Heavy Metals in Our World
The modern environment, both built and natural, can without much exaggeration be called an industrial chemical soup. Our air, soil, water and cities are replete with what are called heavy metals - a group of elemental substances that have a relatively high atomic weight. Because of this they are literally heavier than other substances that enter our bloodstream and thus take the body longer to filter out and eliminate. As a result, heavy metals can build up in the body overtime, and while some heavy metals (including iron and copper) play a key role in the body's functions, many of them are highly toxic to the body and can cause a bevy of health issues.
The most common types of heavy metals present in the environment are:
- Aluminum- Found in most deodorants, the linings of canned goods and other packaging, cosmetics, antacids, and cookware
- Side effects include joint and/or mscle pain and weakness, anemia, mental fog
- Lead - Found in paint, toys, older plumbing, artificial turf
- Side effects include headaches, abdominal pain, kidney damage
- Mercury - Seafood, dental fillings, air pollution
- Side effects include digestive issues, Parkinsons' like neurological symptoms, gum recession and sensitivity
- Arsenic - Water and soil pollution, certain pharmaceuticals
- Side effects include diabetes and certain cancers including lung, bladder and skin
- Cadmium - cigarette smoke and consumption of contaminated vegetables
- Side effects may include lung cancer if cigarette smoking is primary source of exposure
Generalized symptoms of heavy metal exposure also include anxiety/depression, chronic fatigue, Alzheimer's-like symptoms, and fertility issues. If you have been experiencing one or more of the above symptoms and have not had success treating them with traditional methods, it is possible that heavy metal exposure is the root cause of your problem.
Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, thus a critical component of addressing the effects heavy metal exposure may be having on you is to identify the possible sources of exposure so that they can be reduced or eliminated. These will vary based on factors such as the age of your home, your work environment, and your water source. The following tips are easy ways you can begin to reduce your exposure.
- Drinking filtered water only - and lots of it!
- Avoiding canned goods and choosing whole, fresh foods whenever possible
- Using a natural, aluminum free deodorant
- Cooking with cast-iron cookware and avoiding non-stick
- Limiting your intake of mercury-rich fish like tuna and swordfish
- Avoiding tobacco, alcohol, white sugars and processed foods
- Removing shoes when indoors - heavy metal particulate accumulates on the bottoms of feet and can be tracked indoors.
- If you have mercury-based dental fillings, inquire about getting them replaced with a resin-based filling instead
Your Natural Anti-Heavy Metal Arsenal
Although it is virtually impossible to completely avoid coming into contact with heavy metals in today's world, the above steps will go a long way toward reducing your exposure. This is just one side of the coin, however! In addition to identifying and limiting environmental exposure to heavy metals, there are many natural and effective remedies available that can help your body handle the load of heavy metals and bolster its healing and elimination processes.
Foods and chemicals which have the ability to mobilize and remove heavy metals from the system are called "chelators". From the Greek word "chelos" meaning "claw", these substances mobilize otherwise dense and inert toxic metals enabling their elimination. While chemical-assisted chelation protocols are best suited to addressing acute heavy metal toxicity, these processes can actually cause more harm than good in those who are suffering from one or more symptoms of low-level chronic exposure. When chemical chelating agents are introduced to the system, heavy metals which are stored in "safer" areas of the body such as bones are drawn into the blood stream where their effects are felt more profoundly and may exacerbate unwanted symptoms.
Here we can return to the principle of "Food as Medicine" as we explored in the previous blog post. Many natural and effective chelators are readily available in your produce department or natural health supplier. Add the following foods and supplements to your diet for a chelating boost!
- Cilantro/Coriander - Most effective when harnessed as an essential oil, many natural health experts recommend combining cilantro's detoxifying effects with chlorella
- Chlorella is an algae that has powerful chelating effects in addition to an array of other vital nutrients. Spirulina is another great choice for algae-based natrual chelation!
- Garlic, onions and other sulfur-rich foods such as brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and eggs are great for removing excess lead from the system
- Pectin-rich fruits and veggies including green apples, pears, grapes, citrus, carrots and beets are great mobilizers of cadmium
- Food-grade activated charcoal and bentonite clay are great supplements and can replenish stores of healthy mineral deposits in the body
Do your research on the best ways to maximize the chelating benefits of any food or supplement you add to your diet. Below you can find a list of resources to learn more about your specific risk factors and the steps you can take to minimize the harmful role of heavy metals in your life!