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Hair analysis

2008-06-25 15:41:34.31643+00 by Dan Lyke 19 comments

Huh. Charlene had sent some samples off for one of these hair analysis things, and just for giggles we sent mine off too. I got the sheet with the numbers back but there were no units on it. I did some searching around for literature on the subject of hair analysis, and then talked to the person who was supposed to interpret this sheet. She didn't know what the units were either. She did, however, suggest a "cleansing" regime to deal with the mercury.

This morning I tracked down the units the lab is allegedly using (links elided to protect the guilty):

We report our results in Mg%(milligrams percent) or milligrams per 100 grams of hair. This means that 100 grams of hair would contain the reported number of milligrams of the minerals listed. Some possible equivalent ways these units might be referred to are milligrams percent and milligram per deciliter.

So ignoring the fact that "milligrams per deciliter" is a measure of mass per volume and milligrams per hundred grams is a measure of mass per mass, the latter being a reasonable set of numbers, the former being absurd for something like hair, we get to interpreting what "0.106 Mercury" means. I'm having trouble finding that one paper again, but I ran across a paper on one of the CDC or NIH web sites claiming that the norms were in the 10 micrograms per gram for non-seafood eaters, 25 or so for seafood eaters. Which means that, according to this lab, I'm an order of magnitude below the norm.

Hmmm... I'm, well, skeptical.

[ related topics: Health Physiology ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2008-06-26 14:12:52.975966+00 by: Dan Lyke

Whoops, nope, here we go: The FDA says 2ppm in hair is normal, so I've got mercury levels roughly half normal. Certainly no cause for the alarm raised.

And here's a good overview of the state of hair analysis as a diagnostic tool as of 2001.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-06-26 15:16:42.350435+00 by: Dan Lyke [edit history]

And, should anyone wish to armchair quarterback (I expect a post from my mom here shortly...),


I find two competing fronts on sodium, potassium and aluminum: Some say these are too highly variable based on hair care protocols to be useful in diagnoses, some say these are important to diagnoses, but those who say that they're important also oddly caution against washing the samples at the lab lest these values get mucked up.

The lack of peer-reviewed publications makes me suspicious.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-06-26 15:41:54.702299+00 by: ebradway [edit history]

Holistic health proponents suggest taking anything from the FDA with a grain of NaCl (or maybe a homeopathic dilution of NaCl).

Mercury has a long, confused history. Evidently it was used widely in traditional Chinese and Tibetan medicine - perhaps with worse consequences that the health issues it was designed to treat. More recently, the FDA has begun issuing relabeling on Mercury Amalgam fillings due to health concerns.

I'd be interested to see what your results would look like after a heavy metal cleanse. I'd also be keen to see results after a week of regular cycling in the city!

One of my current "issues" with the barrage of holistic health claims is that I know that my biggest health problem is lack of physical activity. I believe that getting out on my bike outweighs any other negative.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-06-26 16:42:49.839409+00 by: Dan Lyke

I'll freely admit that the FDA gets some stuff wrong, but for wide-spread numbers like that, until I can find the meta-analysis paper that looks at the overview of studies I'll take it over the un-cited stuff.

And, yeah, Mercury was also used in the treatment of syphilis until antibiotics came along. I recently read someone speculate that while cardiac doctors tended to be fit and trim, oncologists tended to be fat, 'cause they'd seen people die of cancer and would rather go via heart-attack. Similarly, in heavy metal poisoning versus syphilis, I can see how the former might be a preferable way to go.

Aside: Does a "heavy metal cleanse" involve lots of Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath?

Every time I see a "cleanse" protocol it's either remarkably like I already eat, or it's one of these (alleged) "juice fasts", which really means "drinking lots of sugars", and I can't see putting my liver through that (especially not after my bout with campylobacter, which also involved getting all of my calories through liquids). I also have yet to see anyone backing up the notion of a cleanse with any sort of widespread study, lots of anecdotal evidence, but nobody who's said "we took n people, took samples, had 'em anonymously analyzed at m different labs, ran people through the fasts, re-sampled, saw these results", even for m=1.

I certainly think there are things I could change about my diet, I'd like to bring my systolic blood pressure down a bit, for instance, and I'm not convinced that lower salt is a solution for me, but, yeah, I go through bouts of cause and effect every time I go to the health food stores and notice how many unhealthy people there are...

#Comment Re: hair analysis: made: 2008-06-26 18:21:36.696644+00 by: Karen Lyke

Mercury (Hg) is still used as a preservative in vaccinations, along with Al which most unfortunately opens the Blood Brain Barrier to allow passage of all kinds of toxic substances into the brain. The party line is either that the Hg doesn't really cause big problems, or that it is no longer in vaccines, except for Rhogam (given to pregnant women, where it crosses the placenta and heads right for the developing brain, oops), or flu vaccines (a huge scam*), or vials of vaccines meant for multiple doses. The CDC has spent more on covering up the evidence, protecting the vaccine makers and their profits, than it has toward solving the autism problem. Thimerosal -- the common vaccine preservative, is about 50% Hg. Interestingly enough the incidence of autism has increased to officially 1 in 150, others say 1 in 74, at the same time that vaccines are given earlier (day 1 for Hep B, which is sexually transmitted and wears off in about ten years -- what do we expect from kids these days?) and in greater number. That's injection with more than 65 types of antigens plus all kinds of foreign substances per shot by the time a kid is five according to the CDC schedule. *There are studies showing that the incidence of Alzheimer's disease (suspected of being an adult onset form of autism) is markedly higher in those who get regular flu shots. Given that the targeted flu strains are mere guesses at what's likely to come around in the current year, and that the flu is the body's attempt at a major full blown top to bottom bodily housecleaning to eliminate great accumulations of metabolic wastes and other toxins, other than the several days of misery, I'm not sure why a person would want to prevent the flu, that is, prevent the body from cleaning itself out.

Back to hair analysis, the issue is ratios; "ratios rule" and reflect what's happening in regard to blood sugar regulation, thyroid function, protein usage, adrenal, overall vitality in immunity, energy production and whether your body is catabolic or anabolic, also hormonal balance and cardiovascular state. in addition, sometimes low Hg can be deceptive, especially if other heavy metals (Cd, As, Pb) are relatively higher. This isn't a place to rest easy, but a flag to wonder how effectively the body is excreting heavy metals or if the Hg is stored deep in the cells, thus inhibiting their metabolic effectiveness.

I'll run the above numbers through my worksheets, but a quick eyeball of these results suggests that more sodium/salt would be appropriate, and that calcium is very high. More magnesium intake would certainly be beneficial. Next time you want to do a hair analysis, let me know and I'll set you up with one of the professional labs for a much more thorough picture. Mom MS (Human Nutrition) CCN (Board Certification in Clinical Nutrition)

#Comment Re: hair analysis: made: 2008-06-26 21:03:30.431759+00 by: Karen Lyke

Hello again, I just ran some numbers. Your Ca/Mg is just a touch low 6.63 vs ideal of 6.67, but close enough, so nix on the Mg supplement. Your sodium is low in both ratios. Do you know about Herba Mare seasoned salt? It's a good quality salt that's been steeped in veggie juices. It provides other minerals beyond sodium, enhances food very nicely.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-06-26 22:03:24.940284+00 by: ebradway

According to QuackWatch, several blind tests were done in which identical hair samples were sent to different hair analysis labs and even to the same hair analysis lab - and results varied significantly. Those studies seem a little old. I'd hope reputable labs would test their own processes.

On the flip-side, I believe that physical activity can have a greater impact on all physical symptoms than supplements and diet. To whit, I've been trying to refine my diet through elimination to identify sensitivities. The more I eliminate, the more I seem sensitive too. Of course, this is during a period of general inactivity in my life. When I was on a long-distance hike during my honeymoon, I was able to eat anything and felt amazing.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-06-27 16:56:40.778811+00 by: Dan Lyke

Yeah, Eric, I ran across that study, but I'm willing to allow that things may have changed in 24 years. I haven't, however, run across anyone who's done a more modern study disputing that one.

In general I agree on the exercise thing, when my resting heart rate is below 60 I feel a lot better, but I've got some very specific symptoms I'm playing with that are clearly diet related. Potatoes, for instance, appear to have a very repeatable effect on me, and popcorn appears to have the same effect, although I don't seem to have any problem with corn in other forms. Which is weird.

Mom, I eat a lot of salt, so I'd really expect that there's something else involving metabolizing it. And my systolic tends towards the 135 range, so I don't want to encourage that.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-07-01 10:37:25.648456+00 by: ghasty

Dan, should you really be wasting strands of hair like this? <grin>

#Comment Re: made: 2008-07-01 12:11:31.496116+00 by: meuon

"I believe that physical activity can have a greater impact on all physical symptoms than supplements and diet" - Agreed, and I need a lot more.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-07-01 13:19:59.240464+00 by: ebradway

That's odd about popcorn. Mind sharing a little more of the effects? Are they energy related or is it abdominal pain?

What kind of salt do you use?

As I cycle more, I'm starting to see the need to really focus on getting my resting heart rate down and increasing my recovery rate. As much as I'd like to spring for a real road bike, I'm still thinking the problem is more the piece of meat mounted on the seat! Also, when I'm push 30lbs overweight, it doesn't make any sense to worry about the weight of the bike.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-07-01 13:31:13.786712+00 by: Dan Lyke

Popcorn and potatoes both make my body stink. Even if I try to sneak 'em, by the end of the day Charlene's telling me "wow, you smell really rank".

Salt-wise we have the super-expensive Celtic sea salts, but generally I just use iodized table salts.

Gary, I'm going shaved nowadays, I let it grow back in a bit for this...

#Comment Re: made: 2008-07-01 17:19:39.581895+00 by: ebradway

OK. That's a different symptom. Do you eat other products with corn or potato byproducts?

I'm beginning to wonder if there's some environmental stressors impacting people's pancreas. I don't particularly eat a lot of sweets and definitely avoid the highly refined, processed ones. But for some reason, I'm only getting more and more sensitive to sugars - which includes corn and potato.

I do have popcorn about once a week, but I pretty much never eat any other corn products. I can't get anywhere near corn syrup. I actually get bad breath from it.

For salt, I only use the Celtic sea salts and I use it as liberally as I want on my food after it's prepared. And I eat almost nothing out of a can (avoiding sodium as a preservative). But I also have issues with low blood pressure.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-07-01 17:31:28.921483+00 by: Dan Lyke [edit history]

Plenty of other corn products: tortillas, grits, polenta, corn on the cob, masa in various forms (ie: tamales). And plenty of those with butter and salt, as well. Nothing else potato, although one or two outlying situations make me think that either Charlene isn't commenting every time my body's really stinky, or there may be some other factor, including the species of potato.

I've yet to run into anything that convinces me that there's that much variation in salts, aside from the cool color, so generally I do my salts by the texture/grind I'm looking for. Which means that despite being the sort of person who says "all salts are equal" we have four different types of salt in our pantry.

Edit: 4 types of salt: Kosher salt for pickling and preserving and applications where extra iodine would be bad, regular iodized table salt, some fancy-schmancy French sea salt for big grains, like on pretzels, and the super-fine ground and slightly red-ish celtic sea salts.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-07-01 18:30:26.894623+00 by: JT

Dan, where do you get grits? Do you have a supplier that ships them? I haven't had grits since I've been on the west coast... I'd even settle for instant grits at this point.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-07-01 18:42:42.680773+00 by: Dan Lyke

I've eaten them at Theresa & Johnny's in San Rafael (they also do a decent biscuits and gravy, something else generally lacking out here in California), but that's prepared by someone else. I haven't gone looking for 'em dry, I'm generally more a fan of the flavor and texture of polenta, B vitamins be damned, but if you know someone with a grinder I'm sure there's a Mexican grocery near you that'd stock un-ground lye treated corn.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-07-01 20:16:33.875267+00 by: Mark A. Hershberger

I know Dan rides (or used to) and now I see ebradway does. Sorry to sidetrack this, (maybe someone wants to start a new thread?) but I'm curious how much riding you guys are doing.

(And, ebradway, I'm down ~25lbs for the year. I would suggest that while exercise is excellent, the big sticking point for me was the number of calories going in my pie-hole. I've seen the best results when I limit those. Not that that's anything but common sense, but it seems like it is much harder than increasing the amount of exercise I get.)

#Comment Re: made: 2008-07-01 20:55:13.516539+00 by: Dan Lyke

I actually haven't been riding much recently, but I figure that jack-hammering out a sprinkler system in the yard is a reasonable substitute. And even when I'm not riding, I tend to walk hills in the neighborhood a bit (easy to hit my limit jogging up them), and the hikes on Sunday keep some exercise going.

I'm hoping that the smoke will clear enough and the schedules will converge such that a friend and I can do 80-100 miles on Friday. It'll be the furthest he's ever ridden, and a nice day out for me, probably 17-18MPH.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-07-02 03:38:48.978928+00 by: ebradway

mark: I've been starting to monitor my overall caloric intake as well - not to the point of keeping a log - but I'm almost there. What sucks is the bike shop that sponsors the Sunday group ride I go on always has barbecued brats and cold beer for us when we get back.