The words heavy metal can bring up a few things: steel factories, chemistry lessons from school, or your favorite rock band. However, we will focus on the heavy metals you ingest and discuss why a heavy metal detox might be just what you need to achieve optimal health. Heavy metals are all around us and exposure to them is inevitable to some degree. This exposure happens through food, air, the environment, and more. Some of these metals are good for you. Examples of good metals include:


  • Copper
  • Zinc
  • Iron

We need metals like these in small doses to stay healthy. Other heavy metals are detrimental to our health. In this article, we will go over what heavy metals are, what they do once in the body, a few symptoms of heavy metal exposure, the worst heavy metals, and how to reduce heavy metal exposure. This article will be the start of a few articles that cover heavy metal exposure and detox, so make sure you check back in for more info.


What Are Heavy Metals?

Heavy metals are naturally occurring elements found inside the earth. These metals are much denser than water. Therefore, they are considered to be highly toxic even in low concentrations. Now, this sounds bad, and it is. However, a few heavy metals are beneficial to us in low concentrations. As I stated in the last paragraph, some of these metals include iron, copper, and zinc. These metals help with various physiological functions. However, there are several more than do nothing but harm us when we are exposed to them. Because of heavy metal exposure health risks, we have to find ways to detox from heavy metals.


How Does Heavy Metal Exposure Occur?

There are many ways we get exposed to heavy metals. Predominantly, exposure occurs due to food, air, and water. To be more specific exposure can occur from:


  • farmed fish that we eat
  • contaminated water
  • household products
  • dental products
  • air pollution
  • certain medicines

As the list suggests, there is really no way to avoid exposure to some degree. We are unfortunately exposed to heavy metals in some way every day. It is because of this inevitable exposure that a heavy metal detox is a healthy choice.


What Do Heavy Metals Do Once They Are In The Body?

Once they get into your body, heavy metals can accumulate in various organs and bones for up to several years. This accumulation can lead to symptoms such as:


  • behavioral changes
  • low energy/fatigue
  • mood changes
  • thinking difficulty
  • memory issues
  • organ dysfunction
  • development of certain cancers

We want to avoid these symptoms, so a heavy metal detox wouldn’t hurt most of us to try, especially if you like to eat fish frequently.


The Big Bad Wolves Of Heavy Metals

There are 23 heavy metals to be concerned about, but 4 are especially harmful to you. These are mercury, lead, arsenic, and chromium. We will go into a little more detail on each of these 4 metals and then explain a few tips on detoxing from these heavy metals.


#1: Mercury

Remember when I said if you like to eat fish you should be looking into a heavy metal detox? This is why. Mercury is a naturally occurring element that collects in marine life which we then consume. Mercury makes its way into our fish via contaminated waters thanks to industrial pollution. A small fish accumulates the mercury, then a bigger fish eats the smaller fish. That fish will accumulate the mercury, and then we eat that big fish. The fish we eat are typically fish such as tuna.

Mercury accumulation leads to a host of health problems such as:


  • headaches
  • memory issues
  • sleep problems
  • nervous system damage
  • poor concentration

Mercury gets absorbed in the GI tract and is capable of breaching the blood-brain barrier. Once absorbed, mercury can stay in the body for several weeks up to several months. Within the brain, it stays for even longer since it is converted into an inorganic form. If you are pregnant, mercury can penetrate the placental barrier so the child is exposed as well. Besides the brain, mercury tends to accumulate in the kidneys and liver mostly. Because mercury can pass the blood-brain barrier easily, a heavy metal detox would be wise even if you are not showing symptoms of mercury accumulation.


#2: Lead

Similar to mercury, lead is a naturally occurring element. Lead can be found in water, soil, and air. Most human exposure to lead comes from water. While lead can accumulate in various organs such as the brain, liver, and kidneys, bones are the major area of lead accumulation. The side effects of acute lead accumulation include:


  • joint pain
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • fatigue
  • memory loss
  • sleep problems

Some of the long-term effects of lead accumulation include:


  • brain damage
  • liver damage
  • kidney damage
  • chronic joint inflammation
  • high blood pressure
  • fertility issues

Since most lead exposure is due to contaminated water, consider getting a filter for your water at home and be wary of water sources when drinking water in new places or outdoors. To be safe, consider a heavy metal detox or getting tested for lead accumulation if you are experiencing any symptoms.


#3: Arsenic

This heavy metal is found within the earth’s crust. Human exposure to arsenic occurs via contaminated soil, water, and food. Some foods that are commonly associated with arsenic contamination are rice, beer, salmon, mushrooms, and poultry.

Several symptoms of acute arsenic accumulation include:


  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • abdominal pain
  • muscle cramping
  • numbness of extremities

Some of the long-term effects of arsenic accumulation include:


  • cell wall damage
  • cellular communication dysfunction
  • skin problems (cancer, lesions, warts, etc.)
  • lung cancer
  • bladder cancer

Limiting at-risk foods and sourcing your food supply will help minimize the risk of arsenic exposure and accumulation. If you are experiencing any symptoms or feel like you might be at risk, it may be worth a heavy metal detox and/or getting a hair/blood test done to check for heavy metal accumulation.


#4: Cadmium

This heavy metal is found in other metal ores and is a product of environmental pollution. Primarily, cadmium is found in copper and zinc ores. Cadmium exposure is toxic to humans, as it is a heavy metal we have no use for, unlike zinc and copper in small concentrations. Cadmium ends up in the air, water, and soil as a by-product of mining and smelting pollution.

Most of the damage from cadmium occurs in the kidney, liver, and lungs. Therefore, being mindful of water sources, food sources, and pollution impact on your area are keys to avoiding cadmium exposure. A few symptoms of acute cadmium accumulation include:


  • “flu-like” symptoms
  • respiratory issues
  • cardiovascular problems

If there is long-term exposure to cadmium, you may experience issues such as:


  • lung cancer
  • kidney failure
  • pancreas cancer
  • prostate cancer

If you think you might have some exposure to cadmium or just want to be safe, a heavy metal detox and being medically tested are smart decisions. It is better to be safe than sorry, especially if you live near any industrial area.


What Is A Heavy Metal Detox?

Heavy metal detox is exactly as it sounds. No, it isn’t quitting Slayer cold-turkey. Instead, it is the act of introducing lifestyle changes and specific detox agents that help the body’s detox system perform better. There are two primary ways to start a heavy metal detox.

First, you complete chelation therapy. Chelation therapy is a medical procedure that can be done with a doctor or at home. Essentially, you add compounds called chelating agents to your daily routine that bind to the heavy metals in your blood and then get filtered out of the body via feces and urine. Chelation therapy is a natural approach to a heavy metal detox because it involves adding key compounds that help your body’s organs such as the liver and kidney filter out toxins like they are supposed to.

Second, you can make changes to your diet and lifestyle to add naturally occurring chelating agents into your body. This can include specific foods, increasing activity, changing up your environment, using a chelation supplement, and other tips that will both minimize heavy metal exposure and prevent the accumulation of heavy metals in your body before they can create long-term damage.


Tips On Reducing Heavy Metal Exposure

To get you started on the right foot, here are some helpful tips for reducing your heavy metal exposure.


  • Get the good metals in your body. Some metals such as copper, zinc, and iron are necessary for our health. Make sure you are eating the right foods that will provide adequate concentrations of these metals.
  • Check out how fishy your fish are. Fish can be contaminated with arsenic, mercury, and lead. Check the sources for your fish. Be extra careful of tuna, swordfish, salmon, and sardines.
  • Have a chat with your dentist. Some fillings have a mercury amalgam, so ask your dentist about resin fillings when possible.
  • Check those jabs. I don’t mean boxing jabs, but vaccines. Some vaccines contain a controversial mercury-derived preservative. If you are at all nervous about that, ask your doctor for vaccines that are free of that specific alternative.
  • Peep the paint jobs. Older buildings were painted with lead-based paints. With this in mind, be wary of chipped paint. Also, DON’T LICK THE PAINT.
  • Use the spices. Herbs such as cilantro, parsley, and rosemary contain chelating agents which will help your body dissolve or flush out heavy metals.
  • Hydrate with caution. Water can easily be contaminated with heavy metals, particularly lead. Therefore, you need to be mindful of your water source. Also, filter your water whenever possible to eliminate any potential contaminants.

These are just a few tips you can implement today to minimize heavy metal exposure.


Final Thoughts

Heavy metal detox is something everyone can do to some degree and should do since heavy metal exposure is inevitable. Use the steps suggested above to make some small changes today that can have a positive impact on your health. Also, if you feel like you need more answers, head to a doctor and get tested for heavy metal accumulation. For extra info on heavy metals and overall healthy living, check out the rest of our blog here.