Dr. Rahim Habib ND, Naturopathic Doctor

Unlike adult health screening tests, there is little testing for pediatric general health screening.

Adults will get annual medical evaluations including blood and urine testing and

recommendations for additional screening based on their age, family history and risk factors.

However, consider the idea of screening our young patients. When I interact with the parents,

it is very uncommon that there is any mention of preliminary screening tests from general

medical practice. In my naturopathic pediatric practice, I commonly include hair analysis as

an objective non-invasive way to screen for nutritional status and toxic metal exposures.

Nutritional screening value of hair analysis

As clinicians, we know that despite the diet or supplements we recommend for our pediatric

patients, what is consumed and what is actually digested and absorbed can be quite

different. Digestion-related factors commonly compromise the proper digestion and

absorption of nutrients (eg: eating fast or while commuting or under stress, picky eating, food

intolerances and intestinal hyperpermeability, dysbiosis, etc.). It is valuable therefore to have

an assessment tool to reliably assess both the child’s baseline and their treatment outcome.

Hair is certainly much easier to obtain than a blood sample and helps with patient compliance

in the young, as well as parental comfort.

Common nutritional & digestive challenges in children:

  • rushed meals → maldigestion
  • mobile meals → maldigestion
  • picky eating → nutritional deficiency
  • sensory challenges
  • inadequate chewing →maldigestion
  • antibiotic overuse →intestinal microbial imbalance (dysbiosis)
  • low diversity of intestinal microbes
  • constipation is commonplace
  • over-scheduled → maldigestion/deficiency
  • questionable quality/processed foods
  • tight grocery budgets
  • food intolerances → malabsorption
  • intestinal hyperpermeability →immune dysfunctions

Validity of hair analysis in children’s nutrition screening

To support the validity of hair analysis in the pediatric population, consider a 2017 study published in Biological Trace Element Research which compared the status of hair mineral

and toxic elements in both undernourished and well-nourished children and found there was a

significant (and expected) difference, validating the hair analysis usefulness. Another study

examined the clinical correlation of night blindness in children. It is known for instance that

selenium is a useful mineral for eye health. A 2015 study appearing in the journal

Environmental Monitoring and Assessment found significantly lower levels of selenium in

children with night blindness compared to children of similar age with normal night vision.