How to Detox Heavy Metals
Unfortunately, we have reached a point where heavy metals (as well as a range of other chemical toxins) have made their way into our everyday lives. These things enter our bodies and disrupt health in many ways. Luckily, armed with a bit of knowledge and a little proactivity, much of the risk of these things can be mitigated. It is imperative that you learn how to detox heavy metals as these are one of the most disruptive toxins we face today.
Things like lead, mercury, and aluminum have found their way into the environment and end up places we normally wouldn’t think of as sources of toxins. Our industrialized culture with all of our technology has led to a large uptick in the manufacture and disposal of heavy metal-containing materials that, let’s face it, ultimately end up in the environment.
What is a Heavy Metal?
A heavy metal is a metal that has a density of at least 5 g/cm3. It is generally understood that heavy metals have adverse effects on living organisms and the environment when present in large amounts.
When present in the human body, they serve no beneficial role. In fact, they almost always interfere with normal biological processes instead (1). They do this partly by binding to proteins in the body that would otherwise be activated by normally occurring minerals like magnesium and zinc. This causes massive cellular interference, oxidative stress, and chronic inflammation.
Acute Vs. Chronic Exposure
Something that is important to understand before getting too deep into this article is that we are not referring to acute exposure to metals so much as we are chronic exposure. Of course, there is an issue when someone is suddenly exposed to a large dose of a toxic metal that causes an immediate toxicity and there are ways of mitigating those damages in an emergency scenario.
What we need to understand though is that even low-level exposure to heavy metals over time can also have a detrimental impact on the body. This is why it is important to understand some of the common sources and ways you can help your body eliminate them on a daily basis if you want to maintain a vibrant level of health.
Who is Susceptible?
As you may have guessed, anyone is susceptible to heavy metal exposure. The difference is that some people have a higher ability to eliminate these things, giving them a higher tolerance before they begin to experience any symptoms. Certain occupations also tend to increase exposure to heavy metals.
Occupations With Higher Exposure
- Auto Repair
- Dental Work
- Industrial Agriculture
- Anyone Regularly Working With Industrial Chemicals
Those More Susceptible To Metal Toxicity
- Leaky Gut
- Liver Damage or Poor Liver Function
- Chronic Infection
- Chronic Blood Sugar Imbalance
- Micronutrient Deficiencies
- Increased Mental or Emotional Stress
- Any Condition That Inhibits the Function of the Gut, Liver, Gallbladder, or Kidneys
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The symptoms of chronic heavy metal exposure can vary depending on an individual’s health, exposure level, and the types of metals that they are exposed to. Someone with robust detoxification ability will have a higher tolerance to detox heavy metals while someone else could be extremely sensitive to even the smallest exposure.
Some of the Most Common Symptoms Include:
- Chronic Fatigue
- Brain Fog
- Mood Swings
- Anxiety & Depression
- Chronic Inflammation
Several heavy metals have also been classified as cancer-causing agents.
Common Heavy Metals
There are common symptoms that appear when toxicity is reached for some of the common heavy metals. While there are many heavy metals present in our environment, this article focuses on the metals that are considered to be found in disproportionately higher amounts and tend to cause the majority of symptoms.
The primary exposure to lead for many years was from lead-containing paint used in homes. It is estimated that 25% of US homes still have significant amounts of lead in their paint, inside air, and even surrounding soil (2). Another important thing to note is that lead becomes stored in the bone and is passed from mother to offspring during fetal development (3). This passing down of lead can last several generations if not properly addressed.
Lead harms the body by competing with calcium and blocking its effects. Lead also interferes with enzymes, proteins, and antioxidant systems.
Common Sources of Exposure: Homes with Lead-containing Paint, Contaminated Foods, Municipal Tap Water, Cosmetics, Tobacco Products
Areas of Storage: Bones, Brain, Heart, Liver, Kidneys
Health Effects: Headaches, ADD/ADHD, Mood Disorders, Poor Memory, Developmental Disorders in Utero (Reduced Birth Weight, Premature Birth, Poor Cognitive Development)
Arsenic, commonly found in our food supply, harms the body by inhibiting certain enzymes in the mitochondria. Anything that inhibits mitochondrial function will have vast health consequences as mitochondria produce the energy needed for cells to carry out normal functions. Arsenic also depletes endogenous antioxidants (such as glutathione), contributing to oxidative stress and inflammation.
Common Sources of Exposure: Pesticides, Commercially-Grown Produce, Occupations (involving glass work, smelting, or semi-conductor production), Rice Products, Apple Juice
Areas of Storage: Liver, Kidneys
Health Effects: Higher Risk of Premature Birth and Fetal Mortality, Memory Problems, Poor Verbal Intelligence, Inflammation, Neuropathy, Cancers of the Bladder/Liver/Kidneys (4), Unfavorable Gene Mutations
Mercury is likely the most dangerous heavy metal in the environment (5). It is attracted to fatty substances, such as the brain, and may increase your chances of suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. It increases oxidative stress, inflammation, depletes antioxidants, and chronically over-stimulates the brain (eventually leading to brain cell damage).
Common Sources of Exposure: Larger Seafood (tuna, shark, swordfish, etc.), Dental Amalgams (silver tooth fillings), Some Vaccinations (containing thimerosal)
Areas of Storage: Brain, Nervous System (myelin), Liver, Kidneys
Health Effects: Brain Damage, Brain Fog, Chronic Fatigue, Depression, Headaches, Poor Memory, Liver & Kidney Damage, Increased Risk of Cardiovascular Diseases, Neurodegenerative Disorders (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis)
Cadmium is a water-soluble heavy metal. What that means is the once exposed, your body will absorb it somewhat easily. The mechanism by which cadmium harms the body is not fully known, however it is helpful to understand its areas of storage and common health effects.
Common Sources of Exposure: Tobacco, Contaminated Foods, Occupational (Soldering, Metal Working, Battery Manufacture)
Areas of Storage: Kidneys
Health Effects: Kidney Damage, Poor Calcium Metabolism (Kidney Stones, Osteoporosis)
Aluminum is the third most common element in the earth’s crust and was once the number 2 metal used in manufacturing across the globe (second to steel). Aluminum is leeched from the soil with increases in acid rain, which makes it more toxic to the body.
Aluminum has no biological role in the body while also inhibiting the normal distribution of calcium, phosphorus, and iron.
Common Sources of Exposure: Processed Foods, Some Vaccinations, Antiperspirant Deodorant, Canned Food and Drink, Municipal Tap Water
Areas of Storage: Aluminum can find a home in almost any tissue of the body
Health Effects: Poor Cognitive Function, Bone Disorders, Neurodegeneration (Alzheimer’s), Breast Cancer, Anemia
*While all of these metals are concerning in of themselves, it is also important to note that some studies have shown a concerting effect. This means that having a combined toxicity of several heavy metals may actually be exponentially more harmful than any one metal alone.
While there are immediate ramifications of heavy metal exposure and accumulation, something that absolutely must be considered are the generational effects passed to offspring. Research is showing now that heavy metals can actually change the expression of our genes in ways that are unfavorable for good health (6). Additionally, certain heavy metals can be passed directly from the mother to the fetus in utero.
This means that, even if raised in a pristine environment (which is virtually impossible in today’s society) the ramifications of heavy metal toxicity can extend for several generations if not properly dealt with.
This means if you plan on raising healthy, vibrant children, you may want to consider testing and removing heavy metals from your system before conception.
Testing for Heavy Metals
There are generally three types of heavy metal testing strategies: blood, urine, and hair. The common downfall that these methods succumb to is not accounting for the fact that heavy metals can become deeply embedded in tissues. Generally, hair and urine tests can only measure the metals that an individual’s body is able to actually remove. Blood tests are typically only accurate after an acute and recent exposure to a heavy metal.
Generally, one of the best ways to get an idea of heavy metal levels in the body is to pull them from the tissues using a chelator (a substance that binds and detox heavy metals) and then measure what is excreted in the urine. This method is called a Heavy Metal Challenge Test.
Typically, in a heavy metal challenge test, one will collect 2 separate urine samples: one before ingesting the chelator and one after. This gives an accurate picture of the toxic burden in the body. To read more about this test, click the banner below.
Daily Detoxification Strategies
Modern day, it is virtually impossible to avoid all toxins in our environment. These range from heavy metals, to pesticides and plastic-derived compounds and none of them serve biologically relevant roles in the human body.
While there are certain ways to minimize your exposure, such as following a healing diet (here) and using non-toxic bath and cleaning formulas, it is imperative that you take steps to help your body remove toxins on a daily basis.
My Top 10 Daily Detoxification Strategies Include:
Consuming a Healing Diet
Drinking Green Juices
Using Essential Oils
Improving Bowel Motility
Using Activated Charcoal
To read more in-depth about these strategies, read my article: 10 Daily Detoxification Strategies
When it comes to detox heavy metals from the body, there are three factors to be considered:
1. The body’s ability to excrete and detox heavy metals via the elimination organs (liver, kidneys, skin, and gut)
2. Removal of the metal at the cellular level
3. Restoration of the minerals that compete with heavy metals for cellular binding spots.
In order to effectively detoxify the body, you must be able to perform all of these functions. In chronically ill and inflamed individuals, there is often an inhibited ability to do both of these things. When you have cellular inflammation, it is particularly difficult to remove metals at the cellular level because the cell gets less efficient at transporting materials in and out of the cell membrane. Luckily, there are reliable ways of supporting both processes.
Detoxification Support Pack
This detoxification support pack is great for everyday processing and removal of active toxins in the body (those that are not trapped in tissues). It is designed to upregulate detoxification pathways, lower cellular inflammation, and restore cellular vitality.
An Effective Protocol to Follow Using This Support Pack is as Follows:
Gut Healing Protein: 2 Scoops in a Shake 1–2x daily
Organic SuperGreens: 1–2 Scoops in shake or water daily
ProOmega CRP: 3 Caps with food once daily
Activated Charcoal: 2 Caps between meals (at least an hour away from meals)
SBO Probiotic: 1 Cap in the AM upon rising and 1 cap at bedtime
If you have tested high in heavy metals and are attempting a more aggressive heavy metal detoxification strategy, these dosages may be increased slightly. I would recommend working with one of our Functional Nutrition Practitioners to devise a plan and utilize the next 2 strategies as well.
Advanced Heavy Metal Detox Support
Removing heavy metals from the body can be harmful if not done properly. Be sure to consult with your doctor or holistic health practitioner before following any sort of a detoxification protocol.
Using a binder that is able to grab onto detox heavy metals and help transport them out of the body is recommended to help avoid suffering from a secondary toxicity. For this, I recommend using our Heavy Metal Detox Product along with our Mineral Support.
Step 1 Support Phase: Do 30 days on the Detoxification support pack along with Mineral Support. Certain cases may need 90 days or longer if they are hypersensitive. They will need to discuss this with their health practitioner.
Overall length of support phase is 30-90+ days. 30 days for most.
Step 2 Detox Phase: Do 10 days on Heavy Metal Detox and off of the Mineral Support and Greens Powder (continue on Gut Healing Pro, Pro Omega CRP, charcoal, mineral support and probiocharge)
Overall length of detox phase is 10 days and you will want to cycle for 3-6 months and then retest.
Step 3 Replenish Phase: Come off of Heavy Metal Detox and Activated Charcoal for 10 days and add back in the Mineral Support and Greens Powder.
Overall length of replenish phase is 10 days and you will want to cycle for 3-6 months and then retest.
Continue to cycle through the Detox and Replenish phase for a 3-6 month period of time and then retest.
Heavy Metal Detox: A combination of powerful detoxifying agents along with Himalayan Shilajit Extract. The ingredients in this product act synergistically to facilitate the elimination of harmful substances (such as heavy metals) while simultaneously replenishing minerals and upregulating antioxidant systems.
Beginner Dosage: 1 cap – 2x daily with food
Advanced Dosage: 2 caps – 2x daily with food
Mineral Support: While the ingredients in Heavy Metal Detox are powerful and effective at helping to remove unwanted toxins, they may also lead to decreased absorption of certain minerals. This is why I recommend using Mineral Support if you are going to undergo a more advanced detoxification protocol.
Normal Dosage: 1 cap – 2x daily with or without food
Advanced Dosage: 2 caps – 2x daily with or without food
Heavy metals are extremely difficult to avoid in our society. The health effects of heavy metal exposure range from minor and acute to chronic and debilitating if not addressed properly. Consider implementing daily detoxification strategies (here) to lessen the overall toxic burden on your body.
If you have tested positive for heavy metals, it is likely that they are playing a role in any significant health challenges that you are facing. Removing these toxins from the body can be one step in the process of regaining your health.