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What Is Hair Mineral Analysis?

Hair contains all the minerals present in the body and, in most cases, reflects the quantity of these elements in your tissues. Analysis of this information provides a wealth of information on how efficiently your body is working and its nutritional status. A blood test will only give information about your mineral levels at the time the test is taken.

For instance, if you’ve just eaten a banana a blood test may indicate a high potassium level, even though you actually need a potassium supplement. Hair analysis reflects your body’s storage of potassium over a period of time, not what you ate that day, or even that week. Likewise, urine tests measure what is being excreted from your body, which is not necessarily what has been absorbed.

How is it carried out?

Taking a hair sample is simple, non-invasive and pain free. Any-one can do it. Full instructions are supplied. The sample is despatched to a lab in the USA which specialises only in hair analysis. There it is prepared for testing and acids are added to break the hair down, separating out the elements in the hair protein. After ‘digestion’ the remaining mineral salts are put into solution and analysed by sensitive and specialised instruments. The results are interpreted to produce nutritional mineral levels, their interrelationships and metabolic categorisation. The report is then personalised complete with graphs and explanations which may give you answers you have been seeking for years.

Why the USA?

After evaluating various services I settled on this lab because it offered excellent value for money, a superb report and a fast service. Reports typically contain over 12 pages of information (depending on findings) and are normally delivered within a fortnight. They include levels of 38 minerals and the interactions between them, metabolic type with a list of recommended supplements and details of foods to increase and decrease in order to improve your mineral balance. Although there are cheaper services, some I have seen return just one sheet of paper giving levels of less than 20 minerals. No explanations, no interactions, no graphs, no analysis. You get what you pay for.

Are there any problems?

You will be asked to specify which hair preparations you used, as some hair treatments can contaminate scalp hair. For instance dyes may contain lead acetate, bleaching processes affect calcium and certain medicated shampoos contain zinc or selenium. However, only that individual element is affected. All the others tested are valid. Although some health-care professionals remain sceptical, in the past twenty years there have been over a thousand references in peer-reviewed journals, supporting the reliability of the HMA.

Case history 1: J.C. presented with symptoms of fatigue, lethargy, joint aches and excessive hair loss (at age 25). His hair mercury was markedly high. Following treatment his hair levels of mercury decreased to a much more acceptable level and his symptoms improved significantly. The source of the toxicity was never identified.

Case history 2: C.T. became mentally ill and was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. He was also alcoholic and consuming large quantities of drugs. An HMA revealed four times the acceptable levels of lead in his hair and also elevated levels of cadmium, mercury and copper. Following therapy and supplementation his condition improved dramatically, he lost his cravings for alcohol and his symptoms of mental illness reverted to normal, with no further need for psychoactive drugs.

Case history 3: L.S., a housewife in her early 40s, had been feeling tired for months. Her doctor had run all the standard tests and could find no problems. Finally she had an HMA which showed she had high levels of lead that were causing her tiredness. The cure came easily, she was feeling better in two weeks and the tired feeling vanished within a month.

L.S. was breathing excess lead from a car exhaust. How much lead are you breathing in from car exhausts – jogging or queuing in heavy traffic? How much cadmium have you accumulated from passive (or active!) smoking at the office and the pub? Is the mercury in your fillings stable, or is the vapour slowly poisoning you?
Why might you benefit from an HMA?

If you have a disease or illness that has not responded to conventional treatment, you may wish to explore other possibilities and an HMA is an excellent place to start. If you suffer from “unexplained” problems such as headaches, backaches, weakness or tremors, an HMA may help you to get to the bottom of it. Or you may just be feeling under par without knowing why. How much lead are you breathing in from car exhausts – jogging or queuing in heavy traffic? How much cadmium have you accumulated from passive (or active!) smoking at the office and the pub? Is the mercury in your fillings stable, or is the vapour slowly poisoning you?

Are just toxic minerals examined?

No – the HMA will examine the status of the essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, zinc, chromium and a whole host of others. Modern food processing methods strip nutrients from food. A massive 98% of chromium is stripped from flour in the refining process. Chromium is an essential part of the ‘Glucose Tolerance Factor’ which controls blood sugar, stimulates burning of food for energy, controls blood cholesterol levels, reduces blood fat levels and suppresses hunger symptoms. Modern farming methods have depleted the mineral content of soil and addition of some fertilisers can make minerals unavailable to plants. If sodium (in table salt), calcium (in dairy products) and phosphorous (in fizzy drinks) are present in excess in your diet, these can upset the natural mineral ratios. Is fluoride in your water supply depressing your calcium absorption? The graphs in an HMA will reveal all. Why not find out?

To sum up: Obviously an HMA is no substitute for diagnosis by a qualified medical practitioner, but if conventional medical investigations have failed to find a reason, or suggest a treatment for your problem, Hair Mineral Analysis represents an invaluable and cost effective next step.

Joy Healey is a nutritionist who obtained her Dip.ION at the prestigious London Institute For Optimum Nutrition studying on their three year “Nutrition Consultants Diploma Course”. The Institute was founded in 1984 by Patrick Holford, one of the world’s leading authorities on new approaches to health and nutrition.

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