Think, for a moment, about questionnaires you fill out at your doctor’s office…
Are you now or have you ever been a smoker? Do you live in a house built before 1978? How often do you experience anxiety or depression?
These questions may appear unrelated to one another… but in terms of heavy metal toxicity, it turns out that the answer can point in one direction: heavy metal poisoning.
That sounds really scary – and it is! Although full-blown heavy metal poisoning is fairly rare, having unreasonably high levels of heavy metals in your bloodstream is becoming more common as we continue to expose ourselves to toxic chemicals all around us, most often without even realizing it.
Heavy metal toxicity can be a difficult concept to wrap our brains around. Let’s contextualize this…
We’re talking about mercury, lead, cadmium, and arsenic.
Does that make it easier? You’ve probably been warned about the dangers of lead poisoning from paint in older houses. Maybe you’ve heard stories about mad hatters suffering from erethism mercurialis because they used mercury to cure felt in the hats they were making. You probably knew that arsenic was poison, but may not have known it’s a metal (technically, a metalloid, because it has metal and non-metal properties.)
What’s really frightening about these metals is how prevalent they are in man’s world.
They’re in our food, in our water, in polluted air, in food containers, paint, medicine, burning coal, old water pipes, car batteries, tobacco, in older pressure-treated wood, and more.
We’re going to get into ways you can spot heavy metals beginning to accumulate in your body, and how you can detoxify yourself if that happens.
Signs and Symptoms
The truth is, unless you’ve managed to stay on the family farm tilling your own soil with all-natural fertilizers, you’ve likely been exposed to heavy metal toxins.
In order for you to achieve poisoning, you’d have to be repeatedly exposed to the same type of toxic metal over a long period of time – as one would, for example, if they drank from old lead pipes over the course of 30 years in a home.
If you consider yourself someone with healthy habits, a conspicuous absence of unhealthy habits, and you’re still experiencing the following symptoms, you may be suffering from heavy metal overload:
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle weakness/fatigue
- Abdominal pain
- Numbness of extremities (hands and feet)
Now, there are definitely symptoms specific to each metal…
By the Metal
Accumulated mercury build-up can present with wobbly discoordination, muscle weakness, difficulty hearing, speaking, or seeing, and nerve damage in your face and hands.
Mercury is most often found in older silver dental fillings, seafood (by way of precipitation into water bodies whereby inorganic mercury is transformed by bacteria into organic methylmercury, which is much easier for human bodies to absorb), and the air near coal-fire plants.
Lead poisoning can manifest as constipation, irritability, trouble sleeping, high blood pressure, loss of hunger, anemia, headaches, and fatigue.
You’re more likely to find lead in old pipes, old house paint, soil and water in mining towns, gasoline, tobacco smoke, car parts, and some personal care products.
If you’ve accumulated too much cadmium, you’ll probably have a persistent fever, respiratory issues, fatigue, unusually rapid heart beat, or muscle pains and aches. Overexposure can result in damage to your kidneys, lungs, or liver.
Cadmium is prominent in smoke (tobacco, vape, marijuana), plumbing, gasoline, some cookware, processed foods and drinks, fertilizers, pesticides, and PVC plastics.
And arsenic build-up might look like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, skin rashes or skin inflammation, warts or lesions on your skin, unusually rapid heart beat or unusual heart rhythm, or muscle cramps.
Believe it or not, arsenic exists in agricultural run-off in the environment through pesticides, herbicides, or insecticides, living near industrialized areas, landfills, or waste sites, and smoking cigarettes.
So what do you do?
How to Rectify this Toxicity
The first step, if anything you’ve read sound startlingly familiar, is to get tested. You could start by making an appointment with a functional medicine practitioner in your area, or sending away for a heavy metal toxicity test that you can mail in and receive results from.
Heavy metals – which can be absorbed through your skin, food, air, or water – get lodged in your soft tissues. The liver, kidneys, and intestines all make an effort to flush overage of these metals out through the skin or the bladder, but when it gets to be too much…
Well, those detoxifiers need help.
If your regular routine supporting the liver and kidneys isn’t doing enough, and your problem can’t be solved with adaptogens and herb therapy, consider chelation therapy.
Chelation therapy is the process by which EDTA (Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid) binds to metals in the body and pulls them with it as it works through your system.
If you have more questions about that process, please consult your doctor first.
Otherwise, be sure to cut off the source of the heavy metal toxicity and practice lifestyle measures to ensure your naturally detoxifying organs are able to do their best work.