Heavy Metal Poisoning
Instead of guessing at what might be wrong with your health and hoping that it will go away, wouldn't you prefer to know what is really going on inside your body, based on the many signs it is giving you? Doesn't it make sense to listen to what the body is trying to you?
Having said that; it is becoming more difficult for professionals like me to accurately determine the appropriate health protocols in any given case because the respective symptoms have undergone a shift due to the presence of heavy metal ions. In fact, I have observed this phenomenon in a very large number of cases and it is fair to say that, at the present time, the effectiveness of any health therapy (energy/alkalizing/antioxidant/probiotics) is significantly compromised by the presence of heavy metal ions. It is therefore important to first identify any heavy metal poisoning and the degree of its involvement in the disease. Then, treated as an underlying condition and cause of disease, the heavy metal ions must be removed and cleared out.
A "heavy metal" is an element that exhibits certain metallic properties such as high electrical conductivity and very high density. The toxicities of heavy metals vary. Some, such as zinc and manganese, are essential dietary nutrients that are required for good health. Others, such as cadmium and lead have no biological function in the human body, and can cause adverse health effects at very low levels.
Heavy metal poisoning is the toxic accumulation of heavy metals in the soft tissues of the body. All metals are toxic to cells. They compete with the nutritional minerals in the body thus rendering them unavailable to the necessary processes to maintain health. For example, let's take just one small example: certain metals such as aluminum or magnesium displace calcium and make it unavailable for building bone, teeth and muscles (including the heart muscles), thereby weakening these structures. Low calcium levels lead to osteoporosis, tooth decay, periodontal disease, muscle cramping, colic and heart disease. Other mineral disturbances are a lowering of zinc, phosphorous, manganese, iron and magnesium. Aluminum has a double whammy as it increases the zinc and copper in the body to secondary toxic levels. Aluminum is a mineral but acts like a metal, chemically and physiologically.
In the human system, the bivalent metals are engaged in a continuous fight against one another, e.g. copper against zinc, magnesium against calcium, which results in the replacement of the "lighter" element by the "heavier" one in terms of their atomic masses. Replacement reactions, also called fight for the site reactions, occur when heavy metals grab the biological spaces that should be filled by necessary minerals. Just as carbon monoxide replaces essential oxygen, other elements and compounds cause their toxic effect by replacing chemicals essential to the body functions.
Of primary concern are the metals that are not used by the body to maintain vital health. These metals, such as lead, mercury, nickel, aluminum, arsenic and cadmium, pose the greatest hazard to human health and place the individual at risk for serious illness. They build up in the body throughout a person's life and can reach potentially dangerous levels over time.
Other metals are required by our body to function normally. Elements such as selenium, which is an effective antioxidant; iron, which is required by blood cells; and copper, which is an integral part of many enzymes, are a just a few. Zinc, molybdenum, magnesium and others are all used by the body to stay healthy. Safety standards for these metals are set as ranges of healthy consumption. Negative health effects can be seen when too much or too little of these metals are ingested.
One common source of toxic poisoning is mercury from dental fillings. When the so-called “silver” fillings are put in the teeth, they are roughly 49-53% mercury. In other words, the filling is an amalgam that contains some silver as well as, what is for some, a lethal amount of mercury. . For many people, mercury is a very significant cause of ill health. Symptoms range from muscle spasms to severe neurological problems such as paralysis and memory loss.
While it is true that some toxic poisoning is caused by deliberate events like mercury contamination from dental fillings and vaccinations containing thimerosal, most develop symptoms of toxic heavy metal poisoning mainly through environmental factors.
In Our Air
Most of the heavy metal toxins that are in our food and water originate in the air. Industry deliberately releases massive quantities of materials containing lead, mercury, iron, copper, manganese, cadmium, arsenic, nickel, aluminum, silver and beryllium into the atmosphere. This combined with emissions from other sources like automobiles creates a very formidable health problem.
In Our Food
Heavy metals in our diet are a serious threat. Here is one example: it is has been known for decades that cadmium in our food is a health problem. Cadmium, which can cause kidney disease and cancer, is a natural part of the earth's crust. Its presence, though, in the wider environment is increased by human activity. Cadmium is used in the electroplating of other metals such as steel because it is especially resistant to corrosion. It is also used as a stabilizer in PVC plastics. It is a major component of rechargeable "NiCad" (nickel-cadmium) batteries. Cadmium is released into the environment through the mining and smelting of zinc, lead and copper; the combustion of coal, wood and oil; waste incineration; and the application of phosphate fertilizers or sewage sludge to soil. Cadmium released into the air eventually settles on land, including land used for food production. As well, agricultural crops, such as potatoes, wheat, rice and other grains absorb cadmium from their surrounding soils or directly through their leaves. So you see it is not difficult to determine how the contamination occurs and yet industry continues to release these toxic metals into the environment despite evidence that they reach our food supply.
Another example is lead: Negative effects may be caused by lead at any concentration, especially in children. Lead is in prepared foods, fast foods, fats and oils and meat. Lead has no known biological function in humans. It is poorly absorbed by the body from the digestive system, though children can absorb lead much more readily than adults. The slow rate at which it is eliminated from the body leads to a buildup of this toxic heavy metal in the bones and red blood cells.
One of the main sources of mercury poisoning is eating contaminated fish. In Canada an advisory was issued warning women of childbearing age and children to limit consumption of shark, swordfish and fresh tuna to one meal per month. It is important to note, though, that not all fish are considered risky in the context of mercury contamination. Fish is high in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids which are known to be beneficial to cardiovascular health. Therefore, rather than avoid all fish, it is more prudent to find good substitutes for the risky fish.
In Our Water
Many Americans are exposed to high levels of heavy metal toxicity from drinking contaminated water. With lead, for example, it is estimated that 40 million Americans drink water containing levels exceeding the safe limit set by the EPA. (Which is set way too high considering no amount of this metal in our systems is safe.) The lead contamination comes mainly from lead plumbing in older homes and soldered joints in copper pipes.
Other common heavy metals found in tap water include copper and arsenic. Copper serves as a co-factor for many enzymes and is required in the diet in small amounts for normal health. However, high doses of copper are dangerous to health. A single dose of 15 mg copper can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. More severe toxicity can cause liver and kidney damage. The copper in tap water comes from corrosion of copper pipes and can accumulate overnight. In this case, flushing the tap before using the water is highly recommended.
Arsenic is also a common contaminate in tap water. Several public water supplies were found in mid 2001 to have very high arsenic levels. It has been shown that there is a real risk of cancer from levels far below the current EPA Standard of 50 parts per billion.
Mercury from environmental contamination (derived mainly from coal-fired power plants and medical and municipal incinerators) eventually enter our water system through soil, rivers, streams and lakes. The form of mercury hazardous in drinking water is the inorganic form, which can easily be converted to the organic form, methylmercury, by bacterial action present in soil and water environments.
Heavy Metals and Cancer
Metals can directly and indirectly damage DNA and that means an increased risk of cancer (we call this genotoxicity). There are also possibly non-genotoxic pathways, due to irritation or immuno-toxicity.
There are a number of metals known to be carcinogenic. These are:
- Arsenic and arsenic compounds,
- Beryllium and beryllium compounds,
- Cadmium and cadmium compounds,
- Nickel compounds and hexavalent chromium.
The usual target are the lungs, though arsenic has a unique association with skin cancers that has been recognized for many years.
Most health care professionals and researchers assume that heavy metals have to be taken into account only when a patient is showing definite symptoms of poisoning. It's time they wake up to the fact that our health and well-being is affected by much lower levels of heavy metals than previously assumed.
Even metals necessary to maintain a healthy body will cause toxic reactions when they are in quantities the body cannot handle. In the case of excess exposure to manganese, neurotoxic effects include weakness, slow and clumsy gait, speech disturbances, and tremors. Zinc is required for the proper functioning of hundreds of enzymes and is therefore the most abundant metal in humans. It can be found in all tissues and tissue fluids but overexposure to zinc has been shown to cause anemia. Children are at particularly at risk of negative health effects due to intake of these heavy metals above normal levels.
Finally, let's not forget our four legged friends. Besides environmental issues, pet foods tested by atomic absorption methods show aluminum levels (also lead and mercury) ranging from the lowest of 17 ppm (in canned wet foods) to 855 ppm in the kibbled product. Kibble production by dehydration would, as expected, increase the content of the metals over canned. I was shocked at the high levels in well-respected products made by supposedly conscientious manufacturers. Considering the evidence, they must know about the widespread contamination of their products. So why aren't they fixing the problem?
There are many obvious steps we can take to reduce the hazards of heavy metal poisoning and a number of effective methods of eliminating heavy metals toxins already in our bodies.
Realistically, we cannot seal ourselves in an airtight setting and have our food, water and air shipped in from another world; a world that is clean. So what are we to do to protect ourselves? Clearly we cannot run and hide from our environment. Granted, some areas of the world are far less contaminated than others but for most of us moving to those areas is not an option. Anyway, there is no place left on earth untouched by at least some pollution. For example, lead expelled from automobile exhaust into the air above our cities 20 years ago can be found in high concentrations in the Antarctic today.
Areas that are prone to acid rain are at an exceptionally high risk. The increased acidity makes the metals more soluble in water and, as a result, they are consumed in drinking water. Even if all heavy metal production were to stop today, enough heavy metals have been released into our environment to cause chronic poisoning and numerous neurological diseases for generations to come.
While we cannot escape from our surroundings we can, beyond a doubt, make sure that at least our home settings are relatively free of heavy metals and other toxins. Air and water filtration systems are readily available today that are very effective and essential for vital health. Those of you who follow my teachings know how important, I believe, that clean water and air are to maintaining essential health. I can't say that enough times. Your good health depends on it!
Unfortunately there are no filtration systems for the food we eat, but we can decrease the amount of toxins we ingest by following a few simple rules. Organ meats like liver and kidney, peanut butter, shelled seeds, cooking fats and salad oils, cured pork and beef should all be limited in your diet. Junk foods, frozen dinners and fast foods top my list of foods to banish forever from our lives. They all contain heavy metals at levels ten times or greater than comparable fresh food. Also, stay away from all refined foods, prepackaged cooked foods, refined flours, baked goods, processed cheeses and acidic drinks. Acidic drinks can dissolve metals such as antimony, cadmium, tin and zinc from the enamel in pots, metallic cans and solderings in soft drink or soda cans.
Steer clear of larger fish known to be contaminated with methylmercury like tuna fish. As well, stay away from all fish known to come from lakes or areas recognized to have high levels of mercury pollution. Use only fresh foodstuffs and healthy supplementation and if at all possible buy organically grown produce. Remember you are in control. Keep the junk out of your home and it won't be a problem.
Do not deliberately contaminate your body! Use your head! Stay away from products and materials known to be toxic like tobacco, cosmetics, canned goods, insecticides, herbicides, fertilizers, dental amalgams and vaccines that contain thimerosal, a mercury preservative. In the workplace; if you are exposed to hazardous materials, make sure you wear protective clothing and gear.
Antiperspirants contain aluminum that is absorbed by your body. It's best to avoid them all together and use simple soap and water instead. Deodorants aren't as bad as antiperspirants, but I would still avoid using them. Other things to avoid are: aluminum cookware, aluminum foil, over-the-counter drugs (including many antacids, anti-diarrheal drugs, buffered aspirin and other drugs used for pain and inflammation), and some baking powders. (Most baking powders contain aluminum as an additive, but health food stores carry non-aluminum varieties.)
The effects of toxic metals can range from subtle symptoms to serious diseases. Since metals build up in your body over time, symptoms are often attributed to other causes and people often don't realize that they have been affected by metals until it's too late. Prevention is the best defense when it comes to metal poisoning.
Toxic heavy metal contamination is so pervasive in our environment that it is no longer a question of whether one has been exposed to toxins, but rather the level of exposure. In most cases damage to your system can be reversed and any further harm can be prevented by removing the metals. The process of removing toxic heavy metals from the body is useful in all chronic diseases and for those wishing to stay well and healthy. I have seen the incredible health benefits in my patients when they remove these harmful toxins from their bodies.
The method of removing heavy metal toxins from the body is called chelation therapy. Chelating (pronounced key-layting) agents are substances which can chemically bond with, or chelate (from the Greek chele, claw), metals, minerals, or chemical toxins from the body. The chelating agent actually encircles a mineral or metal ion and carries it from the body via the urine and feces.
There are natural chelation agents such as essential oils and organic acids found in green healthy foods including acetic acid, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), citric acid, and lactic acid that have the natural ability to dissolve heavy metal salts so they can be eliminated. Besides detoxification of toxic chemicals and metals, natural chelation processes in the body are responsible for other things as the digestion, assimilation and transport of food nutrients and the formation of enzymes and hormones.
The first step, though, is to test yourself for heavy metal toxins. Remember knowledge is the key to healthy living.
Wishing you the best in health,
The Wolfe Clinic