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What is HTMA and Why are Minerals Important?

Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis (HTMA) is a non-invasive test that uses hair from the scalp which measures mineral status within the tissues from the last 3-4 months, rather than a specific time such as blood or urine. HTMA gives us an exclusive look at how the body is utilizing minerals or how they are lost, during periods of stress for example. Understanding mineral ratios gives us insight into adrenal, thyroid, blood sugar, detoxification, metabolism, gut, psychological, and hormone activity. The stage and body’s response to stress is also seen. This test gives insight to how your metabolism is functioning and what dietary recommendations may be needed. Mineral patterns can also show signs of copper toxicity, iron deficiency or excess, and metal toxicities. 


To quote Henry Schroder (M.D., Ph.D), “Minerals are the sparkplugs of life.” They are needed for all bodily functions- (metabolic, cellular, thyroid, and hormone health, energy production), and to create enzymes responsible for these functions. 


HTMA cannot be read at face value like blood tests which is why it is important to test through an HTMA practitioner who can analyze your symptoms and interpret your results for you. For example, a high magnesium level might not mean that you have too much magnesium, rather your body is in a stress stage and is losing magnesium. If read at face value, one might believe they do not need magnesium and further deplete that mineral status causing an array of negative symptoms to follow. 


Dr. Paul Eck (founder of Analytical Research Laboratory) and Dr. David Watts (founder of Trace Elements Laboratory) are two of the pioneers in HTMA research, found that minerals do not deposit randomly in the hair - it deposits at distinct patterns which can then show us what is going on with the thyroid, adrenals, hormones, stress, infection, blood sugar, and metabolism. They also found that minerals are all interrelated and some work either antagonistically or synergistically. They are subject to change over time and many things can impact minerals to change (see below “What causes mineral imbalances?”

Why Hair and Not Blood or Urine? 

If blood and urine tests are offered in almost every doctor’s office, why aren’t Hair Tissue Tests? This is a great question and is exactly what a lot of HTMA practitioners, myself included, are pushing for: mineral imbalance awareness. Many doctors are simply not taught the importance of minerals, let alone their function and how they antagonize each other, or synergize. Why is this? Doctors are not trained to diagnose the root cause or look any deeper into why a person is presenting certain symptoms. The allopathic approach to medicine is the belief that you are either healthy or have a disease. If you are diagnosed with such a disease by a doctor, you are then prescribed medication to manage / control your symptoms. Whereas a holistic approach considers all aspects of a human’s life: mind, body, and spirit. 


Blood and urine tests only test the body for what is occurring at that particular time. (change example because Rick uses this in his program) Let’s look at an example: say you eat a few bananas before you go to the doctor for a blood draw. Your potassium levels would show high because of the amount of bananas you just consumed, which are high in potassium. However, if we test hair using HTMA those levels would not change due to what you ate in one day. HTMA tests show mineral status from the past three months. HTMA also does not show what is excreted by the body in one day, which urine does. 


Another important factor to note is that many minerals are not stored in the blood but within the tissues. For example, 60-65% of magnesium is stored in the skeletal system and teeth while the rest is within soft tissues. Less than 1% of magnesium is found in the blood. So blood tests actually do not give an accurate reading of how the body is using magnesium. Similar concept with potassium, 98% is found in the cells, not the blood. Blood is also homeostatic meaning that it needs to maintain a small range. The body does so through storage, excretion, and drawing minerals from other areas to restore the blood level.

What Causes Mineral Imbalances?

One of the main causes of mineral imbalances is stress. Stress, whether physical or emotional, can cause the body to be in a state of fight or flight, and impacts vital nutrients such as magnesium, sodium, potassium, phosphorus, and calcium.  


Heavy metal exposure via smoking, hair dyes, seed oils, cookware, deodorant, dental amalgams, cosmetics, and skincare. 


Taking the wrong supplements for your bio-individual needs can lower some minerals or increase the others, having an antagonizing effect. 


Pharmaceuticals such as hormonal birth control or the copper IUD, prescriptions, and over-the-counter medications can deplete nutrients and increase heavy metals. 


Diet can also have an impact on nutrient deficiencies such as the vegan, vegetarian, or carnivore diet, alcohol, processed foods, not eating enough, or eating the wrong foods for your metabolism can impact nutrient absorption and storage. 


Vaccinations can cause mineral imbalances due to the attack on the body’s cells and stress the body goes through to fight off the infection from the immunization. 

Does it Test for Heavy Metals too?

Yes, the lab tests for Uranium, Arsenic, Mercury, Cadmium, Lead, Aluminum, Antimony, and Beryllium. This will give insight to if your body has stored heavy metals, is excreting them (detoxing properly), and toxic ratios as well. Toxic ratios will allow me to see if your lifestyle, environment, or diet has an impact on your mineral status.

What Does an HTMA Test Reveal?

HTMA testing can give insight to adrenal, thyroid, and hormone activity, infections, digestive issues, deficiencies, along with your metabolic type (fast or slow), a diet and supplement plan that works best for you, and heavy metal toxicities.

"Drs. Paul Eck and Davis Watts made a major advance in nutrition and health science with their brilliant research on nutrient minerals as shown in a hair tissue mineral analysis (HTMA). Their HTMA research advanced our understanding of the vital role of minerals in regulating many different health functions. The research of Eck and Watts made HTMA the powerful lab tool that is has been for at least 40 years."

-Dr. Rick Malter, PhD

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