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Metals Nobody Talks About

When you run a metal test, you will recieve a long list of potentially toxic metals. Most health conversations focus on heavy hitters like mercury or lead. However, there are a number of other metals that can pose hazardous to your health. Here's what to know about the other metals on your test.


In my practice, I see elevated arsenic levels less frequently than I see elevated levels of mercury or lead. However, arsenic has potential for dramatic impacts on human health. I remember the first patient I saw whose elevated arsenic levels were a major problem. I was part of her group care team, while in naturopathic medical school. She had metabolic resistance and kidney disease and she wanted to lose weight. She also happened to develop strange peeling, scaling rashes on her hands. The supervising doctor mentioned that her rash looked like an arsenic rash so our team decided to look more deeply into the matter. During our research, I found an article that demonstrated arsenic exposure, through dietary consumption of rice, as a risk factor for Type 2 Diabetes. Our patient happened to be from Bangladesh and ate rice every day. She was the classic picture of an arsenic toxic patient. On testing, she revealed not only elevated levels of arsenic but also of mercury and lead. 

Like mercury, arsenic has 3 forms: organic, inorganic, and gaseous. The latter 2 are the most toxic. 

Inorganic: Sources of exposure to inorganic arsenic primarily come from diet through foods such as rice, chicken, fish, and seafood. Exposure can also occur through cigarettes, water, soil, air, or treated wood. 

Gas: Exposure to arsenic gas is primarily environmental. Gas containing arsenic is released by industrial plants where it can leach into groundwater. Arsenic is also a component of cotton pesticides and can pose risk to those living near areas where cotton is grown.

Like other heavy metals, arsenic has far reaching impacts on the body. Here are some of the ways it can impact health: 

Reducing arsenic exposure: You can reduce your daily arsenic exposure by making some simple dietary changes.

Choose organic chicken over non-organic as organic has been demonstrated to contain lower levels of arsenic. When preparing rice, soak overnight, then wash in a 1:5 rice:water ratio, which can decrease arsenic levels by 80%. You may also choose to opt for white rice over brown rice, as brown rice contains higher levels of arsenic. To prepare metabolically friendly white rice, check out this recipe for resistant starch rice.

Resistant Starch Rice
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Cadmium is another heavy metal that I was first introduced to during my time in medical school. We discussed it most in integrative oncology rounds. This is because Cadmium has been classified as a Group 1 Carcinogen by the Agency for Research on Cancer. This means there is strong evidence that cadmium promotes cancer in humans. 

Sources of cadmium exposure include: 

In the body, cadmium is absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract, the skin, and through respiration. Between one third and one half of total cadmium burden is stored in the kidneys, which sets it apart from other heavy metals which store in places like fat and nervous tissue. In the body, it competes with a large variety of minerals, depletes glutathione and inhibits the catalase enzyme, which are all used to effectively detoxify cells. Cadmium can remain in the body for decades and is excreted primarily through urine. 

Cadmium can impact the body in the following ways: 

Individuals with cancer, osteoporosis, or hormone imbalances may benefit from testing for cadmium. 


Thallium is a sneakier heavy metal that I have become acquainted with in recent years. I first saw elevated thallium levels in myself and I had no idea where it came from. I then began seeing elevated levels in some of my more health conscious patients. Soon after, I learned that one source of thallium is Cruciferous veggies: Yep, thallium was present in high levels in vegetables like kale, brussel sprouts, and broccoli. 

This was disappointing news to my brussel sprout loving self. Interestingly, my thallium levels were highest after I was on a kale kick. This is because thallium is a metal used in industrial processes. It gets released in the atmosphere as an emission and deposits in soil where sulfur groups in veggies accumulate it. The sulfur compounds that make these veggies so healthy also make them susceptible to accumulating thallium. 

Thallium can be absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract, skin, or respiratory tract. In the body, it binds potassium, an essential mineral involved in cellular function, signaling, and energy production. 

Due to this action, it can create symptoms of: 


Heart Palpitations



Disruptions in cognitive function 

Hair Loss

Visual Disturbance

Leg Pain

Digestive Upset

In the body, it can also impact the liver, kidneys, nervous system and heart. 

If you eat high levels of these vegetables and are experiencing any of these symptoms, testing for thallium might be helpful. Specific types of clays and silica preparations as well as dietary reductions of thallium rich veggies can make a big difference in reducing thallium levels. 

Curious if these metals are impacting you? Check your levels!

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