Throughout some of my blog posts, you may have seen me refer to mineral balancing and mineral supplementation in the context of metabolic type. Individuals have totally unique ways that they metabolize food, nutrients, and minerals for energy on a cellular level, and this bioindividuality is very important to assess when considering a plan for nutritional balancing.

Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis (HTMA) is commonly used to screen for minerals and heavy metals, but its usefulness extends far beyond this. HTMA is an excellent tool for understanding a person’s unique metabolism. Mineral levels, mineral ratios, and toxic elements together can be seen on a Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis, and will accurately reflect an individual’s metabolic health in a way that other tests (like blood tests) can’t.

A person’s metabolic type is one indicator that I use in my coaching practice to determine whether copper supplementation will be supportive in healing their migraines – or whether to avoid it, as it may exacerbate their symptoms.

But what is metabolism? Here’s a straightforward definition:

Metabolism is the term used to describe nutrient utilization or efficiency on a cellular level resulting in energy production and maintenance. Cellular metabolism is governed by neurological and endocrine function, which also affects nutrient absorption, retention, and excretion. (Source)

On the most basic level, an HTMA provides an easy way to see whether someone is a fast or a slow oxidizer, which in turn helps to determine how their neuroendocrine system works in terms of sympathetic (fight-flight-freeze) and paraympathetic (rest and digest) functions.


Origins of Metabolic Typing

The concept of metabolic typing was first outlined by Melvin Page, D.D.S. of the Page Foundation.  Page differentiated metabolic types by using measurements of the upper and lower extremities along with blood parameters and other physical characteristics. Dr. Page stated that:

…the autonomic-endocrine system in total controls or influences every chemical process that goes on in the body (including assimilation and utilization of foods…) (Source)

Page’s ideas were expanded upon by George Watson, Ph.D., who saw individual metabolic types in terms of cellular oxidation rates, or the process by which adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is formed as energy in the cell. He observed that a deficiency or excess of nutrients played a major role in whether a persons’ cellular metabolism functioned in a reduced (parasympathetic) or accelerated (sympathetic) state. Dr. Watson delineated the terms “fast” and “slow” oxidation types.

This concept of metabolic types was further developed by Dr. David L. Watts, Founder and Director of Research at Trace Elements Inc. He outlined eight metabolic sub-types in hair analysis methodology. These subtypes help determine a person’s metabolism and metabolic synchronization (or lack thereof) in an HTMA.


Fast, Slow, and Out-of-Synch Metabolic Types

The sympathetic branch of the neuroendocrine system is fast, while the parasympathetic branch of the neuroendocrine system is slow. Both the fast and the slow systems need to be in dynamic balance to maintain health. So it is helpful to know whether someone’s metabolism is fast, slow, or one of a few variations of out-of-sync.

A person with a synchronized neuro-endocrine response will be a Fast 1 or Slow 1 metabolic type – meaning that the thyroid and adrenal glands are both operating either fast (in the case of a Fast1), or slow (in the case of a Slow 1) in a coordinated way.  However, especially in disease states, a person’s metabolism may become out-of-sync, and this is why there are a total of 8 metabolic types in Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis.

Sympathetic Fast Types

  • Fast 1 –  fast metabolism with thyroid and adrenal dominance (synchronized)
  • Fast 2 – fast metabolism with adrenal dominance and low thyroid (out of sync)
  • Fast 3 – fast metabolism with thyroid dominance and low adrenal (out of sync)
  • Fast 4 – fast metabolism with low thyroid and adrenal activity (out of sync)

Parasympathetic Slow Metabolic Types

  • Slow 1 – slow metabolism with low thyroid and adrenal production (synchronized)
  • Slow 2 – slow metabolism with adrenal dominance (out of sync)
  • Slow 3 – slow metabolism with thyroid dominance (out of sync)
  • Slow 4 – slow metabolism with thyroid and adrenal dominance (out of sync)

Mineral Balancing and Migraines

Mineral balancing with the help of an HTMA is an excellent way to get clarity about how to supplement both zinc and copper safely. In my practice, I’ve seen a wide variety of different metabolic types, mineral patterns, and heavy metal toxicities, all manifesting as migraine. 

A fast metabolizer who is truly deficient in copper will benefit from copper, while a slow metabolizer with heavy metal toxicity like mercury poisoning will not.  On the other hand, a slow 1 metabolizer without mercury poisoning and with low calcium levels may be supported by a small amount of copper. 

Those with heavy metal toxicity, especially slow oxidizers, will need more zinc than those without it, but will have to go slower so as not to mobilize the metals from the system too quickly.  Zinc may be supportive for everyone with migraine, but someone who is a fast metabolic type will have to be much more cautious with it since zinc lowers copper and their copper levels will already be low.

As you can see, there are infinite ways that Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis can address an individual’s metabolism and heal their migraines, and there is no single formula for copper zinc balancing that applies to everyone with migraine.

Mineral balancing is not just about correcting deficiencies, but understanding the dynamic relationships that minerals have to each other so that a nutritional balancing program can be created that is truly supportive to you as an individual, depending on your metabolic type and the other information revealed by your hair sample.

Top Blog Posts:


Migraine Relief Coaching with Marya

For the past 3 years, Marya has been helping those with chronic migraine to clear their head, heal their digestion, regain their energy, and transform their lives using simple plant and mineral solutions.


The information in this article is for educational purposes only and not meant to replace diagnosis, treatment, or prescription by a qualified medical professional.