The air, water and soil are loaded with heavy metals such as mercury, lead, aluminum, cadmium, arsenic, tin and nickel. As these agents accumulate in your body, they can cause a host of health problems, including arrhythmias and other heart conditions. (Heavy metals can also prevent or inhibit weight loss by interfering with the body’s normal production of hormones and can be implicated in certain chronic conditions.) Recent studies reveal that patients with a dilated heart (cardiomyopathy) have increased levels of mercury and other metals present in their systems. Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple blood test or even hair analysis that will definitely diagnose the toxicity of these heavy metals.
The Effect of Heavy Metals on The Body
Metals such as mercury, lead, aluminum, cadmium, arsenic, tin and nickel are everywhere in our environment. Mercury is extremely toxic—even more so than lead. Because mercury contaminates our water supply and the oceans, large amounts are found in fish such as tuna and swordfish that are higher on the food chain.
Mercury is also present in cosmetics, fabric softeners, foot wear and sneakers with reflectors, plastics, solvents and, more importantly, in silver amalgam dental fillings, which are 50% mercury. A single silver filling can release 3 – 17 micrograms of mercury each day. (Note: You should not have your silver fillings removed without consulting an integrative or holistic dental practitioner. If they are removed without the proper technique, then the mercury vapor released combines with chemicals in the mouth to create minute amounts of toxic methyl mercury. This is absorbed through the tissues of the mouth and air passages and transported to the brain and other body tissues.)
Mercury poisoning comes from ingested organic (methyl) and inorganic (less toxic) mercury that is absorbed through the digestive tract. It can also come from inhaled mercury vapor (when a dentist removes an old silver filling or amalgam). This mercury vapor is retained or accumulated in the respiratory system and the tissues of the body. Skin absorption of mercury can also occur. The signs and symptoms of mercury exposure/toxicity are multitude–insomnia, shyness, dizziness, irritability, depression, loss of weight, weight gain and tremors. The one symptom a patient complains of is ‘ringing in the ears’ (tinnitus). Some of the later signs/symptoms include numbness and tingling of lips and feet, muscle weakness, memory loss, skin problems and hearing difficulty.
- Broken thermometers
- Mercury silver amalgams (dental fillings)
- High intake of certain fish
- Consumption of grain seeds treated with methyl mercury fungicide
- Calomel (body powders and talcs)
- Light-up sneakers
- Mercury-containing cosmetics
- Fabric softeners
- Hemorrhoid preparations
- Laxatives (containing calomel)
- Polluted air and water
There are many occupations that have a higher incidence of mercury exposure. Some are dye makers, photographers, hatters, fish cannery workers, pesticide workers and lamp makers.
The most common metal intoxication we hear about and are most familiar with is lead. The increasing prevalence of lead as an environmental contaminant is causing many to suffer adverse health effects. Some of the signs and symptoms include
Aluminum is present in the earth but there is no use for it in the body. There have been numerous studies that have linked aluminum to memory loss, premature senility, Parkinson’s Disease, Lou Gehrig’s Disease and other neurological diseases.
- Aluminum cooking vessels
- Aluminum-containing antacids
- Aluminum cans
- Underarm deodorant
- Cigarette smoking
Signs and symptoms:
- Shortness of breath
- Gastric distress (stomach aches)
- Skin reactions
- Gas (flatulence)
- Increased serum (blood) liver tests
- Memory problems (Alzheimer’s Disease)
Cadmium is a soft, bluish-white metal that is chemically similar to zinc and mercury. There is cadmium in cigarettes, which can accumulate in the arteries, can produce wrinkles (especially on the face) and, left untreated, has been shown to decrease your life.
Signs and symptoms:
- Iron deficiency
- Bone pain, especially sternum
- Pain in lower back
- Loss of sense of smell (anosmia)
- Generalized aches and muscle soreness
There are professions that have higher exposure to cadmium. Most of these professions involve hardware as nickel-cadmium battery manufacturing, zinc ore smelting, soldering, ceramic making using cadmium, rustproof tools, marine hardware and jewelry making.
One can also obtain cadmium from drinking water, evaporated milk, processed foods, soft drinks from a vending machine and with refined wheat flour. Both pesticides and fungicides contain cadmium. Even silver polish can contain cadmium.
At Fratellone Medical Associates, we evaluate heart patients for heavy-metal toxicity as an important part of their treatment. To ascertain their presence, we perform a heavy metal challenge, using a single dose of DMSA, which is an oral medication that acts as a metal chelator. The DMSA bonds with heavy metals so the kidneys can excrete them. If metals show up in urine collected over the next six hours, then chelation will be prescribed as a safe way to remove them. For more on heavy metals, see Heavy-Metals and Their Effect on The Body.headache, depression, insomnia, fatigue, irritability, anxiety and aching muscles. In later stages, lead can cause abdominal pain, loss or gain in weight, foot drop (peripheral neuropathy) and blue-black lines on the gums. Also, iron deficiency (anemia) can be secondary to lead poisoning.
Lead can come from the atmosphere and environmental pollutants such as car exhaust and coal burning. It can be the drinking water, lead plumbing, herbs if collected at the roadside, vegetables grown in contaminated lead soil, leaded house paint, ceramics, tobacco and even cosmetics.