You have definitely heard of blood tests. You have almost certainly heard that people can use blood tests to measure nutrient levels. You may have heard of hair tests, but you probably haven’t heard that hair tests can be used as an indicator of nutritional requirements.

A quick glance over my website and it becomes immediately apparent that hair tests (HTMA) are a major part of the work I do with my clients. Why would I choose to work this way when blood tests are the normal way of doing things? Am I mad, or is there method in the madness?

Yes. This is why: What’s normal is far too often confused with what’s optimal. When it comes to testing mineral status status, blood tests have several salient limitations when compared to HTMA. The purpose of this post is to outline those for you.

Firstly, using a blood test to determine mineral levels is like trying to decipher the plot of a movie by watching one scene, while HTMA is like reading a synopsis. This is because the composition of the blood is subject to constant change. It’s labile, capricious, roguely determined to be indeterminate…OK, a few too many adjectives. I got carried away. Sorry.

Many factors contribute to the blood’s mercurial nature including the degree of hydration, proximity to having eaten, the time of day or the time of the month. Having a glass of water, or not having one, before a blood test might give a wholly different indication of your internal situation.

Another consideration is that mineral levels are known to be affected by hormone levels. Since hormone levels change, we can expect the same to be true for specific mineral levels. This is unhelpful. Conversely, HTMA gives us an average of the mineral movements over a protracted period (the time it took the hair to grow). This is more helpful, as it gives a better indication of the true status of minerals at the cellular level.

Some nutrients fluctuate misleadingly in the blood, but the consistency of others can be equally misrepresentative of their true levels, or the degree to which their metabolism is effective.

The levels of electrolytes are maintained tightly within narrow ranges because excessive fluctuations could negatively affect the heart rhythm. This means that deficiencies or excesses of calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium will only show up in the blood when they have become severely pronounce throughout the rest of the body. The benefit of HTMA is that, for example, potassium deficiency or dysregulation of calcium will be picked up much earlier. This allows the situation to be corrected before it manifests as a more serious issue.

To sum up: In a nutritional scenario, the blood is often too acute when we don’t want it to be, and not acute enough when we do want it to be. All that being said, I do like to see blood tests to assess the status of Iron, Copper and Zinc, as the hair levels can be unreliable due their interaction with binding proteins. The important thing is understanding the pros and cons of each method. Context is everything.   

Another reason affecting my preference for HTMA in most situations is it’s lack of invasiveness. It’s far simpler to cut of a little bit of your hair every 3 months than it is to have your blood drawn. These things matter, we live in the real world. The best health improvement programme is the one you’re going to stick to over time.

Furthermore, HTMA is significantly more affordable. It provides information about the levels of 37 different minerals (including 8 toxic metals) for around the same cost as testing 2 minerals in the blood. Information about the hormonal system and vitamin requirements can be inferred by the initiated eye, adding to it’s value. Bankruptcy is contraindicated for health seekers…(!)

Hopefully this has gone some way towards explaining why HTMA is central to the work I do with my clients. If you’re interested in working with me, or would like to understand more about the process then drop me an email – I’m always happy to talk.