These days it seems like we’re all hating on our hormones. No matter what stage of life we’re in – puberty, child-bearing or menopause and beyond – we women seem to be in a constant battle to regain control of these funky little chemical messengers!
Once we make the decision that we’ve had enough of irritating and uncomfortable symptoms, there are lots of diagnostic tests to turn to as a starting point for finding relief. From blood tests to urine tests to saliva, each one of these tests has its pros and cons and can be helpful to determine hormone levels and imbalances at a particular moment in time.
So you can use those tests to get a snapshot of your hormone levels, but what if you really want to know why your hormones are imbalanced and why you have annoying (understatement!) symptoms? Fortunately, there is a test that you’ve probably never heard of that can provide a ton of insight on that – a Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis.
What is Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis (HTMA)?
This hair mineral analysis is a non-invasive (meaning no blood!) test that will tell you a heck of a lot about what’s going on in your body. It involves cutting a small hair sample from the scalp and sending it out to a lab to determine what minerals are found inside. The lab dissolves the hair to the point that all of the minerals inside the hair protein are released. Then, a procedure called ICP-Mass Spectrometry is used to determine exactly what minerals are present.
A hair analysis test? Why is “hair” important?
The minerals in your hair will reflect, in most cases, what minerals are being stored in your other tissues (the bones, for instance). This hair mineral analysis indicates if you’ve been absorbing the nutrients from your food and tells us about your metabolism (fast or slow – how efficiently your body converts nutrients from the food you eat into energy.)
And because your thyroid gland is responsible for metabolism and your adrenal glands burn through a bunch of minerals to make special hormones when you’re under stress, hair test results provide a really good indication of how well these glands are functioning. This hair analysis test addresses the foundation for healthy weight management, healthy stress response, brain function, heart function, and yes, hormone balance!
How do minerals affect hormones?
Minerals are like spark plugs for the cells. They activate thousands of chemical reactions that produce energy, regulate stress response, and assure healthy immune function. Magnesium, copper, and phosphorus each play a critical role, along with calcium, potassium, sodium, zinc, manganese and iron. Zinc levels can be associated with progesterone levels, while the copper in your tissues can be associated with estrogen.
Just as sufficient levels of minerals are necessary for all of the chemical reactions, the ovaries in women and testes in men depend on these same minerals to trigger the production of reproductive hormones. In addition, the more stress you have, the higher the production of stress hormones like cortisol by the adrenal glands. This uses up minerals like sodium, creating an imbalance that also affects reproductive hormone balance. The same sort of situation occurs when you have issues with blood sugar regulation, like with diabetes or pre-diabetes. The pancreas is forced to make a lot of insulin, a hormone that regulates blood glucose, resulting in the need for additional minerals and a subsequent imbalance of the entire endocrine system (the system of glands that make our hormones).
Within the endocrine system, the activity of each gland affects the others. And, to make things more complicated, the strength and efficiency of the endocrine system as a whole will affect the strength and efficiency of other systems, like the nervous system (think mood, anxiety, depression).
It’s actually quite a vicious cycle. Not enough minerals = more stress on the body. Likewise, more stress on the body = increased need for minerals!
The bottom line: minerals affect cellular energy production and cellular energy production affects EVERYTHING IN THE BODY!
Why a hair analysis test and not a blood test?
For the purpose of balancing and strengthening the body, including the hormones, blood testing tells only part of the story. Blood is a transport medium that moves glucose and oxygen to the cells to produce energy. It also carries carbon dioxide and waste products away from the tissues and cells to be eliminated from the body. Blood remains outside the cells, whereas energy is produced inside the cells. Blood must always be in balance in order to keep us alive. So if blood is deficient in calcium, for instance, it will pull calcium from the tissues – like bone – to right itself. The way the body handles this is ingenious, but it’s important to understand that the tissue could have a serious deficiency even when the blood levels of nutrients are normal.
Hair analysis shows our uniqueness, especially when it comes to biochemistry!
The diet and supplement recommendations established from the results of the hair analysis test are based on your unique biochemistry. That’s a real plus when it comes to how quickly you can get your hormones back to a healthy balance.
There is so much health advice available at our fingertips these days. Well-meaning online and television-based practitioners advise us on what supplements to take and food to eat to stay healthy. When it comes to hormone imbalance, herbal remedies and hormone replacement therapy are a couple options that we always hear about. Most of this may be very sound advice . . . but it’s for the general public and may work for you … or not. That’s why I believe it’s so important to find out what your specific, individual needs are. Why aren’t your hormones behaving as they should? What system in your body needs strengthening? As I’ve come to discover very definitively over the years, every BODY is unique!
For instance, herbs like red clover or vitex or maca may provide your best friend with amazing symptom relief. So you give them a try and feel absolutely awful (or you feel no change at all). The truth is, without knowing what’s going on inside your body, we really don’t know enough to be able to say what will help you and what won’t.
Address the foundation, not the symptoms.
Another reason I like hair analysis tests for hormone imbalance is to figure out and correct your body’s mineral balance at the cellular level. This represents the foundation, so in addition to correcting symptoms of hormone imbalance, you will likely see improvement in immunity, overall energy, blood sugar, blood pressure, and even things like memory and brain function. When we replenish the minerals that are missing and we work on balancing the ratio between the different minerals ALL symptoms will begin to improve.
So are you curious yet? A bit hopeful that there may be something that could actually help you feel better … finally?
If so, here’s some important information to keep in mind.
Hair coloring will affect this specific hair mineral analysis. The good news is that all it takes is at least 1/4 of an inch re-growth with your natural color prior to collecting the sample. Wait until right before a recolor appointment to start the process and you’ll be in good shape.