Hidden toxins, such as copper, iron, and parasites, can have a significant impact on our health. These toxins can accumulate in our bodies and contribute to chronic health conditions, such as inflammation, chronic fatigue, and hormonal imbalances. In this article, we will explore the sources, effects, and methods of detoxing from these hidden toxins.
Let’s take a step back from the obvious toxins in our modern world like lead, mercury, pollution, and mold and take a look at hidden toxins that are essential to biological function in limited amounts, yet become toxic when they are allowed to accumulate in the body. While most detox protocols take months and even years, two of the hidden toxins we are talking about, copper and iron, are easy to identify and remove from the body quickly.
Copper is an essential trace mineral that is present in many foods, including nuts, seeds, tea, cacao, liver, oysters, and avocados. Copper is necessary for a number of physiological processes, including the formation of collagen, the absorption of iron, red blood cell creation, nerve cell maintenance, and the production of energy.1
A lack of copper is associated with fatigue, weakness, iron deficiency, frequent illness, weak bones, memory issues, problems walking, cold sensitivity, premature gray hair, and a loss of vision. Copper has an affinity for the brain, kidneys, liver, muscles, and bones.2
On the other hand, excessive levels of copper, almost exclusively from inorganic copper that comes from copper water pipes, dental fillings, and copper IUDs, can lead to toxicity.3 Around 2/3 of all residences in the United States contain copper water pipes. Take a look at your plumbing and see if copper pipes are supplying your water. If you have been drinking that water for years, there is a high probability that you may be suffering from copper toxicity. To safely continue to drink from copper pipes, run the water through a reverse osmosis system before consumption.
Copper is contained in some silver-mercury amalgam dental fillings and may contribute to copper toxicity while also increasing the rate of mercury accumulation in the body.4 5
Copper is present in non-hormonal IUDs. The reason copper is used in IUDs is that copper generates an inflammatory reaction within the uterus that creates a toxic environment for the eggs and sperm.6 This is how IUDs prevent pregnancy. A copper IUD is one of the most prominent reasons for copper poisoning and presents a real danger to women who use it on a regular basis.5
Long-term copper toxicity can result in DNA damage, mitochondrial damage, and injured neurons. Excess copper accumulates in the brain leading to neurotransmitter abnormalities.7 There is evidence to suggest that copper accumulation plays a role in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, ALS, and Parkinson’s.8
The physical symptoms of acute copper toxicity include stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, problems breathing, low blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, jaundice, liver damage, kidney damage, and headaches.9
It is important to address copper toxicity as early as possible to prevent long-term health effects.
Testing For Copper Toxicity
To test for copper toxicity, a tissue mineral analysis (hair test) is the typical approach, however, an Oligo Scan is far more reliable. A hair test is excellent for testing mineral ratios within the body, but not great for testing heavy metal accumulation.
The reason why an Oligo Scan is the up-and-coming method for heavy metal testing is that it offers an intracellular scan that is clinically consistent. In other words, an Oligo Scan tests levels of heavy metals within the living tissue. An Oligo Scan also has the results within 5 minutes and is relatively inexpensive when compared to other diagnostic tools.5
Reversing Copper Toxicity
To prevent and reverse copper toxicity, it is important to avoid sources of inorganic copper, such as water from copper pipes and dietary supplements that contain copper. It is also important to get any copper-mercury dental fillings removed and to avoid using copper IUDs.
Copper is quickly excreted from the body through bile and gastrointestinal secretions.10 Since organic copper sources like nuts, seeds, and avocados are not the underlying issue, continue to eat a healthy, balanced diet. It is also helpful to consume foods that are high in zinc, such as beef, chicken, and oysters, as zinc can help to excrete inorganic copper from the body.
Consuming nutrients and supplements that can help excrete excess copper, such as zinc, manganese, lithium orotate, resveratrol, and vitamin C can also be beneficial.11 12
Iron is found in a variety of foods, including red meat, poultry, and seafood. Iron is an essential mineral required for both growth and development. Iron is used to make hemoglobin, which carries oxygen throughout the body, as well as myoglobin, which provides oxygen to muscles. Iron is also necessary for the production of hormones.13
An excess of iron doesn’t always have noticeable symptoms, however, iron toxicity can cause symptoms such as abdominal pain, joint pain, vomiting, loss of sex drive, gray-colored skin, and liver damage.
Prolonged excessive levels of iron in the body are associated with various conditions, including hemochromatosis, porphyria, chronic inflammatory disorders, liver disease, hyperthyroidism, and alcohol abuse. High levels of iron can also cause oxidative stress, which can lead to premature aging.14 15
An excess of iron causes free radical damage. Additionally, there is strong evidence to suggest that high levels of iron are correlated with developing Alzheimer’s Disease.16 Excess accumulation of iron is also present in the brains of individuals who suffer from Parkison’s Disease.17
As we are growing, iron is extremely important, but as we mature, iron accumulates in the body and causes undesirable health consequences. After we reach the age of 40, many of us have unhealthy iron levels. To reduce iron levels, it is advisable to donate blood every 3 to 4 months.5
Testing For Iron Toxicity
To test for iron levels, a Ferritin test can be performed. If ferritin levels are above 100 mg/ML, it is advisable to take steps to reduce iron levels. It is important to keep iron levels within a healthy range to prevent long-term health effects. Realize that iron levels that reach as high as 300 mg/ML are considered normal by modern standards.18 However, iron levels this high are a recipe for disaster.
The relationship between people who live in the Blue Zones of the world, meaning they have the highest lifespan worldwide, and their ferritin blood levels are notable. Typically, these populations have ferritin levels between 50 and 70 mg/ML.18 If you fall above this range, take basic measures to quickly correct your iron levels.
Reversing Iron Toxicity
To reduce iron levels, it is important to avoid iron supplements and stop cooking with cast-iron cookware. Donating blood can also help to lower iron levels, as can consuming foods that inhibit iron absorption, such as tea and red wine.19 The French Paradox is often attributed to the consumption of wine with red meat, as it results in a reduction in iron absorption.5
Inositol hexaphosphate (IP6) is a compound that chelates iron and copper out of the body.17 IP6 has been shown to exhibit strong anti-cancer properties by activating tumor suppressor genes.20 Furthermore, IP6 is inexpensive and widely available.
Water fasting can also help to reduce iron levels.21
Parasitic infections are common in the United States, with millions of Americans developing parasitic infections each year. The most common way to contract a parasitic infection is through contaminated food and water or contact with infected animals.
Limited numbers of parasites often don’t cause noticeable symptoms but can present an issue if they are allowed to overpopulate the body. Parasites can cause symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, and weight loss. These infections can cause serious health problems, including seizures, blindness, pregnancy complications, heart failure, and even death.22
Parasites can come in many forms including protozoans, roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, and flukes, among others. The most common parasitic infections in the United States include Chagas disease, cyclosporiasis, cysticercosis, toxocariasis, toxoplasmosis, and trichomoniasis.23
Although parasites are a natural part of the human microbiome, it is important to maintain a symbiotic balance. A parasite cleanse can be performed once or twice a year to help improve this ecosystem. Anti-parasitic products like Panacur C and Ivermectin are excellent at removing parasites from the body.
Hidden Toxins – Copper, Iron, And Parasites
While there are an infinite number of hidden toxins, copper, iron, and parasites are the most common. Since we often don’t think about copper and iron as toxic heavy metals, we may not consider ways to avoid them. However, if you are experiencing side effects of either copper or iron toxicity, get a test done to determine whether or not you are exceeding toxic levels. Since it is relatively easy to reduce the accumulation of both copper and iron, it can be one of the simplest ways to improve your health quickly.
As far as parasites, removing the toxic burden they place on the body on at least a yearly basis can improve overall biological function and may improve idiopathic symptoms.
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3 Keenan, Joanne et al. “Acute exposure to organic and inorganic sources of copper: Differential response in intestinal cell lines.” Food science & nutrition vol. 6,8 2499-2514. 20 Oct. 2018, doi:10.1002/fsn3.857
4 Center for Devices and Radiological Health. (2021, February 18). Dental Amalgam Fillings. U.S. Food And Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/dental-devices/dental-amalgam-fillings
5 Gittleman, A. L. (2021). Radical Longevity: The Powerful Plan to Sharpen Your Brain, Strengthen Your Body, and Reverse the Symptoms of Aging. Adfo Books.
6 Kate Shkodzik, MD. (2020, April 14). Copper IUDs: Everything You Need to Know about Non-hormonal IUDs. Flo.health – #1 Mobile Product For Women’s Health. https://flo.health/menstrual-cycle/sex/birth-control/copper-iuds
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12 Mills, C F. “Metabolic interactions of copper with other trace elements.” Ciba Foundation symposium vol. 79 (1980): 49-69. doi:10.1002/9780470720622.ch4
13 “Office of Dietary Supplements – Iron.” NIH Office of Dietary Supplements, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-Consumer/.
14 Mogl, M. T., Pascher, A., Presser, S. J., Schwabe, M., Neuhaus, P., & Nuessler, N. C. (2007). An unhappy triad: hemochromatosis, porphyria cutanea tarda and hepatocellular carcinoma-a case report. World journal of gastroenterology, 13(13), 1998–2001. https://doi.org/10.3748/wjg.v13.i13.1998
15 “Ferritin Test.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 28 Nov. 2019, www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/ferritin-test/about/pac-20384928.
16 Peng Y, Chang X, Lang M. Iron Homeostasis Disorder and Alzheimer’s Disease. Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Nov 18;22(22):12442. doi: 10.3390/ijms222212442. PMID: 34830326; PMCID: PMC8622469.
17 Xu Q, Kanthasamy AG, Reddy MB. Neuroprotective effect of the natural iron chelator, phytic acid in a cell culture model of Parkinson’s disease. Toxicology. 2008 Mar 12;245(1-2):101-8. doi: 10.1016/j.tox.2007.12.017. Epub 2007 Dec 27. PMID: 18255213.
18 Buettner, Dan. The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest. National Geographic, 2012.
19 Hallberg, L, and L Rossander. “Effect of different drinks on the absorption of non-heme iron from composite meals.” Human nutrition. Applied nutrition vol. 36,2 (1982): 116-23.
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21 Wojciak, Rafal W. “Effect of short-term food restriction on iron metabolism, relative well-being and depression symptoms in healthy women.” Eating and weight disorders : EWD vol. 19,3 (2014): 321-7. doi:10.1007/s40519-013-0091-2
22 “CDC Warns of Common Parasites Plaguing Millions in the U.S.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 8 May 2014, www.cbsnews.com/news/parasites-causing-infections-in-the-us-cdc-says/.23 “CDC – Parasites – Neglected Parasitic Infections (NPIs) in the United States.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 Nov. 2020, www.cdc.gov/parasites/npi/index.html.