Heavy Metal Detoxification
Heavy metals are any metallic chemical elements that are naturally occurring components of the Earth’s crust. Some of these metals are essential to the body, because of their ability to maintain growth, development, and metabolism. However, when we’re introduced to high concentrations of heavy metals over time, they become highly toxic. Heavy metals are dangerous because they tend to bioaccumulate, meaning that they increase in concentration over time. These concentrations slowly build up in the body's tissues until they are metabolized or excreted, and affect our health dramatically. Some common heavy metals are lead, mercury, copper, cadmium, and chromium. Symptoms of heavy metal toxicity include vomiting, cramping, nausea, fatigue, insomnia, and in some cases, chronic infections and paralysis.
How do they get into our food?
Heavy metals enter the agriculture system through industrial processes and are also created from pollution. Between these industrial wastes, mining, and our increasingly globalized planet, we are more polluted than ever. Any vegetation grown directly in soil or surrounding bodies of water can absorb these naturally occurring metals just as they would other nutrients like iron or sulfur. Not only are heavy metals found in the soil our produce is grown in, but pesticides and herbicides often contain heavy metals such as cadmium, lead, and arsenic. This not only affects conventional crops but organic crops as well. Additionally, crops grown in said soils are used to feed livestock, in which the metals are then leached into animal-based food or products. In the ocean, seafood like tuna or salmon absorbs the mercury that the ocean gets from the Earth and is absorbed by sea vegetation and organisms. In our public water, lead contamination is a huge problem that threatens the health of people nationwide. Unfortunately, some of the highest contents of heavy metals are found in some of the most essential and nutritious food our bodies need.
How can I avoid heavy metal intake?
Heavy metals are hidden in plain sight, and it's nearly impossible to avoid them altogether. Limiting your exposure and reducing your intake is what's going to make a difference in your health. Testing yourself or your family members is a great way to get an idea of the content of heavy metal build up in your body, and what the call to action is. You can check the levels of heavy metals in our bodies in various ways, including a blood, stool, hair, or urine testing. Consuming a lot of mineral dense foods or participating in a heavy metal cleanse weekly/biweekly will significantly reduce the number of heavy metals in your body. Luckily for us, mineral-rich compounds can reduce the body's intake of heavy metals efficiently and rapidly. Folate, Alpha-Lipoic Acid, Glutathione, Zinc, and Vitamin C rich foods and supplements can significantly reduce exposure and help replenish the toxicity effects on the body. Selenium is an inhibitor of mercury, meaning it acts as a catalyst and can increase detoxing mercury levels from the body. Eating a clean, highly alkaline and mineral rich diet can counteract heavy metal exposure as well. Some detoxifying foods that contain high mineral content include Cilantro, garlic, blueberries, lemon, barley grass, green tea, tomatoes, and even certain types of algae. Heavy metals bind to algae cell walls, pulling them out of the contaminated substances. For example, algae such as spirulina or chlorella have been shown to be an effective agent for carrying metals out of our bodies systems. They contain amino acids and powerful phytochemicals that are designed to not only remove toxicities, but improve digestion, energy levels, and blood sugar levels. Eating a diverse and mineral-rich diet, avoiding unfiltered tap water, keeping fish intake low are other effective ways of avoiding toxic exposure to heavy metals. By taking the steps necessary to remove high concentrations of heavy metals from the body, you can rid yourself of the toxins that are detrimental to your health, and catch these signs of toxification early enough to bring the levels down to safer levels.
* McLean JE & Bledsoe BE. Behavior of metals in soils. Office of Research and Development, United States Environmental Protection Agency. October 1992.