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Hair Mineral Analysis: A Revealing Clinical Tool with Maria Shaflender

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Hair Mineral Analysis: A Revealing Clinical Tool with Maria Shaflender

What can we uncover with hair mineral analysis?

In today's podcast, we are joined by clinical nutritionist, Maria Shaflender, who uses hair mineral analysis as part of her standard consultation and assessment process.

Maria shares with us the value she finds in using hair mineral analysis as a clinical tool to craft her individualised treatment plans for a range of conditions from thyroid disorders, children's health, mental health and toxicity.

Maria draws from specific patient cases to illustrate how and why she finds hair mineral analysis to be a crucial component in helping her client's achieve wellness. 

Covered in this episode

[00:47] Introducing Maria Shaflender
[03:20] Why use hair mineral analysis?
[06:26] Interpreting hair analysis
[08:45] Interpreting the presence of heavy metals in hair
[12:28] 'The Big Four' Minerals
[13:42] The role of diet and digestion on test outcomes
[17:52] HTMA: giving clues to stressors
[19:58] Selecting quality labs for HTMA
[22:52] What about contamination?
[29:47] Occupational exposures
[33:42] Where is hair mineral analysis applicable?
[38:42] The impact of cigarette smoke
[40:18] Resources for further learning

Andrew: This is FX Medicine, I'm Andrew Whitfield-Cook. Joining me on the line today is Maria Schaflender, who is a clinical nutritionist with a special interest in mental health, gut health and genetics as well as children's developmental health. 

Having encountered diverse health challenges throughout her childhood and adult life ranging from digestive issues to mental health challenges, her focus is to provide an investigative approach to health and address her clients' health piece by piece. Maria has a clinic in Bondi, New South Wales, and Skype's clients nationally and internationally. She's also a Mindd foundation practitioner and an accredited genetic SNP test practitioner. 

Welcome to FX Medicine, Maria, how are you? 

Maria: I'm great, Andrew. I'm really well. Great to be here. 

Andrew: That's good. Now, today we're going to be talking about hair analysis and I guess with a particular bent on mental health, but you watch me go off track here because it's so interesting. 

I think, first, can you take our listeners through your history and career because it's very interesting. And as you say, you've overcome quite some substantial health issues yourself. 

Maria: Sure, sure. So my career in nutrition has started fairly recently, only about five years ago. Prior to that, I was actually in marketing promoting some pretty toxic and processed foods and personal care products. So, I have quite a good understanding of the marketplace and the way that we're bombarded with these things. 

But in terms of my interest in nutrition, that sort of evolved over time. I have always struggled with gut health, as you mentioned, and I think what really propelled me to start investigating a career in nutrition was my first child's health. My son, who struggled with food intolerances and particularly he had a really long period of insomnia when he was about three or four years old. Which was completely destroying my adrenals as well. 

So, yeah, I've actually investigated hair analysis at the time and it was extremely revealing. And having addressed that over the next two years, it really made me realise the power of nutrients and diet and eliminating toxic metals especially for children. 

Andrew: So, what was it that tweaked you to say, "I need to look at hair mineral analysis," as opposed to other ways of assessing nutritional status?

Maria: Well, it was actually pointed out to me by a chiropractor that we were seeing at the time who is also a nutritionist. And he basically said to me, "You need to look at what's happening with his heavy metals." So, it was pointed out. I wasn't aware of that test at the time. And since I started doing that with my kids, both my kids, have had several hair analyses done, including myself as well. 

Yeah. I’ve just, in my clinic, started using it for every single client and finding pretty incredible results. Having being able to interpret it in line with the client's case, I think that's a really important point to make. It's not an isolated piece of evidence that has to be looked at in line with what is happening with the client, of course. 

Andrew: Yeah. So, I was going to ask you about your earlier experiences. Like, did it just... Was it like a light bulb moment or was it something that you had to really get used to over a period of time to decipher the results and indeed what they mean?

Maria: It was, yeah. Definitely, there was some learning and definitely I consulted the appropriate technical support and other practitioners, definitely. So, it wasn't something I just deciphered on my own. I've learned from a lot of really amazing people in the industry who use hair analysis on a daily basis, like myself now. So, there was a lot of learning, for sure. 

But the light bulb moment came, I think, when I looked at some of the hair analyses and compared them to what the person was presenting with and it just was an amazing revelation to see how well the biochemistry was reflected in a really simple test. 

Andrew: So you're saying that they had biochemical analysis as well and that this correlated? 

Maria: Yeah, absolutely. So, if the client happens to have their blood done... It's not about hair analysis correlating with bloods. And I think that's a really common misconception, and I think that's actually what's been stopping a more widespread usage of hair analysis...

Andrew: Yeah, agreed.

Maria: ...because a lot of physicians and even natural therapists compare blood test results to hair and they're just completely separate things. They look at different parts of the body and they look at completely different areas and tissues. 

So, it's not really relevant to compare them. It's more about looking at the test results that a client has, whether it's blood or gut test results or other pathology and putting the story together with the help of hair analysis.

Andrew: Well, so, let's talk about this interpretation. When, if you're doing a hair analysis, when is high in hair equal to high in body, like an overload, or conversely, when does high in hair mean low in body, i.e., when you're talking about like a mineral loss out of the body and it's presenting in the hair? What's the relevancy? Do you want to give us some examples as well? 

Maria: Sure. Look, I find that this one is actually very, very individual. So I’ve seen, especially with children, I've seen a few cases where they came up, for example, very high magnesium and zinc on hair coming off the charts. And of course, they're presenting with behavioural problems and anxiety and fussy eating. So, you know from history that that child is going to have a zinc deficiency, most likely. And they're hyperactive and they get cramps, so they're probably going to have a magnesium deficiency. So, right away, you know that those highs coming off the chart are actually a loss. 

But what I find is, it's not consistent from person to person. So that way you have to really use the clinical skills and understand this symptom picture. Because I find it individual. So, a lot of the time they will present with low, when it's obvious. When you have a really obvious case, I think you just get really low zinc and really low magnesium and you know they're lacking those nutrients, for example.

Andrew: Yeah.

Maria: But also, with a lot of thyroid cases, I find, and people who use hair analysis, practitioners, will notice this, I'm sure, where you have this really high calcium and magnesium coming off the chart.

Andrew: Right.

Maria: It's not because they have too much calcium and magnesium...

Andrew: No, it's a loss.

Maria: It's because they're losing it. 

Andrew: Yeah. 

Maria: Exactly.

Andrew: Have you ever seen issues where you might have used hair analysis, let's say, inadvertently, because you're tracking the patient's response, and you might have seen the nutrients rising as treatment is instituted, nutritional treatment. So you're actually seeing or tracking the benefit of that nutritional intervention?

Maria: Absolutely, yeah. And in terms of rising, it's very interesting to see that with toxic metals. Because a lot of the time, and I'm going to discuss this at length at the upcoming webinars for nutritionists and naturopaths. 

Andrew: Yeah.

Maria: A lot of the time the first hair analysis will come back with no heavy metals at all. And that's quite common. Because the person's detoxification capacity is probably impaired and they're not excreting metals. And once their nutritional program is instituted and you put in your zinc and your magnesium and your B vitamins, next time you do a hair analysis six months later, you have these piles of mercury or arsenic appearing on the hair analysis that were not there before. 

So, when we know how minerals work and we look at the periodic table, we know that toxic metals have similar molecular weight and functions to the positive minerals like zinc, for example. So, once you push through your positive minerals, you'll get this sort of spike of toxic metals. That’s quite common. 

But that happens with the essential minerals as well. So, once you start instituting the correct nutritional program, you'll see them come out and that's usually a good thing. Because they're usually deficient, most people are deficient in everything.

Andrew: Right. So, okay, so, when you're looking at toxic metals, let's take mercury because it's like the poster child of toxic metals. And let's say, you're leading somebody through a detox. If mercury is rising, would that not be indicate that there's obviously liberation from tissues, but how do you know that it's not being redistributed throughout other tissues? 

Maria: Well, it probably is being redistributed throughout the tissues and that's the scary part. Because the body starts eliminating it from the storage areas.

Andrew: Right. 

Maria: So usually the liver and the brain. It may go back into circulation through the blood on its way through elimination. So I think that's where we have to really pick up some binding tools, in a binding supplement, which have developed I think, tremendously, on the market and are now very safe and effective. 

Andrew: Yeah, yeah. Chris Shade was mentioning this. Yeah.

Maria: Yes, exactly. To go through and sponge off and peek up those metals that are being liberated. And clients and patients will experience symptoms around that time, their detox symptoms for sure.

Andrew: And if when you continue therapy, do you then see that peak go up and then drop off as the mercury is taken out of the body?

Maria: Yeah. It's interesting to see. I mean, obviously, you have to make sure that there's no continued exposure. So that's where you need to advise the client to stop eating tuna and swordfish and...

Andrew: Swordfish. Yeah.

Maria: Yes. And look at their environment. And usually, I find, you know, with mercury there's not usually any acute exposure unless it's industrial, unless the person is involved with toxic metals for work. Usually, some accumulation from generations and generations. 

So, once they understand to not take on any more mercury, then it's just a matter of pushing it out with detoxifying minerals and establishing correct gut function to minimise that reabsorption through the gut and sticking it up with some binders. Yeah.

Andrew: What about things like iodine and selenium, do you track those as well? And do you find that that's useful in tracking the efficacy of therapy in any way? 

Maria: Yeah, absolutely. So, with iodine is not actually present on all hair analyses. It is on some. But with iodine, I actually use a different pathology test with a loading test, which has shown to be the most accurate so far. So there's a 24-hour loading excretion test for iodine. 

But yeah, with selenium and iron and zinc which are all your, you know, classic thyroids mineral, you can see improvement definitely. But I find the biggest clue to thyroid improvement on hair analysis is that balance between ‘the big four:’ the calcium, magnesium and sodium, potassium. 

Andrew: Right.

Maria: So as we know, adrenals plays a huge role in thyroid health. So, once that sodium, potassium starts coming up, which is a really good indicator of adrenal health and digestive health, and they start balancing out with calcium, magnesium, that's where I find the patient actually improves. The client's health improves a lot.

Andrew: Now, you've just said something that's piqued my interest. You just said digestive health. Now, I'm wondering if somebody's got malabsorption, and let's say their body is therefore ‘under a stressor’ because it's trying to work under lack of absorptive nutrients or absorption of nutrients. Do you find in poor digestion that you are getting wasting of certain minerals? And do you find as you repair digestion that the balance comes back, not just within, as you said, the big four, but other minerals associated with, or that you can measure with hair analysis? 

Maria: Yes, absolutely. And I find, you know, out of close to 300 hair analysis that I've done so far, I've probably seen two or three where there has been sufficient levels of minerals.

Andrew: Wow. 

Maria: And sufficient absorption capacity that you can judge from the analysis. And there has not been many. So, that's probably about 1% I would say.

Andrew: Welcome to the standard Australian diet from standard Australian soil. 

Maria: Exactly. Exactly. Exactly. It's really sad to see. I mean, it's obviously, you know, the people that we see in clinic have health problems and that's why they come to see practitioners. So, the population is skewed to ill health, of course. 

But it's uncommon to see good digestive health present on hair analysis. And it's usually, I would say, hydrochloric acid and stomach-related that's really easy to see from hair analysis. So, then that flows on to, you know, poor digestion and absorption and all those things. Yeah, for sure.

Andrew: And what about malabsorption. Like, if we talk about a, let's say, a nutritive... I'm going to use the word ‘mineral,’ not to say that they're all minerals in the elemental, chemical form, physical form. 

If I use the word mineral form, you know, a calcium, potassium, sodium, zinc, selenium, iodine, which is a halide, of course. When you're repairing digestion, have you ever seen a comparison from before to after? You know, after you're talking about that you've done 300 odd tests, 300 plus tests. Do you have a comparison of before and after and showing trends that you could track and maybe even predict in patients? 

Maria: Mm-hmm. Absolutely, yes.

Andrew: Wow.

Maria: So, I very much work with repeat hair analysis. And I think that a point to make there. Is one-off hair analysis is not anywhere near as useful as tracking and repeating it roughly six monthly interval depending on the client. 

Andrew: Right. 

Maria: But yes, you can most certainly see a before and after and all the deficient lines coming up and everything equalising. So, everything on the hair analysis getting to a level which is the, so to speak, ‘recommended’ level based on the research behind hair analysis. So, once everything gets into that line, the person improves dramatically.

Andrew: Yeah.

Maria: And they can see it as well. So, it's very rewarding for the client to see that because they can see their health improve. And I've actually had clients come back and say, "Oh, am I due for another hair analysis, I want to see what's happened since the last one?"

Andrew: Right.

Maria: So they get excited. It's a very visual perk. So they get excited about seeing how their health has changed. And if it's properly explained to them what each of the minerals actually represent, so it's not just sodium or potassium, it’s, you know, you can talk about these are about your nervous system and these are about your digestive health. And you need to create a story about the health and that's where I find it very, very useful. 

Andrew: Okay. So I'm going to you ask something. I'm just thinking about trying to trip your patients up here. And I'm wondering if you've ever... Obviously, you'd have to have a good relationship with your patient to do this. But have you ever been able or been in a position where you have been able to show a patient that they've been cheating? That they’ve been say, "Hey, listen, you haven't really been adhering to what we've been..." and they've admitted it? Have you ever seen this?

Maria: A couple of times, yeah. That's probably more to do with their digestive health, yeah. And stress levels and adrenals. Yeah. It's very, very... it's impossible to cheat a hair analysis when it comes to adrenal health, particularly. And stress because it's very easy to see.

Andrew: Wow.

Maria: So, yeah, it's not so much from a dietary point of view, but I find more from the stress levels. Where I said to them at their initial appointment, "We need to look at stress reduction strategies and your mental health and all of these things." And they say, "Oh, yes, I'm doing yoga. Oh, yes, I'm going for walks." Then they forget that there's a whole load of emotional stress there, for example, that hasn't been addressed. 

Andrew: Yeah.

Maria: And then the hair analysis comes back and it's still showing quite a big adrenal dysfunction. So, I've actually had... not so much people admit to cheating, but actually people burst into tears when I've mentioned that this has happened a few times where I’ve said, "I can still see that there's a major stress in your life." 

Andrew: Right. 

Maria: And that's all I said and it triggers that emotional response. So, yeah, it's really powerful tool. And then actually, some of these people have gone back and addressed their family situation, or situation with their spouse or work or any of those that it's really important factors that do put pressure on our adrenals and digestion and everything else. So, that's been really powerful actually.

Andrew: I have to ask though, hair analysis is not without controversy, and so I sort of vacillate here. I get that there is this difference between testing laboratories but there's differences in standard laboratories. So, where did you, if you like, settle in your mind about the controversies with hair analysis and what would you advise other practitioners to look into? 

Maria: Sure. Well, yeah. As you’ve said, with any pathology test, there's going to be issues with accuracy and replicability. The lab that I use... So, I've used the same lab for all my hair analyses so far. And I think that's a really important point. Is that for a clinician, whatever a test they choose or whatever lab they choose, to use the same one consistently. 

Andrew: Right. 

Maria: So, I think that's where you get that really fundamental knowledge that you've described when something looks wrong. Because you see the same tests all the time, so you understand that it has that consistency. 

In terms of different labs, there's labs that wash the hair, there's labs that don't wash the hair. There's all sorts of different methodologies. I think it just comes to looking over their research and their methodology and understanding how it works and making sure that that makes sense. 

But the biggest evidence that I’ve found for hair analysis is that it correlates with the patient picture 99% of the time. 

Andrew: Right. 

Maria: And not all the time. There are some that come back that kind of just completely startle me. But 99% of the time, what you get back is what the patient presented with. And in terms of tissues, so hair, there is nails, I'm pretty sure there's not that much different because the technology that's used in hair analysis can be used also on blood and nails. So, it's the technology that is like reflective, I believe. So, it's not really measuring the constituents but it's using another method to analyse the tissue.

Andrew: Got you.

Maria: So, yeah, I think between nails and hair as far as I know, I'm definitely not a technical expert on this. From what I've seen is very consistent. 

Andrew: Right. 

Maria: So, I think it's more about that consistency and taking the same lab and doing the same test, whether is blood or hair or urine or anything else. And when you do a large number, you begin to see the same patterns and you'll know straight away if something was out.

Andrew: What about tissue sample collection? What about issues like contamination? Even, for instance, if you're going to snip the hair using reasonable scissors to collect that tissue sample, being mindful of the shampoo that the patient has used, for instance, selenium-containing anti-dandruff shampoo, for instance. We were mentioning before about toenails. I would imagine any pathology lab would be very reticent to take a sample of an extremely nail polished clipping as well. 

Maria: Sure. 

Andrew: There's a load of toxic minerals for you right there. But what do you say to patients, or is there a standard preparation method for the tissue sample collecting? 

Maria: Yeah. So, I usually will tell them that they just need to wash it with their normal shampoo beforehand. Look, I find to be honest, the shampoo doesn't make much difference. Whether it's an organic one or full of chemical one. 

That Selenium, zinc issue that you've mentioned does happen with anti-dandruff shampoo, definitely. So, if I see a hair analysis, it will usually be very obvious. You will have their zinc and selenium coming off the charts. And then the first question is, "What sort of shampoo did you use?" So, that's completely fine. And usually, those people will present with zinc deficiency issues as well, which is why they using anti-dandruff shampoo. 

Andrew: Yeah, yeah. 

Maria: So, it's usually fairly obvious. Definitely, the hair has to be uncoloured. So, for a lot of women, that is an issue and there's an option of using pubic hair which is the popular one. And...

Andrew: Unless of course they colour that too?

Maria: Haven't come across that yet, but I'm sure there's definitely a possibility. 

Andrew: The mind boggles. 

Maria: Yeah. Definitely, un-coloured. So, usually I'll take the sample myself at the consultation, I find that much more effective. 

Andrew: Right. 

Maria: So, using my own clean scissors, you know, the same scissors all the time. Then I can clearly see where the hair is being coloured or not coloured. And I find that they prefer that, you know, the patients prefer that. Because it also, I guess, establishes your expertise and knowing what you're doing. So, the only times when I haven't done that is for interstate and overseas patients. So, yeah, I guess that's a bit of a limitation. 

But as long as the instructions are very clear, and the amount is indicated. How much they need to collect, and from where, I find most people can get it right. 

Andrew: Yeah. But I remember years ago, one lab, it was an overseas lab, and they were basically pumping up their own testing saying that other labs, were they doing a hair analysis or an air analysis? Because they had a clean room and things like that. 

But I started to wonder about this and I thought, "Well, just how sensitive are we talking here? Are we talking nanograms of molecules of minerals?" And then I thought, "Well, what's the real relevance?" So, it's kind of like... I started to question it as, are they just doing a marketing parade? And I started to sort of think about the actual relevance of the mineral, the amounts of minerals, nutrients, elements that we're testing in hair analysis. What do you find here?

Maria: I find that sort of minute calculation is probably not that clinically relevant, I have to say. I probably can compare it to using a gut stool analysis.

Andrew: Right. 

Maria: Where some labs measure the gut bacteria to the billion particles and some labs will just say, 4++, and invest the overall population of that particular bacterial genus. So, you need to look at whether that's clinically important or not. Or whether that amount of zinc, whether it's at a 6 or a 6.5, it's not really that important. It's more important to look at all the minerals in relation to each other. And the biggest thing that I want to convey about hair analysis is it’s the pattern that you're looking for. So, it's not so much the exact calculation of each mineral that's important, it's their ratios and relationship to each other and the overall picture that presents. 

Andrew: Yeah. So, the other question I was going to ask was about heavy versus soft water. Again, what do you find? 

Maria: Well, I find it's not really that important. I just don't see those sort of distinctions in the person's lifestyle. You know, where they come from, they're not really significant when it comes to their hair pattern. It's much more correlated with their actual health and their symptoms.

Andrew: Yep. 

Maria: So, whether someone lives on a farm or in interstate, there aren’t...I found some geographical correlations. So, for example, I had a few patients from Canberra and they all came up really high with, I think, it was nickel or a toxic metal that's not highly toxic, but is not desirable… 

Andrew: If the water supply does have an excessive amount of something, then that may show up in the hair? And I guess you're talking about intake of water, not washing of water. 

Maria: Oh, exactly. Yeah, no, absolutely. It's actually in the body. So, whatever is in that water that they're drinking is in the body unless they have a really good reverse osmosis filter which more people are getting these days, but most don't. 

So, whatever is in their hair is actually what's being drunk as well. And I guess it's the same thing with environmental exposure where you mentioned previously, contamination from the environment. So, if someone is working in a welding shop and they're exposed to toxic metals for 10 hours a day and the hair is contaminated, everything else is going to be contaminated too. 

Andrew: Yeah, yeah. 

Maria: So, they're breathing those metals and they're touching them through this, you know, getting exposure through the skin. So, I don't really see this contamination. 

Andrew: Have you seen that with like occupational exposure? Have you been able to sort of...

Maria: Absolutely.

Andrew: Wow. 

Maria: The occupational exposure, are the worst, affected people, for sure.

Andrew: Right. Has anybody... Indeed. Have you been able to track those populations which have fluoride added to their water supply versus those that don't? 

Maria: Well, unfortunately, fluoride is because it's a halide, it doesn't show up on hair analysis, which is very, very frustrating. So, yeah, they're not able to track it. 

But with fluoride, I think, it's a different issue because obviously, thyroid health comes into that.

Andrew: Yeah. 

Maria: So that's more to do with once they implement a water system in their home that takes out the fluoride and we replenish the thyroid nutrients, that's where I see that come through. Yeah, fluoride is a little bit tricky. 

But occupationally, I've had clients who are farmers and who work with metals, so even builders, but more sort of direct contact with making flyscreens, aluminium flyscreens and things like that. Their toxic metal level have been pretty dramatic. And takes time to clear that out, but a lot of them have had to stop their occupation.

Andrew: Right. 

Maria: And choose something else. 

Andrew: Talking about toxic metals or toxic minerals. And forgive me for lumping them all under that subject, ‘mineral,’ it's just easy. But things like lead that are deposited in bone. And that are obviously slowly metabolised with bone metabolism. Do you find that if you might do a comprehensive detox with a patient, if they had high lead that then all is said and done, their lead levels decrease, happy patient? And then if you revisit that patient years later, that you see that the lead levels rising again with bone metabolism? 

Maria: Yeah. Look, that's an interesting one. I haven't been in practice unfortunately for long enough to see that really long-term excretion. So, from what I've seen, definitely, the heavy metals like lead and, I find, aluminium also takes quite some time to clear. Actually, mercury tends to be easier to clear than some of the others.

Andrew: Yeah.

Maria: So, with lead and bone definitely need to work on their bone health and their alkaline balance and acid and alkaline balance. So, it’s instituting that nutritional program is very important. 

But I've actually...one of the mentors in hair analysis who is a practitioner in New Zealand who's been around for a really long time, when he presents his case studies, he goes through those really long-term, sort of, over 8 to 10 years…

Andrew: Wow.

Maria: Case studies where he can see major changes in the toxic metals and their metabolism. 

Andrew: Got you. That would be really interesting to look at. Because, like, I get that it's controversial, but there's a lot of these functional tests which are controversial. But I also think that they're lambasted without true cause as well. 

Maria: Exactly. 

Andrew: And as you say, you're responsibly looking at the big picture, not looking at one test to direct therapy. You're looking at it to guide therapy. And to give you answers.

Maria: Absolutely.

Andrew: Yeah.

Maria: It's definitely not instead of the blood test or any other pathology. It's a really great additional tool. 

Andrew: And so you've mentioned things like thyroid, which I've got to say, I never thought of. Tracking the health of a thyroid problem, a thyroid issue in your patients. What other conditions? Does hair mineral analysis really, and forgive this pun, shine? 

Maria: Sure. Well, I actually do a lot of mental health work. So, it seems to just sort of find me. I've never chosen to specialise in that or anything like that. But with mental health, I find it’s very, very revealing to look at hair analysis. And one of the case studies that I'll be presenting in the webinar series is a bipolar case study where I've done an initial hair analysis which showed some significant zinc and copper imbalances as well as vitamin B12 metabolism imbalances. And instituted a program. So, this person actually was a typical pyrrole case. So, instituted a program to address his pyrrole and his blood glucose and his methylation, then retested that same person 12 months later. And it's quite amazing what's turnaround has been achieved. 

So, also children with developmental disorders, so autism spectrum and various learning difficulties, I find with children, particularly hair analysis, I find it invaluable because usually, it's what you see is what you get with children. There's no layers of disease, there's just simple metabolic patterns that present and heavy metals that present. And I think that's a really rewarding part and that's kind of where I started with hair analysis with kids. And any clinicians that sees children, I think, needs to really look at hair analysis as a useful clinical tool.

Andrew: Yeah. 

Maria: Because it's just so simple to address and the results that you see can be seen very fast as well. The treatments and implementation and the results are very quick to show.

Andrew: Can I just ask you a little point about that? Given, like, autistic kids, some of them have a real issue with that hypersensitivity of the sensation of having their hair cut. How do you handle it? How do you get through with these kids?

Maria: Distract them with a phone or a screen. No, it's interesting because they definitely don't like it. So, right away, you can tell, sensory child as soon as you touch their hair as lightly as possible, they react negatively. 

So, usually, with the little kids, I get them to sit on their parent's laps and they're being held and comforted whilst it's happening, and I've just become very, very swift at doing it quickly…

Andrew: Right. 

Maria: And getting enough hair the first time. So, that is a very quick operation.

Andrew: Right. Because I always wonder, "Is it better to try and get the child used to it and try and take away their fear or is it sometimes you've just got to be pragmatic and get the thing done?" 

Maria: Yeah. I think with a test, you know, you just need to get in there and get it done. But then I guess the whole point of them undergoing a nutritional protocol after that is to reduce those sensitivities. And as we know, there's definitely nutrients that play into that type of sensitivity. 

Andrew: Yep. 

Maria: So, addressing that. I do find... I found that with own kids as well. Once the nutrient levels are at an adequate level, their sensitivity reactions are significantly reduced or eliminated.

Andrew: Ah ha, right. Yes. What about other mental health conditions or indeed any other conditions that you find of real use with hair mineral analysis? 

Maria: I actually find through the sheer number of patients that present with the thyroid and adrenal picture…

Andrew: Yeah. 

Maria: It's really, really useful. Unfortunately, that's the most difficult one to address. Because it does take a long time to turn the entire metabolism around. But yeah, thyroid and adrenals, mental health, so anything or depression or anxiety, insomnia...

Andrew: Insomnia?

Maria: Pretty much any... Yeah. Any condition I find. I run a test with every single patient that comes through, so I don't think there's any condition that can't benefit from looking at that investigative approach. 

Andrew: Well, we all have minerals, don't we? 

Now there was one other issue of contamination which I forgot about. Smokers. Or indeed children, when the parents are smokers. Yeah. How do you find the hair mineral analysis there? Any issues with contamination?

Maria: That's a really interesting one. No, not so much from contamination, but from intoxication.

Andrew: Oh, wow.

Maria: Yeah. Of cadmium and nickel usually. So, I find with smokers that I have seen... I don't get that many smokers, funnily enough. I think people are getting the message. 

But the few that I have seen on their secondary, so the retest, hair analysis, a lot of cadmium is what's coming up straight off the charts. And nickel as well. So, very interesting for them to see. And one of them was able to address it instantly. He pretty much said, "I'm quitting now," and he did.

Andrew: Yep. 

Maria: Because he realised how much it was affecting him. And another one was a younger girl who unfortunately due to social pressures, wasn't able to do that. But really revealing to see how much toxicity is sitting in that person due to cigarette smoke. And you know, when we look at what cadmium does to the body and how much of a neurotoxin it is, it's quite incredible that there's not more publicity around it. Because these people are literally being poisoned. 

Andrew: Yeah. Just a quick question about limitations. Like false positives versus false negatives. Wrong excretion route for that nutrient or mineral or toxic mineral or whatever. Or what about other pathologies limiting normal hair growth?

Maria: Look, I haven't really come across that many false positives or negatives because we are looking at that overall metabolic pattern. So, a lot of the time, what I have found is very interestingly the most significantly sick patients sometimes get one of the most normal hair analyses…

Andrew: Really?

Maria: The first time, yeah. And this is a bit of a paradox. So, I've only had maybe three or four who presented either with serious psychiatric issues or serious long-term infections where I know that their body is not working properly and the hair analysis comes back and looks fairly normal. There's nothing really that out of order. 

But what's interesting with those is the metabolic type. That is a descriptor that comes back with the hair analysis.

Andrew: Yeah. 

Maria: Is usually the worst type. So it will usually be like a slow four or a fast four, which tells us that the body is actually on just severe metabolic stress.

Andrew: Right. 

Maria: So what I find with those patients is you need to really institute a program that's appropriate and then retest two or three months later. So, a much shorter retest time that will show the changes that have been instituted. 

Andrew: Yeah. And would that also direct you to more appropriate tests then? 

Maria: Absolutely, yes. 

Andrew: Yeah, right.

Maria: And then you know there's other missing pieces of the puzzle definitely.

Andrew: Yes. Got you. Now, you've mentioned a couple of times, you're developing some webinars to help practitioners and indeed, that's my last question for you. Resources available for practitioners to learn from? 

Maria: Yeah, I've got some webinars coming up. And these really came about just through the social network between practitioners'. You know, Facebook groups and things like that. Where I was being asked a lot of questions about hair analysis and I thought, well, this could be actually really interesting because the case studies that I've seen are really significant and could help a lot of other practitioners, so I have decided to develop...

Andrew: Good on you.

Maria: ... webinars that are coming up soon and share the knowledge...

Andrew: Excellent.

Maria: ...and my love of PowerPoint charts.

Andrew: Well, you know what I like? What I'm most impressed about is that it's a practitioner teaching other practitioners rather than a company saying, "Look what we've got." Because obviously, there's always that undertone of, "Hang on. What are you trying to sell me?" I like the fact that it's going to be appropriate, responsible use and looking at where it can be appropriately used and where indeed can't be. So, I'm very impressed. Good on you.

Maria: Thank you. Thank you very much. 

And look, in terms of resources, I guess the first port of call for practitioners is to call up the company that they're testing with because they have technical support and they do, of course, see a lot of hair analyses or other pathology. So, they are the first port of call. But I find the value that I can add, I think, in this area, is through that case study application and looking at the patient relationship and the patient treatment, so not just the test and isolation. And I think, yeah, that's where the value comes in.

Andrew: Well, Maria, we'll definitely put the link up for those webinars on the FX Medicine website so that our listeners can access those if they wish. So, I've got...

Maria: Brilliant.

Andrew: Yeah. Well, look, I've got to say, thank you so much for joining us on FX Medicine. Because I like the way that you approach it in... and I mean, obviously you're a fan of it. But you're a fan of it because you've seen the results. And the results have been in helping people. And that to me is the be all and end all. You're helping people particularly with mental health issues and developmental disorders and that I really take my hat off to you for doing that, so, well done. 

Maria: Thank you. Thanks. I really appreciate it. 

Andrew: This is FX Medicine and I'm Andrew Whitfield-Cook.

Additional Resources

Maria Shaflender
True Nutrition: Hair Analysis for Health Practitioners Webinar Series
Maria Shaflender: Mentoring Services

Maria Shaflender has developed a comprehensive training course on Hair Mineral Analysis for health practitioners based on her extensive clinic experience with thousands of hair analysis tests. This training course will enable you to achieve outstanding patient outcomes and grow your clinical practice


The information provided on FX Medicine is for educational and informational purposes only. The information provided on this site is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional advice or care. Please seek the advice of a qualified health care professional in the event something you have read here raises questions or concerns regarding your health.

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