Author Julie Casper, L. Ac., is a hTMA clinician and educator, she works with patients across the U.S. and internationally. In addition, she supports health professionals who are interested in adding clinical hTMA to their practice. Contact:


Author: Julie Casper, L. Ac., C.H.E.K. Certified, hTMA

You are NOT what you eat. You are what you digest. So no matter how ‘good’ your diet is, organic, balanced, local — what is most important is how much nutrition is absorbed and utilized (biologically). It is remarkably common to be well fed yet malnourished. Lack of proper nourishment leads to many health problems, including dysfunctional thyroid, obesity, diabetes, fatigue and adrenal exhaustion.

  1. Well fed but malnourished?
  2. The Neuroendocrine System
  3. Toxic Mineral Ratios and Preferred Mineral Ratios
  4. Cascading Failure — a vicious cycle
  5. What happens when a woman takes an iron supplement?
  6. Nutritional Interrelationships
  7. Antagonistic Relationships of Minerals - Mineral Wheels
  8. Good Diet is Not Good Enough
  9. Resources

Well fed but malnourished?

A recent study done at Standford claims that, "there is little evidence of health benefits from organic foods." What this meta-analysis did not take into account is that most people have a compromised digestive system.

Download: Digestion Self-Evaluation

Most people simply are not metabolizing the nutrition from their food, no matter how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ their diet is. The terms diet and nutrition frequently are used interchangeably. This is incorrect, and it is important to understand the distinction between the two.

The diet refers to the types that a person, animal, or community habitually eats, or a special course of food to which one restricts oneself for weight control, medical, or other reasons.
Nutrition refers to the process of obtaining the nutrients necessary for health and growth.

In other words, diet describes the consumption of foods, whereas nutrition describes the nutrients obtained from the diet. This difference is important to understand since the presence of nutrients in the diet does not necessarily insure their absorption, retention, or utilization by the body. Factors other than diet alone affect nutrition, including stress response and recovery ability, and toxic body-burden. Two examples are:

  1. The neuroendocrine system.
  2. The ratio of tissue levels of toxic minerals relative to protective preferred minerals.
neroendrocrine system

The Neuroendocrine System

The neuroendocrine system consists of the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, and overlaps the nervous and endocrine systems. It is primarily responsible for neural modulation of endocrine function. The endocrine system consists of numerous glands throughout the body that produce and secrete hormones of diverse chemical structure, including peptides, steroids, and neuroamines. Collectively, hormones regulate many physiological processes. The neuroendocrine system is influential in the absorption, excretion, transport, utilization and storage of nutrients. Depending on which neuroendocrine group is dominant (sympathetic or parasympathetic), the body will deplete or build up different minerals within the tissues.

The influence of the endocrine glands on mineral metabolism has a direct effect on tissue mineral patterns, producing deficiencies, imbalances and excess accumulation. Correct functioning of the neuroendocrine system requires correct levels and ratios of minerals, vitamins, proteins, fats and carbohydrates. hTMA directed nutritional therapy can reverse or prevent metabolic disturbances caused by one neuroendocrine group dominating the other.

The neuroendocrine state effects the retention of toxic metals also. For instance, sympathetic dominance will enhance the retention of toxic lead, and parasympathetic dominance can enhance the retention of toxic cadmium and mercury.

Toxic Mineral Ratios and Preferred Mineral Ratios

The ratio of tissue levels of toxic metals relative to protective nutrient minerals is a valid indicator of the likelihood of suffering from these toxins. Heavy metals (e.g., mercury, lead, cadmium) interfere with normal metabolic processes due to their ability to displace nutritional minerals, and poison enzyme functions by their attachment to proteins. In today's environment, everyone is exposed to toxic heavy metals and has measurable levels within their bodies. The ratio of the protective nutrient mineral relative to the toxic heavy metal is an important quantification to appreciate and help you to understand the immunological response.

Calcium/Lead Ratio
Since calcium reduces lead absorption and retention within the body, calcium is considered protective of excess lead retention. The ratio of calcium to lead (Ca/Pb) has an acceptable level of 84:1. The tissue level of calcium should be at least 84 times higher than lead to prevent the adverse affect of lead within the body.
Sulfur, Iron or Selenium/Mercury Ratio
If there is a nutritional deficiency of sulfur, iron or selenium, mercury will attach to the proteins involved in enzyme activation and disrupt their function. The ratios of mercury to these minerals are critical to protecting yourself from the harmful affects of toxic mercury exposure.
Cadmium/Zinc Ratio
Cadmium has a very similar structure as zinc. Cadmium also has a higher atomic weight. When cadmium enters the body and is not excreted, it will be stored in the tissues. If there is not enough zinc present in the cell to be protective, then cadmium can displace zinc.

Cascading Failure — a vicious cycle

In electronic networks, cascading failures usually begin when just one part of a system fails. When this occurs, nearby nodes must then take up the slack for the failed component. This overloads these nodes, causing them to fail as well, prompting additional nodes to fail in a vicious cycle.

In biology, every single mineral effects every other mineral. When a single mineral level is imbalanced, all minerals (and mineral-ratios) are affected, starting a massive ‘multiple-vehicle collision’ of imbalances. Often people say, "I'm just taking a little magnesium," or a little zinc, or whatever. If people only knew the harm they could cause by taking even one mineral supplement they did not need, or even taking the right supplement in excessive quantities — they would never take them in the first place!

Let's consider iron, for example. Many women take iron tablets because they are tired (or ‘anemic’). Unfortunately, if iron is not taken in the correct ratio with other minerals, it exacerbates fatigue. Everyone's mineral chart is distinct. The amount of iron (and other minerals) needed for more energy for one person, may be completely different than what is needed for the next person. To illustrate, here is what could happen:

What happens when a woman takes an iron supplement?

Sodium goes UP
This is the first thing that happens. The iron will cause sodium levels to rise as a consequence of stimulating the adrenal glands.
Magnesium goes DOWN
Magnesium levels will go down because sodium lowers magnesium.
Calcium goes DOWN
When magnesium goes down, calcium also goes down to try to maintain the same calcium/magnesium ratio.
Potassium goes UP
Calcium and potassium also move in opposite directions. So when calcium goes down, potassium goes up.
Nitrogen goes DOWN
Since the person is going into fast oxidation, he is starting to cannibalize his own proteins, instead of building them. This lowers the nitrogen level.
Copper goes DOWN
Since tissue respiration is speeding up, copper is being used more quickly. If the copper is already at low levels, or, if the person has a high zinc to copper ratio, then his copper availability could plunge to dangerously low levels.
Zinc goes DOWN
As copper goes down, zinc goes down to maintain the proper ratio with it. Since zinc is needed for proper functioning of the adrenal glands, the lowering of zinc will eventually exhaust the adrenals. This will make you more tired than before you started.
Manganese goes UP
As zinc goes down, the manganese goes up, since these two minerals are antagonists (they normally move in opposite directions). Eventually, manganese reserves will become depleted. This is unfortunate, because manganese in combination with iron makes a person very powerful - physically and emotionally. As the manganese levels collapse, the person becomes weak and indecisive (exhausted adrenals) - weaker than before they began taking the iron tablets. In other words, the taking of iron has made the anemia worse.

These types of mineral imbalances are typical. The cascading failure could easily be caused by a single mineral-level which has become too high in relation to the others (in this case, iron). You can now see what can happen when you take "just a little iron" to get your energy up. So when a person has 21 minerals that are out of balance, just imagine how complicated it can be trying to balance them. Each mineral in the body has a synergistic effect on all the other minerals. No mineral works in isolation.

Nutritional Interrelationships

Nutritional therapeutics has largely been directed toward the recognition and correction of nutritional deficiencies. However, it is now becoming more evident that a loss of homeostatic equilibrium between nutrients can also have an adverse impact upon health. A loss of this vital balance can lead to sub-clinical nutritional disturbances, which outnumber overt deficiency syndromes by ten to one.

Determining nutritional interrelationships is much more important than knowing mineral levels alone. From a global standpoint, although dietary deficiency is at the more serious end of the spectrum, the opposite end, dietary excess and aberrations contribute to the burden of disease.Vitale

Antagonistic Relationships of Minerals - Mineral Wheels

Although nutrients are generally synergistic, in that they work in concert to maintain normal metabolic activity and health, imbalances between nutrients, for whatever reason, can disrupt this synergistic relationship, producing relative excesses and deficiencies. In the face of a nutrient deficiency, a normally synergistic nutrient can become dominant and eventually lead to antagonism of another nutrient through competition on an absorptive level, (intestinal absorption) and a metabolic level (displacement) within cells, tissues and organs.

Antagonistic relationships between nutrient minerals can have an effect on bioogical activity. Mineral wheel diagrams illustrating the antagonistic relationships were developed by David L. Watts, Ph.D., Director of Research for Trace Elements. The research was published between 1988 and 1994 in the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine.

Over ninety percent of the calcium in the body is stored in the bones and teeth, which act as reservoirs in which the calcium can be withdrawn as required for extra-skeletal functions. Calcium is found in virtually every cell throughout the body and is considered a biological messenger responsible for carrying signals to target activities with cells through specific calcium channels. Calcium is regulated in tissues and serum at the expense of skeletal structures. It is regulated by the parathyroid, and kidneys and is affected by insulin, adrenal, as well as male and female hormones. An imbalance of calcium relative to its synergistic and antagonistic nutrients can be a major contributor to osteoporosis even with adequate dietary calcium intake.
Chromium is an essential trace mineral, important in processing carbohydrates and fats, and helping cells respond properly to insulin. It is known that chromium is a constituent of the glucose tolerance factor (GTF) and is synergistic with insulin in promoting cellular glucose uptake. Chromium is important for the structure and metabolism of nucleic acids. A number of physiological and disease conditions are related to chromium status.
Copper is a constituent of many enzymes including cytochrome c oxidase, superoxide dismutase, ceruloplasmin, dopamine B-hydroxylase, lysyl oxidase and monoamine oxidase. An imbalance of copper relative to other nutrients can disrupt the activity of these important enzyme functions. It should be noted that excess copper is just as serious as copper deficiency. The antagonistic nutrients shown in the following chart can aid in reducing excessive tissue copper burdens.
Iron is involved in many metabolic processes, particularly enzymes, and as a result, many clinical manifestations, including anemia, can develop as a result of iron deficiency. While anemia is of course the most recognized condition related to iron deficiency, other conditions, such as; sideropenia can contribute to disturbances in immuno-modulation, endocrine, physical and even emotional disorders. Iron excess or toxicity can be found at the opposite end of the iron status spectrum, and can be specifically addressed by providing nutrients that are antagonistic to iron.
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant cation in the body and is a key element in cellular metabolic functions. Magnesium is responsible for activating over 200 critical enzymes. Due to the extensive role of magnesium in biological processes recognizing its synergistic and antagonistic role with other nutrients is extremely important and can greatly enhance its therapeutic effectiveness in many health conditions.
Manganese is located largely in the mitochondria of the cells. Therefore, the structure and function of mitochondria are particularly affected by manganese status. Manganese is not only responsible for activation of mitochondrial superoxide dismutase, but it also activates enzymes associated with fatty acid metabolism and protein synthesis, which are highly important for normal cellular function.
A direct biochemical role for selenium was found in its' relationship to glutathione peroxidase activity. Selenium's synergistic relationship to vitamin E found it to be an inhibitor of chemical carcinogens by accelerating their detoxification. Selenium protects against chromosomal damage, stimulates DNA repair and modulates the rate of cell division. Selenium has since been found to play a role in normal thyroid expression and aids in the peripheral conversion of T4 to T3 in the liver and kidneys.
Zinc is another important element that is essential for the activity of over one-hundred enzymes. Zinc is involved in immune regulation, anti-viral activities, growth and development, and perhaps its most important role is the requirement of zinc in the synthesis of RNA. The balance of zinc with other nutrients within the body is therefore critical for normal health but assessment of this balance is critical when providing nutritional therapy.
Vitamin A was one of the first fat-soluble vitamins to be recognized and has many roles in body functions. Vitamin A status is not only affected by its antagonistic and synergistic relationships with other vitamins and minerals, but also by thyroid, estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and adrenal hormones as well as protein status.
This nutritional wheel shows the common biological antagonisms between the hormones. Hormones are known to affect nutritional status at several levels including absorption, utilization, excretion, transport and storage of nutrients. Nutrients in turn can exert an influence on hormones affecting their secretions, activity, transport, receptors and target tissue binding sites. Assessing nutritional status cannot be considered complete without evaluation of the nutrient-endocrine interrelationships.
elemental minerals

Good Diet is Not Good Enough

No matter how good your diet is, how well balanced or well prepared, it is your mineral balances and your metabolic status which will determine how much nutrition is actually utilized biologically from your food. A study done at Stanford was broadcast all over the news recently. It claims that, "there is little evidence of health benefits from organic foods." What this meta-analysis did not take into account is that most people have a compromised digestion system. And as described above, people simply are not metabolizing the nutrition from their food. So of course organic won't make much difference (non-organic won't either)! Did researchers analyze the differences between individual's toxic body burdens? Did they analyze metabolic rates of study subjects? Are they comparing mineral levels and ratios of test subject's body tissues? These are rhetorical questions — but you get the idea. With hTMA we can correct deranged mineral imbalances and improve metabolism. Healthy, balanced mineral ratios and a robust metabolism ensures that the time, effort, and money you invest in your food (and health) is well spent.

  1. For additional references: hTMA Science - References
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