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In the Press  -  Hair Mineral Analysis



The following article is by Ian Marber for the Telegraph  - here he explains why he has become a convert to Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis


I like to think of myself as being at the conservative end of the scale when it comes to complementary treatments. Therefore, I prefer to use biochemical testing to ascertain what has gone wrong and how best to deal with it from a nutritional standpoint.


I am aware that some of my peers use rather unconventional tests and I worry that there are complementary health practitioners whose methods would be more at home at Hogwarts than in a health clinic.





It seems that the more outlandish the test, the more some people like to believe it must be true. So the various tests are cleverly titled. They generally include the words "cellular" and "energy", presumably to give them a scientific aura.


One test that used to be classed as weird, and therefore suspect, is the Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis (HTMA). I was very suspicious until a couple of years ago. But having now seen many very positive results from it, I have learnt to appreciate it.


The test involves cutting hair from the nape of the neck and analysing it to measure its mineral content. The data can be used to gauge the workings of processes within the body that rely on the various minerals. In the right hands and correctly analysed, HTMA gives an indication of how well our metabolism is working. I have found that it is particularly useful in cases of fatigue, stress and weight management, making it easier to construct an appropriate eating plan, with supplements where necessary.


Although hair is dead, from the moment that the shaft of the hair begins to travel through tissue, it absorbs some of the substances the body is exposed to. By taking a small amount of hair from the root (about half an inch), we can detect the mineral levels within the body over the past five weeks or so (the length of time it takes the hair to grow to this length).


As well as allowing a practitioner to get an idea of the metabolic rate, the test often highlights levels of unwanted toxic metals in the system. The most common one is mercury, which is most often the result of dental amalgams, or fillings, that are leaking mercury gas.


Excess mercury can be linked to a number of health issues, ranging from infertility to mental problems. (The phrase "As mad as a hatter" is thought to have been based on the incidence of madness among milliners who regularly used mercury in making hats.) The presence of mercury and other toxic metals in cases of infertility is thought so important by Foresight, the natural fertility organisation, that it recommends all couples struggling to conceive to undertake the HTMA.


If toxic metals are present, it is possible they are hindering the absorption of other minerals that are vital to numerous functions and so can have a negative influence on the metabolic rate. Getting rid of them involves following a course of chelation (derived from the Greek word, meaning "to claw"), in which herbs and the like are used to bind to the metal and remove it from the body. (This process should be done under supervision because there can be some unpleasant side effects.)


Aside from the toxic substances, levels of more mundane minerals can be used to identify problems with glucose absorption and the correct workings of the thyroid and adrenal glands.


The key minerals that are used as signposts to a slow metabolism are potassium, calcium, sodium and magnesium. The ratio between the minerals is all important. If the ratio of calcium to potassium is low, this denotes a potentially sluggish thyroid response, which might manifest itself in symptoms such as inability to lose weight, feeling cold and general fatigue.


Conversely, a higher degree of potassium and sodium suggests that the adrenal glands are working overtime, which might mean interrupted sleep and general anxiety. An inappropriate ratio between magnesium and sodium is likely to denote a slow adrenal response, usually experienced in someone who is highly stressed.


Overall, the test is useful, not just in pinpointing deficiencies that may be linked to conditions that are not serious enough to warrant a visit to the doctor, but those that will usually respond to nutritional intervention.


I confess to being a convert to the potential of the HTMA, perhaps because the results are written down in black and white. I suppose it is possible that I may feel the same in the future about facial analysis, computers that claim to be able to detect deficiencies or muscle testing. But I doubt it.