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Signs of Heavy Metal Toxicity

The signs of heavy metal toxicity will occur when there is an excess accumulation of metals in the body, primarily the tissues and organs, and is much more common in the population than most believe. Metals that fit the definition of “heavy” include mercury, arsenic, cadmium, lead, antimony, thallium, tin, uranium, nickel, bismuth, cerium, gallium, tellurium, gold, cobalt, zinc, copper, manganese, chromium, iron, platinum, silver and vanadium.

It’s important to note that some heavy metals like zinc, copper, manganese, chromium, iron, and even cobalt, vanadium, and tin are nutrients that the body needs in certain dosages; diseases can develop if they are not present in adequate amounts. It is when there is an excess of any particular one that toxicity occurs. On the other hand, metals like antimony, mercury, cadmium, lead, arsenic, and aluminum serve no purpose in the body and ideally should not be present in any amount.

Heavy metals may have a potentiating effect. Meaning that when one toxic metal is combined with another toxic metal it intensifies its potency or toxicity. For example, in a study by Shubert, et al. it was found that a small dose of lead or mercury only killed 1 rat out of 100, however, exposure to both mercury and lead and all 100 rats died.

They can also have an additive effect. Meaning if heavy metals are combined with some other kind of toxicity like pesticides, food additives, or petrochemicals, the accumulation of these toxins increases the impact of the metal toxin. Additionally, if heavy metal toxicity is combined with something like nutritional deficiencies the effect of the toxin may be more powerful, because without adequate nutrients, then the detoxification system cannot work properly to eliminate the metal.

This means that the standards of exposure set by the government that is generally considered to be safe cannot be considered safe if other metals or other toxins are present. One must take into account other metals and other toxins when assessing toxicity. Considering the fact that we are all exposed to many other types of toxins in our daily environment, like pesticides and petrochemicals, it is unlikely that heavy metal exposure will occur as an isolated event.

Sources of Heavy Metals

The signs of heavy metal toxicity may appear when metals enter our body through the food we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink, and our skin. Heavy metals are abundant in the environment in this day and age and are difficult to avoid altogether; here are some common sources:


Common sources of mercury include CFL Lightbulbs, fish and other seafood (especially tuna), amalgam fillings, pesticides, batteries, broken mercury thermometers, paint, cosmetics, hair dyes, fungicides, tattoos, floor polishes and waxes, fabric softeners, suppositories, some plastics, adhesives, laxatives, and some vaccinations.


Lead is commonly found in canned foods (from the can), lead-based paint, air pollution, hair dyes, car batteries, insecticides, cosmetics, smelting factories, textiles, car exhaust, dyes, gasoline, old plumbing, cigarette smoke, scrap metal.


The most common source of arsenic exposure is tap water or well water, but it is also found in apple juice, coffee, herbicides, salt, seafood, industrial pollution, air pollution, automobile exhaust, household detergents, wine, and pesticides.


The most common source for cadmium toxicity is cigarettes, but it’s also commonly found in gasoline, coffee, steel cooking pans, tap water, motor oil, candy, paint, soft drinks, oysters, batteries, processed and refined cereals, and other foods, recreational drugs like marijuana, pharmaceutical drugs, refined grains, fertilizers, rubber, copper refineries, evaporated milk, fungicides, plastic, dental alloys, cola, metal pipes, and paint


Tin can be found in amalgam fillings, tin cans, toothpaste, asparagus, solders, and some herbs like juniper, valerian, milk thistle, bilberry, dulse, licorice, pennyroyal, red clover, senna, blessed thistle, and more.


The most common source of copper exposure is pipes used in plumbing, but may also be found in water, birth control pills, hot tubs, insecticides and fungicides, some cookware, chocolate, dental materials, fungicides, oysters, copper IUD’s, jewelry, industrial emissions, automatic ice makers, and swimming pools,


Aluminum is not really a heavy metal, however, it is a toxic metal that is associated with a variety of serious health conditions like Alzheimer’s and other dementias, cancer, degenerative muscular conditions, and more, and thus is included in most conversations when talking about heavy metal detoxification. Like heavy metals, aluminum targets the digestive system, central nervous system, and kidneys.

Aluminum may be present in antacids, baking powder, amalgams, aluminum foil, nasal sprays, antiperspirants, astringents, food additives, automobile exhaust, cigarette smoke, aluminum foil, aluminum cookware, some cheeses, white flour, tap water, cans, ceramics, fireworks, buffered aspirin, soft drink cans, cigarette filters, artificial food coloring, dental amalgams, and some vaccines.

Symptoms of Heavy Metal Toxicity

Heavy metal toxicity symptoms may vary somewhat depending on which metal we are referring to and may manifest in a wide array of possibilities in the psychological and/or physiological arena. However, here are some of the most common symptoms:

  • insomnia
  • tremors
  • high blood pressure
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • emotional instability
  • chronic fatigue
  • nervousness
  • gastrointestinal disorders
  • hair loss
  • bitter or metallic taste in the mouth
  • impaired speech and hearing
  • memory loss
  • ear ringing
  • chest pain
  • clumsiness
  • dizziness
  • impaired cognitive skills
  • abdominal pain
  • confusion
  • loss of coordination
  • impaired vision and hearing
  • fever
  • muscle weakness and numbness
  • tingling in the hands and feet
  • shallow breathing
  • edema
  • headaches
  • drowsiness
  • violent outbursts
  • constipation and/or diarrhea
  • loss of appetite
  • nerve pain
  • nausea
  • vertigo
  • brain fog

It’s important to note, that many of the signs and symptoms of heavy metal toxicity are similar to or overlap with many other conditions. So it is crucial to test for heavy metals and work with a knowledgeable health care provider to rule out other possibilities.

Conditions Associated with Toxicity

The signs of heavy metal toxicity may present as nutritional deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, a weakened immune system, disruption of neurotransmitters in the brain and the endocrine system, impairment to the central nervous system, the autonomic nervous system, the gastrointestinal system, and the cardiovascular system which means the symptoms of heavy metal toxicity are often misdiagnosed and are associated with a long list of chronic health conditions including, but not limited to:

  • Parkinson’s
  • gastroenteritis
  • Alzheimer’s
  • cancer
  • rheumatoid Arthritis
  • behavioral disorders
  • attention deficit
  • hyperactivity
  • autism
  • tourette’s
  • manic depression
  • clinical depression
  • anxiety disorders
  • panic attacks
  • candida overgrowth
  • alcoholism
  • drug addiction
  • sugar addiction
  • nicotine addiction
  • caffeine addiction
  • gout
  • anemia
  • mouth, esophageal and larynx cancer
  • any autoimmune disorder
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • neuritis
  • anorexia
  • Lou Gherig’s disease or ALS
  • asthma
  • AIDS
  • food/carb/sugar addiction
  • schizophrenia
  • dermatitis
  • hardening of the arteries
  • liver disorders and cancer
  • hypoglycemia
  • lung cancer
  • skin cancer
  • bronchitis
  • parasites
  • hypertension
  • heart disease
  • kidney diseases
  • bladder cancer
  • lung cancer
  • prostate cancer
  • stomach cancer
  • thyroid disorders (hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, and thyroiditis)

However, each of these conditions can have many other primary contributing factors besides heavy metal toxicity, illustrating once again the importance of assessing whether metals exist in individuals with these conditions and working with a competent health care provider.

Heavy Metal Toxicity Test

The good news is that a heavy metal toxicity test can be used to help identify the excess accumulation of metals in the body rather easily and even affordably. You have several different options to choose from.

If you want to take matters into your own hands, the easiest and most affordable option is a hair analysis. This is a test you can perform in the comfort of your own home. A hair analysis tells you the level of metals that are being stored in your tissues. However, it is best if it is accompanied by an RBC mineral test to assess recent or ongoing exposures.

A chelation challenge test is often used by medical doctors and alternative health clinics. This is a reliable method of assessment, but it requires a visit to the doctor and is often associated with a variety of side effects.

You can read my What is the Best Heavy Metal Test page, for a more thorough discussion on the topic of heavy metal toxicity tests.

Why Signs of Heavy Metal Toxicity Occur

  1. overload with too much exposure of the particular metal
  2. insufficient levels of nutrient minerals that allow the metal to deposit on receptors
  3. impairment in the detoxification system (due to nutritional deficiencies, genetics or overload)

Toxicity can also occur by supplementing with one mineral and not the others. For example, taking zinc or molybdenum without taking copper can result in copper toxicity and vice versa. If there is toxicity of zinc, copper, manganese, chromium, then toxicity can be eliminated by supplementing the other minerals, which restores balance.

Eliminating heavy metals can be achieved quite successfully without costly intravenous chelation. With the right nutritional supplements, a bathtub, lifestyle changes, and a variety of other natural approaches, heavy metals can be addressed safely and naturally within the comfort of your own home and at your own pace. The key to eliminating heavy metal toxicity is to reduce the input and increase the output.

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