Understanding Your Metabolic Type

Your metabolic type is a specific measurement on the hair tissue mineral analysis (HTMA) that we use with clients. We are going to talk more about what it is and what it tells you about your health.

Where Metabolic Typing Came From

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.

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 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 fast vs. slow metabolic types was further developed by Dr. David L. Watts, Founder and Director of Research at Trace Elements Inc. After reviewing hundreds of thousands of hair mineral tests, he outlined eight metabolic subtypes in hair analysis methodology. These subtypes help determine a person’s metabolism and how well it matches up with adrenal and thyroid function.

What Our Metabolic Type Tells Us

Metabolic Type on an HTMA is giving us insight into a couple of things:
  1. Nervous system dominance: whether you are trending more toward the sympathetic/fight or flight state or parasympathetic/rest and digest state.
  2. Which endocrine glands are being prioritized: which gives you insight into whether or not adrenals and thyroid are synched up with your metabolism or not.

There are two major metabolic types:

  1. Fast Metabolic Type: tends to be more closely related to the chronic over stimulation of the adrenal glands and shows sympathetic nervous system dominance.
  2. Slow Metabolic Type: tends to be more closely associated with depletion of the adrenal glands and shows parasympathetic dominance.

The metabolic type is primarily based on the calcium and phosphorus ratio (we talked about this in our previous newsletter). Calcium is very sedative and phosphorus is very stimulating, which impacts how balanced our nervous system is. This balance in our nervous system is what changes our metabolic type.

  • Fast = low Ca/P ratio
  • Slow = high Ca/p ratio

The biggest thing to remember is that your metabolic type is not set in stone. It’s really more showing us your current state of stress and how your minerals are being impacted by that stress. This will likely change along your healing journey. This is one of the main reasons we don’t recommend avoiding certain foods based on your metabolic type.

Fast vs. Slow Metabolic Types

Let’s go a little deeper into each main metabolic type, mineral imbalances that occur, and what types of symptoms are associated.

Fast Metabolic Type

Fast oxidation occurs when the body exists in an actively stressed state and is prioritizing the fight or flight/sympathetic state over the relaxed state. Fast oxidation is showing that the body is under stress and is reacting to that stress in the moment. Those with a fast oxidation rate tend to be anxious, irritable, in a hurry, and aggressive if their oxidation rate is very fast. They are usually somewhat emotional, short-tempered and high-strung. They easily become anxious and wound up.

Their blood sugar can be on the high side due to higher cortisol levels. Their blood pressure tends to be on the high side because of salt and water retention. For the same reason, their tissues often have a watery appearance. They are often warm and sweat easily. Their brains often work well, with fast thinking. They usually have oily skin, and some tendency for frequent or loose bowel movements. They may gain weight in the area of the abdomen due to high levels of cortisol and cortisone. They are in a fight-or-flight mode too much of the time. This uses up certain nutrients and eventually can result in symptoms and illnesses associated with this metabolic type. These include high blood pressure, heart attacks, anxiety, panic attacks, arthritis, and others.

Fast Metabolic Type & Minerals

  • Fast thyroid and adrenal activity
  • High production of aldosterone = retention of sodium is higher
  • Excess retention of sodium and potassium
  • Calcium and magnesium are used up quickly and they are at risk for severe calcium and magnesium deficiency

Slow Metabolic Type

Slow oxidation means slow metabolism of nutrients. Basically, it takes our body longer and requires more energy for our cells to take the nutrients from the foods we eat and turn them into energy. This is what leads to slow thyroid function, slow metabolism, slow gut function, and fatigue/hormone imbalances. The slow metabolic type most often deals with fatigue, waking at night, feeling cold easily, hair loss, and constipation to name a few.

What occurs physiologically is lower levels of sodium due to adrenal and thyroid weakness or generally lower energy production reducing the solubility of calcium and magnesium in the blood. Sodium and potassium are solvents that maintain calcium and magnesium in an ionized form. As the solubility decreases, more calcium and magnesium precipitate out of the blood and begin to accumulate in the soft tissues of the body. This causes a rise in the hair tissue calcium and magnesium, relative to the sodium and potassium levels. In other words, calcium and magnesium rise in the hair as the tissue sodium and potassium levels decrease.

Slow Metabolic Type & Minerals

  • Less production of aldosterone (an adrenal hormone that is primarily responsible for retaining sodium—eat lots of salt so surprised by this? Adrenals cannot retain it.)
  • Poor retention of sodium and potassium leads to a sluggish thyroid = less retention of potassium
  • Without proper sodium and potassium levels, calcium leaves the bone and builds up in the soft tissue (like the hair, muscles, joints, brain cells, etc.)
  • Calcium and magnesium can’t dissolve and precipitate out. Higher levels of calcium and magnesium are anti-stress and slow us down. These minerals are also not bioavailable for use, so they still need to be replaced.
  • When magnesium builds up it’s more of a displacement—when it is high you are losing magnesium from the cell and you can’t keep it inside. This does not mean you have too much magnesium.

An important note is that there is no perfect metabolic type. It’s just one piece of the puzzle and you really want to keep the entire picture of your hair test, how you feel, and what you’re currently working on in regard to nutrition and lifestyle. We don’t want to get wrapped up in one part of a lab test.

If you are loving learning more about minerals and want to complete an HTMA and assess your metabolic type sign up for the Master Your Minerals course! And don’t forget to sign up for my Feminine Periodical Newsletter to continue learning about minerals and hormone health.

reminder: i’m currently taking on 1:1 clients. if you’d like to explore what it would be like to work together and if we are a good fit, fill out this form to get more details!​

Amanda Montalvo

Amanda Montalvo is a women's health dietitian who helps women find the root cause of hormone imbalances and regain healthy menstrual cycles.

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