-4.2) – this tends to represent a hypothyroid trend.

The Ca/K ratio is NOT a diagnosis of a thyroid problem.

Blood thyroid tests measure circulating hormones. It is generally felt that if these levels are normal, then one’s thyroid function is normal. It is also possible that blood thyroid profiles are not always accurate. The problem is that the hormones must pass into the cells and be converted and utilized there. Hormone receptors must be present to allow the hormones to act. The hair analysis assesses the cellular effectiveness of hormones. Often the result is different. Both tests have value. The hair analysis test may give a clearer picture of actual glandular activity.

The higher the level of hair calcium, in general, the lower the effective activity of the thyroid gland.
This occurs because one of the effects of T3 and T4 is to lower calcium levels in the tissues and at times, in the blood. For example, it is known that hyperthyroidism can cause tetany or muscle contractions that are due to low serum calcium.

Lower calcium is also associated with increased cell permeability. This may allow more thyroid hormone to enter the cells, increasing the cellular effect of the same amount of circulating serum thyroid hormones.

A lower hair potassium is associated with reduced cellular effects of thyroid hormones. It is known that low potassium is associated with reduced sensitivity of the mitochondrial receptors to thyroid hormone. Also, low potassium and sodium are associated with reduced cell permeability to thyroid hormones. Essentially, potassium sensitizes the cells to thyroid hormone.

This means that even if the serum thyroid hormone levels are normal, when tissue potassium is low they may not be utilized, resulting in a low thyroid effect. This commonly contributes to thyroid problems in slow oxidizers.

The Ca/K ratio is the primary way used to assess overall thyroid activity through hair tissue mineral analysis.

Na/Mg: Sodium-to-Magnesium Ratio – Considered the Adrenal ratio: this ratio reveals the degree of adrenal hormone resistance or reduced ability of the hormones to do their work. The Na/Mg ratio is also another measure of energy output because the adrenal glands are a major regulator (along with the thyroid gland) of the rate of metabolism. Often times decreased thyroid function follows already decreased adrenal function which will need to be addressed in order for the thyroid gland to improve as well.

Low selenium – Selenium is required for two steps in thyroid hormone utilization. It is involved in the deiodination reaction in the thyroid and in the conversion of T4 to T3 in the tissues. Selenium deficiency can cause MORE antibodies and poor thyroid conversion. Selenium helps improve T3 activation and transport. Selenium can reduce antibodies against the thyroid gland. Estrogen-containing drugs (birth control/HRT) are drug muggers of selenium (according to Suzy Cohen). If on birth control, you must supplement selenium.

Low manganese – Thyroxin is synthesized from iodine and tyrosine. Manganese is needed to permit this synthesis.

Low Zinc often found in those with increased thyroid activity and faster oxidation but it also can play a role in reduced adrenal and thyroid activity

Cadmium interferes with zinc and calcium and may raise sodium levels on a hair test. This can contribute to symptoms of thyroid hyperactivity. Cadmium also interferes with other enzyme systems, often causing symptoms of fatigue and lowered thyroid activity.

Elevated heavy metals – Namely mercury, copper, and the iodine antagonists. Mercury and copper toxicity interfere with thyroid activity and can result in lowered thyroid activity. Copper exerts an attenuating/weakening effect on thyroxin, the secretion of which is diminished in hypothyroidism.

Halides (not tested via HTMA, but important to note) – Chlorine, fluoride, bromine/bromide suppress thyroid function.

Lead interferes with calcium metabolism and can contribute to thyroid imbalance.

Copper reduces potassium and decreases thyroid activity, while zinc enhances potassium levels and enhances thyroid activity. Elevated tissue copper can actually mimic the effects of an overactive thyroid by stimulating biogenic amine activity. This can give rise to mixed symptoms in persons with metal toxicity. Elevated magnesium and calcium are associated with reduced thyroid activity.

Stress – Chronic stress can reduce the cell’s ability to absorb thyroid hormone by as much as 50 – 80%.

Symptoms of Primary Hypothyroidism
(Meaning your thyroid is not making adequate thyroid hormone/ low thyroid hormone, or whatever hormone you are making is not getting into the cells effectively):

  • difficulty losing weight
  • mentally sluggish, reduced initiative/apathetic/concentration difficulties
  • easily fatigued, sleep during the day
  • sensitive to cold, poor circulation (cold hands and feet)
  • constipation, chronic
  • excessive hair loss and/or coarse hair (thin, dry hair)
  • dry skin and hair
  • puffiness around the Adam’s apple
  • cystic acne around the mouth or chin due to hormonal imbalance
  • morning headaches, wear off during the day
  • loss of lateral 1/3 of eyebrow
  • lower eyelashes missing or sparse
  • seasonal sadness/depression
  • concentration difficulties
  • heavy menstrual flow
  • infertility
  • joint pain
  • low body temperature
  • memory problems
  • migraine
  • muscle pain
  • pale skin
  • reduced ability to sweat
  • shortness of breath with little exertion
  • water retention
  • weight gain or difficulty losing weight[ Read more here: Hypothyroidism from Analytical Research Labs]

Do you suffer from any combination of the above? Consider that your thyroid could be under-functioning and seek help from a qualified health practitioner to get your health back on track.

My Thyroid Assessment includes a review of both a Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis and a Thyroid panel (from your doctor or labs ordered out-of-pocket) and a game plan that comes from both tests combined. I, personally, think that most thyroid care is missing so much by not looking at the biochemistry and mineral imbalances of individuals.


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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

linda spiker June 21, 2016 at 9:59 am

This was super informative! I thought I knew a lot about the thyroid, but it turns out I didn’t know enough!


Megan Stevens June 21, 2016 at 12:10 pm

You explained this all so well. Thank you!


Dawn G June 21, 2016 at 2:59 pm

This is very useful. I have been enduring hypothyroid symptoms for a while now, and now I have a better way to look at my HMTA. Thanks!


Chloe June 24, 2016 at 4:11 pm

Thanks for all the info. I have a sluggish thyroid that I’m trying to keep on top of, so this is all really important for me to know.


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