November 16th, 2017
Contributing writer for Wake Up World
By now, most of us concerned with preserving health are aware of the dangers of toxic heavy metals like aluminum, cadmium, mercury, lead and arsenic that we pick up from our water and food supply, as well as from the air we breath. But what we may not know is that copper can also act as a heavy metal in the system and become extremely toxic, causing everything from chronic fatigue, cancer and a range of autoimmune disorders to psychiatric issues — including bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, ADHD and autism, among others. To make matters worse, a majority of conventional physicians and alternative medical practitioners are unaware of the extent copper toxicity is found in the general public and its far reaching effects — or how to treat it. Thankfully, a few have put the pieces together over the years and have begun to address this widespread issue. Take heart, if you’ve suffered from mystery health problems that have your doctor at a loss, copper toxicity may be the underlying reason. Here’s how to recognize it and finally heal.
Copper Deficiency and Overload
You may be thinking at this point, isn’t copper essential for human health? — and you would be absolutely correct. The problem lies when we are overexposed to copper and when we are unable to utilize it properly, as the latter causes both a deficiency and excess of the metal.
While copper plays a number of important roles in the body, like supporting energy production, female reproductive health, creation of neurotransmitters, immunity, as well as in the maintenance of healthy bones and connective tissue, copper levels frequently become imbalanced due to modern lifestyles.
We can easily become copper toxic from overexposure to the metal through eating conventionally grown produce that’s been sprayed with chemical fungicides and pesticides containing copper. We can also become imbalanced with a diet heavy in copper-rich foods — such as nuts, seeds, eggs, avocados, chocolate, potatoes, mushrooms and organ meats. Similarly, vegetarian diets tend to be high in copper and low in zinc, which can lead to an excess of the metal. Copper water pipes, swimming pools, hot tubs and copper intrauterine devices promote copper toxicity as well.
Dr. Lawrence Wilson adds:
“There exists a high copper personality. Positive traits include a warm, caring, sensitive, emotional nature, often with artistic orientation and a child-like quality. Often high-copper people are young-looking. Many traditionally feminine traits are associated with copper such as softness, gentleness and intuitiveness. This may relate to the qualities of metallic copper, which include softness, malleability and an excellent conductor of electricity.
“Artists, inventors and other high-copper types often “live on the edge”, in part due to their high copper level. The copper personality tends to accumulate copper easily. Copper can function as a psychological defense mechanism. It causes one to detach slightly from reality. This provides relief from stress for the sensitive individual. It works well as long as the copper does not become too high. Very high copper can cause a psychotic break from reality, a type of schizophrenia.” [source]
It’s common for a person to be both deficient and copper toxic. This happens when there is an excess of the metal in the body, but it isn’t utilized well because there is a deficiency of copper-binding proteins (ceruloplasmin and metallothionein). Without adequate levels of these proteins, unbound copper circulates freely within the body and accumulates in the brain, liver and female organs, where it wreaks havoc. Disorders linked with copper toxicity include:
- Memory loss
- Attention deficit
- Bipolar disorder
- Racing thoughts
- Premenstrual syndrome
- Lack of sex drive
- Estrogen imbalance
- Chronic fatigue
- Prone to infections
- Grave’s disease/hyperthyroidism
- Cardiovascular problems
- Poor bone and tooth health
Holistic Adult and Child Psychiatrist Judy Tsafrir, M.D., explains why we see copper toxicity more in women than men:
“Copper overload is particularly common in women. Estrogen can cause copper retention and accumulation, which eventually can result in toxicity. Hormonal events such as menarche, pregnancy or menopause can trigger it. These days when a patient tells me about a history of postpartum depression, severe PMS, dysmennorhea or adverse effects related to the prescription of oral contraceptives, I immediately suspect copper overload. Copper promotes the formation of blood vessels (angiogenesis) and when copper levels are elevated, it can predispose an individual to endometriosis and fibroid tumors, as well as increase the blood supply to other types of tumors.”
Moreover, researchers have found a direct relationship between copper imbalance and cancer. Below are a few examples.
Copper and estrogen. When copper rises, so does estrogen, which is why we are seeing such an increase of “estrogen dominance” today in both men and women. Since estrogen is a potent carcinogen, copper is implicated in the development of cancer.
Liver toxicity. When copper is in excess or biounavailable, it accumulates in the liver, rendering the organ much less efficient in its job of detoxification. When we cannot detoxify properly, our risk of cancer dramatically increases.
Copper imbalance and infections. Since copper toxicity makes us more prone to fungal and other infections, we are more vulnerable to developing cancer, as research has shown a strong correlation between bacterial, fungal and viral infections and tumors.
Zinc metabolism. An excess of copper interferes with zinc and its important role in supporting immune response. Copper also disrupts zinc’s ability to support over 100 enzymes in the body, which are involved in everything from digestion and protecting the skin to preventing infections and some types of skin cancers.
Related reading: A Guide to Heavy Metals and Their Health Effects
How to heal
The first step in identifying and healing copper toxicity is to find an experienced practitioner, one who is familiar with the disorder and can order an accurate hair mineral analysis test. Next, reduce or eliminate your exposure to high copper foods and environmental sources, as noted above. Add a daily zinc and vitamin C supplement — both are copper antagonists and will not only help to flush excess copper out of the system, but will also help to maintain adequate levels of zinc and vitamin C in the body — an important consideration as copper tends to deplete both rapidly. Lastly, avoid purely vegetarian diets. Dr. Wilson discusses in-depth the problem with copper toxicity and vegetarian diets — and the nutritional solution — here.
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