Are You Mineral Deficient? Results From Our Vegan Family’s Hair Analysis
Today's blog post is one I have been working on for some time. Throughout this blog, I will attempt to unpack how important minerals are for our body and overall wellbeing. They truly play vital roles in our inner health and outer beauty. Minerals support biochemical processes, our immune system, help balance sex hormones, help us relax, promote happiness and are even necessary for outer skin complexion.
At the beginning of the year whilst purchasing my supplements from Good State, an online health and mineral supplement company, I noticed they also provide a hair analysis test. Having eaten a plant-based vegan diet for almost five years, I was very curious to know what my mineral levels, were so I contacted Good State. I proposed for each member of the family (except Aubrey my 10-month-old) to do a hair analysis test and then share the results and conclusions with you. So thank you Good State for partnering with me!
For those of you unfamiliar with the practice, your hair can be tested because it is one of many places the body eliminates minerals - especially heavy toxic metals. The levels deposited in your hair reveal all kinds of things about your body chemistry and health condition. The root cause of many health issues can be traced to mineral deficiencies.
Let's take Magnesium, for example. Most people don’t even get half of the recommended daily intake, but it’s vital for your heart, immune system and muscle function. Magnesium is responsible for over 300 enzymatic processes in the body and brain. Health problems associated with magnesium deficiency include diabetes, poor absorption and celiac disease.
Before I unpack our results, let’s dive into why minerals are essential for life.
Why minerals are essential
Many know what macronutrients are - the protein, carbohydrate and fat components of your diet. I’ve too often seen people fuss over these building blocks whilst forgetting or remaining completely unaware of micronutrients. Despite only needing a tiny amount of micronutrients they are extremely critical for day-to-day function. The two types of micronutrients are vitamins and minerals. Today, we are talking about minerals and within this, macro-minerals and trace minerals. The macro-minerals are calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride, and sulfur. The trace minerals are iron, manganese, copper, iodine, zinc, cobalt, fluoride, and selenium.
Prior to modern day farming practices, our soils were rich in these minerals. Hence, it follows that our vegetables were also. All minerals are derived from the soil and enter animals or humans via plants! Unfortunately, commercialisation and poor farming practices such as a lack of crop rotation, heavy use of pesticides and chemical fertilisers have been depleting our soils for decades. Dr Libby Weaver says not even 100 years ago zinc was abundant in many soils. Nowadays, unless the soil is organic and or bio-dynamically farmed it will be zinc deficient, and therefore, so too will our fruit and vegetables.
If you run out of the good stuff, you need to replenish your stores back up to normal levels to avoid deficiency related symptoms and illnesses. I believe the best way to do this is supplementing with what your body needs. Things like stress, pregnancy and lack of sleep can all deplete mineral stores even if you have an amazingly healthy diet. Of course, supplements should not replace a healthy diet filled with healthy whole plant foods. In order to not become deficient, you have to be mindful of what plant foods contain what minerals. What's even more important is knowing what minerals can have absorbency issues. You can generally obtain an adequate amount of minerals from a whole-food plant based diet, but calcium, iron, and zinc are the ones that can have absorbency issues (I’ve written about absorbency in greater detail in this blog post).
With that said, I have been using an ionic zinc supplement for a little over two years. I first realised I had a zinc deficiency when I noticed a number of white spots on my nails. Another sign was the number of stretch marks I got during my first pregnancy. Your skin and nails are some of the first places to see nutritional deficiencies. Because of these two concerns, I went on my journey to find the best zinc supplement on the market. It’s all good and well taking a supplement, but you have to know that you are actually assimilating and absorbing that mineral into your cells. I found the liquid, ionised form from Good State to be the best way to absorb zinc rather than a dry white pill.
Ok now for the test results, but first a disclaimer: the information I tell you in this blog post applies to my family and me only. Just because I am high or low in a particular mineral doesn't necessarily mean you are also.
First of all, requirements for vitamins and minerals vary: metabolic, environmental, and/or genetic factors can influence individual nutrient requirements. I have different stress levels, gut health and microbiome to you, I have had children, and am currently breastfeeding. We also eat different food from different farms with different soils.
I also want to emphasise how important it is to be in tune with your body and what you feed it. Only you can take responsibility for your health. No one cares about your health more than you do! A hair analysis is a tool which can be very helpful, but it does not take the place of proper medical advice.
Expectation: I suspected Beth may be low in zinc because her nails weren’t as strong as they could be. They looked a little like mine growing up - they would grow quick but would peel and flake at the end. I had a zinc deficiency throughout my childhood which was only corrected when I changed my diet and supplemented with zinc.
Findings: Beth’s levels for calcium, magnesium and zinc were on the lower end of the acceptable reference range. The findings showed she was high in potassium, iron, boron and molybdenum (molybdenum is good for teeth health). All others were well within the normal reference range.
Notes: I have always known that calcium is a little harder to get from nature. Green vegetables have calcium, but, as Beth is a four-year-old child it isn’t always practical to expect her to eat a crazy amount of greens. I do however include them in smoothies, salads and cooked meals. I also used to fortify my plant milks with calcium but to be honest, stopped supplementing since moving to Australia (six months ago). I thought, in general, I was giving her enough. So here we are, I am very grateful to know what I need to focus on for Beths’ health specifically.
Conclusion: As a general protocol I’m going to focus on feeding Beth more green vegetables, and nuts and seeds (like almond butter and tahini). She doesn’t often like eating nuts and seeds. Almonds have a good balance of calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus so I will be including plenty of almond butter in her diet. Most importantly, to bring up her stores she will supplement with an ionic zinc supplement and an ionic calcium-magnesium supplement (because you cannot absorb calcium without magnesium). She will also have a small, daily amount of Good State’s Ionic Trace mineral drops which contain over 40 different naturally occurring ionic minerals including calcium, silica, selenium, phosphorus, boron, iodine chromium, and iron. We will do that for twelve weeks and retest her hair to see if there has been an improvement.
Expectation: Dan and I eat a very similar diet - he’s been eating a 100% plant-based diet for almost three years. One of the main differences between us is he loves overnight oats with nuts, seeds and fruit for breakfast as opposed to smoothies. He also drinks coffee (which can inhibit mineral absorption if drunk around meals) and enjoys the occasional beer. He also does not supplement with anything consistently (apart from vitamin b12). Because of this, I assumed this would show up as slightly poorer results.
Findings: All Dans’ levels were well within the reference range. He’s a pretty healthy guys! Not to discredit certain minerals, but all the ones with absorbency issues were very good - iron, magnesium, calcium, and zinc.
Notes: One thing I want to talk about is his calcium and magnesium levels. Being we all eat the same diet, his were very good! It was just Beth and my results that were on the lower side. This may be because he eats a wide variety of nuts and seeds (especially almonds, chia seeds, flax, sunflower) all of which are great sources of calcium and magnesium.
Conclusion: The only thing Dan is going to do is take ionic trace minerals for maintenance. Being very physically active I think he needs to properly hydrate himself after long trail runs with mineral water containing trace minerals to replenish his electrolytes properly.
Expectation: My initial thought whilst Dan was cutting off little sections of my hair, were I would have pretty good results. I’ve eaten a whole food plant based diet for almost five years - that should have me covered right?
Findings: Across the board, my mineral levels were on the lower end of the reference range. I do however have good levels of iron, zinc and boron.
Notes: This reflects pregnancy and breastfeeding - both of these can deplete you of your mineral stores. For more information check out the following link. Adequate nutrition and consumption of micronutrients before, during and after pregnancy is extremely important.
I’m not sure how long you have been following our family but both of my children were big babies. Beth was known as the Sumo Baby. She had rolls for days and was in the 99th percentile for weight and 90th for height until she was at least one. Aubrey is pretty much the same. Maybe not quite as chubby but definitely taller. So given I have been either pregnant or breastfeeding for the past five years straight, and have grown two big babies my results reflect this. Notice that my zinc levels are really good because I already supplement using ionic zinc.
Conclusion: I am going to supplement with liquid ionic calcium-magnesium supplement and an ionic molybdenum supplement for 12 weeks. I will also take ionic trace minerals as a daily support. I am also going to focus on eating more raw green vegetables, sprouts and nuts and seeds. I am going to do this by eating kale smoothies with a higher green plant to fruit ratio, as well as eat more salads. I eat a lot of fruit in my diet which doesn’t contain as many minerals as plants that are grown directly in the soil. Bananas, apples and pears are all grown on branches so it takes a lot of energy for the tree to transfer the minerals from the ground up into the fruit. Don’t get me wrong, fruits are amazing! They are packed with vitamins, antioxidants and help with inflammation, digestion and general wellbeing. They are also anti-parasitic and anti-bacterial! We should never be afraid of eating them in large quantities. It’s just I need to focus on vegetable and green plant intake relative to how much fruit I consume.
Toxicity Levels (Heavy Metals)
Toxic metals are difficult to excrete and tend to accumulate in the body. Heavy metals affect almost every organ and body system, which can lead to wide-ranging health problems. Some areas are more vulnerable to certain metals. Cadmium impacts the bones, kidneys, liver, lungs, testes, brain, immune system, and cardiovascular system. Naturally, there is some crossover, with most heavy metals affecting the liver and brain.
Expectation: Given we eat a pretty clean, whole food plant-based diet, are not exposed to any major contaminants and take detoxifying supplements like Hawaiian Spirulina I assumed our hair samples would contain very low levels of heavy metals.
Results: I’m pleased to say we all came back with very low amounts of heavy metals. The only exception being Beth who’s hair sample contained small traces of arsenic. Pretty concerning I know! I did some investigation and magnesium actually helps to detoxify arsenic from our bodies. Beth’s magnesium levels were on the lower side and hence, potentially the reason why we saw elevated levels of arsenic. Amazing how everything is linked! I also found that arsenic can be found in rice as it can be grown in contaminated water. We don’t eat much rice in our diet anymore - but perhaps our trip to Bali could have done this. It’s a mystery!
Notes: Magnesium is critical for healthy detoxification and effective removal of toxins out of the body. For every chemical that is detoxified from the body, one uses up and loses a proportionate amount of magnesium. Magnesium is also necessary for the removal of mercury, lead and arsenic. When magnesium is insufficient, people are at increased risk of oxidative harm and free radical damage from toxic metals. Magnesium protects the brain from the onslaught of toxic minerals like aluminium, cadmium, lead, mercury and nickel. Low levels of brain magnesium allow the toxic metals to enter brain cells and could be the harbinger of conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Conclusion: As per the conclusion of Beth's mineral test she will be supplementing with an ionic calcium-magnesium supplement.
So that was a bunch of information you can learn from our personal experience doing a hair analysis test. I think it’s important to be open and honest with our health to show we are not perfect, we are humans living in an era of increased sickness, mineral depleted and pesticide-laden soils, and busy, stressed lifestyles. I advocate for people to educate themselves on diet and nutrition and in doing so follow proper research and nutritional information as opposed to anecdotal data. Like I said above, a hair analysis can be a great tool in doing so.
Lots of love,
Dr Brooke Goldner
Sponsored by Good State