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Heavy metal toxicity
What usually comes to mind at the mention of heavy metals are lead, cadmium, arsenic, aluminum and mercury. But aluminum is thrown into the bunch without being heavy metal (as most anyone knows). Also, heavy metals include zinc, copper, chromium, nickel, tin, cobalt and vanadium - all minerals essential to health.
Likewise, silver belongs to heavy metals, but can have highly protective role against pathogens. Thus, the better name for those metals that are inherently unhealthy to us might be "toxic metals" or better yet - since most any metal (or nutrient) can be toxic if overdosed - xenobiotic metals.
Indeed, these metals have no useful function in the body, but are so toxic that there is really
no safe body level for them, no matter how low.
Toxicity of xenobiotic metals comes mainly from their attraction to body enzymes and cellular receptors. They simply attach themselves to an enzyme, in place of an essential mineral. But the enzyme doesn't function with the wrong mineral in it, which compromises or blocks the metabolic process depending on that particular enzyme.
Similarly, toxic heavy metals that attach to cellular receptors take place of the "legitimate" minerals needed for cellular functions, but can't play their role. This can damage the receptor, or the cell. In either case, cellular functions are interrupted and, if extensive, damage to the body function - and your health - takes place.
It is not hard to imagine that xenobiotic metals
can cause most any symptom and disease.
Many pesticides have similar mode of action. Interestingly, overdosing on healthy, essential minerals can do basically the same thing (although much less intensely): it effectively reduces the access of other needed minerals and nutrients to body cells and enzymes, to the detriment of health.
The resulting negative impact on health is greater if that particular nutrient is already deficient in the body.
The importance of minimizing exposure to toxic metals - and all major toxic internal pollutants, or xenobiotics - by making sure that your detox system gets all the nutrients it needs, and by cleansing your body from decades-long poison accumulation through regular body-detox routines, cannot be overemphasized. The risk is just too high to be ignored.
You can be assured of having toxic metals accumulated in your bones, skin and other organs. Their body levels can be accessed through appropriate lab tests: either RBC test (red blood cell test, not a serum, or plasma blood test, which is unreliable), 24-hour urine test, or hair mineral analysis.
While test can give you an indication of the body contamination level, it doesn't allow you to draw a definite conclusion on how safe, or detrimental it is to your health. The reason is that
to any specific toxic metal
can vary significantly
Note that mineral hair analysis is questioned by some for accuracy, and even validity. Relatively recent government study (Seidel et al., California Department of Health Services, JAMA 2001), in which identical hair samples were sent to 6 US commercial laboratories covering "90% of samples submitted for mineral analysis", has found wide variations in both, levels reported and related interpretations/recommendations. Thus, it concluded that commercial mineral hair analysis is "unreliable", not recommended, and that the matter even should be legally addressed.
A little closer look reveals that the study was seriously flawed. For one, it did not differentiate between the laboratories according to their testing methods: the two using ICP-Mass Spectrometry (state of the art technology) gave consistent results. It was four laboratories using the inferior ICP-Atomic Emission Spectroscopy that supplied widely deviating results, with over 80% of these results coming from a single laboratory with misrepresented CLIA license status (which also does substantially less of the analytical volume - only 3% of the total - than some other legitimate laboratories that were omitted from the study).
In addition, the researchers themselves did not measure the sample, thus had no basis of knowing if any of the results were in line with facts, or not. Despite all this, they issued a blanked statement labeling the entire commercial mineral hair analysis "unreliable".
Obviously, studies themselves are only as reliable as their methodology, and government funded studies are no exception.
In general, the body tends to keep all toxins it can't get rid of out of the blood, as much as possible. But how and where specifically it will store them doesn't follow any pre-established pattern. Thus your RBC, or hair sample levels only indicate toxic metal accumulation in those two particular tissues, and don't necessarily give an accurate overall level of body contamination, or its most exposed part - much less possible health consequences.
But those are rather general limitations of test results in general: they become really meaningful
only when coupled with individual medical history, environment, lifestyle, personality and health condition.
To help the body get rid of toxic metals as much as it can, make sure that your sulfur intake is adequate. Taking moderate sulfur supplementation (methylsulfonylmetahne, or MSM, being the usual form) should be both, safe and helpful. This is due to sulfur being needed for the synthesis of amino acid cysteine, which has crucial role in body's detox mechanism in general, and for removing toxic metals in particular. It works both, alone and as a component needed for the synthesis of key detox compounds, such as tripeptide glutathione and PAPS (3'-phosphoadenosine, 5'-phosphosulphate) detox enzyme.
However, it may not be enough. If your toxic load is overwhelming your detox system - which is more likely than not - toxic elements, including toxic metals, may continue to accumulate. In order to prevent this, and to reduce the level of toxic metals in your body, you need to resort to more aggressive protocols, such as Accelerated Heavy Metals Detox Program12. In addition to detox cocktail, it includes heavy metal chelators, like Captomer, or Chemet (practically identical, but the latter is much more expensive, and requires prescription), daily enemas, intermittent supplementation and periodic lab tests.
It is rather involved procedure that will take months and requires monitoring by a qualified physician, but if you suspect that your health is compromised by accumulated toxic metals, it is very much worth it. R