The risks of heavy metal poisoning are a frequently discussed health concern. Some definitions cite the atomic weight or a specific gravity greater than 4.0 or 5.0, but generally it refers to a group of metals and semi-metals posing a potential risk to humans and the environment – such as lead, mercury and cadmium. A danger of heavy metal toxicity is that its symptoms are commonly misdiagnosed, often as incurable chronic conditions, but if unrecognized and untreated they can lead to severe health problems and even death.
In our daily lives, it’s hard to avoid heavy metals entirely. Contaminated food, mostly fish, can contain traces of heavy metals, as can working environments, direct and passive smoking, mercury fillings and old homes that have used lead-based paint. Poisoning occurs after an excessive build up of heavy metals in the body. Usually these are flushed out via urine or fecal waste, but some people, such as those suffering from chronic conditions, cannot excrete them and this results in an accumulation over time. Toxicity also depends on individual factors such as the dose absorbed, exposure, age and route of exposure. There have also been studies that indicate a possible genetic predisposition to heavy metal toxicity .
The usual symptoms associated with heavy metal poisoning can manifest as chronic pain throughout muscles, in the tendons and soft tissues; chronic malaise; ‘brain fog’, meaning when one’s thoughts become clouded; Candida and other chronic infections; gastrointestinal complaints; food allergies; headaches and migraines; dizziness; mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety; and malfunctions in the nervous system, which may result in numbness, tingling, paralysis and/or electric shocks in the body. Recent studies have found that a link may exist between heavy metal poisoning and cardiovascular disease .
Conventional treatment for detoxifying the body can take a long time – up to years in some cases – and many have experienced side effects resulting from heavy metals being stirred up in the body before excretion. Chelation therapy is the most common form of treatment, in which agents bind to heavy metals in the body and are expelled via urine or fecal waste. Medicines commonly used for detoxification include DMSA, prescribed to patients suffering from lead poisoning. DMSA binds with the lead in the body before excretion via urine ; Calcium EDTA is a chelating agent predominantly used against lead, but it can also treat for mild effects against mercury, arsenic and gold poisoning . Finally, DMPS is a strong chelating agent treating mercury poisoning, with ten times the strength of DMSA.
Maintaining a healthy diet can also help prevent and alleviate the symptoms of heavy metal poisoning. This means eating foods high in anti-oxidants; probiotics; cilantro, as anecdotal studies have shown that they may mobilize mercury and other toxic metals , making it easier for chelating agents to expel them from the body. It is also a good idea to avoid consuming deep-sea fish and shellfish, which may be high in mercury. Exercise can help aid in the release of toxins, since sweating is a natural way to detoxify.
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