An important topic to revisit is why at times a nutrient recommendation will include minerals that appear elevated on a hair analysis. There are several reasons for this, confirmed by years of research. An elevated mineral does not always indicate an excess of that mineral in the body. It may be a loss or excretion of the mineral. Also, maintaining or improving a critical ratio may be more important than the concern over giving an excess of a mineral.
Finally, an elevated reading of a mineral may indicate biounavailability of the mineral. In this case, it may be necessary to supplement the mineral in available form until the body can utilize the mineral it already has. Let us examine these in more detail.
A confusing aspect of hair mineral analysis is that the level of a mineral in the hair does not always correspond to the amount of that mineral present in the 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 are less interested in specific appearances of mineral deficiencies or excesses, as these will shift as body chemistry changes.
Replacement therapy is the practice of supplementing only the minerals that appear low on a hair mineral or other test. Sadly, this is recommended by a number of well known health authorities. We have found over the years that it does not work well. The reason is that the body maintains its mineral levels in a complex homeostatic equilibrium. It will tend to resist any change in the homeostasis, unless the entire mineral system is taken into account.
For example, early in his career, Dr. Paul Eck attempted to raise tissue calcium levels by giving patients calcium - with little success. As soon as he gave patients copper, however, even without calcium, the calcium levels began to rise. This is because copper is needed to correct calcium levels in the body.
Common sense tells us that the body must maintain minerals at fairly constant levels. Otherwise, a high calcium drink or a high-potassium meal would completely disrupt our metabolism. Thus, we almost have to trick the body in order to shift the levels of minerals at deeper levels. This is the essence of the interpretation and system of correction we use at Analytical Research Laboratories.
High mineral readings on a hair mineral test are often due to a loss or an elimination of the mineral through the hair. This may occur to compensate for another mineral level or ratio, due to displacement by another mineral, biounavailability or for other reasons. Thus it is not correct that any elevated mineral level represents an excess and therefore should never be supplemented. Supplementing with an available form of the mineral may be most helpful to correct metabolism.
One reason for the loss of a mineral into the hair is a biounavailable mineral. This is a difficult concept, perhaps best illustrated by the case of calcium. Many older people have elevated levels of calcium in their tissues, causing symptoms such as arthritis, hardened arteries, kidney stones, gall stones and other calcium deposition symptoms. They also often have elevated hair tissue calcium levels. However, they often have a deficiency of calcium in their bones, where calcium belongs.
Their problem is not simply excess calcium, it is more complex. It is an inability to maintain calcium in the bones and blood in the proper, ionizable form. Thus calcium begins to precipitate into the tissues, much like the calcium deposits on faucets in areas of hard water. The hair is one of the places biounavailable calcium may deposit. Supplementing calcium and magnesium may help retard bone loss in these cases. Let us consider some other examples:
Copper. As a rule of thumb, when the sodium/potassium ratio is less than about 2:1, copper becomes biounavailable. This occurs because adequate adrenal activity is needed for the production of ceruloplasmin, a copper binding protein. In these cases, it is wise to supplement with a small amount of copper for a while, even if the tissue copper level is high.
This helps restore glandular activity, which requires bioavailable copper. Dr. Eck likened this to priming an old fashioned water pump. You had to put in a little water in order for it to start pumping out water.
Zinc. Elevated hair zinc levels occur commonly. However, as a general rule, zinc is less often biologically unavailable than either copper, calcium or magnesium. Zinc toxicity is rare, so this is usually not the reason for the high level.
Instead, we find that zinc may rise to help mitigate the symptoms associated with high tissue copper. Zinc also may be elevated to maintain another ratio, such as the sodium/potassium ratio. Finally, an elevated zinc can represent a loss of zinc. The body may dump zinc as a response to stress or to maintain another ratio such as the sodium/potassium ratio.
For these reasons, it is possible your supplement program will recommend zinc even if the level is high on the hair analysis. Most often, the level will decrease toward normal on a retest in spite of the zinc supplementation.
Manganese. Manganese also has a complex metabolism. Manganese toxicity may occur, from water supplies or other exposure. However, unavailable manganese or manganese as a defender of another ratio also occurs. Thus manganese, like zinc, may be recommended even though the hair tissue level appears elevated.
Bioavailable manganese may be recommended to help raise the sodium/potassium ratio. Bioavailable manganese may also be recommended to enhance cellular energy production in the mitochondria. It is also needed for tendon and ligament integrity.
An important reason for supplementing a nutrient even if it appears elevated is to balance a critical ratio, often the sodium/potassium ratio. This is a key to restoring body chemistry, energy production, carbohydrate tolerance, immune system activity and many other functions.
The minerals copper, manganese, iron and chromium all help raise the sodium/potassium ratio. These minerals may be recommended to raise the sodium/potassium ratio even if the levels of the minerals appear elevated on the hair analysis. This is not a mistake. Balancing the ratio takes precedence in these cases. The method is valid because most often, on a retest several months later, the levels of the elevated minerals decrease in spite of the supplementation.