Heavy Metals: What You Need to Know

Detox + Immune System

Heavy metals have become the center of many wellness conversations recently because they can have a big impact on our health. As medical practitioners, we’re finding that many people that are struggling with illness and disease have high levels of heavy metals in their body.

So let’s dive in — what exactly are heavy metals?

Metals are substances that have high electrical conductivity and they are naturally found in the earth’s crust.

As with most things, these can be both good and bad.

Good metals function as essential minerals, like magnesium, calcium, and zinc. Bad metals, however, can be toxic and these we refer to as heavy metals — lead, mercury, arsenic, thallium, aluminum, nickel, copper, and gadolinium, to name a few.

Many of these metals are used in manufacturing and the production of vaccines, amalgams, paint, and gasoline. They have become a permanent part of our lives as they are contaminants that are present in the soil, the air, the food we eat, and many of the products we use.

Unfortunately, this contamination is not a new occurrence. They have been contributing to disease and negatively impacting the health of humans for more than 2000 years.

In fact, it is believed that the demise of the Roman empire was due in part to lead poisoning. The lead pipes contaminated the water, causing learning disabilities, chronic disease, and cancer.

When high levels of these metals enter and accumulate in our bodies, they pollute our bodies, cause changes to our physiology, and compete with essential minerals for absorption. For example, if lead is being absorbed in high levels, your body will not be able to absorb optimal amounts of calcium. This is often seen in patients with osteoporosis — they have high levels of lead in their bodies blocking the absorption of calcium, which causes their bones to become porous and fragile.

Heavy metals have the potential to disrupt every system in the body, including your endocrine system, immune system, digestive system, your brain, and your bones.

The top 5 most common heavy metals in our bodies:

1. Lead

Lead is the second most common heavy metals that I see in patients of my Tempe, Arizona practice, especially among my older patients. This is due in large part to lead paint and lead pipes that were used in the plumbing of homes and schools prior to 1978.

Since heavy metals are passed from mother to child in utero, lead can often be found in the offspring of individuals who lived in homes with lead pipes. In fact, in a study conducted by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) in collaboration with Commonweal, researchers at two major laboratories found an average of 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants in umbilical cord blood, including heavy metals, from babies born in August and September of 2004 in U.S. hospitals.

Lead is commonly associated with cognitive impairment and in high levels has been shown to contribute to conditions like Alzheimer’s and Dementia, as well as ADHD.

2. Mercury

Mercury is often found at high levels in individuals who have mercury amalgam fillings and those who consume seafood often, especially larger varieties of fish.

Industrial pollution has contaminated the water we drink and the air we breathe. The fish that live in these contaminated waters often contain high levels of mercury. Unsurprisingly, the bigger the fish, the higher the mercury levels.

3. Arsenic

The third most common heavy metal that I see in the lab work of my patients is arsenic. This is due to contaminated soil which contaminates the food that we eat. For example, brown rice contains high levels of arsenic.

4. Thallium

Additionally, many patients have high levels of thallium caused by the increase of fracking over the past 10 years. Many green, leafy vegetables and cruciferous vegetables are contaminated with thallium which can cause delirium and convulsions. It can also cause alopecia or hair loss.

5. Aluminum

Aluminum is also quite common, especially in individuals who frequently consume canned food or prepare foods in aluminum cookware. Similar to lead, high levels of aluminum can impair cognitive function and cause a more rapid decline in patients with Alzheimer’s.

With these dangerous heavy metals lurking in everything from the air we breathe to the water we drink, how can we reduce our exposure, and prevent the diseases associated with them?

You can reduce your exposure by:

  1. Choosing mercury or thimerosal-free vaccines when you or your children need to be vaccinated.
  2. Be mindful of seafood consumption, especially consumption of larger fish, like tuna and salmon.
  3. Avoid mercury amalgam fillings when you have cavities filled at the dentist. Instead, request direct composite fillings. These are white, tend to match your teeth better than mercury fillings, and are free of the toxic heavy metal mercury.
  4. Avoid vegetables grown in fracking areas, especially kale as it tends to contain the highest levels of thallium.
  5. Choose aluminum free cookware and consume fresh or frozen foods, instead of canned foods, when possible.

It can be challenging to avoid heavy metals completely, but I encourage you to do the best you can. Avoiding high levels of these toxic metals will have a positive impact on your health and prevent issues like infertility, cognitive decline, hormone imbalances, and even cancer.

If you think that you may have high levels of heavy metals in your system, you definitely want to come back to read my next blog article on heavy metals. In it, I will discuss how to safely detox from heavy metals, a resource that will be especially helpful in your journey to optimal health and wellness.


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