Hair analysis is another useful tool to help patients. What is hair analysis? It is a soft tissue mineral biopsy, which also measures levels of both toxic and non-toxic metals. However, as you will see, if interpreted properly, hair analysis reveals much more.
The hair analysis tells us which minerals have been deposited in the cells and interstitial spaces of the hair over the previous eight to twelve weeks.
Mineral levels in the hair are about 10 times those occurring in the blood, making assessment of low level trace minerals easier. Hair is also a better testing medium than blood because it is stable. Blood mineral levels can vary from hour to hour as blood tries to normalize its levels of minerals. Most toxic metals are stored in the hair, as well as in other tissues, while only showing up in the blood soon after exposure.
What is measured in the hair analysis?
In a hair analysis, levels of macronutrients, micronutrients and heavy metals are measured. The macronutrients include calcium, magnesium, sulfur, phosphorus, sodium and potassium. The micro nutrients include copper, zinc, manganese, iron, chromium, selenium, lithium and others. And lastly, the heavy metals tested include lead, mercury, cadmium, nickel, aluminum, and arsenic.
What information can be gleaned from a hair analysis?
Looking at the absolute values gives one type of information. A very high reading of a mineral can mean that the mineral is in excess. However, it may also mean that it is present in a biologically unavailable form. Thus the patient can exhibit symptoms of deficiency or excess.
For example, a high hair calcium usually indicates deficiency of calcium. This can lead to osteoporosis and/or muscle cramping (signs of deficiency).
Another example is a high hair zinc which often indicates a low body level of zinc. Zinc is involved with many key enzymes and thus is essential in many different areas. Some symptoms of zinc deficiency include emotional problems, carbohydrate intolerance, arteriosclerosis, impotence, prostate problems, and lack of taste and smell.
Besides looking strictly at the absolute number, the ratios among the minerals reveal critical information.
Let us look at the calcium to potassium ratio as well as what their individual absolute values may tell us. Calcium is regulated by the thyroid. The thyroid gland tends to lower calcium levels. Thus, a high hair calcium tends to indicate sluggish thyroid and a low calcium tends to indicate excessive thyroid activity. Potassium sensitizes the cells to the thyroid hormone, thyroxine. Therefore a low potassium level suggests that the cells are going to be less responsive to the thyroxine, even with normal blood thyroxine levels. This gives symptoms of low thyroid.
The ideal ratio of calcium to potassium is four to one. A higher ratio suggests a sluggish thyroid, even if the absolute value of calcium is normal. A lower ratio implies hyperactivity at the cellular level. Thus, even if the circulating thyroid hormone levels are normal, the thyroid may not be functioning properly. What’s important is the cellular effect.
The zinc and copper ratio is another very important relationship. Even with numbers in the normal range, a low ratio means copper dominance. High copper can cause alopecia, arthritis, mood swings, acne and much more. A high zinc to copper ratio indicates copper deficiency, a condition characterized by impaired collagen function, anemia, and osteoporosis, etc.
Hair analysis is also good for screening for heavy metals. One note of caution, however; it seems that hair analysis is not particularly good for indicating a mercury problem.
Many patients who have high mercury on urine testing or EAV testing may not have high mercury in the hair test. However, if mercury tests high in the hair, there definitely is a mercury problem and from my experience, it often is related to fish consumption.
A very low hair mercury usually indicates an inability to excrete mercury. Children who are autistic and mercury toxic often exhibit low mercury levels on hair testing.
Another reason mercury may be low on a hair sample is due to displacement by other metals. For instance, arsenic may be high, and when this is brought down, mercury will then show up as high in a future hair sample.
Also, mercury can interfere with mineral transport and thus affect the readings on the hair analysis. There are ways to assess this while looking at the hair analysis.
Unfortunately, I see too many patients that have been told they don’t have a mercury problem based on an erroneous interpretation of a hair analysis.
Hair analysis, if interpreted properly, also gives insight into the dietary realm.
It can identify carbohydrate sensitivity and reveal the status of protein synthesis and digestion. It can also give insight into the inflammatory state, behavioral patterns, and the condition of the immune system.
Of course, there is much more to evaluation of a hair analysis than what I have covered here. I just wanted to make you aware of how helpful a tool hair analysis can be.
© 2008, Mark A. Breiner, DDS
The information presented is for educational purposes only. You should consult a qualified dentist or health practitioner for diagnosis and treatment.