Eliminate Heavy Metals from Your Body
By Eric Madrid MD
In this article:
You may not realize, but every day you are exposed to toxins including arsenic, lead, mercury and cadmium.
According to a 2017 study, “Persistent heavy metal pollution poses a major threat to all life forms in the environment due to its toxic effects”. Over the last 100 years, these heavy metals and other toxins have been used industrially and have found their way into our water and food supply, air and even into our home environments. Once ingested, heavy metals accumulate in our tissues and organs where they can result in health problems.
Each and every person has heavy metals, to some degree in their bodies. There is no way to completely avoid them. However, we can try to reduce exposure and increase excretion through diet, nutrition and lifestyle choices.
100 years ago, cancer was rare in the United States, Russia, Japan and China. However, cancer is now a leading cause of death worldwide. There is evidence that heavy metal exposure plays a role in the increased cancer incidence, such as Arsenic and bladder cancer according to a 2006 study. Increased heavy metal exposure is a growing problem in Africa as well according to a 2013 study.
At the turn-of-the-twentieth-century, 3 percent of the population in the United States suffered from cancer. By 1950, 20 percent of the American population developed cancer. By 2000, 38 percent of the population had cancer. Doctors predict that by 2020, 1 in 2 people will be diagnosed with life-threatening cancer at some time in their life.
While many governments may work to minimize exposure with stricter environmental standards and pollution regulations, we should do our best to not only avoid heavy metal exposure but to optimize our body’s natural cleansing mechanisms. Our body has an innate ability to detoxify itself.
Symptoms of heavy metal exposure range from few to no symptoms to moderate or sometimes severe symptoms. All of us are exposed to heavy metals, and the goal should be to identify, minimize and remove them from our body using a well thought out approach.
Symptoms of both acute or chronic exposure may include, but are not limited to:
- Chronic cough
- Chronic fatigue
- Cognitive impairment / Confusion
- Frequent infections due to a weakened immune system
- Muscle aches
- Postnasal drip / mucous secretion
- Shortness of breath
According to Dr. Joseph Pizzorno, in his 2017 book The Toxin Solution, "The average person encounters a constant stream of benzene and chemicals [plus heavy metals] from toxins, from chemical-laden food, paint, printing ink, flame retardants, coolants, and wood-floor finishes to Scotchgard-treated clothing…”. There is little we can do to completely avoid this.
Being mindful of the foods we put into our body and environments we spend our time is the first step. Taking all possible precautions to reduce or avoid exposure is crucial. It has been said that the difference between a poison and a medicine is simply the dose. This is also true for non-medicinal chemicals to which we are exposed. While 100% avoidance may not be possible, reducing the dose of exposure can help one optimize their health.
Frequently used in the production of pesticides. Frequent sources of contamination include drinking water, cigarettes and foods such as commercially produced chicken, according to a Johns Hopkins report. As levels build up in the body, arsenic is associated with health problems, including increased risk for diabetes, fatigue, headaches, muscle aches, intestinal ailments, mental disturbances, white bands on the fingernails (mees’ lines) and skin irritation. In severe cases, it can also lead to cellular poisoning and death.
Lead is a heavy metal. The Latin word is plumbum, which is where we get the word plumber. Those who work in the lead industry, battery industry, welders and solders are at increased risk for exposure. I have a patient who was a competitive marksmen (shooter) and he used to make his own bullets. When we measured his blood lead levels, they were elevated. Other sources of exposure include lead pipes, soil, polluted water. In Flint, Michigan, lead in the public water supply is a big issue that poses health concerns for the community.
From the 1920s to the 1990s, many places around the world used gasoline that contained lead. By 2011, most countries banned the addition of lead to petroleum. In the United States, structures with paint prior to 1978 contain lead. Children who live in older homes are at increased risk of exposure.
When children are exposed, their mental and physical development can be effected according to studies. Elevated levels of lead in the blood are associated with a reduced Intelligence Quotient (IQ) Toxic effects include neuropathy, memory issues, kidney disease, increased cancer risk and blood issues, such as anemia.
Mercury is ubiquitous in the environment. Elevated blood levels can cause or contribute to neurological symptoms such as memory loss, fine tremors. In addition, may increase the risk for chronic kidney disease, elevated blood pressure, heart disease and more.
Regular consumption of high mercury fish is also problematic. These include King mackerel, shark, swordfish ahi tuna and marlin. Low mercury fish are catfish, flounder, salmon, trout, herring and sardines and are better options, especially for pregnant women and children.
Also, many people have “silver fillings” in their mouth. A lot of these are made of a mercury silver amalgam. However, mercury can be released into the blood system in the form of “off-gassing”. To remove mercury fillings, use a dentist who specializes in removing mercury fillings. If not done appropriately, removal can also expose you to a large amount of mercury, which can be very dangerous.
Cadmium is a heavy metal, common in household items, like batteries. Those who work in the battery industry, do electroplating or are around vapor lamps are at increased risk for exposure. Tobacco smokers also ingest cadmium with each cigarette smoked. Elevated levels increase risk for osteopenia, osteoporosis, lung and kidney disease. Acute exposure is associated with headaches, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and diarrhea. It can also be associated with breathing issues and fluid accumulation in the lungs.
Other heavy metals which may cause health problems include the toxic forms of aluminum and chromium (not to be confused with the beneficial form of chromium picolinate).
If you are concerned about heavy metal exposure, consult with your physician. Blood tests, urine tests and sometimes hair analysis can be undertaken to check if you have concerning levels of heavy metals in your body.
Purify Your Body
There are a few things you can do to purify your body to help remove heavy metals and toxins. These include the following:
Fasting is one of the most efficient and inexpensive ways to help detoxify the body. The simple act of abstaining from food or food items for a specified period of time allows the body to remove unwanted substances.
Eating organic fruits and vegetables and hormone-free, grass-fed poultry and beef (to the best of your ability) is important in avoiding chemical exposure. Do not consume fish with elevated mercury levels more than once per week.
Avoid processed foods and food with excessive sugar. Avoid artificial sweeteners and high- fructose corn syrup as they both put extra stress on your body’s metabolism and detox pathways.
Our intestines are the primary way toxins enter our body. Those with gut issues, like irritable bowel syndrome, chronic diarrhea, constipation, bloating etc., frequently have a condition called Leaky Gut, which results in absorption troubles. A poor intestinal barrier results in increased absorption chemicals and heavy metal toxins. We can optimize our gut health using probiotics and prebiotics. Also, avoiding common trigger foods such as wheat, dairy or corn may be helpful for some. Consume generous portions of fruits and vegetables may also be useful.
The liver’s job is to remove heavy metals and other toxins from our blood. Our liver performs numerous chemical reactions in order to detoxify the blood. Certain nutrients are needs for this to occur. Limit or avoid alcohol consumption when attempting to detox.
- NAC (N-acetyl cysteine) – 500 mg twice per day for 8 weeks minimum, then once daily thereafter
- Chlorella – 1 to 4 grams per day
- Milk Thistle – 150 to 300 mg per day
- Spirulina – As directed on the label
- Folic Acid – 800 mcg daily. Can be taken as a separate supplement or in a quality multivitamin
- Selenium – 200 mcg daily can be taken as a separate supplement or in a quality multivitamin
- Vitamin B12 – 2,000 mcg daily. Can be taken as a separate supplement or in a quality multivitamin
- Vitamin C – 500 to 2,000 mg per day.
- Zinc – 25 mg daily. Can be taken as a separate supplement or in a quality multivitamin
The kidneys are responsible for filtering blood and in the process, remove heavy metals, toxins, and metabolic waste. According to research, the following 15 food items and supplements can be helpful in restoring optimal kidney function and help facilitate detoxification.
- Beetroot juice
- Curcumin (can take as a spice or supplement)
- Red Bell Peppers
- Garlic (available as an herb or supplement)
- Ginger (available as an herb or supplement)
- Chocolate (75% cacao or more)
- L-arginine supplement as directed on the label
- Ginkgo biloba as directed on the label
- Gotu kola 950 mg twice per day
- Multivitamin take as directed on the label
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