Over the last few months I've been working on detoxing; specifically heavy metals. No, I don't mean I'm purging heavy metal music from my life. It's one of those things which has crossed my path a few times, but hasn't really sunk in until recently. It's not as if we're obviously experiencing lead poisoning like they did when it was in so many paints, or arsenic poisoning like they did when it was in the dyes of our wallpaper or clothes. So surely it's not that much of an issue?
The Problem With Heavy Metals
For most of us, our bodies are actually pretty good at clearing out the day to day toxins which find their way into us. It's one of the many jobs our immune system performs. Some people’s bodies are less effective at performing this task and they are usually the ones that have auto immune issues and/or brain function issues. You may have heard mention that autism spectrum disorders and ADHD have been increasing. In fact evidence is showing that heavy metals do play a role in causing autism, PDD and ADHD and some people are seeing improvements when detoxing children, with these issues, from heavy metals.
Yet even those of us whose bodies are better able to detox, reach a point when they start to struggle, especially with the amount of heavy metals bombarding us in our modern lives. They get into everything and while we can try to limit our exposure, we can't eliminate them completely. They're in our water, cookware, deodorants, makeup, building materials, some vaccines, amalgam dental fillings, petrol and even our food.
People are finding that detoxing is clearing up a whole range of issues for them. Not because the heavy metals cause those issues, but because getting rid of them frees up the immune system to do its job again and heal them. When a friend showed me her arthritic hands with the swelling completely gone and no more pain as a result of metal detoxing, I knew for certain there really was something in it. You can read testimonials, but unless you know these people you don't know how much is exaggeration or wishful thinking.
Before You Detox
Detoxing your body from heavy metals isn't something to be taken lightly (no pun intended). If you release the metals from where they are sitting and your body isn't able to move them out in a timely manner, then you're going to end up in a worse situation as they circulate back around your body, making you feel sicker. So generally it's recommended to start slowly and make sure your body's detox processes are functioning smoothly. The main detox pathways are through your digestive system, so if this is sluggish or you don't have the best hydration habits, then you'll need to look into that first. A slow digestive system will give toxins more time to be reabsorbed and if you're not drinking enough then you won't be flushing things out very well.
Fibrous foods will help to absorb and lock up toxins which will make it less easy for them to be reabsorbed. Strawberries are said to be particularly good for this and watermelon assists liver detox.
Prevention is better than cure, so while you can't completely prevent environmental toxins entering your body, it's still a good idea to see what you can do to reduce that happening. If you eat fish, then be aware that predatory fish have a higher accumulation of mercury, tuna has the highest content of the most common ones we consume and salmon has safer levels. Fish like shark are even higher in mercury.
My friend is using a nano-zeolite for her detox. It seems that it's a fairly new breakthrough and a lot of people are talking about it. However these products are expensive and some are sold in a multi level marketing format. So it's no surprise that my friend was initially cautious about trying it. We both did a fair amount of research on it before she bit the bullet and purchased some. For her it was worth trying as she has so many health issues that the doctors couldn't help her with, so things couldn't really get much worse. She's having such great results, that I wish I could try the product myself, but it’s way beyond my budget. So I've been looking into much more accessible approaches.
Whatever detox paths you decide to follow the most important accompaniment should be water. Just on its own, increasing your water intake will start helping you to flush toxins out. Preferably not tap water which can come with its own plethora of heavy metals. I wouldn't encourage bottled water either, because of plastic leaching. As we can't all have a fresh spring in our garden, then options are water filters. Personally I use rain water, boiled and then filtered. There are some filters which will safely filter really dirty water and even the fluoride out of the tap water, but they are pricey.
If you search for natural heavy metal detoxes, ones which come up quite a bit are spirulina and chlorella, which are types of algae. You can buy them in a dried powder to add to foods. They boast high nutrient levels too. The active ingredient in them for removing the metals is chlorophyll and it does this by absorbing them. So any dark leafy greens can also, potentially, be used in the diet for a metal detox. However, this very ability which allows for the absorption of metals means that if heavy metals are in the environment in which the plant or algae is grown, then it will have absorbed them, meaning that by consuming them you are at risk of adding to your toxin load. Therefore, you need to be aware of where these products are coming from.
Another risk which comes with chlorella and spirulina is that if grown in poor conditions, it could be contaminated with bacteria. People have taken ill after consuming it, some being hospitalised, due to bacterial or heavy metal contamination. So if you're going to try it, check the providers’ sources and find out what, if any, tests they do on it. I'd already bought some at around $20 AUD when I find this out, so I emailed the company and asked about it. They were responsive and confirmed that it had to meet strict standards, but I was still cautious and started with a small amount. I've finished that packet, which lasted longer than I expected, but I've yet to decide whether I want to risk it again as their sources aren't consistent.
Something which has had a resurgence in recent years due to it's heath benefits is fermented food. Probiotics are now pretty much accepted as being good for the gut and help to build your good bacteria up after illness and antibiotics. However, it seems there is more to them than that. Research has been finding that they can remove and break down heavy metals, but in the body and in soil. The particular bacteria in the spotlight is lactobacillus. For me, the name of it hints at it being a dairy based one, but it actually seems to occur in all fermented foods. There is still some uncertainty as to how, exactly, it works to remove the heavy metals, but they do know that it does.
I'm not a huge fan of fermented foods, but my friend brews her own kefir and kept sending me her excess grains for the chickens (who go crazy for it incidentally), so I eventually caved and started fermenting it myself. Basically it makes a yogurt drink, like the Yakult you can buy in the shops, but without the sweetening. It can be used in all milks, including plant based milks. I'm not going to lie, it is sour. I don't drink it for the enjoyment, but I'm getting used to it.
The great thing with kefir is that once you have the grains, it costs nothing more than the milk you add to it. It's also good at keeping your digestive system moving well, so it assists on that side of detoxing too. All fermented foods can be produced at home, keeping costs low. Then as health and immunity begins in the gut, it's quite likely that by improving gut health you'll give your body an extra boost to help with detoxing that way too.
A couple of other foods which crop up if you're looking into heavy metal detoxing are bone broth and coriander/cilantro. I haven't been able to find out how bone broth is supposed to do this, but if you're going to try that, make sure it's organic. Bones are a place where the body will dump some toxins to keep them out of harm's way, so you don't want to be consuming bone broth from an unhealthy animal.
I’m guessing that the chlorophyll in coriander will work to bind heavy metals, but it seems to be a cut above your average green vegetables in performing this task. Either way, these are both foods that I already use anyway, so I suppose it wouldn't hurt to just use them some more.
Progress so Far
I've been detoxing for a few months now. At the start I got some detox symptoms and found upping my fluid intake and increasing vitamin C helped. I've also increased my magnesium absorption, which is said to help support your body through detox. My first obvious detox symptom was increased mucus production, namely a really runny nose without having a cold. I went through a period of bad sleeping, which included struggling to get to sleep and waking regularly throughout the night, often dripping with sweat and, not surprisingly, feeling dehydrated and needing to drink. Incidentally, perspiration is one of the body’s detox pathways.
Headaches started to become all too common and often they were at migraine level meaning that pain relief was ineffective. I hadn't had migraines since my teens, so this was significant. The lack of sleep probably wasn't helping.
I'm glad to say that these symptoms have abated and I'm sleeping much better again. I still get the odd headache if I don't get enough sleep, but they've been much milder and don't usually last more than a day, usually much less.
It's hard to say if I've had improvements in my health, because they tend to be so slow you forget that things were an issue. I get twinges in my joints still, but nothing consistent and the one finger joint that did swell up and become particularly tender has settled down. I've always struggled with aerobic exercise and one of the reasons I don't like running is because of how quickly I get out of breath. I haven't run for ages then the other day I raced my daughter across a field and was amazed to be able to keep going without getting out of breath whilst my daughter did (although she also beat me despite my best efforts). Don't get me wrong, I could feel it in my leg muscles and felt it for the next two days, but I am still amazed that my breathing wasn't an issue.
Now that I mention this, it occurs to me that recently I have been coughing a bit on random occasions, when something suddenly seems to work loose and I have to cough it out. Perhaps my lungs are upping their efficiency and clearing out the rubbish.
I'm sure I still have a long way to go, so I'll persist with making some of these detox habits a part of my lifestyle. I’m not getting any younger, after all, so I want to support my body as best I can.
Another study on chelation of heavy metals that you may find interesting: