My daughter is pregnant with what will be our first grandchild. This got me thinking a bit about nutrition and how it’s assessed. Most of us are familiar with the old belief that the foetus’s nutritional needs would be accommodated for, regardless of what the mother ate. Turns out this isn’t entirely true, but it gets you thinking about how a nutrient could be normal in one area of the body and not another. A hair mineral analysis is a lot like this and the levels we see in a hair mineral analysis are often completely different to what we see on blood tests.
The first thought most people have when they see this is that the blood test is the gold standard so the hair mineral test must be flawed or inaccurate. This is not the case at all.
Blood will take nutrients from your tissues and cells.
Our blood is under strict homeostatic control. For the most part, it has to stay within the normal ranges for the body to function optimally so if a mineral like magnesium is dropping in the blood our body will take it from the tissues and cells so that it can stay normal. If this goes on for a long time you will then have normal levels of a mineral in the blood but deficient levels in the tissue. A hair mineral analysis is very helpful in assessing these sorts of scenarios
We need to be very careful when we are comparing hair analysis results with other tests such as blood.
The Right Test
If you broke your arm, would you want an X-ray or a blood test? Clearly an X-ray but does that make a blood test an inherently BAD test? No. But it does make it the wrong test in that situation.
When it comes to biochemistry in our bodies it’s pretty easy to understand that if it goes “off” then illness will result. The thing is that when you really think about it, biochemistry is going on in our tissues like muscle, bone or brain NOT just blood. When we understand most of our biochemistry is occurring in our tissues, not blood, AND that blood will take at the expense of the tissues it becomes clear that a hair mineral analysis is a valuable test even if, especially if, it is giving different results to the blood test.
Short Term vs Long Term
When you take the hair, and have it tested, you take the most recent 3cm of growth. In other words, the 3cm closest to your scalp and you throw the rest away. Hair grows at a consistent rate. About 1cm per month so our 3cm sample is representative of the 3 month AVERAGE of the nutrients we are measuring. This has a distinct advantage. Let’s say you eat bananas before having a blood test taken. Your blood potassium level may be high that day. However, if you have your blood tested the next day and did not eat bananas, your blood potassium may be normal, or even low. The hair mineral analysis potassium level is reflective of overall, or long term dietary habits NOT what is consumed just for a day or two.
This is important if you are looking to determine what you should be supplementing with.
This is just a short list of some of the differences that exist between hair mineral analysis and blood tests. The reality is that there is not one single test that will give us all the information we need. We need different pieces of the puzzle as they say to see the whole thing. We need to know your symptoms, sometimes exam you, look at blood or urine tests and sometimes we need a hair mineral analysis.
At Lifestyle Integration we have been providing hair mineral analysis testing for well over 10 years. If you are looking for that missing piece of information or just want to know what is actually happening in your tissues we can help.
We care deeply about your metabolic health here at Lifestyle Integration.
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