High Readings - Loss or Toxicity

A common concern from practitioners and patients alike is the significance of very high readings on a hair mineral analysis. Practitioners also wonder why we supplement a mineral that is elevated on a hair mineral analysis. Let us address these questions.

General Considerations

Elevated readings on a hair analysis can have different meanings depending upon 1) which mineral is elevated, 2) the history of the patient, 3) whether one has been following a scientific program and 4) relationships to other readings on the test.

All mineral readings represent the deposition of the mineral in the hair over the period during which the hair grew out. A very high reading may represent a toxic amount of the mineral in the hair, and/or in the body tissues in general. In the case of a toxic metal, any deposition or accumulation in the hair indicates some degree of toxicity.

If it is a vital or physiological mineral, a high level can be simply an excess or what we call a biounavailable mineral. This means there is an excess in the tissues. However, there is also a deficiency somewhere else because the mineral cannot be utilized properly. Hence it is 'spilling out' into the soft tissues such as the hair. This occurs commonly with calcium.

A high level of a vital mineral could also indicate a corrective excretion of that mineral into the hair. This can happen during a nutritional balancing program if the body removes a deposit of a mineral such as calcium, magnesium or another from a storage site where it was in excess.

A high level of a vital mineral may indicate an abnormal loss of the mineral into the hair. This occurs with biounavailable minerals. A high level may also represent a compensation. For example, elevated tissue copper is at times accompanied by a high hair zinc. The zinc may elevate in the tissues to offset some of the toxic effects of excess copper. As the copper level comes down, the zinc level will normalize also. Note that the copper level may not be elevated, but hidden copper indicators will be present. These include a high calcium level, low potassium level, ratio of sodium to potassium less than 2.5, or mercury toxicity. Since this is a bit technical, let us clarify it more.

Mineral Loss

Often minerals are excreted or lost through the hair, causing a high reading. This loss, especially if on the first test, is usually pathological. If it occurs on a retest when a person has been following a nutritional balancing program, it is usually a normal part of the healing process. For example, toxic metal levels often rise on a repeat hair test. This is simply an eliminative process in which the body eliminates the mineral in part through the hair tissue.

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 in the body. In these cases, the hair level may go very high. Common examples are calcium, magnesium, manganese and iron.

For example, calcium must be in an ionized state to remain in the blood. If the sodium and potassium levels fall, calcium will not remain in an ionized state, and will begin to precipitate into the tissues. Adequate magnesium is also critical to keep calcium in solution.

In the case of manganese, we believe that manganese may accumulate in an oxide form, MNO6, perhaps in part to support a low sodium level. This form of manganese, however, is not usable and will accumulate pathologically in the hair and other tissues.

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.


A high level of a mineral may represent a toxic level of the mineral. Common toxicities include copper, heavy metals such as lead, mercury and cadmium, or aluminum and nickel. Less common but certainly not rare are iron, selenium, manganese and chromium toxicity. This may be due to water supplies, soil and food contamination or occupational exposure.

Selenium toxicity may occur from the use of shampoos containing selenium or contaminated water or food. Zinc toxicity is uncommon but can occur from occupational exposure such as mining or smelting.

Hormonal Retention

High sodium and potassium in the fast oxidizer usually represent a retention of these minerals in the hair tissue due to the action of the adrenal hormone, aldosterone. However, toxic metals or congestion in the kidneys could play a role in high sodium levels as well.

High levels of calcium and magnesium in slow oxidizers is usually related to low levels of aldosterone, with consequent lack of sodium retention. Low thyroid activity is also associated with calcium and magnesium elevation.

Another possibility is a very high potassium level while the sodium level is good. This pattern, a low sodium/potassium ratio, generally indicates a potassium loss through the hair due to cellular destruction. Potassium is an intracellular mineral that may be lost when cells are destroyed.

Another mineral that may elevate with protein breakdown is phosphorus, since proteins contain phosphorus. Protein breakdown or catabolism, however, may also cause a low phosphorus reading. A high reading (18 mg% or greater) is generally considered better than a low reading (12 or below). That is, the condition is more severe with a low reading.


We have mentioned the example of zinc, which may rise to compensate for the copper toxicity. The elevated zinc reduces or prevents the symptoms of copper toxicity, since zinc is a copper antagonist. Similarly, a high chromium could compensate for or help balance a high iron. Also, 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 is a subtle area, 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, but 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.

Elimination On A Program

If a person follows a nutritional balancing program, it is not unusual that on the second or a later test, a mineral that was previously normal or low will suddenly become elevated. The most common examples are the toxic metals. These are frequently low on the first several tests. This occurs because the body has insufficient energy to eliminate the toxic metals.

It does not mean there are no toxic metals present in the body when the patient began the program. Everyone, these days, has toxic metals in our experience. However, they can be so deeply buried they will not be revealed on a hair tissue test or any other test, until they are mobilized from storage. This can take months and often years of nutritional correction.

As the body gains energy and nutrient levels increase, energy becomes available to eliminate toxic metals from tissue storage sites. When this occurs, frequently a retest will show a higher level of one or more toxic metals. This often includes copper and iron, and may include manganese and even chromium and selenium.

Occasionally calcium and magnesium will rise precipitously on a retest. This can be caused by an increase in copper, an elimination of toxic metals that slows the oxidation rate, or a rise in sodium and potassium, which dissolves calcium deposits. A sudden elevation of calcium and magnesium on a retest can also be caused by increased adrenal stress or a shock that causes slower oxidation and a calcium shell, psychological withdrawal pattern.

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. Toxic metals may correct quickly, but may rise again as more is eliminated from other tissue storage sites.

The time required to reduce a high mineral level is hard to predict. It not only depends upon which mineral is involved, but also depends significantly upon the patient's diet, lifestyle and stress level. For this reason, it is best not to offer exact times required to balance a hair mineral chart.


Calcium and Magnesium. These elevate in slow oxidizers due to adrenal and thyroid weakness. When high, they are biounavailable. This means present in the body but not usable. Calcium cannot be retained in the blood in ionized form and it precipitates into the tissues, like hard water deposits on a faucet.

Sodium and Potassium. These elevate in fast oxidizers due to excessive adrenal and/or thyroid glandular effects. They can also elevate due to the presence of toxic metals or other kidney dysfunctions. A very high potassium with less elevated sodium often represents excessive tissue breakdown or catabolism.

Manganese, iron, copper, selenium, chromium. When elevated, these are simply toxic, or in a toxic, unusable form. Many times, a high reading will not occur on the first or first several hair analyses. This occurs because the mineral is buried deep in tissue storage sites. They elevate later as they are eliminated.

However, you can presume the presence of manganese and iron excess if aluminum is elevated above about 0.2 mg% (as it is in most people). You can presume the presence of excess copper if calcium is greater than 65 mg%, potassium less than 4 mg%, the sodium/potassium ratio less than 2.5, a zinc level less than 13 mg%, or if mercury is above about 0.03 mg%.

Phosphorus. This elevates with excessive tissue breakdown.

Toxic metals. When elevated, these simply represent a toxic condition in the body. Most often, toxic metals will not all be revealed on the initial hair analysis. They can be stored deep in the brain, liver and other organs and will not be revealed on a hair mineral test until they are mobilized from storage and eliminated in part through the hair.

Toxic metals will also frequently not be revealed on urine challenge tests, feces challenge tests or on blood challenge tests for the same reason. A challenge test means that before taking the sample of blood, urine or feces, one gives a dose a chelating agent such as EDTA or DMPS. This forces out more of the toxic metal. However, these agents work primarily in the blood, so that metals that are buried deep in the tissues will still not be revealed in many cases.

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