plural noun: heavy metals 1. a type of highly amplified harsh-sounding rock music with a strong beat, characteristically using violent or fantastic imagery 2. a metal of relatively high density, or of high relative atomic weight Well I figured I'd leave the benefits or detriments of Heavy Metal music on your health (and your ears) out of it today and instead focus on the second definition of Heavy metals in our environment and how this can impact your body. We know certain heavy metals have a higher toxicity to plants and humans than others, and therefore I will focus on those specifically today. Heavy metals, such as Aluminum, Arsenic, Cadmium, Gadolinium, Mercury and Lead have been associated with a wide range of chronic and acute diseases. Heavy metals can cause oxidative damage and induce reactive oxygen species (ROS), which lead to free radicals that cause disease. Because of this oxidative damage, it will deplete our natural cysteine & glutathione reserves, which are key anti-oxidants. These heavy metals are classified as human carcinogens (known or probable) according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
Associated diseases Autoimmune Disease Autism & Spectrum Disorders Cancer Cardiovascular disease & Hypertension (reduces Nitric Oxide and affects blood flow in vessels) Degenerative diseases Diabetes Neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s & Parkinson’s Disease Renal (Kidney Disease)
Based on how you excrete or don’t excrete metals can determine your overall “body burden” and toxic load of metals. Body burden of metals is variable from person to person and is determined by genetics, nutritional status, ability to methylate, antibiotic use, lifestyle and your total toxic exposure throughout your life. Heavy metals can bio-accumulate over years and can last for decades, therefore metals can elicit independent, additive or synergistic toxic effects in a person. There is growing data that has linked epigenetic alterations with heavy metal exposure so exposure can happen before you are born! Wild concept right?
Toxicity vs Body Burden Conventional medicine only concerns themselves with acute exposure measurable by blood and if blood levels are high, they consider that heavy metal “toxicity”. Such and example is what happened in Flint Michigan, where the water pipes exposed the community to high amounts of lead. However Functional Medicine Practitioners (FMP) are not only concerned about toxicity, but also about “total body burden” of these substances, especially since heavy metals can be readily bound to proteins and then carried into the body, notably the kidneys, brain, bones, heart and gut and more. Many people ask me where and why they could have acquired heavy metal exposure when I suspect this as a concern in their health and my answer is “everywhere”. We can get exposure from our amalgam fillings, our soil, from industrial fertilizers, our water, our air (leaded gas in the past but presently Mercury from factories), as well as our food and more!
The most concerning Heavy Metals sources and organs affected are: Aluminum Sources Municipal water, processed foods, cans, aluminum cookware, antacid medications, aluminum welding and machining
Arsenic Sources Power plants, Insecticides, fungicides, pressure treated woods, shellfish, groundwater wells, volcanoes and ingestion of rice (infant rice cereals too) Rice from Texas has the highest arsenic so better options are Quinoa and Millet.
Cadmium Sources Cigarette smoke, batteries, some carpet backing, high-phosphate fertilizers, sewage sludge, paint, water from galvanized pipes and Oysters from the West coast
Heart & Vascular Disease such as Raynaud’s
Nephrotoxic (toxic to kidneys)
Ovaries / testes
Gadolinium Source MRI contrast
Mercury Sources Fish (especially large fish as they accumulate more), coal fired plants, amalgams, vaccines (thimerosal), skin lightening creams, fungicides, pesticides, broken thermometers, polluted water, landfills and latex paint
Heart causing CVD, Cardio Myopathy & HTN
Lead (I will go into greater detail as this is one of the highest I see in my patients) Sources Natural Airborne, volcanic, forest fires, windblown dust, vegetation, sea spray Engineered Lead based paints, ceramics & cookware, batteries, candy and spices from Mexico, Ayurvedic Herbal Medicines, drinking water (due to pipes) welding fumes, industrial pollution, Balsamic Vinegar (grapes accumulate lead from soil) cosmetics (lipstick- more than half of 33 brand name lipsticks tested contained detectable levels of lead despite not listing as ingredient, such as L’Oreal and Cover Girl) hair dye, farm equipment, airplanes and Xray machines, leaded bullets, leaded fishing weights Leaded gas! This is in thanks to Thomas Midgle Jr., as he put lead in gasoline instead of ethanol because ethanol could not be patented (money!) and when in air it then was absorbed into our soil. Isn’t that awesome? Luckily there was the Clean Air Act of 1970, however lead remained in the air until the 1980s and continues to be in our soil as a result. Urban soil is of great concern due to prior gas fumes, water run off and leaded paint.
Kidneys (Nephrotoxic leading to chronic kidney disease
Brain and children Our Blood Brain Barrier (BBB) is not closed until 6 months of age so children are most vulnerable if exposed to lead and will develop with a low IQ and more. Symptoms of Lead overload: Behavioral problems Fatigue Incoordination Impotence Low IQ Constipation Hyperactivity Paresthesia Poor concentration Nerve damage/ Neuropathy The Generations most affected are: The Silent Generation (born 1925-1942) The Baby Boomers (born 1940-1960’s) Gen X (born early 60’s to 80’s) According to the CDC, “there is no toxic threshold for lead, meaning there is no measurable level of lead in the body below which no harm occurs “ Agency for Toxic substances and disease registry (ATSDR) and Environmental Protection agency (EPA)
How to test for Heavy Metals (and what is the best test) Testing Blood testing of red blood cells (RBC’s) will show active or acute exposure over the past 3-4 months. This test is readily available at most labs and is easy to do with a simple blood test Hair Testing Hair is an excretory organ and so it’s difficult to determine if someone is a good or poor excretor. For example, if the hair shows low levels of metals, it may indicate an inability to excrete metals but others may show high levels of metals, which will show exposure, yet not body burden (what is stored in the organs and tissues). Non-invasive, inexpensive testing Stool testing Similar to hair, the GI system will eliminate heavy metals, however it does not show body burden or stored metals Inexpensive and at-home testing Urine Testing This test uses provoking chelating agents, such as DMSA to selectively bind to certain metals to cause increased excretion in the urine. It’s key to test a “pre” urine and then a “post” provoked urine for comparison. This is ultimately the BEST way to measure body burden or stored levels of metals and is considered the gold standard for heavy metal testing. This test should be a “Challenge or Provoked” test using a chelating agent such as Dimercaptosuccinic acid (DMSA). Drinking Water Testing Our water nationally has Lead, Arsenic and Cadmium and most filters don’t filter out heavy metals (see previous newsletter on lead and Epic Water Filters) Hotline 800-426-4791 Doctor’s Data has a Comprehensive Drinking Water Analysis Water Wizard in Boulder can also measure metals in your water
How to remove Heavy Metals Treatment options & Chelation therapy Chelation is using organic or inorganic compounds that have a high binding capacity to metal ions that will grab or “bind” to the metals so they may be eliminated through the body, in urine, stool and sweat. Chelation of metals should be done through a trained practitioner for proper safety and efficacy. So basically “don’t do this at home alone on your own”! The most commonly used chelating agents DMSA Dimercaptosuccinic acid is a compounded pill and removes most of the heavy metals but has a high affinity for Arsenic, Lead & Mercury. DMSA does not cross the Blood Brain Barrier (BBB) directly, but because it is an analogue to 2,3-dimercapto-1-propanol (BAL), which does cross the BBB, it can pull metals out of the brain. Uses the kidneys and intestines for elimination of metals DMPS 2,3-Dimercapto-1- propanesulfonic acid) is given Intravenously (can also be compounded into a suppository, an oral pill or to the skin) and has a high affinity for Mercury & Cadmium and less so for Lead & Arsenic. DMPS does not cross the BBB directly, however it is an analogue to BAL, so it will pull out metals in the brain. Uses the kidneys for elimination of metals EDTA Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid is best when given Intravenously (can also be rectal suppositories but does cause irritation to mucosa) and has a high affinity for Lead, Cadmium & Aluminum and does cross the BBB. Uses the kidneys, and intestines for elimination of metals Independent of removing lead, has increased nitric oxide and other anti-inflammatory, anti-atherogenic properties (removes plaque in heart disease per the TACT trial). Thiol (resin) are sulfur compounds that have an affinity for mercury binding sites and work through the vasculature of the bowel. Supplements such as Glutathione, Cysteine, Methionine, ALA and SAMe are thiols. Foods such as garlic, cruciferous veggies and eggs are thiols and all are very gentle and can be good for people with kidney dysfunction to chelate very slowly over years. Quicksilver scientific has a silica thiol product that is a gentle chelator called IMD and it works very well, albeit slow. Chlorella binds PCBs but not metals Cilantro has no evidence in literature to support it as a chelating agent Zeolite works in soil but no human studies to support it’s use as a chelating agent Fulvic Acid may reduce intestinal absorption of metals Ionic Foot Baths studies done don’t prove efficacy Infra Red sauna- metals have been shown to be released through perspiration and suggested use is 3x/week at 20-40 min One must be careful with mineral loss when chelating, as chelators will bind to minerals when binding to metals and you don’t want to demineralize your body in process of chelation. It is key to replace minerals on days not chelating It is also key to take Antioxidants, Glutathione, Lipoic acid and Vitamin C (the more anti-oxidants as you can take during chelation the better) Lymphatic Drainage remedies are also supportive (Mira with LET therapy for example per the last newsletter)
I personally believe assessing and treating for heavy metals in one's body is under appreciated, underutilized and poorly understood by many. I hope this newsletter (although it’s a bit dry) has helped you gain awareness into the prevalence of heavy metals and the importance of assessing and removing heavy metals for optimal health and well-being. If you are interested in exploring more, make and appointment with Carrie so together we can discuss which testing and treatment is right for you.
Yours in health, wellness and longevity, Carrie Ballas Resources Nutrients to reduce Lead Poisoning & Contamination is in the P2P Library for active patients to view Review Article Chelation: Harnessing and Enhancing Heavy Metal Detoxification – A Review By Margaret E Sear https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3654245/ https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiledocs/index.html https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2922724/ TACT trial on using EDTA for heart disease https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/questions-and-answers-the-nih-trials-of-edta-chelation-therapy-for-coronary-heart-disease Heavy Metals Toxicity and the Environment https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4144270/ Heavy Metals and living systems: An Overview https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3113373/