Back to top

Heavy metal toxicity: how to recognize, identify and minimize exposure

This column should help give you ways to minimize your exposure to heavy metals. Also, if you work where exposure is a possibility, this will give you ways to protect yourself on an ongoing basis.

Some of the symptoms of heavy metal exposure are diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, anemia, slow healing acne, high blood pressure, kidney damage (elevated BUN, creatinine), hardening of the arteries, elevated liver enzymes and shortness of breath. 

Sources of heavy metals vary depending on the metal, however, some sources are smelters, dust released into the air from automobile tire erosion, foods grown on contaminated soil or soils enriched with sewage sludge, fertilizers, cigarettes, tobacco smoke, processed meat, refined cereals and sweets, cola drinks, contaminated shellfish and contaminated fish, instant coffee, Preparation H and calamine lotion.  Some anti-perspirants/ antacids/ toothpastes/ laxatives/ hair dyes/ contact lens solution/ fungicides/ latex paint solvents/ fabric softeners/ wood adhesives/ perfumes/ water pipes/ drinking water also can contain heavy metals.  Therefore, it is important to minimize the use of these products or find a substitute without heavy metals.

To minimize your exposure to heavy metals:

1) Use simple, whole foods. Avoid pesticides and herbicides so choose organically grown foods and minimize all your food intolerances.

2) Eat a diet high in the sulphur amino acids, such as garlic (fresh or as a supplement), onions, eggs, beans.

3) Eat a diet high in complex carbohydrates and low in refined carbohydrates. This will provide adequate fiber to ensure regular, daily, bowel movements. Include soluble food fibers such as pectin, algin, and others from such foods as citrus fruits, grapes, oatmeal, oatbran, psyllium husks, kelp or other sea vegetation.

4) Eat a  diet high in antioxidants (vitamin A, C, E, selenium), which are found in fruits, vegetables and  legumes).

5) Drink a minimum of 2 litres of clean (non-chlorinated) water. Use filtered or bottled water, not tap water.

6) Consider a multiple vitamin-mineral supplement.

7) You may need to add additional specific nutrients such as selenium, Vitamin E, Vitamin C, calcium citrate, zinc, copper, manganese and Vitamin A.

8) Supplementing with a supplement containing cysteine, sulphur and/or methionine is important for those with exposure to help take the heavy metal out of the system.  Along with this should be chlorella (cracked cell) that will remove the heavy metal from the blood stream.

9) Engage in activities which promote sweating - exercise, sauna, hydrotherapy on a regular basis.

10) Use air filters in your home (and car if you travel a lot in heavy traffic).

11) If you work in an industrial setting, do all you can to minimize your exposure and add extra anti-oxidants such as AMD.

Brenda Gill is a naturopath practising in Rossland, BC.