Do You Need a Heavy Metal Detox?

sauna

For millions of Americans, mood issues, low energy and cognitive problems may be due to heavy metal toxicity. However, not everyone with elevated levels of heavy metals experiences noticeable symptoms. In fact, that was the case for me. For decades, I have helped people adopt habits that enhance brain and body health, and I always try to lead by example.

That’s why I was shocked when I did a common hair sample for heavy metals, and it showed surprisingly high levels of mercury, lead, and arsenic. Honestly, I was a bit horrified. I then did a more specific urine challenge test, which confirmed the results. I was being poisoned, not by my wife (I hope), but by exposure and sluggish detoxification pathways.

Thankfully, using the program I will share, 6 months later my levels are normal.

In this blog, I’ll share what causes elevated levels of heavy metals in the body and brain and strategies on how to lower them, without side effects, guided by our Amen Clinics Integrative Physicians Mark Filidei and Eboni Cornish.

For millions of Americans, mood issues, low energy and cognitive problems may be due to heavy metal toxicity (heavy metal poisoning). Even people who lead a healthy lifestyle can unknowingly have excessive toxicity. Click To Tweet

WHAT IS HEAVY METAL TOXICITY?

When heavy metals accumulate in the body over time, it can lead to heavy metal toxicity (heavy metal poisoning).

Metals that can be toxic to your body include:

  • Mercury: Found in dental amalgam fillings, seafood, liquid in thermometers, batteries, lightbulbs, and more. For me, it was likely mercury fillings and eating fish, which is not always brain healthy.
  • Lead: Found in construction materials, water contaminated by lead pipes, paint, batteries, some personal care products, gasoline, and more. Decades ago, the U.S. government required that lead be removed from gasoline and paint. However, this requirement didn’t apply to small aircraft aviation fuel. At Amen Clinics, 100 pilots underwent brain SPECT scans. The brain scans showed significant brain toxicity in two-thirds of them. We suspected it was caused by lead and other toxins that they are exposed to when they fly. I had done a lot of flying last year.
  • Arsenic: Found in seafood, pesticides, insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, contaminated water, enamels, and more. Not sure why for me.
  • Aluminum: Found in deodorant and other personal care products, food, water, medicine, packaging, construction materials, and more.
  • Cadmium: Found in foods like shellfish and some organ meats, batteries, plastics, cigarette smoke, and more.
  • Chromium: Found in paints, stains, industrial products, personal care products, foods, and more.

These metals enter the body, travel through the bloodstream, and infiltrate the cells within vital organs, tissues, and even in fat cells. When heavy metals bind to receptors in the body’s organs, it prevents them from performing their intended functions.

Once they have penetrated their way into the body, heavy metals can be difficult to eliminate and may remain stuck for years, even decades.

HEAVY METAL TOXICITY AND THE BRAIN

Overexposure to heavy metals harms the brain. On brain SPECT scans, heavy metal toxicity is associated with a pattern called “scalloping” in which there is overall low activity in the brain.

SPECT is a brain-imaging technology that measures blood flow and activity in the brain. It shows areas of the brain with healthy activity, too much activity, and too little activity. The SPECT scan below of a person with toxic exposure shows low blood flow and activity throughout the brain.

Healthy vs Toxic Exposure SPECT Scan

healthy brain SPECT scan    toxic spect brain scan

                                 Healthy                                                        Toxic

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF HEAVY METAL TOXICITY

Heavy metal toxicity can cause a host of psychological, cognitive, emotional, and physical symptoms, such as:

  • Brain fog
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Memory problems
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Headaches
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Aches and pains
  • Insomnia
  • Nervous system conditions
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Kidney dysfunction
  • Vascular dysfunction
  • Chronic infections
  • Birth defects
  • Cancer

Exposure to certain heavy metals has also been associated with a range of mental health disorders and cognitive issues. For example, it’s been linked to clinical depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, and ADD/ADHD in children.

Research shows that overexposure to heavy metals is also associated with increased risk of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.

Other studies point to a greater likelihood of developing cognitive impairment following exposure to multiple heavy metals.

In some people, like me, high levels of heavy metals cause no noticeable symptoms. That’s why I was so shocked by my test results.

Dr. Amen’s Heavy Metals Test Results

Date 6/21/23 Normal Range
Mercury 32 <5 μg/g Creat
Lead 6.9 <1 µg/g Creat *
Arsenic 95 <10 μg/g Creat

 

*Note that many scientists say that no level of lead is safe.

Even though I wasn’t experiencing any signs of heavy metal toxicity, I was well aware of the risks. As a brain health specialist, I wanted to do everything possible to protect my brain and cognitive health—now and in the future.

That’s why I committed to performing a heavy metal detox.

If you think you may be experiencing symptoms related to heavy metal toxicity, it’s important to seek help. Make an appointment with an integrative medicine (also called functional medicine) physician to test your levels. Urine and hair tests are routinely used to assess these levels.

HOW TO DO A HEAVY METAL DETOX

What is a heavy metal detox? It’s a protocol that is intended to remove excess heavy metals from a person’s body. A detox program typically involves reducing exposure to heavy metals and using treatments, supplements, and foods that help flush the metals from the body.

As part of a detox program, it’s important to support the body’s four organs of detoxification: skin, liver, kidneys, and gut.

  1. Avoid toxins.

Quit smoking, remove amalgam dental fillings if you have them, stop using aluminum or Teflon cookware, and eliminate personal care products and household cleaners that contain toxins.

  1. Eat organic foods.

One study found that by switching to organic food for just two weeks, a family experienced a 95% decrease in pesticide levels in a their urine. Another study showed that compared to kids who ate organic foods, those who consumed foods grown conventionally had nine times higher levels of neurotoxic pesticides.

  1. Eat foods that enhance detoxification.

Opt for foods with sulfur, such as broccoli and garlic, according to research in Scientific World Journal. In addition, go for fiber-rich foods like vegetables, fruits, and gluten-free grains, which have been shown to reduce mercury levels in blood and in the brain. Early research also suggests that cilantro may reduce the absorption of heavy metals.

  1. Avoid foods that may contain toxins.

Stop drinking cocktails, wine, and beer because alcohol is a toxin that negatively impacts brain and body function. Avoid non-organic foods that contain pesticides and other potential toxins. Skip foods with additives or artificial dyes. And don’t eat foods that are potential allergens, such as gluten, sugar, dairy, and soy.

  1. Take supplements that may aid with detoxification. These are the ones I took.

  • Activated charcoal: Used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic healing and Chinese medicine, activated charcoal is a black powder that binds to heavy metals, poisons, and other toxins in the body. This helps flush them out of the body.
  • Bentonite clay: Research shows that bentonite clay acts as a detoxifying agent, absorbing substances such as toxic materials. When the body excretes the clay, these other substances go with it.
  • Shilajit: This sticky, tar-like substance contains fulvic acid, which acts like a chelating agent. It binds to heavy metals, making it easier to flush them out through urine and feces. A 2012 study shows fulvic acid may promote cognitive health.
  • Chlorella: Research has found that this form of green algae decreases toxicity levels in people with amalgam dental fillings and other dental implants. heightens mercury detoxification in mice.
  • Spirulina: This chelating agent may be protective against toxic heavy metals. A 2020 review found five studies showing that spirulina was beneficial for arsenic toxicity in humans.
  1. Take saunas.

One systematic review found that sweating with saunas or physical activity could help reduce levels of heavy metals. In fact, it found that regular use of saunas brought mercury levels into the normal range.

POST-HEAVY METAL DETOX RESULTS

Following a heavy metal detox, levels can improve significantly. After about three months of following a program to detoxify from heavy metal exposure, I re-tested my levels. Then I tested them again nearly three months after that.

As you can see in the chart below, my levels dropped dramatically.

Dr. Amen’s Heavy Metals Test Results

Date 6/21/23 10/9/23 12/29/23 Normal Range
Mercury 32 9.3 5.2 <5 μg/g Creat 6-fold drop
Lead 6.9 6.1 5.8 <1 µg/g Creat * 16% drop
Arsenic 95 9.7 9.4 <10 μg/g Creat 10-fold drop

 

Reducing heavy metal toxicity in the body and brain is so important, because it can help protect you from experiencing symptoms now or in the future.

Brain fog, depression, anxiety, ADD/ADHD, and other issues associated with heavy metal toxicity can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

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