Heavy Metals… I’m Not Talkin’ Rock & Roll
A few years back I had the honor of shadowing Dr. Michael Bauerschmidt, president of the American College for Advancement in Medicine, while he had a clinic in Fort Lauderdale, FL. During the four months I was in his office, I learned that nearly all of his 1500+ patients had some degree of heavy metal toxicity. He was even toxic and was undergoing treatments while seeing patients! The time I spent with Dr. Mike inspired me to share this article on sources of heavy metals, how to determine if you are toxic, treatment options, and the cost of treatment.
What are Heavy Metals and What is so Bad About Them?
For the purpose of this article, lets define heavy metals as ANY metal or metalloid which causes toxicity in the body and is NOT required for proper functioning. These metals can include mercury, cadmium, lead, aluminum, and arsenic. Other metals essential to our functioning, such as iron, zinc, manganese, chromium, molybdenum, and selenium can cause toxicity but will not be included in this article.
Excess mercury, cadmium, lead, aluminum, and/or arsenic in the body can cause adverse effects such as unsteady gait, loss of balance, tremors, “brain fog,” numbness, tingling, and even autism, arthritis, heart disease, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and Alzheimer’s Disease (1). The full list could probably total about 10 pages, and can be found through a simple Google search.
What are the Sources of Heavy Metals?
Not to scare you, but if you live in a city, you are probably breathing in some amount of mercury as you read this. Eating a tuna fish sandwich? There is mercury in it (2). Did you put on anti-perspirant today, consume hot water from your faucet, or drink tea? If so, you directly absorbed some aluminum. Other sources include baby formula, cookware (especially Teflon), skin cream, furniture, refined chocolate, vaccines, and some dental fillings. The list goes on, and on, and on… To see more potential sources, you can read Dr. Cook’s article by clicking here.
How do I know if I Have Heavy Metal Toxicity?
Your current primary care physician may or may not be able to help you determine if you have heavy metal toxicity. To find a physician who can help, search the American College for Advancement in Medicine’s site. They can put you in touch with the top-notch environmental medicine physicians in your area. To determine if you are toxic, they will likely ask you a series of introductory questions such as your childhood residence, whether you live or have lived near a source of environmental pollution for any extended period of time, access your gait, your medical history, current symptoms, and so on. One test that Dr. Bauerschmidt did with most patients was to have them close their eyes and attempt to stand on their tippy toes without wavering. If the patient lost balance instantly and could not stand after a few tries, it was an indication that they may have heavy metal toxicity. If your physician believes you may be toxic, they will likely order a heavy metals urine pre and post test. The pre-test will give a baseline for heavy metal toxicity, the post test will give a good estimate of the types and magnitude of heavy metals currently present in your body; for the post-test, a patient takes an oral chelating agent which binds to heavy metals and assists in their excretion. This shows up in the test results and is compared to the pre-test results.
How do I Get Rid of Heavy Metals in My Body?
Based on what I have seen, the majority of us have some degree of heavy metal toxicity as heavy metals in our environment are ubiquitous. Your physician will give you a proper protocol based on the degree to which you are toxic, but the most simple method anybody can try is to sweat, poop, and pee. When we sweat, we excrete many toxins, including metals. The key is to wipe off the sweat at an equal rate to which it is released so that no metals are reabsorbed. Natural sweating via exercise or heat exposure seems best; if one sits in a sauna that has treated wood, it is highly likely that the chemicals and metals used to treat the wood will escape and be absorbed into the body, defeating the purpose of a detoxifying sauna (3). As long as one sweats in an environment with little to no environmental metal exposure, then the purpose is served. Using the restroom releases small levels of heavy metals as well, so go as often as possible ;-)! Drinking pure water and eating clean sources of fiber are the logical choice there. Again, if you drink tap water and eat processed grains, you continue absorbing heavy metals.
It is not easy to excrete excess heavy metals from the body, they are stored in deep tissues such as the bones (lead), brain (mercury), and kidneys (mercury, cadmium). These heavy metals build up year after year in these vital tissues. The rate at which they are excreted is likely not equal to the rate at which they are absorbed. As I learned, certain medical modalities can expedite the process at which they are excreted, are generally safe and well-researched, and are sometimes essential for someone with acute toxicity. Seemingly “healthy” people can likely benefit from these treatments as well.
Chelation therapy appears to be the most effective means of assisting the body’s detoxification pathways. Chelating agents, such as EDTA, DMSA, and DMPS are administered intravenously (IV) or orally (pill form). Your physician will determine which chelating agents are necessary, as each assists in removing specific heavy metals (4). Glutathione and acetylcysteine may also be used conjunctively by your physician in a treatment protocol. Other natural methods such as chlorella and herbs may help as well, although they are not as well studied. Laser Energetic Detox is another modality used to assist in heavy metal removal; I met a physician who performed this treatment, although I never saw him do it, and I did not spend enough time with him to fully see its effects. You can see his video here.
Heavy Metal Toxicity Treatments and Finances
The cost to determine toxicity will cost $240 retail with no physician mark up. Once cycle of 10 chelation therapy treatments may cost between $1000-$2000, and these treatments may or may not be covered by insurance; more often the case is that you will be paying out of pocket for such “radical” treatments, even if you have good insurance. It is also likely that a standard patient may need several treatments to completely excrete stored heavy metals, and the treatments must be combined with other IV therapies to replenish mineral deficiencies caused by chelation. For some patients, it may take a year or two to completely deplete stored heavy metals. Of course, the cost is dependent on the physician administering the treatment; more likely than not, this physician is running their own clinic and has rent and a staff to pay for, so the cost will not be low.
Luckily, its free to sweat! Well, most the time lol. Sweat, drink clean water, eat clean fibrous food, and avoid as many sources of environmental pollution as possible. This is the simplest way to avoid heavy metal exposure. If you can make the investment, an Americare Air Filter would be great to have in your house or office space as it can help remove metals and other pollutants from the air. Plants can do the same thing, and are much more cost effective. One study showed that Kheya, Mango(Mangifera indica L.), Anthyllis vulneraria, Thlaspi caerulescens, Iberis intermedia, Silene latifolia, and Urticadioica L. were effective in removing a number of heavy metals from the air (5). Virtually any plant will remove environmental pollutants.
It is more than likely that most of our population has some degree of heavy metal toxicity. Simple avoidance of heavy metal sources if the best preventive strategy, although it is often difficult living in such toxic environments. We often can control some factors, such as the type of water we drink, the amount we sweat, the food we eat, and so on. I personally do my best to fully control such factors, and accept that which I cannot control. If you have a steady income, it is likely wise to invest in an environmental medical doctor, as they can help you overcome heavy metal toxicity in a safe, effective, and timely manner. If you cannot afford such healthcare, it is okay, simply control what you can.
Hope you enjoyed! Let me know if I missed anything 🙂
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*Originally posted on my old website which no longer exists, riverbearfitness.com.