Heavy Metals are highly toxic …
… and, due to the US Geological Survey, can be a threat to the health of people and wildlife even in environments that are not obviously polluted. Once in the body, they act as free radicals, damage cells and impair many important enzymes. Due to their long half-life, they still can be detected years and even decades after contamination. Even if they don’t cause overt disease, they prevent the body from being optimally healthy.
Where do Heavy Metals come from?
Some heavy metals occur naturally in the environment, but most are a result of industrial pollution.
- Mercury, the most toxic heavy metal, is found in fish, shellfish, amalgam fillings, vaccines (Thimerosol), and can be airborne through the burning of coal and oil.
- Lead is in old, lead based paint and in ceramic products. It gets into the environment through the burning of fossil fuels, mining, and the production of batteries, and ammunition.
- Arsenic is in wood preservatives (and gets into the body through inhaling saw dust), pesticides, semiconductors, car batteries, well water and fish.
What are Symptoms of Heavy Metal Toxicity?
As they often cause a bewildering array of symptoms, Heavy Metal toxicity can be hard to diagnose:
- Nervous System: irritability, low concentration, memory loss, insomnia, depression, anxiety, tingling or burning of extremities, tremors, tinnitus, metallic taste, numbness, headaches, fatigue.
- Immune System: recurrent viral, bacterial or fungal infections, autoimmune disorders, allergies. The EPA has classified methyl-mercury as a possible carcinogen.
- Cardiovascular: extra beats, hypertension, and cardiomyopathy.
- Skin: Eczema, allergies.
- Endocrine System: Hypothyroidism, hypoglycemia, infertility.
- Gastrointestinal: Food sensitivities, IBS, dysbiosis, leaky gut, recurrent parasitic infections.
- Systemic: fatigue and fibromyalgia.
Mercury and Neurodegenerative Disease
Mercury is a neurotoxin and has been recognized as a possible co-factor in the promotion of Alzheimer’s and MS. People with the Apolipoprotein E4 Genotype have an impaired detox capacity for mercury and are therefore at higher risk.
Allergies to Heavy Metals
Beyond their toxicity, Heavy metals can induce allergies so that even minute exposure triggers an inflammatory response and cause skin rashes, food and environmental allergies.
Mercury and Pregnancy
Mercury passes from the mother to the fetus and can cause developmental problems. As most fish is contaminated with mercury, many pregnant women therefore avoided eating fish altogether. But as it turned out, that might not be the best strategy. Fish is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and beneficial for brain development. So it’s all about avoiding the risks of consuming high-mercury fish while providing the benefits of low-mercury fish. The bottom line is that pregnant or breast-feeding women should eat fish as long as it is low or very low in mercury. The joint recommendation of FDA and EPA is to consume 8 to 12 ounces of low mercury fish per week. The best choice is wild caught Alaskan salmon, but sardines, pollock, catfish, and cod are also low mercury choices. Avoid tilefish, shark, swordfish, king mackerel and limit white albacore tuna to 6 ounces per week. Also be aware that the placement or removal of silver amalgam fillings during pregnancy and breastfeeding is outlawed in many European countries.
How is Heavy Metal Toxicity diagnosed?
- Blood, Urine and Hair analysis reveal recent exposure but can be misleading when the exposure dates further back.
- A challenge or provocation test correlates best with the body burden of heavy metals. It is done by collecting urine for 6 hours after taking a chelating agent like DMSA, DMPS or EDTA.
Heavy Metal Detoxification is done through
- Supplementation with Glutathione, Minerals and Chlorella.
- Medical Chelators like DMSA or EDTA that bind and excrete heavy metals through liver, gut and kidneys.
- Sweating through exercise or regular saunas are supportive as are a diet rich in protein and Omega 3 fatty acids. Avoid getting dehydrated or constipated.
If done right, a Heavy Metal Detoxification is safe and well tolerated. As slower is better, it takes around six months.