Updated: Jul 6, 2020
Functional Nutrition and Functional Medicine are all about data. Each person is different. Each body is unique. Clinicians love to run laboratory testing to gather as much information as we possibly can about each client. Sure, you can do a Whole 30 or a ketogenic diet and probably get fairly decent results. But your results will be much different from your girlfriend's or mother's results because it is true- you are a unique snowflake. And sometimes that is maddening. Most of the women who come to see me offer up a variation of this theme:
"I have tried it all. Weight Watchers. Paleo. Keto. Macros. Vegan. Ugh. I am still overweight and frustrated."
I get it. I have done them all too. And then some. Each diet promises a sexy new outcome, bolstered with gorgeous pictures of "Afters" and sad, depressing pictures of "Befores". Why are we still feeling like we are "Befores"?
First of all, feel free to tell yourself that you are an "Are". If there is a Before and an After and a constant uphill battle to hold the After for dear life, you will likely be miserable for the rest of yours. Likely, the people around you will be miserable also. Wouldn't you rather be an Are? You get me, right?
Second of all, you can get some pretty inexpensive lab work done that will give you an insight into your body and your brain.
While I love running the DUTCH, the MRT, and the GI Effects tests, I have been quite enamored with the Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis as of late. This is primarily because it is so inexpensive. The test runs between $60-$130 and involves only a very miniscule sample of your own scalp hair.
Let's look at a few of the markers found on the HTMA.
Calcium has been covered in a previous post. If you have more questions, feel free to ask me. The interesting thing about running a HTMA is that we can see if the body is pushing calcium out from the bones into the soft tissue. Obvs, this is bad. You want your calcium to stay in your bones, not in your arteries and joints and hair, right? If calcium is seen in excess amounts in the soft tissue (hair, in this case), we can take steps to reduce tissue calcium and get it back into the bones where it is happiest. And you are happiest.
Calcium is hard, brittle, and contracting. If there is an excess of calcium in your soft tissues, it is likely that you are feeling the same way. Irritable, emotional, and achy? You likely are excreting calcium into your soft tissue.
If you are reading this blog, your soft tissue calcium levels are probably elevated. I see this in almost every test I run on my clients. Excess tissue calcium means that you are stressed to the point of breaking, and probably have blood sugar dysregulation issues.
How we love magnesium! Magnesium relaxes and softens. If you have any of the following symptoms, you could be magnesium deficient:
-fast heart rate
-high blood pressure
-irregular heart rate
Magnesium and calcium work together. While calcium shuttles itself around the body, hardening it, magnesium helps counter the effect of calcium and pulls it into the bones, where it ought to go. Actually, 60% of your magnesium is found in your bones. To prevent osteoporosis, make sure you are taking your magnesium!
Magnesium also helps you go poop. When I say it relaxes everything, I mean it. Don't take too much.
To make energy, you need ATP. To make ATP, you need magnesium. If you lack energy, consider bumping up your magnesium supplementation.
If your calcium/magnesium levels are way out of whack (which I almost guarantee is the case), then your blood sugar is way out of whack.
Consider adding magnesium and eating more fat and protein if you are worried about dysregulated blood sugar.
A client will often cover her face with her hands, mumbling about loving salt and wanting to eat it all of the time, but knowing she shouldn't. I have to talk sense into the poor woman, reassuring her that salt is not bad.
As long as it is mineral-replenishing salt instead of mineral depleting salt, eat the salt. Your body is smarter than you think. It will tell you when it has had enough salt. Throw away your cheap, crappy Morton salt and invest in some gray Celtic sea salt or pink Himalayan sea salt.
Your adrenal glands need a lot of sodium. If you are craving more salt than normal, it is probably because your adrenal glands are so taxed that they are begging for fuel backup.
Sodium is pumped out of the cells. It is your "extracellular" fluid.
On the HTMA, the Sodium/ Potassium ratio is also called the "Stress Ratio". The more sodium exceeds potassium, the greater stress the body is under. Sometimes, individuals are not aware of all of the stress they are under. This could be because some stress is physiologically internal, like a virus or infection or food allergy. Sometimes, the individual is very aware of all of the stress they are under. If your "flight or flight" response is constantly employed, the physical response will be either intense anger or intense fear. This correlates with a lot of the PMS and anxiety I see clinically.
If you are in "fight or flight", we can see this on the HTMA as elevated sodium. The adrenal glands hold onto sodium the more they are stimulated, and this results in more sodium pushed out into the soft tissues of the body, like hair.
Sometimes it is as simple as balancing your micronutrients.
Potassium is a major electrolyte. According to expert Dr. L. Wilson, this means that it is "present in large quantities in the body, and required in large quantities in the diet".
Dr. Wilson also states "Only 2-10% of the American population obtains the recommended daily amount of potassium. This means that at least 90% of the population is deficient in this very essential mineral."
This is you. You are deficient.
Sodium and potassium work together and associated with adrenal gland activity. Potassium is also associated with a well-functioning thyroid gland. It sensitizes the cells to the thyroid hormone.
Guess what is consistently low on the HTMA tests I run on my clients?
Low potassium = low thyroid activity.
Potassium also regulates the heart and the electrical impulses of the body. It is found mostly inside the cells, whereas sodium is found mostly outside of the cells. Therefore, it is essential for fluid regulation. Are you super swollen and bloated? You have a sodium/ potassium imbalance and need some K, stat.
Dr. Wilson advocates eating a ton of cooked vegetables as the potassium in fruit is not very biologically available. Like, 9 cups of veggies a day? Yeah!
You could take a potassium supplements but the RDA for grown women is 4700 mg. Potassium supplements come standardized at 99 mg/ tablet. It's not really cost-effective to swallow 48 tablets a day. Plus, that sounds hard on the ol' tum.
What vegetables are high in potassium?
Cook 'em, butter 'em, and salt 'em. Yummy.
My research lately has been laser-focused on the HTMA lately, and the information on micronutrients and the health of the body is just freaking fascinating. If you have unresolved health issues, let's get you tested.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, friends. There is so much more I want to share with you. But my husband tells me my blogs are too long. So I'll bid you good day.
To your health,