Harmful Heavy Metals
Harmful heavy metals are a very real danger in our modern world. An estimated 65% of North Americans have high levels of heavy metals in their bodies. With scarce public recognition for the harm they cause, these heavy metals do untold damage to people’s lives in terms of:
- Lessened vitality and health
- Degenerative disease
- Neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
- Heart disease
- Autoimmune problems
- Skin disorders
- Impaired mental function such as brain fog and depression
The exact mechanism by which heavy metals damage the body include:
Displacing other minerals within a cell molecule
- Heavy metals, due to their greater atomic size, will ”play king of the hill” and take over the position of a mineral within a cell’s molecular structure. After substitution, the molecule is built wrong with two resulting consequences:
- It may not function correctly. For instance, if mercury substitutes for iron within a hemoglobin molecule, that molecule will no longer transport oxygen.
- It may attract the attention of the immune system since the immune system doesn’t recognize the molecule as “self” anymore and will try to destroy it.
Changing the DNA
- This is related to displacing minerals within cellular molecules. If mineral displacement occurs within a DNA molecule, then the cell is forever damaged because future replications will be faulty - this is called aging and deterioration.
Acting as an antibiotic
- Heavy metals reaching the intestinal system will kill bacteria. Since, typically, harmful bacteria multiply more rapidly than protective bacteria, the bad bacteria will take over the gut if there is a frequent or constant exposure to heavy metals.
Causing free radical damage
- Frequently, because of their potential for unpaired transitional electron orbits, heavy metals act as free radicals, stripping electrons away from (oxidizing them) neighboring molecules. Free radical damage includes:
- Aging, through DNA damage.
- Heart problems: arteriosclerosis and atherosclerosis, blood vessel blockage. Heart problems occur as free radicals damage arterial linings, which signals the body to begin calcification and depositing cholesterol, creating a bandage over the damaged arterial linings. However, when temporary arterial damage becomes chronic arterial damage, calcification and cholesterol build up, arteries, narrow and harden and heart disease results.
- Cancer, autoimmune disease, arthritis, and other degenerative disease.
- Fatigue and difficulty concentrating
- Leg aches
Creating an electric current within the body
- Two different metals in an electrically conductive media (the body is 70% or more water) form a type of battery creating an electrical current which creates chemical reactions that cause damage to the body.
This often occurs in the mouth because of dental work. If we have, for instance, an amalgam filling (mercury) and a stainless steel post from a root canal or a gold or nickel crown or metal braces in our mouth, we have set up a 24 hour per day battery that will generate electrical current that can create TMJ, headache, plaquing of calcium on blood vessel walls, erosion of gum and bone from around our teeth, stiff neck, irregular heart beat, suppressed immune system and more.
Changing the pH in the body
- Heavy metals make the body fluids more acidic. This lowering of pH triggers the body to take calcium away from the bones to make the blood more alkaline because the blood has to be maintained at a constant pH or we would die. The end results of a lowered pH include osteoporosis and cancer.
The following are the most damaging, common heavy metals we encounter:
- Nickel - is both the most allergenic and the most carcinogenic metal we are commonly exposed to. Sources include stainless steel dental materials and orthodontics, ceramics, cocoa, hair spray, jewelry and cosmetics.
- Mercury - is very toxic in all its form and highly prevalent (over 65% of Americans have toxic levels of Mercury) due to mercury’s use in dentistry. Sources include “silver” dental fillings or amalgams, air pollution, fish (especially larger fish and shrimp and shellfish) and fluorescent lights.
- Lead - historians believe the lead was a major contributor to the fall of Rome (it was part of their plumbing systems). Lead poisoning is very damaging to mental function and is difficult to remove from the brain. Sources include air pollution, gun ammunition, drinking water, newsprint and colored advertisements.
- Cadmium - is similar to mercury in toxicity. Tissue levels of cadmium are often elevated in smokers. Sources include cigarettes, art supplies and air pollution.
- Aluminum - linked with Alzheimer’s disease, but very likely the real culprit is mercury that prevents the body from filtering aluminum. Sources of aluminum include aluminum cookware, aluminum foil, antiperspirants, antacids and baking powder.
How can you tell if you have toxic heavy metals in your body?
If you have any of the following symptoms, you may wish to be tested for heavy metals:
- Depression, mood swings, inability to concentrate, forgetfulness
- High or low blood pressure
- Easily tired - (mercury binding to hemoglobin in place of iron)
- Light sensitivity
- Loss of smell
- Immune system problems
Testing for Heavy Metals:
- Blood tests - for heavy metals are not always accurate, as the concern is not the amount of metals in the blood, but the amount in the tissues.
- Urine tests - without provocative chelation, urine tests are often inaccurate, because they only measure what is being excreted not how much is actually contained in the tissues of the body.
- Out gassing of mercury from teeth - an instrument is placed in the mouth that measures how much mercury is released. This test primarily indicates whether or not the fillings must be removed before proceeding with removal of mercury via chelation.
- Provocative chelation (combined with urine tests) - is a more accurate type of urine test. A chelation, or metal-grabbing molecule such as EDTA, DMPS or glutathione is introduced into the body, usually intravenously (IV). The chelation pulls metals from the tissues and binds with them and is then excreted out of the body in the urine, which is then analyzed through a urine test.
- Hair analysis - is a good test for metals other than mercury, which is frequently undetected in true amounts (due to its volatility) during the hair analysis test. A small sample of hair is sent to a laboratory for metals testing. Another advantage of hair analysis is that it can reveal levels of necessary minerals in the body also.
Removal of Heavy Metals:
** Very important: before attempting to remove heavy metals from the body, heavy metal sources should be eliminated (if at all possible). Usually, this means removing dental metal such as fillings, caps, bridges, etc. from the mouth and replacing them with nontoxic dental materials.
If removal of heavy metal sources is not done before chelation, then:
- Chelation will have to be carried out indefinitely because the chelators will continue to pull mercury out of the teeth. In fact, some chelators will pull mercury from the teeth as fast as the mercury is leaving the body.
- As the mercury passes through the body it will do damage on its way out... and the net result may even be more mercury damage than if no chelation therapy was done.
Heavy metal chelators (that which can remove heavy metals) include the following (the better performing chelators are listed at the end):
- Time plus natural body defenses - if heavy metal sources are eliminated, heavy metals will be removed by the body gradually over about a 25 year period of time.
- Pectin (from the rind/peel of citrus or apples) - binds with heavy metals in the blood and carries them out of the body. Pectin does not remove heavy metals from tissues, but does bind with any metals in the blood, thus chelation with pectin is a slow process.
- Sun Chlorella.
- Glutathione - is is the body’s first line of defense against heavy metals (sometimes called GSH). It is produced by the body. If heavy metal exposure is mild and and short-term, glutathione performs amazingly well at removing heavy metals. It binds with the metal in a two-to-one ratio called a di-thiol (sulfur containing) bond. However, if there is more metal than glutathione (from a heavy or chronic exposure to heavy metals) then glutathione will bind in a one-to-one ratio, or mono-thiol bond, which is itself harmful to the body. Injecting glutathione or otherwise greatly increasing the amount of glutathione in the body can avert this problem to some degree. Naturally produced glutathione can exist within the brain and remove mercury and other toxic metals from the brain, while injected glutathione cannot. Antioxidants such as vitamin C, Vitamin E, selenium and zinc should be taken along with glutathione to prevent free radical damage from the mono-thiol binding.
- Metallothionein - is the second naturally occurring line of defense against heavy metals employed by the human body. It is made in the liver and kidneys in response to chronic, low dose exposure to +2 charge heavy metals. Both glutathione and metallothionein make use of the thio, or sulfhydryl, group, which is sulfur-hydrogen (-SH). This is the part of the molecule which grabs the metal ion. Natural systems are easily overwhelmed by high and chronic exposure to heavy metals. To help the body manufacture more of of metallothionein, supplementation with MaxGXL, N-acetyl cysteine and zinc aspartate are recommended.
- EDTA (calcium or sodium ethylenediaminetraacetic acid) - is one of the better known chelators, but kidney problems and reduced urine output can occur with its long-term use.
- Desferoxamine (trade name Desferal) - this chelator has a side-effect of reduced blood pressure. Also, it is effective in helping lower high levels of iron. In a study of 32 diabetics with high iron levels, 67% were free of medication in 8 to 13 weeks.
- DMSA (dimercaptosuccinic acid) - is one of the best chelators for crossing the blood-brain barrier. Thus, DMSA is an important adjunct to DMPS, which doesn’t cross the blood-brain barrier, in pulling mercury from the brain.
- DMPS (2,3-dimercapto-1-propanesulfonate) is a water-soluble derivative of dimercaprol. Unlike some of the other chelators, it is effective when given orally or as an intramuscular injection, or as a ten minute IV push.
What is intravenous chelation therapy like?
Chelation therapy is most often administered intravenously (IV) with the help of medical professionals. It can also be administered orally, which many believe is not quite as effective as IV, but it has the advantage of less cost and self-administration at home.
An IV chelation treatment lasts between ten minutes and three hours depending on the type of chelator used and the heavy metal or health condition being treated. In order to bring heavy metals down to acceptable levels it can take between 3 to 40 treatments with 10 being the average.
Typically, someone undergoing chelation therapy may feel a bit tired and weak immediately after the treatment due to mineral depletion, since chelators grab onto and remove good minerals as well as harmful heavy metals. Please see the next section on nutritional support to restore lost minerals.
What nutritional support is needed during chelation therapy?
Zinc supplementation should be a part of chelation therapy support. In fact, zinc is always useful in overcoming heavy metal toxicity since it competes with heavy metals for sulfhydryl protein binding sites in the body. The more zinc (within reason) in the body, the more toxic metal is changed from a protein-bound state to a free state. Metal in the free state is more readily grabbed by the chelator.
Because chelation causes losses of zinc and other important minerals, mineral supplements should be taken to make up for this loss. This should be done at least two two hours away from the chelation therapy.
Mineral IVs are very effective in replacing minerals. When mineral IVs are not utilized, we recommend ten to fifteen capsules per day of Kona deep sea minerals to replace minerals that are lost through chelation.
How safe is chelation?
Chelation therapy has been used safely on hundreds of thousands of people during the past fifty years. According to the current drug safety standards, aspirin is three and a half times more toxic to the human body that EDTA (a common chelator).
- The Burton Goldberg Group, “Chelation Therapy”, pp. 126-133.
- The Burton Goldberg Group, “Cadmium Toxicity”, pp. 896-897.
- Future Medicine Publishing, Puyallup WA, 1994, Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide.
- Brecher, Harold and Arline, 40-Something Forever, Healthsavers Press, NY, 1992. Chelation and a healthy heart.
- Cranton, Elmer, Bypassing Bypass, Hampton Roads, Troutdale VA, 1990. The chelation methods discussed can enhance the benefits of bypass surgery and in many cases eliminate the need for the surgery.
- Halstead, Bruce, The Scientific Basis of EDTA Chelation Therapy, Golden Quill Publishers Inc., Colton, CA, 1979. Scientific basis of chelation therapy; technically oriented rather than for the layperson.
- Julian, James, Chelation Extends Life, Wellness Press, Hollywood CA, 1982. This book discusses the prevention and treatment of arteriosclerosis.