Let’s get right down to it. With environmental pollutants, come heavy metals. In the air, water, and soil, heavy metals are continuing to become more and more prevalent and present in our daily lives. Although most metals are considered to be natural and found in nature (in rock for example), heavy metals typically dominate out of manmade toxic pollutants. Although it is well proven that heavy metals bioaccumulate in the human body and often cause serious harm, it’s also known that partaking in specific dietary, lifestyle and therapeutic activities can assist your body in getting them out.
What is a heavy metal?
Ok, let’s quickly talk about what a heavy metal is. Naturally derived metals such as lead, arsenic, mercury and cadmium (to name a few) can quickly accumulate in the environment, bind within soil, water and air, increase in overall density (hence the term ‘heavy’ metal) and end up being breathed, ingested or otherwise taken into the body. Although our body requires metals such as iron as a building block for red blood cells and oxygen transport, most heavy metals are derived from chemicals and pollutants, and have no place, safe use or need within the body.
Where do we come into contact with most heavy metals?
The majority of heavy metals found in the human body come from contaminated food, water, air and other man made products. Although most foods grown contain some level of heavy metal accumulation (yes, even organic, non-GMO), the majority are abundant in more highly processed, unhealthy ones. Rice, for example, although considered a relatively healthy food, is one of the biggest culprits of arsenic. Fish is another example of bioaccumulated mercury (larger and canned fish contain more, whereas smaller fish tend to contain less, although some controversy on this still exists). As for other major sources of heavy metals, man made pollution tends to be the primary culprit (chemicals, paints, air pollution, pesticides, herbicides including glyphosate, aircraft and automobile exhaust, fossil fuels, and the list goes on). Many manmade products such as those from personal care (cosmetics, shampoo, soaps etc) and medications also tend to attract and concentrate massive amounts of heavy metals. The influence on heavy metal spread and accumulation mostly come from manmade products (such as electronics, batteries, and others mentioned above). We all live in a world where fully avoiding these metals just isn’t possible (babies in utero and placenta have also been tested and found to have significant levels too), so doing what we can to reduce our contact with them is one of the best things we can do.
How do heavy metals affect health?
Think of it like this; your body is an electric and wholistic unit working and communicating in unison with itself in order to maintain and optimize its healthful state. When a metal enters the body, due to its nature, being attracted, stored and accumulated in tissue (such as fat and organs) is its preference. As the body doesn’t have the innate ability to break down or eliminate heavy metals, over time, they build up (bioaccumulate) within the body. As the human body communicates and runs mostly based on electrical charges, metals become very disruptive to the normal biological health process. For example, let’s say you were sitting in a room talking with a friend, and then I came in and built a thick metal wall between the two of you. Communication, due to the wall being erected, would quickly become a lot more difficult. Cellular communication in the body is paramount, as without it, life would cease to exist. When heavy metals bioaccumulate in the body, communication between cells becomes much more difficult. As well, given the gross increase in artificial external electromagnetic fields within our world (wifi, satellites, phones, microwaves etc), accumulating metals in your body create an opportunity for these potentially harmful fields to be attracted and heavily drawn in your body, tissues and cells causing further disruption of cell communication and healthy function (think of metals as a antenna attracting EMF’s into the body. To make matters worse, knowing that the human body is made up of 70% water (80% in the brain), having accumulated metals in your body disrupts the molecular makeup of water and further adds to the negative health effects of their presence. So what symptoms and health conditions are associated with heavy metal build-up in the body? Everything from fatigue, headache, lethargy, cognitive impairment, pain, neurological disruption, digestive impairment, inflammation, to cancer, diabetes, dementia, Parkinson’s, Alzheimers, cardiovascular disease (heart attack, stroke, atherosclerosis) and many other chronic diseases.
What can I do to avoid and eliminate heavy metals?
The topic of health and heavy metals is a big one. So when it comes to doing your best to reduce your heavy metal load, let’s keep it simple. Here are some of the most effective ways to start avoiding and eliminating heavy metals in your life:
- Reduce your consumption of fish, canned foods and rice
- Reduce or avoid food colouring, dyes, processed/packaged foods, snacks, candies and conventional baked goods
- Although both organic and non organic foods contain heavy metals, reducing and limiting your non organic foods is best as they are heavily sprayed with pesticides, herbicides (glyphosate), and other chemicals containing heavy metals.
- Focus more on non-GMO versus genetically modified foods.
- Avoid the use of pesticides and other chemicals on your plants, lawns and gardens.
- Research protein powders and baby foods (even organic) as many have been found to contain very high levels of heavy metals.
- Drink purified water (filtered for heavy metals) only.
- Reduce or avoid conventional cosmetics and health care products (toothpaste, makeup, shampoo, soaps) and opt for certified organic or verified heavy metal tested options.
- Get out of the city often and into nature as the air is cleaner and many plants and fungi will capture and store heavy metals away and keep you safe.
- Consume foods that may bind heavy metals such as cilantro, parsley, chlorella, spirulina and high fibre foods.
- Ensure your digestive system and bowels are functioning well as any metals coming out of your body are carried through your urine and stool.
- Consume an abundance of antioxidants in your diet to support your liver and protect your kidneys in the face of these metals.
- Limit and reduce your exposure to EMF’s as they can wreak havoc on your health through stored metals in your body.
- Far infrared sauna’s can help reduce your heavy metal burden (sweating and far infrared light therapy).
- Consider safe removal of mercury dental fillings from a biological dentist as this can be a significant source of mercury in your body.
- Consider heavy metal chelation therapy as if done safely and effectively, it is one of the best ways to bind and flush heavy metals out of your body.
There is a lot to consider when it comes to heavy metals. The moral of the story however is to acknowledge that heavy metals can’t be avoided. As such, it’s up to you and the professional help of your naturopathic doctor to consider getting your heavy metal load tested, formulating a rational plan to help free your body from their grips, begin reducing your risk of chronic diseases and start feeling better now.
Dr Jeremy Hayman, ND helps patients at Cornerstone Naturopathic Inc. feel better, live better, and achieve optimal wellness and health. Years of patient care coupled with dedication to personal life balance has helped Dr Jeremy employ the adage that “your approach to health should be simple”.
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