Trace Mineral Analysis of Hair

The analysis of hair may seem more like something you would see on dramatic police forensics TV show, but it’s become an accessible form of mineral analysis. If you or your doctor have concerns it can be a pain free first step to diagnosing potential issues.

What is it?

Hair analysis takes a sample of hair, usually from the back of the neck, and measures the levels of various minerals present in the hair and therefore the body. The analysis use Mass Spectrometry to compare the minerals in the hair to reference samples which can then provide a quantity of the mineral found in the sample. 

Why Would I need analysis?

If you or a health professional have concerns about your health, that you think have may be due to toxicities or deficiencies, you could have your hair analysed to confirm this. The advantage of hair analysis is that it’s an opportunity to quantify minerals in your body without the need for any invasive procedures like blood tests at the beginning. If the hair testing yields concerning results, further testing can be pursued.

Toxic elements

It’s important to understand what toxicity is and not to panic at results that may show that you have toxic minerals in your body. Many substances can be toxic when they are at certain levels in the body. Vitamin A and D are important substances that the body needs to function, however at high enough levels they can be toxic. Hair analysis can identify minerals that can be toxic and provide analysis of what levels are in the body. These are usually heavy metals like arsenic or lead that can have negative impacts on the body at toxic levels. Lead toxicity can produce symptoms such as fatigue, nausea or joint pain. Hair mineral analysis can be a first step in diagnosis of potential toxic minerals.   

Nutritional minerals

In the human body minerals play a number of roles. If a person doesn’t have the required amount they are considered deficient in that mineral. Minerals can play a part in some metabolic pathways in the body, the transport of other nutrients or elements throughout the body, or the growth of bone and muscle. A person with mineral deficiencies can display a range of symptoms. For example, Magnesium deficiency can lead to mild symptoms such as muscle cramps or lethargy or have long term effects such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Hair mineral testing can isolate and quantify levels of these important minerals. Hair analysis can also provide the ratios of different minerals to each other, which also plays an important role in nutrition.    

Importance of reference samples (reference material)

To determine the amount of a given mineral in the hair sample, testing laboratories need to use reference samples. A reference sample is a known concentration of a specified mineral. When this is measured it can then be used as a comparison to the mineral in your hair and assess the quality of the analysis. If a reference sample isn’t used, then it is difficult to perform quality control of the analysis. Most reputable laboratories conform to an accredited method for hair analysis and will include the level of the reference sample in their reports.    

Importance of interpretation

As with any analysis, the results need to be interpreted. Most testing laboratories will provide results only. Analysis provides a list of the minerals identified and the levels that they are present at (hopefully compared to reference levels). To the average person these results won’t mean a lot. This is why it is important to have a qualified health professional interpret the results and suggest a course of action. In the case of nutritional mineral deficiencies, a nutritionist or dietician may be able to interpret results and recommend any dietary changes that you may need. A doctor, however is the best person to consult with regarding your results. Once a doctor has seen the mineral levels, they can propose additional analysis (such as blood tests), possible therapies, or investigation as to the source of toxic minerals or nutritional deficiencies. It is not advisable to attempt to remedy deficiencies or toxic levels by yourself. Always seek professional advice.    

Hair mineral testing is an easy, non-invasive option for mineral testing in the body, that may offer some explanation of symptoms you may be displaying. It is, however, important to remember that this test is usually just a first step in any diagnosis of possible toxic or nutritional issues.