Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis (HTMA) - the coolest thing in healing
Because I’m obsessed with finding the best way to work with and help heal my clients, I really wanted to offer functional testing to better understand the deeper issues of each my endo-ladies. Endometriosis is complex, and shockingly different in every woman I have so far worked with, as far as symptoms, deficiencies, and modes towards healing. After much research on many different types of testing, I decided to become certified in Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis (HTMA). HTMA is a method of functional testing - like when you get a stool or urine sample - but this test analyses the hair at the base of your skull, which represents your mineral makeup for the last three months.
But it’s more than that. We’re not (necessarily) looking for heavy metal toxicity or if you’re deficient in magnesium. I mean, of course that’s important and would be addressed too, but what HTMA really allows us to do is take a snapshot over a long period of time about how the body is functioning at a cellular level. Because hair growth starts within a cell and grows out of it, it becomes a sort of cellular blueprint of how your cells are functioning. It's kind of like how we could look at the basic pigments of watercolors, or we could look at how they all work together to create incredible art. And that can tell us a whole lot about your health!
What can we learn from HTMA
It’s important to remember that HTMA testing is not clinically diagnostic, but is used as a tool to help us detect what’s happening in the bigger picture. Blood tests only give us a snap shot of the moment: how your body is doing right now, based on you current levels of stress, medication, stimulants, hormones, etc. Because the body changes so much day to day, hour to hour, blood testing can be a difficult way to garner what’s happening on the whole. HTMA allows us to look at patterns over a longer period of time, and can have dramatic insight on issues such as PMS, chronic fatigue, digestion, endocrine function and more.
It's also important to note that hair testing doesn't show us exactly what's in our bodies, just how the tissues are responding. That's why you can be anemic yet have high iron levels in your hair tissue - because your body isn't properly processing iron although you're consuming enough of it - or why you can be both deficient in copper in your hair analysis, but toxic in your blood serum levels. That's why it's important to have someone who specializes in HTMA do a diagnosis for you, since it can be very confusing, if not outright impossible, to understand what's going on to the untrained eye.
However, by looking at a number of percentages and ratios of minerals - how they all fit together - an HTMA can tell us a lot about…
I talk a lot about thyroid health, since it’s intricately linked to endometriosis in so many ways. While sreum (blood) testing is great for clinical thyroid disorders, it doesn’t even begin to help the millions of undiagnosed women. In order to be diagnosed clinically, you need to have serious markers of thyroid dysfunction - something that many women who have an underperforming thyroid won’t yet have. So if you have “normal” thyroid hormone levels your doctor will tell them your thyroid health is fine, no matter how poorly you’re feeling or how much your symptoms are presenting hypothyroid. Unfortunately, this is becoming the majority of the population, who aren’t clinically hypothyroid but have a very poorly functioning thyroid gland that needs lots of support.
HTMA, on the other hand, allows us to see how much of the thyroid hormones are actually impacting the cell. Since the thyroid acts as the major energy regulator, thyroid hormones impact every cell in the whole body. Thus, we can see if these little hormones even have a chance to get in and communicate with the cell. If they don’t, we can work to balance the correct minerals in order to allow these little energy makers in, and start to bring your cells back to life.
**If you're chronically fatigued, chilled, constipated, or dealing with fertility struggles, it's imperative to make sure the thyroid is functioning appropriately.
What metabolic type you are, how to speed it up or slow it down, and how diet influences it:
An HTMA does an incredible thing of showing how your metabolism is performing, and you’ll either be a slow oxidizer or a fast oxidizer. Without me ever having met you, I’m going to bet as an endo-girl you’re a slow oxidizer, so then we’ll find out on a scale of 1-4 just how slow.
Before I go on, I want you to do the impossible for a second: separate from your belief that you’re born with a fast or slow “metabolism”, which will dictate if you’re thin or fat. The truth is, our metabolic rate shows how efficient we are at converting nutrient intake to energy, and depends on a lot more factors than what you were born with in a genetic lottery. When our metabolic rate is healthy, we turn our food into fuel more efficiently. When it’s less than optimal, our bodies have a hard time extracting the energy needed from our food, and we move at a much slower rate.
That’s why although many people think their metabolism has slowed down with age or they were born with a sub-par metabolism, we can actually see it through a lens that their bodies are no longer performing optimally for a number of reason. And, with that new perspective, we can actually start addressing this issue to increase energy, vibrancy, and overall metabolic function through targeted diet (yes, differing metabolisms will do better with certain types of fats and proteins) as well as mineral balancing.
**As an endo girl, it's important to speed up your metabolic rate in order to allow your body to detoxify, an issue most of us have issues with thanks to a tired liver and nutritionally depleted body.
How your adrenals are performing:
Your adrenals are your other major energy regulator next to your thyroid and, like thyroid issues, are very difficult to test for. Because your adrenals are also an MVP player in your daily life, making all of your sex and stress hormones and regulating your blood sugar and sodium levels, it’s incredibly easy for them to get burnt out. Through HTMA we can look at how the adrenals are running and through some deep analysis can quite literally see your energy levels without asking a single question. That’s how important mineral balance is, that mineral testing reads like your energy blueprint. Thus, by balancing specific minerals (among other nutrition and lifestyle factors, of course) we can start to bring energy back to the adrenals, and to your body.
**Your adrenals produce your progesterone, something nearly all endo-girls are deficient in. If you deal with, ahem, severe PMS, hormonal bloating, acne, and spotting before your period, you too can probably assume you're deficient. In order to raise progesterone, we need to allow the adrenals to function normally again.
If your cells are covered in concrete:
Many extreme slow oxidizers (slowwwww metabolism) have a tough time processing calcium. What the body does instead is line your cells with it, making a sort of calcified cellular shell. Remember, calcium is used to harden concrete, so building up a concrete shell around your cells is NOT going to allow for much movement in or out. This affects energy levels big time, as thyroid energy hormones won’t be allowed in, nor will cellular waste easily find its way out. Here we can actually use a host of targeted minerals and vitamins (one vitamin in particular will help start bringing tissue calcium down pretty promptly - but I’m not telling you which one that is so you don’t mistakenly self diagnose like I used to alllll the freaking time ;).
**Note, over supplementing with vitamin D is one of the major contributors to cell calcification! Nowadays we’re all told to supplement with pills, and so many people do without first testing their D levels. If this is you, get thee to the doc to get your levels tested before you take any more supplemental D :)
How your digestion is faring
By looking at deficiencies or excesses of certain minerals and ratios, we can detect digestive issues such as poor protein synthesis (not enough protein making it to the cell), slow digestion/constipation issues, and even candida. Even though this is no stool sample, minerals are a key player in the digestive system, and without the correct balance you cannot properly digest your food.
Examples? Sodium is a key ingredient in hydrochloric (stomach) acid, so if your tissue level is deficient because of adrenal insufficiency, you will also be HCL deficient. Simultaneously, potassium is needed for motility, so if you’re deficient you can have a very slooow/underperforming digestive system. There are a host of other measurements that will show us if candida is a major factor limiting your gut health.
**All endo girls deal with digestive issues of some kind, including anything on the more simple end such as HCL deficiency or lacking enzymes (which are all made of minerals), to more chronic issues such as IBS, chrones, SIBO, or gut permeability.
How your system is handling blood sugar or stress:
Blood sugar dysregulation and stress are the same thing - one of my big messages I try to drive home at Heal Endo. And lucky for us, HTMA testing can be used as a tool to see how you’re faring, and through mineral ratios we can actually see if you’re eating way too many carbohydrates for your body, and thus draining it of the minerals needed to process them.
**If you want to be reminded what blood sugar is and how it directly affects your endo, click here.
How did my minerals get so out of balance, and how do you get them back on track?
First of all, your baseline mineral balance will be that of your … mother! As you grow inside of her, you absorb her same tissue mineral balance, which makes sense. This means, though, that you weren’t born with “sufficient” minerals to begin with, but were born with certain imbalances. That's why if your mom was stressed, you might be even more sensitive to stress. Same with thyroid issues, blood sugar regulation, etc. On top of this, our soils are extremely depleted of minerals, so mineral content of our veggies is amazingly low these days. Factory farmed meat? Yah, not mineral-rich like grass-fed meat, and how many of us grew up eating grass-fed animal products? All in all, our food supply is pretty depleted (check out the graph).
On top of what’s not going in, is what’s rapidly going out. Minerals are used for every chemical process in the body. Literally. Making a hormone? Need a mineral. Making digestive juices? Need a mineral. Stressing out? Need 10000 minerals. When you start to run out of minerals to do these processes, your body simply cannot do them, so it slows down … hence slow metabolism, low energy, low thyroid, low adrenals, chronic infections, etc etc etc.
I think you’re catching what I’m throwing.
Getting your mineral balance back on track takes a while, and will need a combined force of supplements plus food. I do wish food alone would do it but, like I said, our food is so depleted we’d have to eat a LOT to make up our mineral balance, so what we could accomplish in months would actually take years.
Additionally, we want to move slow when balancing minerals because they each affect each other. For example, if you’re deficient in potassium you can’t just take a bunch and watch your levels go up without also watching your calcium and copper levels decline. Or, if you have high sodium, you can’t just stop eating salt and expect this to lower, since high tissue sodium is almost always an adrenal or toxicity measurement, rather than showing you’re eating too much salt.
This is a slow balancing act that needs to be treated as a whole system over many months. BUT, after all is said and done, it can be accomplished with the correct approach and the results in body and mind vitality can be astounding.
What I found out on my own HTMA
After going through this intensive course for the past few months and re-learning all the things from chemistry that I guess I should have paid better attention to (slash pulling my hair out and going cross eyed), everything started clicking. Of course, as a Nutritional Therapist, I was mentally self-diagnosing throughout the entirety, thinking I definitely had certain markers over others. Well, low and behold, when my own HTMA test came in I was very surprised at my results. Okay, not insanely surprised - moreover it actually made even more sense than my self diagnosis - but it brought home just how much functional testing can take the guesswork out of the healing process.
How? Even with my experience, there are lots of symptoms with conflicting root causes, so it can be difficult in challenging cases to understand the deeper issues at play. For example, where I thought my thyroid was a major issue, I actually found my adrenals were a major issue and my thyroid markers were pretty healthy. Where I thought my cells were dealing with calcification, I instead found they actually had a nicely permeable membrane. And where I thought I was deficient in certain minerals, it turns out I actually had an excess in ones I hadn’t even considered, showing detoxification issues (stemming back to those poor liver/gallbladder issues us endo girls face). All of these signs are “treatable”, maybe better said they can be balanced back into the correct ratio’s and percentages, but without testing it would have taken me a lot longer to get to the crux of these issues.
Don’t get me wrong, working without an HTMA is still a great way to begin healing, which is why I’m still offering my original package of working one-on-one without HTMA testing. Investigative work alone has already helped many clients regain their health and fertility, and there is so much we can pinpoint through interviews on symptoms, behaviors, foods, etc. Plus, I want to make sure my help is affordable to those who may not be able to afford the additional cost of an HTMA.
The awesome thing about HTMA is that it takes a lot of the guess work out of healing by bringing us to the root of a number of issues. That’s why I’m really excited to offer this service to my clients starting in Spring... after I learn how to take care of a newborn [side note, does it trip anyone else out that all of a sudden you’re literally handed a newborn and are supposed to instinctually know how to care for it??]
If you’re interested in pricing and procedure, I put it up on my site under the work with me section, so check that out. And if not, I hope you at least learned a little extra about how minerals affect every part of our lives!