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.