Heavy Metals: The Silent Killers
Heavy metals enter our bodies through the food we eat, the water we drink, the things we touch and the air we breathe. Over time, they slowly accumulate in elimination organs such as the kidneys, liver and pancreas -they can even invade the central nervous system, including the brain. Over time, this toxicity can cause many health problems, most of which are misdiagnosed since they are never associated with heavy metals. Among the health problems are mental retardation in children, dementia in adults, central nervous system disorders, kidney and liver diseases, insomnia, personality changes, emotional instability, depression, panic attacks, memory loss, headaches, vision disturbances (including peripheral neuropathy), excess salivation, excess sweating and lack of coordination (ataxia). In short, heavy metals in the body are stealthy, silent killers. The good news is that there are ways to clear them from your body, such as using detox supplements. But first it is important to know what the sources of heavy metal exposure are, so as to be able to avoid them.
Common sources of heavy metal include:
- Amalgams - one of the main sources of mercury toxicity are dental amalgams or "silver" fillings. They release harmful and toxic mercury into the body. Mercury has been found to be highly dangerous to the brain. In fact over time it can actually eat away the myelin sheath protecting the nerve tissue. It is also a source of food for candida, making an overgrowth almost impossible to get rid of unless this heavy metal is cleared from the body. Silver fillings should be carefully removed and replaced with porcelain.
- Vaccinations - Thimerosal, a preservative containing 46.9 percent ethyl mercury, is still used in many vaccines. Currently 17 vaccinations are known to contain thimerosal, including the popular flu shot. Vaccines with the least possible amount of thimerosal or without it are preferable. Some studies have shown a potential connection between vaccinations and autism and other neurological conditions.
- Fish - mercury toxicity has been found in some species of fish including shark, swordfish, mackerel, tile fish and the larger tuna species. The larger the fish and the higher on the food chain, the higher the risk of mercury contamination.
- Lead - contamination from lead can come from old lead-based water pipes, lead paint, contaminated cookware, unglazed ceramic pottery and mining industries.
- Cadmium - batteries, industrial processes and mining leads to cadmium contamination. It has also been found in some toys imported from parts of the world with less rigorous safety standards.
- Arsenic - is a toxic metal commonly found in rodent poison and pressure-treated lumber. Arsenic-laced pressure-treated lumber was common before regulations halting its manufacture in 2004. Utility poles and railroad ties are a common hazard. Contamination from cutting this wood with power saws or touching it with the hands is common. Anything made from this toxic wood, including play sets and patio decks, is very dangerous for children. Even touching such lumber with bare hands or bare feet can cause toxic arsenic poisoning.
Contamination from heavy metals can also come from industrial exposure, manufacturing of paints and dyes, mining, unapproved chemicals, untested water wells and even untested natural spring water. Heavy metal toxicity appears in the blood, urine, stool, hair, organs and bones of those who have an unhealthy level of exposure to these metals.
The following tests check for the presence and levels of heavy metals:
- Challenge Testing - is done by administering a chelating agent and then measuring the amounts of heavy metals found in the stool or urine.
- Urine Testing - measures the excretion of 15 nutrient elements and 20 toxic metals such as lead, mercury and arsenic. It is ideal for patients who are suspected of having heavy metal toxicity as well as possible nutrient wasting.
- Hair Analysis - examines hair for toxic exposure to a variety of heavy metals. Hair follicles are exposed to the body's blood supply during their growth, so element concentrations in the hair are a reflection of concentration in other body tissues. If levels are found to be elevated, dietary and lifestyle interventions - along with detoxification and supplement usage - need to be implemented to reduce toxic burden. Retesting every few months helps to understand how successful these procedures have been.
There are a number of ways to detoxify the body of heavy metals. Some can be done at home, while others must be done only under the supervision of a medical professional.
- Clay Baths - Chemical toxins and heavy metals hinder absorption of food and supplements. They can also be an underlying factor in digestive problems, parasites, leaky-gut syndrome, allergies, depression, memory problems and many other disease processes. Clay baths have been used for centuries for their health-promoting benefits as they effectively remove heavy metals, pesticides and various other toxic substances through the skin. The best clay is bentonite clay, preferably with little or no aluminum and no chemical emulsifiers. This treatment can be done at home.
- DMSA (Dimercaptosuccinic acid) - is used to chelate metals such as mercury, arsenic and lead for safe removal from the body's tissues. Chelation occurs when the chelating substance reacts with a heavy metal rendering the metal harmless and inert - upon which it can be safely excreted from the body. DMSA has been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier and is therefore effective at removing heavy metals from the brain. Because of this capacity it should be considered after removal of dental amalgams. It can also be used with existing amalgams to remove toxicity in the body, which should be done periodically as fillings continue to leach mercury into the system.
- EDTA (Disodium edetate) - is commonly used to chelate calcium from the arterial system, helping to reduce hardening of the arteries. It has been found to be effective in the removal of aluminum and other metals as well. It is available orally, intravenously and as rectal suppositories. EDTA suppositories are cost-effective and convenient, since it can be administered at home at bedtime. Since the body's normal elimination of heavy metals is through the feces and urine, this method tends to be very effective. It is also gentler and safer for children as well as sensitive adults. Studies have shown that EDTA suppositories are able to effectively remove lead, mercury, nickel, cadmium, arsenic, barium, uranium and aluminum. Because EDTA not only captures heavy metals but can also bind to minerals, it is important to supplement with an adequate intake of minerals and trace minerals. Although uncommon, a potential disadvantage of EDTA is the possibility of redistribution of these toxic heavy metals to other areas of the body.
- Intravenous vitamin C - this remedy has been used by dentists to detoxify mercury from the colon during amalgam removal. It has also shown promising results in removing lead and aluminum. Oral vitamin C is also an effective heavy metal detoxifier, but reaching adequate dosing is difficult due to bowel intolerances.
- Cilantro - this herb has been shown to remove mercury, cadmium, lead and aluminum in the bones and central nervous system. It also aids the liver in detoxification and supports organ function, including the pancreas and intestines.
- N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) - is a sulfur-containing essential amino acid, a potent antioxidant that aids in detoxifying harmful chemicals such as cigarette smoke, pollution and alcohol. Cysteine also binds to heavy metal toxins for safe removal from the body.
- Q-hydrate528 is a detox supplement containing a powerful combination of ionic fulvic acid and clinoptilolite zeolite. This body cleanse product provides you with all the trace minerals in their most perfect, readily absorbable form. It's a great way to detoxify the body.
Overall, oral chelating agents work well for removing toxicity. Also, they are convenient and safe for those with heavy metal accumulation who cannot tolerate intravenous chelation. Alfalfa, apple pectin, coenzymes A and Q10 and garlic capsules are all good options.