It can be really frustrating to follow a healthy diet, get regular exercise, and do pretty much everything else you can do to optimize your health and well-being, yet somehow, you just don’t feel right. Perhaps you suffer from digestive problems, you feel sluggish or fatigued a lot of the time, or are just generally ill and sickly.
Not knowing why you aren’t feeling as good as you should can make it difficult to stick with healthy habits – after all, if it’s not working, what’s the point? Why not indulge in your favorite processed snacks and fast food when it doesn’t seem to matter? There may actually be a reason behind all this, and tossing your healthy habits out the window is only going to make it worse, so don’t give up just yet. You may have heavy metal toxicity, due to toxic metals like mercury, aluminum, cadmium, nickel, lead and arsenic that flood the environment and invade your body.
Those toxic metals can not only make you feel ill, they can contribute to an extensive list of diseases like Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, and other neurological and brain disorders. And, many people are suffering from the adverse effects of low-level, chronic exposure.
Over the past 50 years or so, exposure to heavy metal toxins by humans has risen dramatically. Every day, we’re exposed to some kind of heavy metal toxin, whether it’s the air, the water we drink or the food we eat. Chronic exposure to these harmful toxins come from chemical residues in processed foods, toxins in personal care products, lead in paint and tap water, the mercury-amalgam fillings we’ve gotten at the dentist, among others. If you work in certain types of professions, you’re at higher risk too – that includes welders, lab workers, painters, dental occupations, metalworkers, engravers, photographers, potters, printers, cosmetic workers and more.
Depending on genetics, a number of other factors and levels of toxicity, some people are able to excrete these toxins out of their system, but others, particularly those who suffer from chronic health problems, tend to develop a buildup of metals which is referred to as heavy metal toxicity. Additionally, heavy metals can accumulate in the body over time, which often results in symptoms you probably wouldn’t equate with heavy metals. Often, the symptoms brought on by metal toxicity are misdiagnosed for chronic issues like depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple sclerosis, and autism.
Arsenic, lead, and mercury contribute to the most cases of heavy metal toxicity:
Arsenic, lead and mercury are the three top offenders when it comes to heavy metal toxicity, so it’s worth looking at those a little more in depth.
According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), arsenic is considered the No. 1 cause of heavy metal poisoning. We’re exposed to it through environmental pollution. As it’s released from the smelting process of copper, zinc, and lead and through the manufacturing of chemicals and glass, as well as ingestion through poisons meant for insects, our water supply and skin contact. An additive that’s arsenic-based is even used in chicken feed in order to promote faster growth, kill off parasites and make the color of chicken meat look more appealing. That means that if you eat standard, non-organic chicken, you may be exposed to arsenic in the meat.
The No. 2 heavy metal on the ATSDR list responsible for toxicity is lead, and the majority of those who are affected are children. Lead is a soft metal that was used in soldering materials, pipes and drains prior during the construction of millions of homes built before 1940. Residents are exposed through flaking, weathering, chalking and dust. There are still some 2.5 million tons of lead produced today, used for things like paint pigments, fuel additives, ammunition, plumbing, cable coverings, plumbing, x-ray shielding and pesticides. In fact, nearly 500,000 children between the age of one and 5 have been found to have lead levels in the blood that are greater than what the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention have recommended: 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood. When levels are higher than that, it can negatively affect the kidneys, brain, bones, thyroid, nervous system, cardiovascular system, reproductive system and the gastrointestinal system.
Mercury is the third most common heavy metal toxin offender. It’s naturally transmitted into the environment from volcanic emissions that come from the degassing of the earth’s crust. It’s made its way into aquatic food chains and fish, as it’s dispersed into the atmosphere by winds and returns to the earth through rainfall, eventually working its way into the water. Mercury compounds are still used today in medicines like mercurochrome and merthiolate, algaecides and certain types of vaccines. It can also be inhaled, getting into the kidneys and brain. Many people have had dental amalgam fillings – and one study out of Norway found that 47 percent of those dental patients reported suffering from major depression, a symptom of heavy metal toxicity, as compared to just 14 percent who had no amalgam fillings. Research published in Neuroendocrinology Letters showed that removing those mercury fillings resulted in improvements in 70 percent of those who were suffering from mercury-related health issues such as depression.
Heavy metal toxicity is now considered one of the most hazardous health issues the public faces today, as the body is assaulted with heavy metals and an assortment of chemicals on a day-to-day basis, often from some of the most innocent seeming sources, from your baby’s rubber ducky to kitchenware. Frightening, even newborns come into the world toxic, because of the toxic load their mother’s carry. A 2005 study entitled Body Burden: The Pollution in Newborns, conducted by the Environmental Working Group, found that when sampling the blood from newborns, it contained an average of nearly 300 toxins, including pesticides, fire retardants, and chemicals in non-stick cookware. Sadly, despite the dangers, proposed bans on toxic agents are nearly always blocked by major corporations and industry advocates, such as The American Chemistry Council, as bans would negatively affect profits.
That makes avoiding all of these toxins rather difficult and underlines the importance of watching out for signs of heavy metal toxicity, like these.
Signs you’re suffering from heavy metal toxicity:
There are actually two different types of heavy metal toxicity, chronic and acute. Acute symptoms of toxicity are much more easy to recognize, as they tend to come on quickly and be severe. Those include:
- Cramping, nausea, and/or vomiting
- Difficulty breathing
- Impaired cognitive, motor and language skills
Chronic exposure tends to produce different symptoms that are much more easily confused with symptoms of different conditions, and as they develop over time, they’re more difficult to recognize as stemming from heavy metal toxicity. Because toxic metals block the absorption and utilization of essential minerals, that can bring on an avalanche of symptoms that gradually worsen with time.
These are some of the signs of chronic exposure you’ll really want to look for:
- Chronic malaise, meaning a frequent general feeling of fatigue, illness and discomfort
- Chronic pain, mainly in the tendons, throughout the muscles or soft tissues of the body
- Brain fog like being confused or forgetful
- Digestive issues like constipation, bloating, gas, diarrhea, heartburn or indigestion
- Migraines or headaches
- Mood swings
- Visual disturbances
- Depression or anxiety
- Nervous system disorders, including numbness, tingling, burning or paralysis in the extremities
- Female reproductive issues like infertility, miscarriage and menstrual problems
How to reduce the damaging effects:
While it’s impossible to avoid all exposure to toxins like heavy metals, there are many things you can do to eliminate or reduce the damaging effects.
As we mentioned earlier, a nutritious diet is an important part of battling those toxins. Guidelines were actually written on this way back in 1920, and they still make sense today. In fact, it’s an excellent guide to follow for anyone who wants to improve their health, regardless of suffering from heavy metal toxicity.
- Aim to make at least one-third of your diet raw foods.
- Avoid pasteurized dairy products and go for unpasteurized options like raw milk.
- Eat a diet focused on as many whole, natural foods from the earth as possible. Go for unprocessed, organic options and eat as little sugar as possible, with the exception of a small amount of raw honey.
- Antioxidant rich foods are a very important part of anyone’s diet for protection against metal toxicity, including vitamin-C filled citrus fruits like grapefruit and oranges, sprouted nuts and seeds which are packed with vitamin E, and beta-carotene rich foods like peaches, carrots, apricots and sweet potatoes.
- Fill your diet with lots of zinc too, which is found in foods like beans, kefir, and grass-fed beef, as well as magnesium-filled foods such as pumpkin seeds, Swiss chard, spinach, and broccoli.
- Aim to eat more foods grown in your particular area, meaning locally grown, seasonal items.
- Eat more fermented foods.
- Eat plenty of healthy fats, from foods like coconut oil, nuts and seeds, and wild-caught salmon. Avoid consuming omega-6 fats from vegetable oils.
Nutrition is key when faced with metal toxicity. That’s because when you’re deficient in essential metals, the body turns to toxic metals as an alternative. For example, if you aren’t getting enough calcium in your diet, it will be replaced by lead. Lead mostly deposits itself in the bones, and it disrupts the formation of red blood cells. It commonly contributes to weaker bones and issues like osteoporosis or osteopenia. The body may use aluminum to make up for a lack of magnesium, which contributes to developing Alzheimer’s, and zinc is replaced by kidneys, and often accumulates in the kidneys. It’s also associated with peripheral neuropathy.
Another reason nutrition plays such an important role is that essential nutrients are vital for aiding the natural detoxification process, to help your body get rid of those toxins on its own.
More tips for preventing & limiting exposure to heavy metals:
Go through your kitchen and do an inventory of what you have on hand. Keep in mind that non-stick cookware and aluminum are big offenders when it comes to toxicity. Stainless steel may be exposing you to nickel, a known carcinogen. Use cast iron, titanium, enamel or glass cookware instead.
Because restaurants are required by law to use stainless steel vats and pots, you’re exposed to toxic metals in food when dining out, so it’s best to limit your consumption of restaurant meals.
Many people bring coffee and other beverages to work in stainless steel thermoses – avoid them, and instead use a thermos that’s lined with glass.
Cosmetics and other personal care products.
Avoid purchasing cosmetics that have an aluminum base as well as powders that contain bismuth. Many antiperspirants contain aluminum, and they’ve been shown in studies to raise the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by as much as 300 percent. Take a look at our pick of the best natural makeup options here.
If you smoke, you already know you should quit, but now you have one more reason to do so: it causes cadmium poisoning. Always avoid secondhand smoke too, as it has the same effect.
Amalgam fillings and orthodontics.
If you have amalgam fillings, ask your dentist to replace them. Avoid getting orthodontics like palate wideners and braces.
Household cleaning products.
Switch out your chemical-filled household cleaning products for natural ones. Things like lemons, lemon essential oil, and apple cider vinegar are not only cheaper, they’re non-toxic and especially effective for cleaning all sorts of items.
Even natural herbal remedies can contain toxic metals, so be sure to purchase them from a reputable source that uses strict quality testing. Some products can even be high in arsenic, lead or mercury through unintentional contamination. Be wary of some colloidal silvers as well, as they can lead to silver poisoning.
Avoid using any types of conventional herbicides or insecticides.
Not only are they very bad for your health, they cause harm to the environment, wildlife, and your pets too. There are many natural alternatives out there. Do be cautious with Borax, or boric acid, as it may be considered a natural alternative, but it can lead to serious health problems.