Heavy Metals & Detoxification
Metals are defined as: “substances with high electrical conductivity, malleability, and luster, which voluntarily lose their electrons to form cations.” They are elements that are found naturally in the earth's crust, as well as in our bodies in small amounts. Heavy metals are generally referred to as those metals which possess a specific density of more than 5 g/cm3 and adversely affect the environment and living organisms.
These metals are essential for maintaining many biochemical and physiological functions in living organisms when in very low concentrations, however, in high amounts they can be extremely toxic and hazardous to our health. Although it is widely acknowledged that heavy metals have numerous negative health effects, heavy metal exposure continues and is increasing in many parts of the world. Heavy metals are significant environmental pollutants and their toxicity is a problem of increasing concern for ecological, evolutionary, nutritional and environmental reasons.
An increased exposure to heavy metals raises the risk of these metals accumulating in the soft tissues of the body at toxic levels, a condition known as heavy metal poisoning. The symptoms and physical effects associated with heavy metal poisoning vary according to the metal accumulated. Many of the heavy metals, such as zinc, copper, chromium, iron and manganese, are essential to body function in very small amounts. But, if these metals accumulate in the body in concentrations sufficient to cause poisoning, then serious damage may occur. Heavy metal poisoning may occur as a result of industrial exposure, air or water pollution, foods, medicines, improperly coated food containers, or the ingestion of lead-based paints.
Heavy Metals in Food
One of the primary sources of heavy metal exposure comes from heavy metals in our food. Pesticides are used to grow the majority of the food we eat. They stay on our food after we wash them, they stay in our bodies for years after we eat them, and they impact our environment every time that we use them. In 2007, a systematic review found that “most studies on non-Hodgkins lymphoma and leukemia showed positive associations with pesticide exposure” and concluded that cosmetic use of pesticides should be decreased. Strong evidence also exists for other negative outcomes from pesticide exposure, including neurological deficiencies, birth defects, fetal death, and neurodevelopmental disorder. According to The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, 9 of the 12 most dangerous and persistent chemicals are pesticides used in our food.
Arsenic and Its Effect on the Human’s Health
One of the primary metals used in the manufacturing of pesticides is arsenic, and overexposure to this metal may cause a variety of health issues—including headaches, drowsiness, confusion, seizures, and life-threatening complications. Neurological symptoms of arsenic poisoning include brain damage, nerve disease of the extremities, pericapillary hemorrhages within the white matter, and loss or deficiency of the fatty coverings (myelin) around these nerve fibers (demyelination). Skin problems include transverse white bands on the fingernails and excessive accumulation of fluid in the soft layers of tissue below the skin (edema). Gastrointestinal symptoms include a flu-like illness (gastroenteritis) that is characterized by vomiting; abdominal pain; fever; and diarrhea. Other symptoms include a breakdown of the hemoglobin of red blood cells (hemolysis), a low level of iron in the red blood cells (anemia), and low blood pressure (hypotension). In cases of chronic poisoning, weakness, muscle aches, chills, and fever may develop.
Clearly there are many negative effects of overexposure to arsenic, and the fact that it is used in a variety of conventional pesticides is certainly something that should concern us. These pesticides are not only hazardous to our health, but they pollute the environment and harm many delicate ecosystems.
Other Types of Toxic Heavy Metals
There are many different metals, and if toxic amounts of any of these metals are absorbed in the tissues of the body, it can lead to heavy metal poisoning and a variety of negative health effects. The most common heavy metal pollutants are arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, nickel, lead and mercury.
Cadmium is a soft, malleable, bluish-white metal found in zinc ores. The most common sources of cadmium exposure include cigarette smoking (cadmium is a common additive to cigarettes) and food grown in contaminated soils. Cadmium is not degradable in nature and will thus, once released to the environment, stay in circulation.
Chromium is a chemical element that is the main additive in stainless steel. It is often used in the manufacture of cars, glass, pottery and linoleum. Chromium is found primarily in two forms—hexavalent and trivalent. Hexavalent chromium and its compounds are toxic when inhaled or ingested. Trivalent chromium is a trace mineral that is essential to human nutrition. Hexavalent chromium is used in textile dyes, wood preservation, anti-corrosion products, chromate conversion coatings, and a variety of niche uses. Exposure to this metal occurs by breathing it in, ingesting it in food or water, or coming into direct contact with the skin.
Copper is a soft, malleable, and ductile metal with a very high thermal and electrical conductivity that is very common in the environment. You may be exposed to copper by breathing air, drinking water, eating food, and by skin contact with soil, water and other copper-containing substances. Most copper compounds found in air, water, sediment, soil and rock are strongly attached to dust and dirt or imbedded in minerals.
Nickel is a silvery-white lustrous metal with a slight golden tinge. Food is the major source of exposure to this chemical element. You may also be exposed to nickel by breathing air, drinking water, or smoking tobacco-containing nickel. Skin contact with soil, bath or shower water, or metals containing nickel, as well as, metals plated with nickel can also result in an exposure.
Lead is a heavy metal that is denser than most common materials. Exposure to lead may occur to those living in homes built before 1978 (when lead-based paints were banned). It can also be found in contaminated soils, water, and air, certain pipes that are made with lead, as well as some toys and jewelry that use the metal.
Mercury is a heavy metal that has often been used by dental assistants and hygienists (though thankfully many dentists are moving away from the use of mercury) and chemical workers. People who have received mercury cavity fillings may be exposed to toxic levels of this metal. The burning of coal and oil can cause mercury to become airborne, as can burning wastes that contain mercury. Once in the air, mercury eventually settles into bodies of water like lakes and streams, or onto land, where it can be washed into water. Microorganisms in waterbodies can change it into methylmercury, where it builds up in fish and shellfish. Thus, one of the primary sources of exposure to mercury today comes from people eating contaminated shellfish.
Increasing levels of heavy metals in the environment is a growing concern. Not only are they found in many of the products we use, but they can be found in the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air that we breathe. In our constantly growing industrial society, it seems there is no way to avoid some exposure to heavy metals.
So, what can we do about Heavy metal Suffocation?
We can educate ourselves about the sources of heavy metals and actively boycott the products that contain them; we can make a conscious effort to no longer contribute to environmental pollution, but to focus on ways of regenerating the earth that we are a part of; and we can be mindful of where our food comes from, how it is produced, and whether or not it contains toxic levels of heavy metals, as food (especially food grown with pesticides) is one of the primary sources of heavy metal exposure. We can also continuously help our bodies eliminate toxic heavy metals through diet, lifestyle, and the use of certain herbs and supplements.
The most common way to remove heavy metals from the body is through a process known as chelation. Chelation is a process in which certain chemicals are used to remove heavy metals and other substances from the body by binding to heavy metal toxin ions and allowing them to be dissolved and excreted in the urine or feces. The chemicals used as chelating agents are found in certain foods, and some of the most common and effective chelators are zeolite, chlorella, and cilantro.
Zeolite is a complex mineral that forms in the contact of volcanic lava and water, a process that can take thousands or even millions of years. “Zeolite” is really a common name for over 240 unique structures (or frameworks), of which 40+ occur in nature. The most common types of zeolite include:
In a clash of scalding lava and cold seawater, zeolite forms a unique cage-like structure and negative surface charge. Aluminum and silicon make the basis of this structure, but it often includes other elements such as oxygen, tin, zinc, and titanium. Tiny cages enable zeolite to act as a “molecular sieve”, filtering molecules based on their particle size. Negative surface charge loosely binds minerals – such as sodium, potassium, and calcium – and replaces them with large ions and heavy metals. In other words, zeolite can pick up plenty of “bad stuff” and replace it with “good stuff.”
Zeolite can bind and remove a wide range of toxins from the human body, drinking water, and waste materials. Its tiny cages and surface charge trap heavy metals, natural and chemical poisons, radioactive elements, microbes, metabolic products, and more.
Thanks to these potent detox properties, zeolite can:
- Reverse oxidative damage
- Maintain a healthy microbiome
- Kill bacteria and viruses
- Boost the levels of minerals and trace elements
- Repair skin lesions and stop bleeding
For these reasons, it’s often used to detox heavy metals and other toxins from the body.
Chlorella is another excellent supplement for heavy metal detoxification. Chlorella is both a chelator—moving heavy metals out of the body, and a mobilizer—moving mercury and other heavy metals from deeper stores to more readily removal areas. It is great for detoxing the bowel and body because it is not only a great chelator, but a very important food supplying many vital nutrients required to detox and change your internal body chemistry to a healthier environment. https://www.nihadc.com/library/detox-for-life-class-2-addit-resources/54-4-dosing-with-chlorella/file.html?accept_license=1
Cilantro is another herb that has commonly been used for heavy metal detoxification. The leaves of the cilantro plant have potent anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antifungal, antimicrobial and significant chelating properties, that bind to heavy metals that are removed from the body through our excretory system. Often cilantro and chlorella are used together for chelation therapy.
Heavy metals are certainly something we should be aware of, and something that we should actively seek to avoid exposure to. However, in our increasingly growing society, this is becoming harder and harder to do. Thankfully, there are herbs and minerals that we can use specifically for detoxification of heavy metals, that also supply the body with essential nutrients.
Educating ourselves about the dangers of heavy metals will help us make wise decisions in terms of diet and livelihood, and this will, in turn, have an effect on the economic value of these elements. The less frequently we use or purchase products with heavy metals, the less likely it is that suppliers will use them in their products, as the demands of consumers shape the actions of suppliers. We can also find ways to actively get involved in projects and practices that aim to end the use of toxic heavy metals, for the benefit of our health, and for the benefit of the total environment that we are inseparable from.