The Effects of Heavy Metals on Health (And How To Avoid Them)

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Heavy Metal Toxicity And Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Do you feel tired all the time, even after your full 8 hours of sleep? When this happens, we tend to blame external factors – perhaps we’re overworked or over stressed, or maybe the mattress needs changing, or our pillows are just plain uncomfortable… more often than not, however, constant overwhelming fatigue throughout the day is rooted in something else.

As mentioned in many of my other posts, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is one of the most difficult disorders to diagnose. It’s not explained by any underlying medical condition, so most doctors will need to rule out other diseases and disorders before they even suspect you might have the syndrome.

According to various sources, there’s over a million Americans suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome. Every day, they suffer from symptoms such as joint and muscle pain, brain fog, inability to focus, poor memory, headaches, chills and night sweats, and digestive discomfort, with the main symptom being overwhelming fatigue.

It’s now commonly recognized that there is no single cause of chronic fatigue syndrome. Rather it seems that a few different causal factors can contribute to your personal form of chronic fatigue syndrome.

Whilst this website documents my own personal journey to healing, and shares the knowledge I collected during the many years I was suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, it’s important that you find a naturopath or functional medicine doctor who can help you find out the root cause, or more likely cause(s) of why you have chronic fatigue syndrome.

One known contributing factor to this debilitating illness can be heavy metal toxicity. 


What Is Heavy Metal Toxicity

If you live in a city or rural area in the modern world, heavy metal exposure is virtually unavoidable. Heavy metals are in the foods we consume, the air we breathe, the water we drink and shower with, in the soil, cosmetic products and more.

effects of heavy metals on health

A theory suggests that if you suffer from a nutrient or mineral deficiency, your body might hold onto toxic metals from the environment instead of detoxing them as they tend to have similar structures to minerals.

The heavy metals mercury, lead and arsenic mentioned below are on WHO’s list of 10 chemicals of public concern as they are known to cause health issues.


Where Do Heavy Metals Come From?


Mercury is one of the worst heavy metals because, despite being a recognized neurotoxin, it’s a pervasive part of our everyday life. The most common culprits are dental fillings and fish, especially large fish like shark, swordfish, and some types of tuna. Some vaccines also contain traces of thimerosal, a preservative that contains 50% mercury.


effects of heavy metals on healthLEAD

Lead is another metal that’s a pervasive part of modern life. It naturally occurs in the crust of the earth and exposure through mining and industry, it can become a serious problem for adults and children alike. It is a non-essential mineral with no biological role in the human body.

Lead is used in the manufacture of batteries, rubber products, and glass, and some areas even have drinking water contaminated with the metal.

effects of heavy metals on health

And even though heavy metal toxicity is no treat for anyone, lead can have particularly pronounced negative effects on children’s development, causing learning and developmental delays and disabilities, loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal pain and others.


The third biggest cause of heavy metal toxicity is aluminium – a metal many of us don’t expect to find lurking in our homes. But aluminium is found in antiperspirants, medications such as antacids, even some baking powders and processed foods, along with feminine hygiene products and table salt (often laced with aluminium as an anti-caking agent).

effects of heavy metals on health

One simple change you can make to reduce your exposure to aluminium is to use natural deodorant. There are many effective versions on the market nowadays. When you think that your under arm area is where many lymph nodes are located, it makes sense not to expose it to a daily dose of aluminium.

Replacing all cookware with healthier options like cast iron and ceramic is another easy way to reduce exposure.

Using aluminium cookware, cans and foils can also release high amounts of the dangerous metal into your immediate surroundings and has been associated with serious health conditions such as anemia, cognitive difficulties, liver damage and others.


Many pesticides also include heavy metals, such as organic arsenic, and inorganic arsenic is a crucial part of the wood-preservation process. What’s even more concerning is that arsenic naturally occurs in apples and other fruit, and has been found in several brands of rice.

effects of heavy metals on health

There’s also a myriad of cleaning products and cosmetics, that are packed with heavy metals, as well as most of the food containers and plastic water bottles.


Testing For Heavy Metal Poisoning

A way to figure out if you suffer from heavy metal toxicity that might explain your chronic fatigue syndrome is by having a heavy metal toxicity test done.

The test method I had carried out was a Metal Mobilization Test (MMT). With the use of a chelating agent (DMSA), this test shows the total burden of heavy metals in your body which is particularly important in fatigue issues.

Other test methods such as hair and blood test are not accurate methods. Hair analysis shows only short term acute exposure. Blood testing will not show heavy metals in the body as the metals are present in cells and bones, not in blood.

Working with my naturopath, I was tested for heavy metal toxicity due to the fact I had spent 6 years living in China where pollution levels are extremely high, building and construction work never ending, and the health of the food chain often suspect. However, happily for me, testing showed that I did not have heavy metal toxicity.


How Does Heavy Metal Toxicity Link To Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Heavy metals attack nearly every system of the body but they can have a profound effect on the mitochondria. The mitochondria are the ‘powerhouse’ of your cells, it produces adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the main source of energy for the body.

Without ATP, you tend to become fatigued more quickly, and lose the ability to concentrate and remember well (because your brain consumes over 20% of the total energy of your body).

The presence of heavy metals in the body can down-regulate and entirely stop ATP production, as well as affect the antioxidant system. Metals like lead, arsenic, and mercury can damage the mitochondrial membrane and stop the powerhouses from producing sufficient ATP to keep you energized throughout the day.

Normally, when there’s stress present in the environment, the body responds by activating the HPA-axis – the interaction of the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the adrenal glands. A dysfunction in one or more of these, caused by heavy metal toxicity, can also explain many of the symptoms of adrenal fatigue and chronic fatigue syndrome.


You Might Need Chelation Therapy

So if you carry out testing and find that you have some level of heavy metal toxicity, what can you do about it? You can have chelation therapy carried out which uses EDTA (ethylenediamineetetraacetic acid) which is injected into the bloodstream directly. It then binds with the excess heavy metals where they are removed via the urine.

effects of heavy metals o health


Putting It All Together

In reality, you can’t really avoid heavy metals – they’re all around us, whether we live in a hectic city or in a quiet, peaceful suburban neighborhood. However, there are ways in which you can minimize your exposure to heavy metals.

Switch to using a healthier salt like Himalayan salt instead table salt, look for household cleaning products and hygiene products that don’t contain dangerous metals, and limit your consumption of fish and foods that may be high in mercury. Eat large fish like tuna and swordfish only rarely. Avoid and/or replace amalgam fillings with white composite fillings.

Taking the necessary precautions against heavy metal toxicity will not only help your mitochondria produce the ATP you need to be your energized and productive but will also protect your and your family’s health.


Please feel free to leave a comment below.






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  1. Having lived in mining and smelting areas all my growing up years, I do have some experience with heavy metals. There are some interesting but little publicised information I can contribute.

    I worked in site reclamation in areas where heavy metals had been mined or smelted.

    Mercury in its natural state has been around since the year dot. In this state it isn’t very abundant in the overall earth components. Being water soluble many waterways, near deposits, contain it. Humans live around waterways and health monitoring indicated they hadn’t appeared to be affected by this form. It has become a focal point as metres have become so sensitive natural mercury registers where it never had before.

    Mercury has been processed, as you noted, into many products, such as fluorescent lights, thermometers (special types), medicine (the processing increases toxicity so these weren’t very effective!), teeth fillings; in fact so many health and traditional health activities; well the list goes on and on.

    Waste products have ended up in everything; air, water and soil. Hence all food sources.

    Air ends up with huge boosts of mercury from particular sources such as coal energy producing plants (mercury attracted to moisture in plants and animals, ending up in fossilised fuels). A second air source is volcanos. Yes they don’t just produce ash and flames and lava.

    And by the way for all you organic purists, Mercury is an inorganic mineral. The most toxic forms are in fact organic Mercury products. Well there you go!

    Ok on to lead (well where I lived had lead, zinc, cinnabar, mercury, copper and the list goes on again).

    Not a nice toxin at all. In fact lead mimics calcium and that is pretty scary when you think of what calcium does.
    An interesting tale from my youth (quite a while ago) is about the monitoring for lead poisoning. Now days a blood test is taken or chelation testing . Way back then, head hair was tested. Every year a friend of dad’s was tested. Every year he declined because he was bald! And still he got the request the next year.

    And finally (thank goodness you say) I used to play with natural mercury along with all my friends. Being liquid, with a high surface tension, it use to roll beautifully. And not one of us has had any ill effects from this and other heavy metals. I think it is those who don’t know all the sources that are most at risk.

    Great and interesting article. I enjoyed reading it.


  2. For anyone experiencing heavy metal toxicity, especially from exposure from long ago, diagnosis can be difficult as you mentioned. A hair test can show certain derangement of minerals which is a marker. Dmsa testing as recommended by your doctor has repoisoned some people by the redistribution of metal stirred up but not adequately dealt with by under functional organs. Dr. Andrew Cutler did some very interesting work with low dose chelation that is proving helpful for my husband who has been severely poisoned and more information has helped us immensely.

    • Hi Jessie Thanks for stopping by and I’m glad to hear your husband has managed to find a protocol that works. Actually my testing was carried out under supervision by my naturopath who is experienced in treating fatigue issues, rather than a doctor. It was carried out once I had started to recover somewhat and work had already been done to support my liver and kidneys etc. Luckily I didn’t have any signs of heavy metal poisoning. But my naturopath did say that the chelation therapy itself could be quite nasty. I assume she meant exactly what you mention, that the chelation agent can stir up the heavy metals which then have to be cleared out of your body following a suitable protocol such as the one you mention.


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