My hair test results just arrived (shown below) and they confirm what my urine challenge test revealed. I’m toxic.
[update: one-year follow-up test here]
Looking at it and reading the commentary beneath it puts a little fear and loathing into me initially but nothing here should upset me, because I’ve been living with substantial cognitive and metabolic impairment for more than a decade. For some reason, reading it in print is a little shocking anyway – as if I didn’t know I was sick.
Comments from FDC about it:
I just wanted to note that is the highest out of range Ca/Mg ratio I have seen so far! Per Cutler . . . this means your blood sugar regulation is WAY off (you knew this, of course!)
Extreme high copper over 75 needs to be addressed. Mine was 265, but yours is the highest I have seen. It will emulate mercury in many ways. So it has to be addressed.
- I’m a “slow metabolizer” (HTI page 112).
- In Hair Test Interpretation: Finding Hidden Toxicities, Andy includes some discussion about high hair copper which seems to apply to me. He notes it might be good to check family members, but I see that my parents do not have high copper.
- Checked the top 10 foods highest in copper and I was gorging myself on three of them at the time the hair grew: nuts, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds. I’m not going to worry much about the copper, probably will do a few months of extra zinc, molybdenum and taurine…
- Checking my 2007 blood tests I see that the Doctors Data Whole Blood Elements test showed low copper and somewhat high molybdenum (which I’m guessing I was supplementing). Cysteine and sulfate were also in range (other things affected by heavy metals that Andy Cutler recommends checking when copper is high).
- After reading the DDI commentary, it seemed silver was of no concern but in HTI, Andy says otherwise. According to Andy Selenium 200-400 mcg and urine alkaline position may help. Both my mother and father also have high silver. No idea where it comes from although I did work with photographic chemicals as a kid.
- I’m looking forward to trying a lithium supplement!
Possible adjustments to protocol needed:
- add vitamin K – from HTI pg 109: “Low blood calcium leads to slowing of the heart and poor muscular contractions. . . Vitamin K is believed to be involved in regulating where the calcium goes. supplementary vitamin K may help people with osteoporosis or with high here calcium levels.”
- increase taurine – HTI page 110: “low plasma taurine leads to excessive loss of magnesium in urine with a reduction in body levels as well as poor retention of magnesium in tissue such as heart muscle that need high levels of it”. In 2007 when my amino acids were tested, taurine was the lowest.
- increase sodium – HTI page 114: “When sodium is low compared to magnesium the body can’t make enough adrenaline leading to poor mood and energy”.
- increase B6 – HTI page 114: “Having a high ratio of calcium to phosphorus along with a low ratio of sodium to magnesium suggest the need for supplementary vitamin B6” and page 118: “high hair zinc and also low hair magnesium are signs that more vitamin B6 may be needed.”
- increase molybdenum – HTI page 116: “Molybdenum modulates copper metabolism to reduce body copper levels.”
- increase zinc – HTI page 116: “Zinc inhibits copper absorption as does vitamin C.” and page 117 “when mineral transport is deranged, elevated hair zinc invariably indicates a low body burden and zinc supplementation is appropriate. In fact body zinc is almost invariably low when mineral transport is deranged unless zinc is being supplemented at high levels.” and page 119: “people with low zinc due to mercury problems typically need levels of zinc supplementation that would be considered excessive in normal individuals and tolerate high level supplementation for prolonged periods of many years.”
HAIR ELEMENTS REPORT
Hair is an excretory tissue for essential, nonessential and potentially toxic elements. In general, the amount of an element that is irreversibly incorporated into growing hair is proportional to the level of the element in other body tissues. Therefore, hair elements analysis provides an indirect screening test for physiological excess, deficiency or maldistribution of elements in the body. Clinical research indicates that hair levels of specific elements, particularly potentially toxic elements such as cadmium, mercury, lead and arsenic, are highly correlated with pathological disorders. For such elements, levels in hair may be more indicative of body stores than the levels in blood and urine.
All screening tests have limitations that must be taken into consideration. The correlation between hair element levels and physiological disorders is determined by numerous factors. Individual variability and compensatory mechanisms are major factors that affect the relationship between the distribution of elements in hair and symptoms and pathological conditions. It is also very important to keep in mind that scalp hair is vulnerable to external contamination of elements by exposure to hair treatments and products. Likewise, some hair treatments (e.g. permanent solutions, dyes, and bleach) can strip hair of endogenously acquired elements and result in false low values. Careful consideration of the limitations must be made in the interpretation of results of hair analysis. The data provided should be considered in conjunction with symptomology, diet analysis, occupation and lifestyle, physical examination and the results of other analytical laboratory tests.
Caution: The contents of this report are not intended to be diagnostic and the physician
using this information is cautioned against treatment based solely on the results of this screening test. For example, copper supplementation based upon a result of low hair copper is contraindicated in patients afflicted with Wilson’s Disease.
This individual’s hair Lead (Pb) level is considered to be moderately elevated. Generally, hair is a good indicator of exposure to Pb. However, elevated levels of Pb in head hair can be an artifact of hair darkening agents, or dyes, e.g. lead acetate. Although these agents can cause exogenous contamination some transdermal absorption does occur.
Pb has neurotoxic and nephrotoxic effects in humans as well as interfering with heme biosynthesis. Pb may also affect the body’s ability to utilize the essential elements calcium, magnesium, and zinc.
At moderate levels of body burden, Pb may have adverse effects on memory, cognitive function, nerve conduction, and metabolism of vitamin D. Children with hair Pb levels greater than 1 pg/g have been reported to have a higher incidence of hyperactivity than those with less than 1 pg/g. Children with
hair Pb levels above 3 pg/g have been reported to have more learning problems than those with less than 3 pg/g. Detoxification therapy by means of chelation results in transient increases in hair lead. Eventually, the hair Pb level will normalize after detoxification is complete.
Symptoms associated with excess Pb are somewhat nonspecific, but include: anemia, headaches, fatigue, weight loss, cognitive dysfunction and decreased coordination.
Sources of exposure to Pb include: welding, old leaded paint (chips/dust), drinking water, some fertilizers, industrial pollution, lead-glazed pottery, Ayruvedic herbs and use of firearms.
Tests for Pb body burden are: urine elements analysis following provocation with intravenous Ca-EDTA, or oral DMSA. Whole blood analysis for Pb reflects recent or ongoing exposures and does not correlate well with total body burden.
Hair mercury (Hg) is an excellent indicator of exposure to methylmercury from fish. Mercury is toxic to humans and animals. Individuals vary greatly in sensitivity and tolerance to Hg burden.
Hg can suppress biological selenium function and may cause or contribute to immune dysregulation in sensitive individuals. Hallmark symptoms of excess Hg include: loss of appetite, decreased senses of touch, hearing, and vision, fatigue, depression, emotional instability, peripheral numbness and
tremors, poor memory and cognitive dysfunction, and neuromuscular disorders. Hair Hg has been reported to correlate with acute myocardial infarction and on average each 1 pg/g of hair Hg was found to correlate with a 9% increase in AMI risk (Circulation 1995; 91:645-655).
Sources of Hg include dental amalgams, fish, water supplies, some hemorrhoidal preparations, skin lightening agents, instruments (thermometers, electrodes, batteries), and combustion of fossil fuels, Ayurvedic herbs, some fertilizers, and the paper/pulp and gold industries. After dental amalgams are installed or removed a transient (several months) increase in hair Hg is observed. Also, “baseline” hair Hg levels for individuals with dental amalgams are higher (about 1 to 2 pg/g) than are baseline levels for those without (below 1 pg/g).
Confirmatory tests for elevated Hg are measurement of whole blood as an indication of recent/ongoing exposure (does not correlate with whole body accumulation) and measurement of urine Hg before and after administration of a dithiol metal binding agent such as DMSA or DMPS (an indication of total body burden).
Hair is a reasonable tissue for monitoring exposure to Nickel (Ni). However, hair is commonly contaminated with Ni from hair treatments and dyes. When hair Ni is measured at more than .6 ppm, the possible use of hair dyes or colorings should be investigated before concluding that excessive Ni is present.
There is substantial evidence that Ni is an essential element which is required in extremely low amounts. However, excess Ni has been well established to be nephrotoxic, and carcinogenic. Elevated Ni is often found in individuals who work in the electronic and plating, mining, and steel manufacture industries. A cigarette typically contains from 2 to 6 mcg of Ni; Ni is absorbed more efficiently in the lungs than in the gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms of chronic Ni exposure include dermatitis, chronic rhinitis, and hypersensitivity reactions. Ni can hypersensitize the immune system, subsequently causing hyperallergenic responses to many different substances.
Symptoms of Ni toxicity are dermatitis and pulmonary inflammation (following exposure to Ni dust, smoke). Long term or chronic Ni toxicity may lead to liver necrosis and carcinoma.
A test for elevated Ni body burdenis the measurement of urine Ni before and after administration of chelating agents that mobilize Ni i.e., Ca-EDTA.
Hair Silver (Ag) levels have been found to reflect environmental exposure to the element. However, hair is commonly contaminated with Ag from hair treatments such as permanents, dyes, and bleaches.
Ag is not an essential element and is of relatively low toxicity. However, some Ag salts are very toxic.
Sources of Ag include seafood, metal and chemical processing industries, photographic processes, jewelry making (especially soldering), effluents from coal fired power plants and colloidal silver products.
The bacteriostatic properties of Ag have been long recognized and Ag has been used extensively for medicinal purposes; particularly in the treatment of burns. There is much controversy over the long term safety of consumption of colloidal silver. Very high intake of colloidal silver has been reported to give rise to tumors in the liver and spleen of animals (Metals in Clinical and Analytical Chemistry, eds. Seiler, Segel and Segel, 1994). However, these data may not have relevance to the effects of chronic, low level consumption by humans.
Hair Calcium (Ca) levels have been correlated with nutritional intake, several disease syndromes, and metabolic disorders. However, hair Ca is sensitive to contamination by permanent solutions, dyes or bleaching. If hair has been treated, the reported Ca level is likely to be artifactually high and not indicative of Ca status or metabolism.
When external contamination is ruled out, elevated Ca is most often interpreted as a maldistribution of Ca. Rarely is elevated hair Ca indicative of excess dietary Ca. However, overzealous supplementation is possible. A high result for hair Ca is more likely to be indicative of an inappropriately low ratio of dietary Ca : phosphorus. Conditions associated with elevated hair Ca include but are not limited to: hyperparathyroidism, osteoporosis, excess dietary Ca or protein, excess vitamins A and/or D, phosphorus/magnesium/calcium imbalance (assessed by whole blood element analysis), hypoglycemia, hormonal imbalances, and metabolic disorders.
Hair analysis is not the preferred way to assess body Ca stores. Ca status should be assessed through: dietary analysis, whole blood or serum Ca level, vitamin A and D levels, blood concentrations of other electrolytes (sodium, magnesium, potassium), parathyroid hormone determinations, and bone density measurement.
The level of Sodium (Na) in hair has not been documented to be indicative of dietary adequacy or nutritional status. Na is an essential element with extracellular electrolyte functions, but these functions do not occur in hair. Low hair Na may have no clinical significance or it may be consistent with electrolyte imbalance associated with adrenal insufficiency. In this condition, blood Na would be low, blood potassium would be high, and urinary levels of Na would be expected to be high. Observations at DDI indicate that Na and potassium levels in hair are commonly low in association with emotional stress. The low levels of Na and potassium are frequently concomitant with high levels of calcium and magnesium in hair. This apparent “emotional stress pattern” requires further investigation.
Appropriate tests for Na status as an electrolyte are measurements of Na in whole blood and urine, and measurements of adrenocortical function.
The level of Potassium (K) in hair does not reflect nutritional status or dietary intake. However, hair K levels may provide clinically relevant information pertaining to adrenal function and/or electrolyte balance.
K is an electrolyte and a potentiator of enzyme functions in cells, but neither of these functions takes place in hair. K can be low in the body as the result of gastrointestinal or renal dysfunction, or as a side effect of some diuretics. In adrenocortical hyperactivity, blood levels of K are depressed, while urinary K is increased. Low hair K should be viewed as a screening test. Observations at DDI indicate that hair levels of sodium and K are commonly low in association with emotional stress. The low levels of sodium and K are frequently concomitant with high levels of calcium and magnesium in hair. This apparent “emotional stress pattern” requires further investigation.
Symptoms of true K deficiency include: muscle weakness, fatigue, and tachycardia. Diabetic acidosis can result in severe K loss.
Confirmatory tests for K deficiency include measurements of packed red blood cell K; whole blood K and the sodium/K ratio; urine K and the sodium/K ratio. An electrocardiogram may show abnormalities when K is low in serum/plasma or whole blood.
The high level of Copper (Cu) in hair may be indicative of excess Cu in the body. However, it is important first to rule out exogenous contamination sources: permanent solutions, dyes, bleaches, swimming pool/hot tub water, and washing hair in acidic water carried through Cu pipes. In the case of contamination from hair preparations, other elements (aluminum, silver, nickel, titanium) are usually also elevated.
Sources of excessive Cu include contaminated food or drinking water, excessive Cu supplementation, and occupational or environmental exposures. Insufficient intake of competitively absorbed elements such as zinc or molybdenum can lead to, or worsen Cu excess.
Medical conditions that may be associated with excess Cu include: biliary obstruction (reduced ability to excrete Cu), liver disease (hepatitis or cirrhosis), and renal dysfunction. Symptoms associated with excess Cu accumulation are muscle and joint pain, depression, irritability, tremor, hemolytic anemia, learning disabilities, and behavioral disorders.
Confirmatory tests for Cu excess are a comparison of Cu in pre vs. post provocation (D-penicillamine, DMPS) urine elements tests and a whole blood elements analysis.
A result of high hair Zinc (Zn) may be indicative of low Zn in cells, and functional Zn insufficiency, or excessive Zn supplementation. Zn can be displaced from proteins such as intracellular metallothionein by other metals, particularly cadmium, lead, copper, and mercury (Toxicology of Metals, 1994), resulting in paradoxically elevated hair Zn. Zn may also be high in hair as a result of the use of Zn-containing anti-dandruff shampoo. Rough or dry, flaky skin is a symptom of Zn deficiency, so it is not uncommon for Zn deficient patients to use an anti-dandruff shampoo. A result of high hair Zn warrants further testing to assess Zn status. Confirmatory tests for Zn status are whole blood or packed red blood cell elements analysis.
Zn is an essential element that is required in many very important biological processes. However, Zn can be toxic if exposure is excessive. Although very uncommon, high hair Zn might be indicative of Zn overload which could result from Zn contaminated water (galvanized pipes), welding or gross, chronic over-supplementation (100 mg/day). Other sources of Zn include: manufacture of brass, bronze, white paint, and pesticide production. Symptoms of Zn excess include: gastrointestinal disorders, decreased heme synthesis (copper deficiency), tachycardia, blurred vision, and hypothermia.
Hair Chromium (Cr) is a good indicator of tissue levels and may provide a better indication of status than do urine or blood plasma/serum (Nielsen, F.H. In Modern Nutrition on Health and Disease; 8th Edition, 1994. Ed. Shils, Olson and Shike. Lea and Febiger, Philadelphia). Hair Cr is seldom affected by permanent solutions, dyes and bleaches.
Cr (trivalent) is generally accepted as an essential trace element that is required for maintenance of normal glucose and cholesterol levels; it potentiates insulin function, i.e., as a part of “glucose tolerance factor”. Deficiency conditions may include hyperglycemia, transient hyper/hypoglycemia, fatigue, accelerated atherosclerogenesis, elevated LDL cholesterol, increased need for insulin and diabetes-like symptoms, and impaired stress responses. Marginal or insufficient Cr is common in the U.S., where average tissue levels are low compared to those found in many other countries. Low hair Cr appears to be associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease and an atherogenic lipoprotein profile (low HDL, high LDL). Common causes of deficiency are ingestion of highly processed foods, inadequate soil levels of Cr, gastrointestinal dysfunction, and insufficient vitamin B-6. Cr status is also compromised in patients with iron overload/high transferrin saturation because transferrin is a major transport protein for Cr.
Confirmatory tests for Cr adequacy include glucose tolerance and packed red blood cell elements analysis.
Lithium (Li) is normally found in hair at very low levels. Hair Li correlates with high dosage of Li carbonate in patients treated for Affective Disorders. However, the clinical significance of low hair Li levels is not certain at this time. Thus, hair Li is measured primarily for research purposes. Anecdotally, clinical feedback to DDI consultants suggests that low level Li supplementation may have some beneficial effects in patients with behavioral/emotional disorders. Li occurs almost universally in water and in the diet; excess Li is rapidly excreted in urine.
Li at low levels may have essential functions in humans. Intracellularly, Li inhibits the conversion of phosphorylated inositol to free inositol. In the nervous system this moderates neuronal excitability. Li also influences monamine neurotransmitter concentrations at the synapse (this function is increased when Li is used therapeutically for mania or bipolar illness).
A confirmatory test for low Li is measurement of Li in blood serum/plasma.
Hair Phosphorus (P) levels do not accurately reflect the adequacy of the biochemical functions of P. Further, hair P concentration does not correlate with dietary intake of P. However, hair P levels may be affected by abnormal calcium, P or vitamin D metabolism and possibly by abnormal magnesium levels. Hair P levels are measured primarily for research purposes.
P is a major component of mineralized tissue such as bone and teeth. Along with calcium, P assimilation into bone is regulated by vitamin D. Phosphates also are present in every cell of the body where they are involved in chemical energy transfer and enzyme regulation. Phosphorylation chemistry is part of carbohydrate, amino acid, and lipid metabolism.
Appropriate tests for assessing P status are measurements of whole blood (total) P level; serum vitamin D-3 and/or 25-0H vitamin D-3 level; and 24-hour urinary P level (together with measurements of calcium and magnesium).
Selenium (Se) is normally found in hair at very low levels, and several studies provide evidence that low hair Se is reflective of dietary intake and associated with cardiovascular disorders. Utilization of hair Se levels to assess nutritional status, however, is complicated by the fact that use of Se- or sulfur-containing shampoo markedly increases hair Se (externally) and can give a false high value.
Se is an extremely important essential element due to its antioxidative function as an obligatory component of the enzyme glutathione peroxidase. Se is also protective in its capacity to bind and “inactivate” mercury, and Se is an essential cofactor in the deiodination of T-4 to active T-3 (thyroid hormone). Some conditions of functional hypothyroidism therefore may be due to Se deficiency (Nature; 349:438-440, 1991); this is of particular concern with mercury exposure. Studies have also indicated significant inverse correlations between Se and heart disease, cancer, and asthma.
Selenium deficiency is common and can result from low dietary intake of Se or vitamin E, and exposure to toxic metals, pesticides/herbicides and chemical solvents.
Symptoms of Se deficiency are similar to that of vitamin E deficiency and include muscle aches, increased inflammatory response, loss of body weight, alopecia, listlessness, skeletal and muscular degeneration, growth stunting, and depressed immune function.
Confirmatory tests for Se deficiency are Se content of packed red blood cells, and activity of glutathione peroxidase in red blood cells.
Hair usually reflects the body burden of Strontium (Sr), and Sr levels usually correlate with calcium levels in body tissue. However, hair levels of Sr can be raised by external contamination, usually from hair treatment products. Elevated Sr in hair treated with permanent solutions, dyes, or bleaches is likely to be an artifact of hair treatment and probably does not reflect the level of Sr in other tissues.
Diseases of excess Sr have not been reported, except for Sr rickets. In general, Sr excess is not of clinical concern in the U.S. It’s bad reputation comes from it’s radioactive isotopes which were widespread in the western U.S. as a result of nuclear testing in the 1950’s. Stable Sr (not radioactive Sr) is measured and reported by DDI.
Other tests indicative of Sr status or excess are measurements of Sr in whole blood, Sr/calcium ratio in blood, and Sr in urine.
Total Toxic Element Indication
The potentially toxic elements vary considerably with respect to their relative toxicities.
The accumulation of more than one of the most toxic elements may have synergistic adverse effects, even if the level of each individual element is not strikingly high. Therefore, we present a total toxic element “score” which is estimated using a weighted average based upon relative toxicity. For example, the combined presence of lead and mercury will give a higher total score than that of the combination of silver and beryllium.