Heavy metals are a serious health concern. Problems from heavy metal toxicity have documented in research studies over the years. Heavy metal toxicity happens when you’re exposed (either acute or chronic) to a lot of a certain type of metal. It can make you sick and affects the way your body works. For example, lead metal toxicity is a known cause of attention problems in children, and long-term has serious health risks. Mercury toxicity is another toxic metal that can affect the brain and nervous system, affecting your mood and emotional stability.
Common signs and symptoms of heavy metal toxicity
- Brain: Memory loss, headaches, irritability, depression, lack of concentration
- Digestive system: Constipation, nausea, poor appetite
- Nervous system: Damage – numbness or tingling at the extremities
- Body: fatigue, muscle or joint pain
- Cardiovascular: high blood pressure
- Kidneys: abnormal function or damage
- Brain: Behavioural problems, lowered IQ, learning disabilities
- Body: decreased bone and muscle growth
- Kidneys: damage
- Nervous system: damage
- Blood: anemia
Heavy Metal Toxicity: Acute vs Chronic Exposure
Acute heavy metal exposure is usually accidental, suicidal or homicidal ingestion of a toxic metal compound which induces acute symptoms. Instances like these require an emergency trip to the hospital.
Chronic heavy metal exposure, on the other hand, is much more common. Ingesting small amounts of contaminated food, water or air over the long-term, have cumulative effects on the body. These small amounts of poison build up in the body over time and can make you sick.
The most common metals the body can absorb in toxic amounts are lead, arsenic, cadmium, aluminium, copper, nickel and mercury.
Common Sources of Heavy Metal Exposure
Most cases of excess toxic heavy metals result from chronic low level exposure.
- Lead: drinking water, paint, cosmetics (lipstick), makeup, petrol, pipes, storage batteries, candles, toys
- Arsenic: rice, drinking water, wood preservatives, biocides (herbicides, pesticides, fungicides), paint
- Cadmium: drinking water, paint, cigarettes, tattoo ink, plastics, fertilisers, food (vegetables/grains/cereals) grown in contaminated soil and groundwater
- Aluminium: deodorant, antacids, food additives, tin cans, tin foil
- Copper: birth control (IUD), cookware, pipes, cables/wires
- Mercury: dental amalgams, light bulbs, thermometers, electrical equipment, fish (such as tuna)
- Nickel: earrings and jewellery, orthodontics, coins, zippers, mining
As you can see, there is a strong connection between heavy metal toxicity and the environment. Toxic heavy metals are not accumulated from just one thing or one large exposure, but as a result of chronic, low exposures over time. This is why cleaning up your own environment, food and water is so important! Get started here – ‘How Can I Reduce My Toxin Exposure?’ and read on for more tips.
Ways to Reduce Exposure to Heavy Metals
- Filter your water. Consider a full house filtration unit so all the water in the home is filtered. We don’t just drink water, we boil it, cook with it, bathe and shower in it as well.
- Eat organic, whole foods in their natural state as much as possible, to minimise herbicides and pesticides.
- Use ‘clean’ or ‘natural’ personal care products, makeup and beauty products. Did you know there is lead in lipstick? The EWG Skin Deep Cosmetics Database is a great resource.
- Cook and bake in ‘clean’ cookware, such as stainless steel or ceramic. Ditch the non-stick coated cookware.
- Soak your grains/rice at least a few hours before cooking. Rice is high in arsenic, and soaking helps to reduce the amount.
- Sweat! Sweating helps the body detoxify not only heavy metals, but also other environmental toxins and mycotoxins from mould. You can sweat either by exercise or sauna (normal or infrared). If you think an infrared sauna is out of your price range, you’re wrong! There are a wide range of different sizes and price points, fitting anyone’s budget.
Is diet alone enough to reduce heavy metals in my body?
Sadly, no. Although eating healthy and drinking clean water is crucial, you’ll still need to do more.
- Antioxidants – Include an antioxidant formula that includes nutrients like vitamin C, glutathione or NAC and alpha lipoic acid.
- Binders – binders attract, bind to and eliminate toxins from the body. One specifically for heavy metals, such as a zeolite, activated charcoal or HM-ET from Cellcore Biosciences (my favourite).
- Sweat – Sweating through exercise or infared sauna is fundamental to any heavy metal detox protocol.
*Before starting any protocol, it’s important the drainage pathways are open, otherwise your body won’t be able to eliminate toxins properly, they’ll get reabsorbed and circulated causing more damage. Work with a practitioner if you have any concerns or are unsure where to start.
**This is not medical advice. Contact your doctor or practitioner before beginning any heavy metal protocol.
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