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GETTING STARTED WITH HEAVY METALS




The effects of environmental toxins on the body are far reaching, which I experienced personally. Between the ages of 15-18, I struggled with a hormone condition that is typically observed in extreme athletes or trauma victims (click here to read about my health story). I now believe that environmental toxins were partially responsible for triggering that illness, due to their ability to interfere with hormone production. I also experienced extreme fatigue, cystic acne, severe insomnia, brain fog, and bizarre neuropathies - all symptoms that can be associated with environmental toxins.


My environmental exposure to toxins was obvious. My mother also had high levels of heavy metals, which are known to cross the placenta, and had presumably passed heavy metals to me en utero and through breastfeeding. The year I was born and fully vaccinated was the year in which vaccines contained the highest amounts of added mercury and aluminum. I grew up in an area where the soil contained high levels of mercury and was known to contaminate the water supply. Before being diagnosed with heavy metal toxicity, I had lived in an old house with copper pipes and lead paint. Still struggling with food consumption, I ate large amounts of fish. All of these factors were significant sources of exposure to heavy metals.


Since detoxifying heavy metals, I have been able to think more clearly, sleep and function better, and more easily maintain my body weight. Neuropathies are infrequent and my skin has cleared dramatically. Since beginning my journey of detoxifying from these poisons, I have also learned that eliminating heavy metals is an important part of healing from Lyme Disease. Because of my personal experience, educating people about heavy metal toxicity has become a passion of mine. However, please keep in mind that I was simultaneously treating other conditions and these symptoms were not the result of heavy metals alone. It is also important to note that acute metal poisoning is different from chronic heavy metal toxicity. Acute metal poisoning occurs when there are dangerous levels of metals in your blood, a condition that is life threatening. Heavy metal toxicity occurs when your body does not efficiently detoxify environmental heavy metals so you accumulate low doses in your tissues that, over time, interfere with cellular functioning.


In General, What Do Heavy Metals Do?

Let me tell you that heavy metal toxicity dramatically impacts health. Some of my sickest patients have



heavy metals as part of their health picture. So, why are they such a big deal? While the destructive impact of each heavy metal differs, most do the following in the body:


Increase reactive oxygen species: These charged particles activate the immune system and create inflammation all throughout the body.


Suppress biochemical reactions: Our bodies are run by biochemistry. Your ability to make DNA and energy, to transform food into fuel, to rid your body of toxins and inflammations is all run by enzymes in a concert of biochemical reactions. I like to think of these enzymes as cars and toxins as the brakes. Heavy metals inhibit many enzymes involved in key biochemical reactions and promote the accumulation of toxins and inflammation inside of cells.


Damage DNA: Anything that damages DNA has the potential to increase risk of cancer.

Damage Proteins: Anything that damages proteins has the potential to interfere with cellular function and signaling.


Damage Cell Membranes: Cell membranes are essential for energy production, nutrient absorption, detoxification, and cellular communication and functioning.


Damage Mitochondria: Mitochondria produce energy in your cells, which is one of the reasons heavy metal toxicity can create extreme fatigue. High levels of healthy, functioning mitochondria is protective against disease and cellular damage. Conversely, mitochondrial damage is associated with a wide number of diseases and virtually all chronic conditions.


Disrupts the endocrine system: Heavy metals are poisons to hormones and metabolism and increase risk of several diseases that fall within these categories.



Many toxic metals, such as lead and mercury, also have synergistic effects, meaning that when you have more than one present, they amplify each other’s damaging effects.


How Do I Know If I Have Heavy Metal Toxicity?

The two best ways to assess for heavy metal toxicity are through a history of exposure and through testing. In this blog, I will discuss some of the most troublesome culprits of heavy metal toxicity. Each metal has a different route of exposure. A great place to start is an environmental exposure questionnaire. One great heavy metal toxicity educator, Dr. Walter Crinnion, ND compiled one that you can access here. http://familywellnesscenternj.com/wp-content/uploads/V8-Env-exposure-questionnaire-1-18.pdf


I also always recommend testing since it assesses for a large number of heavy metals and allows you to track treatment progress. I advise against blood testing as it is designed to assess for metal poisoning and will not detect functionally high levels of heavy metals that have accumulated in your tissues. Heavy metal hair testing is designed to assess elevated levels of heavy metals in tissues. Some research studies have correlated the amount of heavy metals in hair to levels in the rest of the body, but this is still not the most accurate way to test. More accurate testing is obtained by performing a urine challenge. A pre-provoked test is obtained first. This is simply a sample of your urine that is collected and tested for heavy metals. A pre-provoked test evaluates your level of current exposure. A challenge test is obtained after orally or intravenously administering a medication designed to pull heavy metals out of tissues. Urine is then collected for 6-24 hours and assessed for levels of hea



vy metals. This post-provocation test evaluates your historical, total body exposure. The drawback of a challenge test is that it can worsen symptoms related to heavy metal toxicity as it pulls large amounts out of tissues. There is an even greater risk of this with an intravenous challenge test. It is important to discuss with your doctor which test is best for you and how to support safe testing. It is important to review test results with a provider who knows how to interpret test results.



Treatment




If you have read all of this information, you most likely suspect you have some type of heavy metal exposure and naturally, are likely interested in treatment. The best advice I can give you is to find a doctor who is extremely well educated in treating heavy metal associated illness and develop a personalized protocol under their care.


Detoxification that is not matched to the appropriate toxin can be dangerous. I hope this blog has effectively demonstrated how extensively these toxins can poison different systems of your body. If you begin pulling these toxins out with a weak binder, one that simply pulls them out of the tissues but does not eliminate them from the body, you risk these metals simply redistributing to other tissues, which makes symptoms worse. One of the most concerning risks with this type of detoxification is that the toxins will cross the blood brain barrier and create serious damage to the nervous system. Both tests also require that liver and kidney are healthy, which is assessed by blood tests, before they can be performed.


Some of the most cringe-worthy detoxification suggestions I see suggest using products like cilantro or chlorella, to detoxify. Both have benefits in removing heavy metals from the body but are weak binders that can have the effect described above. Another detox solution I am wary of is using only IV’s or IV glutathione to promote detoxification. Both can be useful but are not safe for all patients. A doctor who only uses these therapies does not demonstrate a knowledge of distinguishing who is a safe candidate for these types of therapies and runs a higher risk of adverse effects.


When detoxifying anything, it is essential to know what you are detoxifying and to select a detoxifying agent with the appropriate chemistry to pull that from the tissues as well using a binder that will grab onto the toxins that have been drawn from the tissues and safely eliminate them from the body. Detoxifying agents I commonly use for heavy metals include DMSA and EDTA, depending on the primary metal I wish to target. Detoxification also strips the body of nutrients and increases inflammation in the body, so it is essential to know how to plan breaks for reducing inflammation and replacing nutrients. Finally, if other important players in detoxification such as the liver, kidneys, gut, and lymph are not functioning properly, it can block effective detoxification. This is why therapies that promote these detox pathways such as liver support supplements, dry brushing, infrared sauna, and coffee enemas are often performed alongside the primary detox.



Heavy Metals, Lyme Disease, & AutoImmune Disease

The presence of heavy metals is something essential to consider for patients with Lyme Disease and autoimmune disease, as they can create symptoms observed in both disease states. Furthermore, heavy metals impact the immune system through many mechanisms including stripping nutrients vital to immune function, upregulating the autoimmune response, and inhibiting the immune system’s ability to fight infections such as Lyme Disease. If heavy metals are present and unaddressed, healing from either Lyme Disease or autoimmune disease can be difficult.

Heavy metals also attract parasites, which is of special concern in Lyme Disease as parasites can not only protect Lyme Disease but also reduce the body’s ability to fight viruses and make people with Lyme Disease more susceptible to viral co-infections. Together, Lyme spirochetes and parasites form biofilms, which protect infection and make Lyme Disease resistant to treatment.


To binge more heavy metal content, check out my Instagram resources.



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