FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Reaching your optimum health piece by piece
WHAT IS A HTMA test?
Hair tissue mineral analysis (HTMA), is an analytical test which measures the mineral content of the hair.
WHY USE THE HAIR TO TEST FOR MINERALS? WHY NOT USE THE BLOOD?
Hair is ideal tissue for sampling and testing. First, it can be cut easily and painlessly and can be sent to the lab without special handling requirements. Second, clinical results have shown that a properly obtained sample can give an indication of mineral status and toxic metal accumulation following long term or even acute exposure.
A HTMA reveals a unique metabolic world: intracellular activity, which cannot be seen through most other tests. This provides a blueprint of the biochemistry occurring during the period of hair growth and development.
Thirty to 40 days following an acute exposure, elevated serum levels of lead may be undetectable. This is due to the body removing the lead from the serum as a protective measure and depositing the metal into such tissues as the liver, bones, teeth and hair.
Nutrient loss from the body can become so advanced that severe health conditions can develop without any appreciable changes noted in those same nutrient levels in a blood test.
Symptoms of elemental deficiency can be present long before low levels can be detected in the serum.
Excess sodium is associated with hypertension, but adequate amounts are required for normal health.
Hair is used as one of the tissues of choice by the Environmental Protection Agency in determining toxic metal exposure. A 1980 report from the E.P.A. stated that human hair can be effectively used for biological monitoring of the highest priority toxic metals. This report confirmed the findings of other studies in the U.S. and abroad, which concluded that human hair may be a more appropriate tissue than blood or urine for studying community exposure to some trace elements
WHY TEST FOR MINERALS?
Trace minerals are essential in countless metabolic functions in all phases of the life process.
Zinc is involved in the production, storage and secretion of insulin and is necessary for growth hormones.
Magnesium is required for normal muscular function, especially the heart. A deficiency has been associated with an increased incidence of abnormal heart conditions, anxiety and nervousness.
Potassium is critical for normal nutrient transport into the cell. A deficiency can result in muscular weakness, mild depression and lethargy.
Excess sodium is associated with hypertension, but adequate amounts are required for normal health.
In the words of the late author and noted researcher, Dr. Henry Schroeder, trace elements (minerals) are "...more important factors in human nutrition than vitamins. The body can manufacture many vitamins, but it cannot produce necessary trace minerals or get rid of many possible excesses."
WHAT CAN CAUSE A MINERAL IMBALANCE?
There are many factors to take into consideration, such as:
Diet - Improper diet through high intake of refined and processed foods, alcohol and fad diets can all lead to a chemical imbalance. Even the nutrient content of a "healthy" diet can be inadequate, depending upon the soil in which the food was grown or the method in which it was prepared.
Stress - Physical or emotional stress can deplete the body of many nutrients while also reducing the capability to absorb and utilize many nutrients.
Medications - Both prescription and over-the-counter medications can deplete the body stores of nutrient minerals and/or increase the levels of toxic metals. These medications include diuretics, antacids, aspirin and oral contraceptives.
Pollution - From adolescence through adulthood the average person is continually exposed to a variety of toxic metal sources such as cigarette smoke (cadmium), hair dyes (lead), hydrogenated oils (nickel), anti-perspirants (aluminum), dental amalgams (mercury and cadmium), copper and aluminum cookware and lead-based cosmetics. These are just a few of the hundreds of sources which can contribute to nutrient imbalances and adverse metabolic effects.
Inherited Patterns - A predisposition toward certain mineral imbalances, deficiencies and excesses can be inherited from parents.
CAN VITAMIN REQUIREMENTS BE DETERMINED FROM A MINERAL TEST?
Minerals interact not only with each other but also with vitamins, proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Minerals influence each of these factors, and they, in turn, influence mineral status. Minerals act as enzyme activators, and vitamins are synergistic to minerals as coenzymes. It is extremely rare that a mineral disturbance develops without a corresponding disturbance in the synergistic vitamin(s). It is also rare for a disturbance in the utilization or activity of a vitamin to occur without affecting a synergistic mineral(s). For example, vitamin C affects iron absorption and reduces copper retention. Boron and iron influence the status of vitamin B2. Vitamin B2 affects the relationship between calcium and magnesium. Vitamin B1 enhances sodium retention, B12 enhances iron and cobalt absorption, and vitamin A enhances the utilization of zinc, while antagonizing vitamins D and E. Protein intake will affect zinc status, etc. Therefore, evaluating mineral status provides good clues of vitamin status and requirements.
WHAT IS Biome Fx?
A New Way to Test — Whole Genome
Recent evidence suggests that the gut microbiome is likely the master control center of overall human health. In recent years, stool testing has become a popular method to evaluate the status of an individual’s gut microbiome (1). Peering into these microbial ecosystems can offer insight into disease susceptibility and potential root causes of illness. In fact, many diseases have a unique ‘microbial signature’ or enterotype, which means that specific bacterial patterns can be consistently linked to a particular disease. Fecal sampling can help clinicians and patients understand how their gut bacteria may be contributing to their ailments and how they can improve their gut microbiomes (2). However, common methods of stool analysis are often inaccurate, and many reports offered to consumers are confusing, ambiguous, and not actually based upon scientific evidence.
The most commonly used analysis techniques include 16S rRNA gene sequencing (16S) and quantified polymerase chain reactions (QPCR). Essentially, 16S rRNA is a region of DNA present in all bacteria and archaea, but not necessarily in other microbes, such as fungi or viruses. The 16S gene contains 9 hypervariable regions that can be thought of as a barcode, encoding many bacterial taxa (2). This area of DNA is then amplified using QPCR techniques to predict the full DNA sequence. However, due to its imprecise predictive nature, QPCR offers vague and often inaccurate results.
Similarly, researchers have found that 16S genome sequencing has less than 50% accuracy in identifying microbial species (3). It offers insight into phyla and genera, but due to its use of low-resolution images, it does not offer enough precise detail about bacteria at the species level, which can be very important! For example, the bacteria Escheria coli has many strains. Some of these are pathogenic, while others strains of E. coli are protective. Furthermore, 16S is unable to distinguish between living or dead cells, or offer insight into their metabolic activity.
Instead of 16S rRNA and QPCR, BiomeFx™ uses whole genome sequencing. Instead of targeting one specific gene region, such as the 16S region, this thorough approach gathers a more complete picture by using multiple, overlapping gene primers. A recent study found that whole genome sequencing identified nearly twice as many bacterial species compared to 16S methods, providing more information on microbial richness and diversity (4). This is a stunning finding as individuals using 16S methods may receive faulty dietary and lifestyle advice in response to these testing methods. Whole genome sequencing is far superior and allows clinicians to more accurately provide interventions to heal and balance the gut.
Moreover, BiomeFx™ is distinct from other stool tests because of its unique coring method, which increases the accuracy of samples. Rather than taking a sample from the surface of the stool, this approach gathers data from the core of the sample and presents the findings into a functional report. This functional report will look at microbial trends and patterns to understand what the gut microbiome is doing rather than presenting the data in a meaningless range of high to low. These common reports are confusing, unhelpful, and not backed by scientific research. BiomeFx™ is the superior stool test on the market because of its coring method stool sampling, highly accurate whole-genome analysis and practical, user-friendly reporting.
WHAT IS A CNC?
The purpose of this certification is to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public by encouraging high standards and professional competence of persons practicing in the profession of nutritional counseling. It provides a designation (C.N.C.) which serves to inform the practitioner's clients and potential clients that the practitioner has met professional requirements in addition to, and beyond, normal academic studies and/or professional experience.
WHAT IS A FNTP?
I am certified as a Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (FNTP) through the Nutritional Therapy Association (NTA), but what even is an FNTP?!
“A Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner is a nutritional therapist certified by the NTA to evaluate nutritional needs and make recommendations for dietary changes, helping clients balance body chemistry and achieve optimal wellness. FNTPs are not trained to diagnose or treat pathological conditions, injuries, or diseases.”
That’s the official definition from my course materials, which pretty much sums it up. Let’s break that apart, though! Basically, what it means is that the NTA teaches/graduates students how to help clients tap into their body’s own “innate intelligence” and support the foundations of health to rebalance the body and get its different systems working properly again.
The NTA is all about the foundations of health, a.k.a. the Foundations. These foundations are a properly prepared, nutrient-dense diet, digestion, blood sugar regulation, fatty acid balance, mineral balance, and hydration. In order to support those foundations, we need to give the body the nutrients it needs and make sure the body is actually absorbing the right things, and health will naturally follow from there.
As FNTPs, we cannot and do not diagnose or treat any medical conditions, but we also don’t need to diagnose or “treat” in order to get phenomenal results with clients. The key is to balance out the body and support its processes so that it heals itself. FNTPs learn all about how the body works and what causes dysfunction so that we can evaluate clients’ diets and lifestyles to figure out what they can adjust to address different imbalances and deficiencies. We focus on the root cause of any issues or symptoms, and addressing the root of the dysfunction is what balances the body out. This is very important to me, because I strongly believe in addressing root causes rather than utilizing symptom management, which, sadly, many other practitioners still rely on.
Why focus on getting to the root of the issue rather than a band-aid approach? Well, getting to the root cause will ultimately allow the client to move forward feeling their best without additional support in the long run. Who wants to use a “band-aid,” so to speak, their whole lives? Addressing diet and lifestyle support the foundations for an overall healthy body and mind, and it’s important to me to teach my clients the skills they need in order to rebalance their bodies now and also prevent any health issues from occurring in the future. Many people come to Nutritional Therapy looking to address one or two things, and they leave having transformed far more than that. For example, it’s not uncommon for someone to come to me wanting to clear up their skin, and in the process they find that their digestion and energy levels improve, weight balances out, mood and mental clarity enhance, and more – symptoms they might not have even noticed they were struggling with before. Oftentimes, people get so used to the way their bodies are feeling that that’s their “normal,” so they don’t fully recognize all of their symptoms.
Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioners are also trained to perform the Functional Evaluation and utilize Lingual-Neuro Testing Techniques with clients. The Functional Evaluation uses a series of palpations and other physical assessments to identify deficiencies and imbalances in the body, and then the FNTP can recommend diet, lifestyle, and supplement changes based on that to help strengthen the body’s foundations again. Not all FNTPs actually utilize the FE, but we are all trained to perform it. Lingual-Neuro Testing allows us to determine which specific supplements will work best to support the client’s unique body.
WHO SHOULD WORK WITH A FNTP?
I’m obviously biased, but I think anyone struggling with any health symptoms could use the help of an FNTP. If you are interested in working with someone who takes a real-food, holistic approach, then FNTPs are a great option. If you require in-depth testing, there are certain FNTPs who can help you with that if they’ve continued their education. That being said, there is a lot that can be done without any testing at all. In fact, I would urge you to work with a nutritionist prior to spending extra money on tests, because lab results can completely change after you’ve spent some time adjusting your diet and lifestyle. I think it’s best to adjust diet and lifestyle and then see where that brings your body.
If you’re interested in working with a naturopath or FMD, my recommendation is to start working with an FNTP first in most situations. The FNTP can help you work through all of the same diet and lifestyle factors that a functional medicine doc will have you start with anyways, but it tends to be much more cost effective to work with an FNTP and then move to an FMD if it’s necessary to do so. However, many of my clients who are planning to work with an FMD eventually find that they never even need to – it just depends on the case. Huge changes can be made with diet, lifestyle, and proper supplementation. I think it’s a good idea to start with those changes, let the body balance out and start healing, and then see if there is anything left to address that would require testing or more work with an FMD. This also makes it much easier for functional medicine doctors to see what’s really going on and help you more effectively, because they don’t have to waste time working through diet, lifestyle, and nutrient balance if you’ve already done that work. If you are diagnosed with a health condition that requires the care of a doctor, however, then of course please make sure you are under the care of a doctor! Remember, recommendations from FNTPs are not medical advice and should not be taken as such.
Many people find that FNTPs are able to give them more individualized and in-depth attention regarding diet and lifestyle than naturopaths are, simply because of time constraints, which is also often why FMDs work in conjunction with FNTPs or another type of nutritionist. More and more FMDs are now requiring their patients to work with a nutritionist before even seeing them, so that they can figure out the patient’s true health status after making lifestyle changes and then go from there. I have many clients who choose to work with me in conjunction with their doctor, as part of their health team. This is a great option to get full support, and also have a few different opinions. For example, a common “health team” (and what I personally used to have) for people who are working through more difficult health issues consists of an FNTP, a doctor, and a therapist. I also have clients who will also be working with an acupuncturist or energy healer as well. Usually people whittle that team down over time, but it can be really helpful to have people with different specialties all supporting your health from different angles. Plus, they all kind of overlap. It’s certainly not necessary for everyone to see multiple practitioners, but for some people it is incredibly helpful.
I think that is a key component to every health journey – addressing all pieces. That is why in my practice I take a holistic approach and focus on all aspects of lifestyle – nutrition, exercise, stress, sleep, mental health, energy work, and supplementation. I think it’s incredibly important to utilize other natural healing methods as well, like essential oils. I’m interested in helping my clients make lifestyle changes that will last rather than quick fixes, and I want to teach them skills to support themselves in the long run – not feel like they need to depend on a practitioner forever.
WHAT CAN NUTRITIONAL THERAPY ADDRESS?
Well, A LOT. Nutritional therapy is incredibly powerful! That’s the beauty of looking at root causes and supporting the body’s foundations (digestion, blood sugar regulation, fatty acids, minerals, and hydration) through diet and lifestyle. When you get the body’s systems back into balance, a lot of different symptoms start to naturally take care of themselves.
Obviously, FNTPs can help you when it comes to nutrition and finding a way of eating that works with your unique body type. We pride ourselves on taking bioindividuality into account. FNTPs can help anyone improve their diet and lifestyle for overall general health, and also act as preventative care for the future to prevent you from struggling with health problems years down the line. Many of the common signs or diseases of aging can be prevented by adjusting diet and lifestyle NOW.
Besides prevention, however, FNTPs can help you address problems like digestive discomfort, bloating, constipation, gut dysbiosis, acid reflux, detoxification, acne, eczema and psoriasis, other skin conditions, joint pain, mental health issues like anxiety and depression, hormonal imbalances, period regulation, fertility, improved athletic performance, autoimmune conditions, chronic health conditions, energy levels, stress, weight loss or weight gain, and much more. Again, we don’t “cure” and can’t guarantee any results, but we help you support your body so that it is able to heal on its own.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO WORK WITH AN FNTP?
All FNTPs do things a bit differently. You might go into an office, they might come to you, or they might see clients online or by phone. When it comes to nutritional therapy, though, remember that it’s not a quick-fix, band-aid approach. It’s a kind of “program” that requires commitment and regular check-ins to hold you accountable. The FNTP will make recommendations for you, and as the body balances out those recommendations will adjust and change over time. I am committed to my clients and am with them on the journey.
Different FNTPs tend to have different specialties and “styles,” so look for one that resonates with you! Some FNTPs focus heavily on nutrition and supplementation, others are slanted more towards energy and mindset, some are exercise experts, and so on. Some specialize in fertility, some in weight loss, some in autoimmune conditions, etc. This often relates to their own personal health journeys.
Personally, I tend to focus a lot on tweaking nutrition (I am definitely a nutrition nerd) with an emphasis on lifestyle factors. I work with a wide variety of clients, but my emphasis is on gut health, body image, and healthy weight management, and this all relates back to how I found nutritional therapy in the first place. I personally experienced the power of a healing diet and healthy lifestyle in helping me work through gut issues, weight fluctuations, and more. Experiencing it for myself was empowering, and it is what drove me to pursue a career where I could help others along that same healing journey by working with clients 1:1 and in my group coaching program.
WHAT IS BIOINDIVIDUAL NUTRITION?
BioIndividual nutrition looks at how food affects your unique biochemistry.
It uses specific and crucial information regarding your response to food and nutrients to decipher clues, especially for those who experience physical and/or mental health problems. It recognizes a person is unique. What nourishes and heals the body for one person can potentially wreak havoc on another person’s health. In other words, what is healthy for one person can be harmful to another person’s health. It is based on nutrition science, along with therapeutic diets, to address your body’s specific needs. This allows your body to heal on a deeper level, giving you better health. BioIndividual nutrition is especially helpful for people who feel they eat healthy, but still have health issues.
I ALREADY EAT HEALTHY AND LIVE AN ACTIVE LIFESTYLE. HOW COULD YOU HELP ME?
Even if you eat healthy, the foods you’re eating might be causing (or contributing to) certain health problems. It can be difficult to figure out what these foods are. I can figure out what foods you should eat to heal your body, and what foods should be avoided. As your body heals, your body’s responses may change. Different foods may be added back in to your diet, and certain foods may need to be removed.
Living an active lifestyle can also create too much stress on an already stressed body (like any new situation, your body needs time to adjust). So even though you are working out often (which is critical for good health), your body might not be in the right state to benefit from the workout. Your body may require time to heal first. It can be difficult to know what is right for YOUR body. On paper, you may look like a healthy person, but in reality, some of these “healthy” practices might not be right for you (given your current health situation). I can help you understand what is right for YOU.