Did you ever play with mercury in chemistry class in school? Watch it puddle and pool together on a table? I once broke a mercury thermometer as a kid. My poor mom had to clean it up. Now I feel really bad about it, but at the time, I had no idea how toxic it was. Despite its well-known terrible side effects, mercury was used as a medicine in the US until the 1960s.
We’ve come a long way in the last 100 years understanding how and why heavy metals are toxic for our bodies.
Heavy metals can wreak havoc on the body, from the nervous system to our joints to our gut and have been linked to such diseases as Parkinson’s, ALS, Alzheimer’s, autoimmune diseases, and multiple sclerosis. They are found across the consumer spectrum in anti-perspirants, all vaccines, amalgam fillings, batteries, jewelry, airplane exhaust, cosmetics, light bulbs, factory emissions, some fish, chocolate, rice, medications, baked goods, ceramics, fungicides, cigarettes, and more.
Even if you make a point to eat all organic and/or use more natural cleaning and cosmetic products, you might still be exposed to heavy metals through the environment. And because even small amounts of heavy metals in the body can cause damage, it’s important to make sure that you are getting enough nutrients to protect you body against exposure.
I’m not sure if there is something in the air literally, but many of my clients have been muscle testing positive for heavy metal interference. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they have a heavy metal overload in their body, but it does mean that their cells might be impacted in one way or another by exposure to heavy metals. It might also mean that because of the steps they are taking to improve their health, their bodies are now ready to eliminate whatever heavy metals might have accumulated over the years.
Some effects of Heavy Metals on the Body
Part of the problem with our understanding of heavy metals is that their health effects are studied individually, meaning, we know what mercury does, and we know what cadmium and copper do, and we know what aluminum does to the body. However, we really don’t know how being exposed to multiple heavy metals over time adds up.
Research and history show that heavy metals are toxic to the nervous system. Remember the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland? It has been well known for centuries that the mercury used in the felting process made hatters mentally unstable. Heavy metals can also cause anxiety, depression, behavioral and concentration difficulties, and, as I mentioned, have been linked to ALS, Alzheimers, Parkinson’s and MS.
Heavy metals affect almost all systems and organs of the body, including but not limited to the
- Gut microbiome and the gastrointestinal system
- reproductive system
- cardiovascular system
- respiratory system
And they are also known carcinogens, linked with many different organ cancers, such as lung, gliomas, kidney, thyroid, prostate, bladder, and skin cancer.
Natural Approaches to Heavy Metals
In addition to clean living and eating, there are certain foods and supplements that can help with pulling heavy metals from the body slowly and gently and protect it from their toxic effects.
- The mineral zeolite in the form of clinoptilolite: Over 300 studies in PubMed attest to this mineral’s ability to remove heavy metals and environmental toxins from cells and water. The best part about clinoptilolite is that it leaves beneficial minerals and nutrients inside the cells and blood where they belong. Clinoptilolite is safe and can be taken on a daily basis. Because zeolites bind to heavy metals in nature as well, it’s important to choose a formulation that has been pre-cleansed. I recommend the zeolite from Touchstone Essentials.
- Seaweeds (sea vegetables) have long been appreciated for their ability to detoxify from heavy metals as well as radiation. There were some concerns about seaweed sources on the West Coast having been contaminated by radiation from Fukushima, but tests so far have shown no radioactive isotopes in them. Sea vegetables are high in minerals such as calcium and magnesium to nourish your glands, our principal organs of detoxification, and like clinoptilolite, they bind with heavy metals so that the body can excrete them through urine and feces.
- Just as we might feel like giving our home a “spring cleaning,” we should also think about “spring cleaning” our bodies too. It’s not a coincidence that many of the spring greens that grow in abundance also contain beneficial components to help us get rid of the junk that has accumulated in our bodies. There are several good cleanses available on the market today; my favorite is the 21-Day Purification Program by Standard Process, which can be customized based on individual needs.
It’s important to be monitored during a cleanse by a qualified health care practitioner or nutritionist, who can help you tweak the protocol if you start to experience uncomfortable symptoms such as a metallic taste, fatigue, or constipation.
I think it's best to start a spring cleanse after the Spring Equinox, when the weather is warmer and more greens are available. I'll be helping to lead a national group cleanse this spring, so stay tuned for more details.
People frequently ask me if they should do chelation therapy for heavy metals. Chelation therapy entails injecting a synthetic agent called ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid, or EDTA for short, into the veins in order to remove heavy metals from the blood, and works because the metals bind with the EDTA and are then excreted through urine and stool. It is considered the conventional, mainstream treatment for heavy metal poisoning in cases of acute exposure such as from lead.
I have mixed feelings about EDTA chelation to remove heavy metals. While there are some case studies of autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis improving after chelation therapy, EDTA chelation also removes beneficial minerals from the blood and tissues as well, and people who have experienced chelation therapy sometimes report extreme exhaustion and other health issues.
My preference is to teach people about natural approaches to deal with heavy metals, the idea being that you want to remove heavy metals from the body slowly and gently without depleting it of minerals such as calcium, iodine, and magnesium. It can be too big of a shock to the body to get rid of the metals all at once, making the detoxing process as unpleasant as the symptoms from the metals themselves.
And who wants to feel worse when you're trying to feel better?