We’ve discussed toxins, gut health, and how to prepare the kidneys and liver for a heavy metal detox recently. If you missed those shows, you can watch them here:
Today we’re taking a deep dive into how to eliminate heavy metals from the body. I invited my friend and gifted functional diagnostic nutrition practitioner, Elise Purcell from Integration for Life, to guest blog on the topic because she has had to overcome her own heavy metal toxicity to regain her well-being and now guides others in that process.
Identifying and eliminating heavy metals was no doubt one of my most pivotal steps to recovering from chronic illness. Once they were removed, the parasite that I had been trying to get rid of for five years went away, and other health issues decreased. It's not an easy process, and it's a topic many doctors don't discuss, but I am passionate about educating people on what I have learned through experience because it helped me so much!
“Detox” has become quite the buzzword these days, and heavy metals should be on the top of the list of toxins to be aware of. People think that heavy metals are far removed from everyday life, but we are now actually getting exposed to them on a daily basis. They can create havoc in the body… including fatigue, brain fog, muscle/joint pain or weakness, digestive troubles and even female reproductive issues. They can also be very hard to get rid of unless you prepare correctly and take the right steps.
What Are the Major Heavy Metal Offenders?
- Mercury – toxic effects include damage to kidneys, lungs, and the brain (injures neurons and can cause neurological illness)
- Aluminum – creates inflammation, especially in the brain and can contribute to Alzheimer’s disease
- Cadmium – increases blood pressure and can cause atherosclerosis and kidney damage
- Arsenic – disrupts mitochondrial activity and causes serious neurological, respiratory, and gastrointestinal challenges
- Lead – causes abdominal issues, headaches, and impairs brain
- Copper – causes nervous system dysfunctions, loss of sexual interest, connective tissue problems
How Do We Get Them?
Mercury is most commonly found as methyl mercury in farmed or Atlantic fish, and as inorganic mercury in dental amalgams. It’s often used as a preservative in the influenza vaccine.
Aluminum is in most cooking pans, tin foil, many antiperspirants, many over-the-counter medications, processed cheese and related products, cake mixes, pancake mixes, and frozen dough. It has also replaced mercury in many vaccines as a preservative. Fluoride in drinking water increases uptake of aluminum.
Cadmium is mostly in cigarettes but is also in the water, air, and even the soil and food supply in industrial areas. It's often found in plastics and even some chocolate.
Arsenic is in drinking water, some rice, and conventionally raised chicken.
Lead is in paint (unless it says on the can ‘lead-free'), commonly in drinking water (from old pipes), some herbal remedies from questionable brands, and some chocolate.
Copper is in many common foods like coffee, chocolate, avocado, soy, shellfish, certain beans and nuts, and most IUDs are also made of copper.
How Do We Get Rid of Them?
It is absolutely essential to get a licensed practitioner to run tests and guide you through this process. Heavy metals can hide in the cells of the brain, nervous system, liver, kidneys, gall bladder, gut and soft tissue, and are not always easily picked up in tests. I have found the most thorough and reliable ones are from Quicksilver Scientific, the Blood Metals and the Mercury Tri-test.
You will also need to get a variety of other testing done to identify the current state of health in your body to know if and when it is safe to begin. Starting the process before the body is ready can cause great discomfort and distress. Knowing your current state also provides a marker for your improvement down the road.
What information do you need? It is important that the detox pathways are open and functioning well, meaning the liver, kidneys, and gut. Test to be sure. Taking folate, B Vitamins, and eating foods such as broccoli, kale, garlic, onions, and daikon radish that contain sulfur can also assist this process.
The Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal (HPA) Axis must be in good condition to properly detoxify heavy metals. Again, testing is crucial. I have found that even some of my clients that claim to “feel great” could use some support in this area. While detoxing heavy metals, there should be little to moderate stimulant activity (caffeine, over-exercising, over-working, and even over-worrying!)
Essential minerals should also be tested; if you are deficient in these minerals, your body will use toxic metals to fill their place instead.
Lead substitutes for calcium, cadmium very readily substitutes for zinc, and aluminum seems to jump in almost anywhere. The body then retains those metals and locks them into the tissues, taking the place of the appropriate nutrients.
Chelation/binders can only remove metals that are in a free form. So until the nutritional status of the body has shifted to supply these minerals in a usable form to the tissues, the body will not let go of the toxic metals. This often means supplementation is necessary before starting the detox process (see below).
Chelation with Binders
Once all of this has been successfully addressed, you are ready for chelation and binders. I recommend oral chelation over IV chelation. There are many different opinions on this topic, but this is what has worked for me personally. It ensures that you can manage and titrate specifically for your individual situation. That makes it easier to avoid possible side effects, like extreme dizziness and nausea. This way, if you do too much too fast, you can always scale back on dosage until your system stabilizes and then move forward again when your body is ready.
EDTA is an amino acid chelator. It is most effective at eliminating heavier metals and will work from heaviest to lightest. It is safest to work with low doses and take your time, like 6 months to a year, listening to your body, instead of trying to detox too fast and cause damage to your kidneys or other organs. I recommend this one.
My two favorite binders are zeobind and chlorella. The mistake many people make is taking binders like chlorella with a smoothie or food. These products eliminate the toxins from your body, so you want to do that independently of the digestive process to ensure proper assimilation of the nutrients from your food. Take binders 30 minutes before or 1 hour after any food or supplements.
You must sweat! The other ways that toxins come out are through lymph and sweat. But remember: over-exercising can inhibit healing. The most effective way to sweat is with an infrared sauna. Before getting in the sauna is a great time to take binders. You should also drink plenty of water and increase fiber and electrolyte intake during the detox process, especially after the sauna.
Getting heavy metals out of the brain can be especially difficult as they can often accumulate there, particularly after certain dental procedures (amalgams, implants, etc). Dr. Klinghardt, a German doctor that is an expert on heavy metals, toxicity, and chronic illness, has found that liposomal melatonin is a great detoxifier of the brain because it acts as an antioxidant and is especially effective for heavy metals. It also helps with sleep (which is integral for detoxification) and the gut. The ‘hangover’ many people report is actually a brain detox effect.
A Special Note on Women’s Health and Copper
A metal that merits special attention is copper. It is different in that all the other above mentioned metals have no productive use in the body. Copper is different; we require it to live and thrive. However, in excess, it builds up in the liver, joints, lungs, and brain and impairs adrenal function, slows down metabolism, and can have disastrous effects on mood, hormones, and reproductive health.
Birth control and copper IUDs can affect how copper functions in the body. While for some women this is not a problem, others find it common to experience things like mild to severe sexual difficulties of various types, depression, and anxiety. Pulling the excess copper out can be beneficial for many reasons, including less PMS, cramping, and higher fertility rates. Copper and zinc are inversely related, so re-mineralizing zinc and also Vitamin C (which is an antagonist to copper) is necessary.
Additional Suggestions to Take/Eat/Do
- Supplement with zinc, NAC, ALA, milk thistle, glutathione, and garlic
- Eat wild caught, low-mercury fish (salmon, shrimp, and cod), plenty of high-quality protein and fats like omega-3, olive oil, and flax oil
- Use natural deodorant
- Dry brush before bathing
- Replace aluminum pots and pans for cast iron or ceramic
- Spray magnesium oil on organs and belly (assists in detox, bowel regulation, relaxes muscles and calms nervous system)
- Get amalgams taken out by a biological dentist (must be done correctly or can be extremely toxic)
- Air filters and water filters in your home
- Put your phone on airplane mode while sleeping (reduce EMFs)
- Rebound 5 minutes, twice a day on a mini-trampoline
I do believe that in the modern world it isn’t a question of if this applies to you but to what degree. Hopefully, this gives you some knowledge on just how complex this issue can be and some steps in the right direction. This information is not meant to instill fear, but to inspire educated and purposeful action. I wish you the best of luck on what I like to call your “Health Adventure”!
I hope you enjoyed Elise’s guest blog and learned a lot about heavy metal toxicity and how to recover from it. For more about Elise, or to work with her privately, you can visit her website integrationforlife.com. She currently has a wait list practice. You can also find a qualified practitioner in your area at http://functionaldiagnosticnutrition.com
Metals and the Mind-Wise Traditions, Theresa Vernon
Nutritional Balancing and Hair Mineral Analysis, Lawrence Wilson, MD
Copper and Your Health, Lawrence Wilson, MD
Fundamental Teachings, Dietrich Klinghardt, MD