ELEVATED HAIR MINERAL READINGS
- LOSS OR TOXICITY?
By Lawrence Wilson, MD
© May 2011, The Center For Development
A common question from practitioners and patients is the significance of high readings on a hair mineral analysis. Practitioners also wonder why we sometimes supplement a mineral that is elevated on a hair mineral analysis. Let us address these two questions.
All mineral readings represent the deposition of the mineral in the hair over the period during which the hair grew out. However, a most confusing aspect of hair mineral analysis is that the level of a mineral in the hair DOES NOT usually correspond to the amount of that mineral present in the entire body. In fact, every tissue and organ utilizes and accumulates each mineral differently, based on need and function.
We are most interested in the ‘metabolic picture’ that a hair analysis represents. We must be specific, therefore, when we look at different minerals that are high or even low in the hair.
Elevated readings on a hair analysis can have different meanings depending upon 1) is it the first hair analysis or is it a retest, 2) which mineral is elevated, 3) the history and lifestyle of the patient and 4) relationships to other readings on the test.
I will divide this discussion into evaluating a high mineral level on an initial hair mineral analysis and evaluating a high level on a retest mineral analysis.
All numbers and values assume that the hair is not washed at the laboratory.
ARE HIGH READINGS AN INDICATION OF EXCESS MINERAL IN THE BODY?
This is a common question. The answer, however, is not that simple. It is true for the toxic metals, where any amount at all in the body is an excess. However, with the vital minerals such as calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium and the trace minerals as well, usually we will supplement the mineral if it is high.
The reason for this is that in most cases if a vital mineral if elevated, the cause is a loss or a biounavailable situation. This is explained in detail below. Another, less common reason why a mineral that is high can be supplemented is in order to maintain or improve a critical mineral ratio. This may be more important than the concern over giving an excess of a mineral.
Doctors or nutrition consultants who just supplement minerals that are low on the hair mineral chart are doing replacement therapy. This does not work and is explained in more detail below and in another article. Please always keep this in mind when looking at a hair tissue mineral analysis.
EVALUATING A HIGH READING ON A FIRST HAIR ANALYSIS
A high level of a mineral may be due to a simple toxic exposure. These include:
Š Copper due to bathing in pools or hot tubs purified with copper products or rarely copper exposure due to copper water pipes or other sources of copper.
Š Heavy metals such as lead, mercury and cadmium, or aluminum and nickel may accumulate in the hair due to occupational exposure and many other common sources. See the article on this site entitled Toxic Metals for more information.
Š Iron can accumulate due to eating white flour, excessive red meat consumption, occupational exposure such as iron workers or other sources.
Š Selenium, manganese, zinc and chromium toxicity may be due to contaminated water, air, food or other sources. Selenium toxicity may occur from the use of Selsun Blue shampoo. Manganese is found in gasoline fumes. Zinc is found in Head And Shoulders shampoos and some skin lotions. Chromium is used in metal plating and rarely might flake off from poor quality chrome-plated scissors used to cut a hair sample.
Š Sodium or potassium may be elevated if one bathes or possibly drinks softened water. This is tap water that has been put through a water softener. Softeners add sodium or potassium to the water. This is not a common source of toxicity, however. in most cases.
BIOUNAVAILABILITY OF PHYSIOLOGICAL MINERALS
A high hair reading is often due to a biounavailable mineral that begins to accumulate pathologically in the hair and other tissues of the body. This is the most common reason for high mineral readings on a hair test.
This is a more complex phenomena that is very poorly understood. Essentially, however, physiological minerals can become unusable or biounavailable due to a deficiency of a retaining factor, or because the valence or form of the mineral has changed so that it is not retained or used properly in the body.
The form of the calcium, magnesium and the other physiological minerals is often a precipitate. Often they are oxides such as CaO2, MnO6 and FeO2. These are not biologically useful and build up in the tissues.
Calcium, magnesium, iron, manganese, copper, zinc, chromium, selenium and other trace minerals must remain in an ionized form to remain in the blood. In some instances, especially If the sodium and potassium levels decline, the mineral may form an oxidize, for example, rather than remain in an ionized state.
This has to do with changes in the chemical environment of the blood, especially, but also the cells in some cases. Factors that are involved are complex and include the ionization potential, the pH of the blood, the presence of other minerals such as adequate magnesium to help keep calcium in solution or toxic levels of copper in the blood that can interfere with iron and other mechanisms. As a result, it will begin to precipitate into the tissues.
Possible Reasons For Biounavailability. We theorize that one adaptive reason for these minerals to become biounavailable is that in this way it can support the sodium level by irritating the tissues and stimulating adrenal glandular activity. This would help keep the person alive and functioning, even though it causes an abnormal buildup of the mineral in the tissues.
Regardless of the cause, however, a properly designed nutritional balancing program will often bring about correction of the problem.
Levels of Biounavailable Calcium, Magnesium, Iron, Copper, Manganese, Zinc, Chromium, Selenium and others. The following are rough estimates of the levels in human hair at which an elevated level indicates some degree of biounavailability. All values below are for a hair sample that is not washed at the laboratory.
Calcium - 70 mg%
Magnesium - 8 mg%
Manganese – 0.05 mg%
Iron – 2 mg%
Copper – 2.5 to 3 mg%
Chromium – 0.15 mg%
Selenium – 0.1 mg%
Biounavailable Iron. Iron requires copper and perhaps other chemicals to convert it to the proper form that it can be used in hemoglobin and elsewhere. If the body gets too much iron, or it is not in the proper form, it can accumulate and in fact be quite damaging. See the article on this site about Chronic Iron Toxicity.
Biounavailable Copper. According to Dr. Eck’s research, this has something to do with the level of ceruloplasmin, the main copper binding protein. In order for copper to be bioavailable, there must be adequate ceruloplasmin production by the liver. Dr. Eck claimed this is stimulated by adequate adrenal glandular activity.
However, copper is also subject to biounavailability due to toxic forms of copper being formed in the blood which then precipitate out of the blood into the soft tissues.
This occurs more often when the adrenal glands are underactive because the levels of sodium and potassium are diminished. This changes the pH and the composition of the blood and other fluids of the body. For the symptoms of copper toxicity and biounavailailability, see the article Copper Toxicity Syndrome.
COMPENSATION OR A DEFENDER
One mineral may elevate to defend or compensate for an imbalance in another mineral or compenate for an imbalanced mineral ratio. This is a difficult concept to imagine if one is not familiar with the idea of a mineral system in the body. To read more about this, see our article entitled Theory of Hair Analysis.
The concept of maintaining a balance of all the minerals is actually a central concept of nutritional balancing science. Whenever we give a mineral, for example, on a nutrition program, we make sure we do not disturb the overall balance of the minerals in the body.
This is at times far more difficult than the symptomatic approach of just giving any minerals one wishes, or just correcting low levels on a hair analysis. This concept is called replacement therapy and one can read more about it in the article on this site entitled Replacement Therapy. It works very poorly in our experience, but is simple, so many doctors use this idea with mixed success.
For example, zinc is often elevated on hair analyses. This often indicates that the body is using zinc to help remove copper or in some other way to balance another mineral or ratio.
While this is complex, I will proceed with an example. Zinc lowers sodium in the mineral system. If sodium is high, the body may raise the zinc in the hair to help lower the sodium. This occurs rarely, but can occur in some cases. A good rule of thumb with zinc is that no one has too much unless there is a toxic exposure such as in a shampoo. In all other cases, the zinc is compensating or balancing some other imbalance in the body.
Other minerals may also balance or defend other mineral ratios in odd ways at times. A high chromium could compensate for or help balance a high iron. A high phosphorus might help balance a high calcium. A high magnesium may also balance a high calcium. Thus it is not uncommon for one mineral reading to be elevated to help compensate for another reading, and thus help maintain balance or homeostasis in the body.
This can be subtle because the mineral to be balanced, the one that is at a toxic level, may not show up on the first hair test. It may be hidden somewhere deep in the body, but is not in the hair so we cannot find it there. However, the body is still compensating or balancing it.
This is most often seen with zinc, which frequently rises to balance a hidden high copper in a slow oxidizer.
SPECIAL CASES - ELEVATED SODIUM, POTASSIUM OR PHOSPHORUS
Phosphorus. Phosphorus will elevate when mild protein breakdown is occurring in the body. This is not a a bad sign, and in fact usually indicates some degree of mental development, in fact. Usually this is temporary and corrects quickly with a nutritional balancing program.
Pubic Hair And Phosphorus. Elevated phosphorus also occurs commonly if pubic hair is used for the hair test. For this reason, we do not recommend pubic hair nearly as much as head or even other body hair.
The phosphorus may be high in pubic hair due to lack of thorough cleanliness in this area of the body. It is important to shampoo the pubic hair thoroughly before sampling if one wants to use this hair for a hair analysis. If one does this, the phosphorus should be within normal limits.
Potassium Affected By Tissue Breakdown. Potassium may also elevate due to excessive tissue breakdown if it is severe enough. Potassium, in these cases, is released quickly from the cells. In rare cases, the body may also eliminate a biounavailable form of potassium, I believe, and this could raise the potassium level on a retest hair analysis temporarily.
Sodium And/Or Potassium. These minerals are high on fast oxidizers, as a general rule. However, this is not a case of toxic exposure or biounavailability in almost all cases except that mentioned above.
Instead, sodium and potassium are usually elevated because excessive adrenal gland and perhaps excessive thyroid gland activity causes retention of extra sodium in the tissues. Potassium is then retained by the kidneys to balance the sodium.
Oddly, blood serum levels of sodium and potassium are less affected by these pathologies. The numbers may be a little high, but usually are still within normal ranges. The hair, however, may show greatly elevated levels of sodium and potassium in some cases.
Kidney Disease. In rare cases, toxic metals in the kidneys upset the normal sodium and potassium retention systems, which involve rennin and other hormone regulators of the kidneys. This can also elevate tissue sodium and potassium levels.
Kidney problems can affect the levels of all the minerals if the disease is severe enough. However, this is rare and only occurs with acute renal failure and other severe kidney problems.
Kidney stress on a retest hair analysis. Often, on a retest mineral analysis, the level of sodium and potassium will rise dramatically, doubling or even tripling. This phenomenon appears to be due to some stress on the kidneys and results from eliminating toxic metals and/or the amigos (iron, manganese, aluminum and perhaps chromium, selenium, nickel or boron).
EVALUATING A HIGH READING ON A RETEST MINERAL ANALYSIS
The reasons for a high reading on a retest analysis are the same as those on a first hair analysis. However, other reasons below may account for elevated readings on a retest.
Elimination of a toxic metal due to a nutritional balancing program or some other reason. Everyone today has quite a lot of toxic metal accumulation. It does not matter that one cannot identify these metals with any form of testing. This is very important to recall.
As the body gains energy and nutrient levels increase, energy becomes available to eliminate toxic metals from tissue storage sites. This will cause a marked or slight elevation of that mineral if it is released from the body through the skin or hair only.
In fact, the level of lead, cadmium, aluminum or another toxic metal may go up and down several times as different deposits or different rates of elimination cause varying amounts of the toxic metal to appear in the hair tissue as it is eliminated. Note that toxic metals that are eliminated via the feces or urine will not be revealed on any hair analysis.
A toxic form of a physiological mineral such as copper or manganese may be eliminated for various reasons, causing that mineral level to rise above the ideal level.
Copper. For example, most people have some biounavailable copper. Often, a first or even second hair analysis will not show these toxic levels of vital minerals because copper and the other may not accumulate in the hair. Instead, they may be stored in the liver, kidneys, brain, joints and many other sites.
When one begins a nutritional balancing program or other healing procedures, however, this unusable form of copper, manganese, iron and other minerals can be eliminated through the hair or skin. This will cause a temporary elevation of the reading.
Calcium and Magnesium. Occasionally, calcium and magnesium will rise precipitously on a retest. Here are several reasons why this occurs:
1) This can be caused by an increase in copper due to stress.
2) The oxidation rate could slow down due to stress, illness, psychological withdrawal causing a calcium shell pattern or some other reason.
3) An increase in sodium and/or potassium often causes an improvement in the solubility of calcium. When this occurs, the body may be able to eliminate some excess toxic or biounavailable calcium deposits that many people have today in their arteries, joints and elsewhere.
This often causes a temporarily high calcium/magnesium ratio as the calcium elevates more than the magnesium. It will usually correct on the next hair analysis.
Kidney stress. This has been discussed in the section above.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO NORMALIZE A HIGH MINERAL LEVEL?
While in some cases a high mineral level will reduce within three to six months, commonly a year or more is required to reduce high mineral levels. This is especially true with cadmium, manganese and iron toxicity.
Elevated calcium and magnesium seen in slow oxidizers may also take months or years to bring down, depending on a person’s stress levels, general health and how well they follow a nutritional balancing program. Copper and aluminum toxicity vary with each case.
Also, while a high toxic metal may correct quickly, it may rise again as more is eliminated from other tissue storage sites. This is very common and not a problem at all. It just means that one is uncovering another storage site as the health and energy improve.
NOTE: Sauna therapy and coffee enemas are among the fastest way to reduce high toxic metal levels.
Ultimately, the time required to reduce a high mineral level is very hard to predict. I have worked with patients that have reduced extremely high levels of iron, cadmium and other minerals within six months. However, others have continued to improve their health, yet their copper or calcium levels, for example, remain high after several years on a nutritional balancing program. We are always researching how to help people improve their health as fast as possible.
Factors that may influence the healing process include the patient's diet, lifestyle, stress level, occupation, and even genetic factors. For this reason, it is best not to offer exact times required to balance a hair mineral chart.