toxicityHeavy metal toxicity has become a global problem and a facet of daily living in urban communities and in areas of mining operation contamination and industrialization. Though many of these poisonous metals are elements commonly found in nature, our bodies naturally evolved defense mechanisms are not up to the task of dealing with the immense volume of toxic elements that we are being exposed to continuously in our air, food, and drinking water.

Heavy metal has been implicated as a major factor in the development of the majority of today’s cancer, chronic disease, and inflammation epidemics. Not to mention neurological diseases, behavioral disorders, learning disabilities, and even autism.

While addressing the problem of global pollution and widespread toxic element contamination is a problem we must collectively face, the focus of this article will be on the human body’s existing defenses and how you can ensure that your body has what it needs to keep these defenses up and operating at peak efficiency.

The body’s major toxic elemental guardians are the gastro-intestinal tract, the liver, and the kidneys. These three organ systems perform a type of bio-chemical relay race where they bind with, process, and excrete harmful substances that enter the body.

In the GI tract, the main defense mechanism against heavy metals is a special protein called Metallothionein. High concentrations of this protein are present in the mucous membrane of the intestine where it serves as a binding agent for heavy metals by exchanging zinc for mercury, lead, platinum, aluminum, etc.

Metallothionein also plays an important role in several other processes in the body:

  • It helps regulate zinc and copper concentration in the circulatory system.
  • It helps regulate the development and functioning of our immune system.
  • It is involved in the development of nerve cells (neurons) in the brain.
  • It inhibits yeast growth and other infections in the intestines
  • It is involved in the production of digestive fluids.

  • Individuals who have excessive copper levels, zinc deficiency, or chronic low-grade heavy metal toxicity, are more likely to have reduced amounts of metallothionein in their bodies, further compounding existing toxicity and increasing the risk of greater heavy metal accumulation and resultant negative health consequences.

    Metallothionein proteins bind with heavy metals in the gut and either send them out with the stool, or allow them to be safely delivered to the liver which will bind them with an antioxidant like glutathione.

    In order to ensure abundant levels of metallothionein proteins, there must be adequate zinc available for the body to manufacture them, as well as sufficient amounts of cysteine and glutathione. While supplementation of these nutrients in many cases can increase the body’s production of metallothionein, existing elevated levels of heavy metals and toxic elements in the body can impede the body’s delicate metallothionein regulation system. This is not to say that your body will get zero benefit from supplementation, but addressing current body burdens of heavy metals will improve your body’s metallothionein production capacity, as well as improve any heavy metal toxicity symptoms you may be currently experiencing.

    While some people may suggest against chelation as an effective or safe way of removing heavy metals from the body, our experiences with chelation here in the center after over 20 years of detoxifying people of heavy metals using a variety of chelating agents, when done properly, chelation is the most effective method for reducing heavy metal toxicity that currently exists. That said, it must be performed properly, as chelators can and do remove essential minerals from the body as well, but a properly designed protocol accounts for and handles this effect. One must also keep in mind that toxic metals, the longer they are permitted to remain in the body, the greater damage the produce. Essential minerals can be replaced, damaged DNA cannot.

    good health

    The best treatment, however, is prevention. Educating yourself on sources of heavy metal toxicity and removing them from your environment, coupled with proper dietary practices and supplementation with nutrients that assist your body in metallothionein production is among the most effective ways to prevent heavy metal toxicity in the first place.

    While there are many nutrients that can affect metallothionein production, the critical ingredients are:

  • Zinc
  • Cysteine
  • Glutathione

  • There are several forms of each of these nutrients. Our favorites are zinc glycinate, N-Acetyl Cysteine, and reduced glutathione.

    The body has mechanisms in place to guard against heavy metals and other toxic elements, however, it is your job to make sure that the body has the ingredients it requires to function, and to reduce your body’s exposure to those substances. These two tasks are an essential part of healthy living in our toxic and polluted world.