The sodium level on a hair tissue mineral analysis correlates with adrenal strength or weakness. When the sodium level is low, adrenal effect on a cellular level is reduced. (Think adrenal fatigue). If sodium is elevated, adrenal activity tends to be excessive. (Think a high-strung horse who is "stuck" in flight mode.)
Sodium is associated with mineralocorticoid secretion. All the adrenal indicators on an HTMA rely on sodium, which is regulated primarily by aldosterone, an adrenal hormone. Mineralocorticoids are produced in the adrenal cortex and influence electrolyte and fluid balance (salt and water).
The adrenals secrete at least a dozen hormones, including adrenaline or epinephrine, noradrenaline or norepinephrine, DHEA, pregnenolone, cortisol, cortisone, corticosterone, just to name a few. The adrenals also help regulate blood sugar, blood salts, blood pressure, and the autonomic nervous system.
Important in hormone production and regulation, the adrenal glands are crucial to the health of the body and can fuel or hinder performance. HTMA can give us a painless, non-invasive snapshot of the condition and function of a horse's adrenal glands. This is especially important for horses in high intensity sports such as racing, polo, endurance, and eventing. However, horses of all disciplines and lifestyles can suffer from adrenal insufficiencies.