Have you ever thought that symptoms like fatigue, headaches, colics and poor concentration could possibly be related to an overload of toxic heavy metals? Heavy metals exist with many other toxins in our environment and toxicity is not uncommon. However the effects of heavy metal toxicity tend to be slow as they build up in the body interfering with normal bodily function and causing chronic health problems.
What are Heavy Metals?
Heavy metals are potentially toxic minerals that are present in the environment including water, air, clothes, paint and in soil. Arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury and aluminum are the main toxic minerals that we need to take precautions to minimize our exposure to. All these metals except for aluminum are at least five times as dense as water hence the term “Heavy” metal.
How Can Heavy Metals Cause Problems?
The basic way that these heavy metals cause problems in the body is by displacing or replacing related minerals that are required for essential body function. For example lead displaces calcium and cadmium can replace zinc. When this happens the lead or cadmium get stored in the bone and tissues and the important function of the minerals cannot be carried out.
Sources of Contamination and Toxicity Effects
Lead is the most common toxic mineral and the most abundant contaminant of our environment and our body. Lead contamination comes from leaded gasoline, paint, food grown near industrial areas or busy cities, water pipes in older homes, batteries, solder in tin cans and pottery, lead crystal glassware, cosmetics, cigarettes and pesticides.
Lead is a neurotoxin and generates abnormal brain and nerve function. Most lead though is stored in the bone displacing calcium from bone. Some is also stored in the liver and soft tissues. Lead interferes with the formation of heme-the iron binding protein in the red blood cells-and can cause anemia. Lead is also an immunosuppressant that may also influence cancer risk.
Cadmium is widely present in the environment from cigarette smoke, refined foods, water pipes, coffee and tea, burning coal and shellfish. It’s also a common component in alloys used in electrical materials as well as in ceramics, dental materials, storage batteries and pigments in paints and print media.
Cadmium can accumulate in the kidneys and can generate kidney tissue damage and hypertension as well as increased incidence of calcium kidney stones.
Cadmium toxicity can generate free radical tissue damage, block enzymatic activity of energy-processing enzymes and disrupt the metabolism of both calcium and vitamin D.
Researchers also reported that it interferes with the process of “apoptosis” or programmed cell death which is essential for cell growth regulation and cancer prevention.
Arsenic can accumulate in the body particularly in the skin, hair and nails but also in internal organs. It is present in small amounts in the soil and therefore in food. Brown rice has been particularly associated with high arsenic levels. Also in the ocean and hence in seafood especially clams, mussels and oysters. Weed killers and insecticides are the main sources of contamination.
Arsenic may compete with selenium and iodine and impair the metabolism of both minerals. It can also increase the formation of free radicals and damage genetic structures and increasing the risk for cancer.
Mercury is one of the most toxic elements we are exposed to. Mercury in industrial waste has polluted our water and contaminated our fresh and saltwater fish and plants. Dental silver amalgams are a big source of mercury as well as “thimersol”- an ethyl form of mercury used in some vaccines. It’s found also in manufacturing processes involving products such as fabric softeners, cosmetics, wood preservative sand plastics.
Mercury causes nerve damage, suppresses the immune system especially T cells and interferes with the metabolism of selenium in the body.
For most people the greatest aluminum intake comes from food additives added to processed cheese, baking powder, white flour and common table salt. Aluminum can also leach into food from aluminum pots and pans and aluminum foil especially when using fluoridated water for cooking. Aluminum salts used in antiperspirants are an important source as well as antacids containing aluminum hydroxide. Most recently aluminum in infant vaccines have become a source of toxicity.
There is powerful evidence that aluminum is implicated in Alzheimer’s disease and other brain function impairments. Because this neurotoxin is cumulative in the system, higher levels are found in the elderly.
In part 2, I’ll discuss the holistic approach for detection of heavy metals and also share very useful holistic nutrition diet and Lifestyle tips to reduce exposure and protect yourself from heavy metal toxicity.
Back to You
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