Exposure to heavy metals is on the rise. We are all repeatedly exposed to toxins on a daily basis, whether it is through the food we eat, the air we breathe or the products we use. Modern living and convenience carry a steep price.
Toxicity is such a problem that babies are now BORN with toxins, due to the toxic load of their mothers. A 2004 study by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that blood samples from newborns contained an average of 287 toxins, including mercury, fire retardants, pesticides and chemicals in non-stick cookware.
Causes of Chronic Heavy Metal Exposures
Heavy metal toxicity can result from either acute or chronic exposure to heavy metals. Chronic exposure commonly comes from mercury-based amalgam fillings, chemical residues in foods, mercury in vaccines and flu shots, toxins in personal care products, household products, industrial exposures, air and water pollution to name a few. Some professions carry a higher risk for heavy metal exposure such as anyone in the dental profession (including dental office staff), hairdressers, artists, and lab workers.
Individuals who have chronic conditions or weakened immune systems can be more susceptible in developing heavy metal toxicity, as they are not able to excrete these toxins as efficiently as someone with a stronger disposition. Many times, symptoms of metal toxicity are misdiagnosed as chronic illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue, autism or depression.
Causes of Acute Heavy Metal Exposures
- Mishandled metals at a job site
- Chemical and heavy metal spills–even from a broken mercury thermometer
- Chronic exposure over a period of time
- Having mercury amalgams (“silver fillings”) in teeth
- Living in a home built prior to 1978 that has lead-based paint
- Smoking and/or inhaling second-hand smoke
- Eating foods (such as contaminated fish) that contain high levels of heavy metals
- Living near a landfill
- Working in an environment where exposure is prevalent, such as at a dentist’s office where amalgam is commonly used
Symptoms of Heavy Metal Toxicity
It is important to note that symptoms can vary according to the metal that has accumulated in the body. Not every symptom for every metal is listed, simply the most common.
The most commonly associated metals with poisoning are mercury, lead, arsenic, and cadmium. There are two types of heavy metal toxicity: acute and chronic.
Acute symptoms are usually quick and severe, so they are easier to diagnose.
- Difficulty Breathing
- Impaired Cognitive Function
Chronic symptoms can be harder to diagnose as they develop over time and have different symptoms such as brain fog, insomnia or impaired motor skills which are easily misdiagnosed.
- Chronic Infections
- General Malaise
- Nervous System Malfunctions – burning, tingling, paralysis in extremities
- Migraines or Headaches
- Brain Fog
- Visual Disturbances
- Gastrointestinal Disorders – bloating, gas, heartburn, indigestion, etc.
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If you are having these symptoms, and you feel that heavy metal toxicity is a possibility, you may wish to discuss metal toxicity with your practitioner before receiving treatment.
Guidelines for Reducing Your Toxic Metal Exposure
- Avoid and remove amalgam fillings (using a biological dentist who understands the correct procedure for removal)
- Avoid costume jewelry
- Avoid smoking and second-hand smoke
- Avoid conventional cleaning products
- Avoid cosmetics with aluminum bases, antiperspirants with aluminum
- Avoid aluminum and nonstick cookware
- Avoid seafood
Improve Your Diet
- Maximize your health by eating whole, organic foods. Eating a healthy diet is key to nourishing and rebuilding your body.
- Eat whole, organic unprocessed foods.
- Eat local in-season foods whenever possible.
- Include cultured and fermented foods in your diet.
- Include healthy fats in your diet.
- Eat one-third of your food raw.
Consume Foods That Help the Body Flush out Heavy Metals
The best foods for removing heavy metals from your body are wheatgrass, chlorella, spirulina, cilantro, and garlic.
According to Dietrich Klinghardt, M.D., Ph.D., cilantro is probably the only agent effective at removing toxic mercury from intracellular spaces and the nuclei of cells.
Foods rich in sulfur, are also important to help reduce a toxic metal load, such as grass-fed meats, egg yolks, garlic, onions, and cruciferous vegetables.
Turmeric which helps maintain the health of the liver and kidneys is also effective at expelling toxins from the body.
Alpha -lipoic acid is a potent antioxidant that is essential for healthy metabolism. It also binds to heavy metals in the body and helps clear mercury and lead from the body. Alpha lipoic acid can be found in foods such as Brewer’s yeast, beets, broccoli, carrots, potatoes, spinach, red meat, organ meats, and yams.
Foods rich in amino acids-Amino acids are natural chelators, they can be found in foods such as corn, carrots, grapes, oatmeal, papayas, plums, and pomegranates.
Purify Your Water
The average person’s tap water likely contains traces of chlorine, fluoride, calcium, magnesium, sodium, sulfates, and more! In addition those, there are more serious substances such as iron, manganese, copper, aluminum, and other chemicals.
However, regular consumption of the heavy metals we listed may increase your risk of conditions such as kidney disease, Parkinson’s, and even Alzheimer’s. Fortunately, research has shown that the popular herb cilantro actually has purifying properties. According to researchers:
“The organic toxins we can take care of pretty easily with a number of different methods, but the only way to really get rid of those heavy metals is to treat them with filtering agents like activated charcoal (like what’s found in a Brita filter), but those types of materials are kind of expensive,” says research team lead Douglas Schauer. “They are a little expensive for us to use, but they are very expensive to the people living in that region.”
Cilantro contains agents that can bind to toxic heavy metals and allow your body to excrete them naturally. The research team suspects that cilantro’s cell wall makes it ideal for catching and absorbing metals.
As reported by CNN, “So far, the researchers reported success in removing lead and nickel with their cilantro filters, and are studying how well the herb can removed other heavy metals found in the Tule Valley water such as arsenic and mercury.”
But, how much cilantro would I need to actually purify my water?
Well, according to Schauer, a handful could cleanse nearly a full pitcher of water that was highly contaminated with lead. So, the next time you’re worried about the water, make sure you have some cilantro within arms reach.
Heavy Metal Testing
If you suspect that you have heavy metal poisoning, there are blood, hair, fecal and urine tests available through your practitioner. These tests can be used to determine toxicity as well as to test your level of progress if you choose to pursue chelation therapy.
You should understand that eliminating heavy metals is a challenging process and dependent upon the level of toxicity it can take several months or longer to eliminate them safely. Detoxification is a process that should never be rushed. It is important that you have a healthy liver and adrenal function, and excellent elimination before undertaking any chelation treatment. Always seek the care and guidance of a healthcare professional who is familiar with heavy metal detoxification.
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