The Link Between Toxicity and Chronic Pain: Did you know that heavy metal toxicity and exposure to environmental toxins are linked to chronic pain?
We are exposed to toxins in the form of both man-made and naturally occurring substances on a daily basis. These substances are of particular concern for those with chronic pain. Heavy metals and other environmental toxins damage the central nervous system.
How many of the symptoms in this list ring true with you?
- Heavy metals cause cognitive impairment, dizziness and loss of balance, learning disabilities, speech problems depression, anxiety, mood swings, restlessness and can lead to damage in the blood vessels, anemia, hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
- Metal toxicity is also linked to fatigue; generalized muscular weakness; muscle and joint pain, stiffness, soreness, headache or migraine, canker sores; stinging tongue, belching, reflux, difficulty in swallowing or heartburn, indigestion; nausea and vomiting.
- Arsenic has been known to cause cancer of the respiratory tract both from inhalation and ingestion of the toxin.
- Mercury can cause bronchitis and pneumonia.
- Asthma can be aggravated by both arsenic and aluminum. These metals are linked to pulmonary edema and ulcers of the nose or a deviated septum.
- Heavy metals can wreak havoc with your pH levels and this can manifest in rashes and loss of bone density.
- Aluminum, copper, arsenic and mercury can cause aggravated skin conditions such as eczema.
- Thallium, lead and copper can cause muscle pain and decrease the muscle strength. Even low levels in your body can cause the endocrine system disruption and lead to aches, pains, rashes, hormone imbalance and acne.
- Many auto-immune conditions are exacerbated by heavy metal overload.
- Autism spectrum disorder is also linked to problems with heavy metals.
- New research shows that many neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Tourette’s syndrome, OCD and ADHD may be in part due to both heavy metal and environmental toxic overload.
What are heavy metals?
- Heavy metals are a class of metallic elements. Our bodies require trace amounts of some heavy metals, including copper, zinc, and others, but even these can be dangerous at high levels.
- Most people know that metals such as mercury, lead, arsenic, and cadmium have not been found to benefit the body and in fact can accumulate over time causing serious illness and even premature death.
- Because of our modern manufacturing everyone’s exposure to heavy metals has dramatically increased to the point that the overall environmental ‘load’ of heavy metal toxins is impacting people’s health.
- Remember heavy metals are found in our air, soil, and even drinking water.
- Heavy metals are used in construction materials as well as cosmetics, medicines, processed foods, fuel, appliances, and even personal care products.
What to do… the first step is to limit or avoid exposure
- Avoid aluminum contamination from drinking carbonated beverages in aluminum cans, cooking utensils, food additives, and in vaccines which contain both mercury and aluminum.
- Aluminum is used as a cleaning agent in water processing plants to clean tap water so installing a filtration system in your home to remove these elements is a smart health investment.
- Many people now realize their dental amalgam (fillings) contain mercury, tin, copper, and /or silver. This is particularly likely if your fillings were done years ago. There are holistic dentists who specialize in safely removing these old fillings and replacing them with newer non-toxic materials. Should you decide to have old mercury fillings removed it is very important to seek out a qualified dentist who knows how to remove these safely – otherwise you risk increasing intoxication from mercury.
- Certain foods such as seafood and shell-fish may also contain mercury, lead, TBT, arsenic, cadmium. And anything in a can, especially acidic foods will be subject to leaching of aluminum into the content. To limit your exposure buy organic, tested, and certified mercury-free fish and seafood and avoid consuming those fish known to contain the highest levels. Read more about consuming fish here: Is Eating Fish Still Safe?
- Lead is found in many building materials, cable covering, and roofing lead plumbing (lead pipes and copper pipes joined by lead solder).
- And lead is found in lead crystal, pottery with lead ceramic glazes, stained glass windows joined with strips of lead, old painted toys.
- Nickel plating for soldering in alloys is found in photoelectric cells, and storage batteries- (cadmium is also found in batteries).
- Care should be used handling these and proper disposal is imperative. Please do not simply put these in your garbage! Call 800-8-BATTERY. They will give you the nearest nicad recycling center near you.
- Many paints may contain lead, TBT, cadmium. If you live or work in an older home or office building you may be exposed to old paint that contains led, so take care when removing old paint and keep children away. If you plan on re-painting be sure to use no VOC paint.
- Don’t forget to check your cooking vessels! Read more here: Is your cookware poisoning your food?
How to determine if heavy metals are increasing your pain
There are testing options available to determine if heavy metals are present in your body. These options include:
- Blood tests are useful for identifying ongoing chronic exposures. However, blood testing is not a good method for identifying past exposures stored in the body’s tissues.
- Hair testing measures the body’s excretion of toxic metals over a long period of time. According to these labs the length of hair determines what time period is being averaged.
- Urine and Stool testing also measures the body’s excretion of toxic metals, but is primarily a measure of recent exposure, usually during the last few days.
- Provocation Testing is widely considered the most conclusive method. This testing involves the use of a detoxification agent, followed by a collection of urine. This test tells you two important facts: 1.) The metal was present in the body, and 2) It demonstrates that the detoxification agent can remove it. It is best to first take a baseline urine sample, followed by the provoked sample. This allows one to directly compare the effects of a provocation agent. This type of testing is typically only done by holistic doctors as it requires the use of agents not available to the general public.
But remember you can, to a large extent, determine your level of exposure risk by reviewing the above lists and taking steps to reduce your exposure and remove these harmful substances from your body through chelation.
Cleansing, detoxification & chelation – oh my!
To remove these unwanted toxins and help reduce your pain you have several options.
Cleansing and detoxing involve both avoidance of toxic substances as well as improving digestion and elimination through the liver, urine, bowl, skin and respiratory systems to naturally remove toxins through phase I and phase II detoxification.
As I have written about in past posts the first step is to reduce your toxic load! The second step is to change your eating habits and improve digestive health and only then begin a cleanse or detoxification program.
There are many methods of cleansing that have become popular (such as raw juicing). But all cleansing programs aim to alkalize the body’s pH in some way. I have written about detoxification here: What happens when you detox? and Ten Signals Your Live Needs to Detox
But before any one considers a starting cleanse or detoxification program it is very important to be sure your liver is able to handle the increase in removal and that your body can in fact remove toxins safely.
To begin with, many people have clogged livers. If you start dumping huge amounts of toxins and heavy metals into a clogged liver – guess what happens? You end up making things much worse.
This is why liver support before during and after is imperative so you do not end up doing your body more damage. Herbs that help support liver health like milk thistle, turmeric, chlorella and green tea, and nutrients like B-complex vitamins, N-acetyl cysteine, and inositol, ALA, L-methionine, taurine and DIM may be considered.
Bentonite clay is also an old method of helping to pull toxins out of the body. This type of clay assists in removal of toxins from the liver, colon and skin. It is frequently mixed with water and other substances and drunk.
Here is a recipe for a green drink/tonic with bentonite clay in it I have used:
Alkalizing Green Drink recipe (detox):
Add to large 10 -12 oz. glass of filtered water –
1 Tablespoon. Bentonite clay
1 Tablespoon Chlorophyll (Mint flavor)
1 Tablespoon Aloe Vera juice
Liquid trace minerals – as directed on bottle
Directions: Add these to a glass of water first thing in the morning. Keep adding water to the glass and dilute all day long.
Another factor is the MTHFR defect. Many people do not know they have this genetic defect that impedes detoxification. This defect affects an estimated 50% of the population can make detoxification not only difficult but dangerous!
People with this genetic problem (which can be determined by specialized testing) cannot convert the necessary B vitamins which care essential co-factors during the body’s phase I and phase II detoxification process.
….BTW, I always check to make sure that both the liver is health and capable of detoxification and will suggest additional screening by a holistic physician for anyone that has the health history indicating they may have methylation pathway issues.
Chelation – what is it?
You may have heard the term chelation but not known what it is. Chelation is a process by which one element binds to another so it can be excreted from the body. Chelation agents can be plant-based or chemical based. Contrary to what many people believe, chelation can be done without having to undergo intravenous therapy – although sometimes this is the best option.
Herbs used for chelation vary depending upon which metals you are looking to remove.
Cilantro is a herb that has been used to assist with removal of mercury, but be aware you’ll need to consume a fairly large amount of this herb in order for it to do its job – at least two tablespoons a day. Many people make the cilantro into a pesto to make it easier and palatable.
Garlic, gingko, coriander, kelp, sarsaparilla and yellow dock are other herbs said to remove various metals. Chlorella is another popular substance used to assist in detoxification in general. Again, depending upon which metals you test high for you would need to use specific herb(s) and combinations to effectively chelate them out.
There is the matter of ingesting enough of these herbs to get results and so tinctures are a good way to do this as they are much more concentrated and easier for most people to manage.
If you are going to purchase herbs please do your research because there is a lot of junk out there and the way the herbs are grown and harvested makes a huge difference in how the body reacts to them…I’ve spent a great deal of time learning about herbs and so I am pretty particular about which ones I will use and who I buy mine from…
Finally, there is a natural volcanic substance that some practitioners are using that is said to effectively remove heavy metals, PCBs, pesticides and other cancer-causing chemicals and pulls them right out of the body. Other claims are that this product binds with nitrosamines in the digestive tract, protecting people from the cancer-causing effects of processed meat preservatives. Let me say I do not know if all of these claims are true or not although I am personally trying this to see if it helps my restless leg syndrome.
Bottom line: if you believe you have heavy metal toxicity – get tested and chelate only under the supervision of a holistically trained health care practitioner and only after you have successfully done the first three things in this post. Attempting to chelate on your own for the reasons outlined in this post can be dangerous.
Dr. Baillie- Hamilton – Toxic Overload
Environmental Working Group www.ewg.org
Are you ready to stop feeling like your body is working against you and reclaim vibrant health?
Take the next step and contact me to see if we are a fit: