Kelly Johnston, FNTP, RWP
First Up: Mineral Balance
Mineral balance. Metabolic health. Microbiome. Mindset.
This is where I’ve landed, and while the alliteration sounds contrived, it wasn’t planned in any way. When I put into words the areas of interest and study that I’ve found most fascinating and useful for guiding me in working with clients, this is what bubbles up, in no particular order. Each plays such a key role in our experience of robust well-being, of devastating barely-being, and everything in between. Each deserves our attention when we are seeking optimal health. My plan is to give them each some attention in this blog space. First up: mineral balance.
Mineral status is one of the very foundations of health, along with digestion, blood sugar regulation, fatty acid status, and hydration. Mineral status is a major piece of each of the other foundations as well. Their availability and usability have such an impact on the health of the human body. They are our ‘spark plugs’, feeding into the electron transport chain, which produces cellular energy, and thus OUR energy. Minerals are intimately related with the vast number of enzymes that are part of all our bodily processes, acting as co-factors, facilitators, and inhibitors, and thus orchestrating much of our bodies’ function. Nutrients can’t get into our cells without minerals to transfer them across the cell membranes, and hydration can’t take place without our electrolyte minerals. Our muscles won’t contract and relax without them – including our heart muscle – and our nerve conduction depends on them. We require mineral balance to maintain proper pH balance and our detoxification system. And, truly, this is just the tip of the iceberg. The caveat here is that minerals exist as antagonists and synergists with one another, and the way they work against or with each other, in addition to the effects of every day life in the modern world, often leads to imbalance.
I first studied mineral balancing in 2018 and began using it both personally and in my practice at that time. I was hesitant to make it a key player for several reasons. In the past five years since I began working with functional nutrition, I’ve felt a tug to work within confines acceptable to both conventional and alternative/holistic camps; in other words, working with labs used routinely in conventional medicine (from a nutritional perspective, not a diagnostic one) appealed to me. I didn’t want to venture into territory that might invite the side-eye from health professionals who don’t work with other modalities. The test used in holistic mineral balancing is used world-wide for determining heavy metal exposure and is widely used within the functional nutrition community to address mineral imbalances, but isn’t in the same category traditionally as blood, hormone, and comprehensive stool labs. So I worked with clients who were interested using HTMA (Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis) but didn’t really talk publicly about it. I didn’t really advertise that I work with other labs either, as it is very important that people understand my scope of practice - that these labs are just another tool for gathering data in order to make bio-individual food, supplement, and lifestyle recommendations to address a client’s needs from a nutritional perspective, and not used as a diagnostic tool (unless taken to their licensed medical practitioner for review, which is encouraged).
But then I started to see that mineral balancing really was working to make positive shifts in clients’ health and well-being. They felt better, their energy improved, their nagging symptoms subsided, and they were inclined to continue this work since they experienced results. I saw that their blood labs markers were trending more toward optimal. And I realized that this 30,000 foot view of the body’s function was broader in scope and more accessible financially than the other functional tests that I’d learned to use. Granted, it’s a slower, gentler approach, but this is often what is most appealing about it.
While I was formulating these thoughts and working with my clients in this manner, I continued to ramp up my study and take two other courses, becoming more fascinated and appreciative of what I was learning. It made sense to hone in on HTMA as an adjunct to the in-depth health and food history and the nutritional assessment questionnaire, as it is so helpful in gaining a bird’s eye view of one’s metabolism and system function. It helps me remain true to my philosophy of working with the foundations of health while gaining insight into why a client may be experiencing issues with multiple systems within the body. And it leads to movement in a positive direction.
So how does our hair show us anything about our mineral balance? And can we trust the test results?
Stay tuned – this is where I’m going next.