Modern life presents its own unique health challenges. Although we have made great breakthroughs on many fronts and have more health information available to us than ever before — we’re also dealing with all sorts of toxins in our food, air, and waterways. One such type of toxin is heavy metals and they can create all sorts of problems if they take up too much real estate and time in our bodies. However, removing them needs to be done thoughtfully, especially for first time detoxers and cleansers. Dr. Jess, an expert on heavy metal cleansing, sat down with us and gave us some comprehensive and practical guidance on all things heavy metals from their causes, to their impacts, and safely removing them.
Q: Firstly, can you tell us a little bit about heavy metals? What are they exactly?
A: Heavy metals are naturally occurring elements that have a high atomic weight. Their multiple manmade industrial, domestic, agricultural, medical, and technological applications have led to their wide distribution in the environment; raising concerns over their potential effects on human health and the environment. Their toxicity depends on several factors including the dose, route of exposure, as well as the age, gender, genetics, exposome, and nutritional status of exposed individuals. According to the World Health Organization, there are 12 different heavy metals of significance to the human body — aluminum, arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, cobalt, chromium, copper, manganese, nickel, tin, and titanium.
It is estimated that 25% of the population has some sort of heavy metal poisoning. They are known to interrupt biochemical processes within the body and some are classified as carcinogenic (causing cancer).
Q: How do heavy metals enter our bodies and is it possible to reduce exposure?
Yes, if we are aware, then we can totally reduce exposures! There are a number of ways heavy metals enter our body. Some heavy metals are vapors and happen through our air inhalation — for example, arsenic and mercury amalgams. Others enter through food and water. Flint, Michigan, is one testament to this as they had skyrocketing levels of lead in their water. Skin contamination is another potential route of entry into the body. To combat all of these there are some simple actions you can take such as buying water filters, eating organic food, and taking supplements. More active prevention and reduction techniques can include rigorous screening for heavy metals, safely removing mercury amalgams, and opening up drainage pathways in the body.
Q: How do I know if I have heavy metals in my system? Are there levels of heavy metal toxicity? What are some symptoms to look for or tests to take?
Great question. Heavy metals are ubiquitous in our environment and many are naturally occurring, but there are dangerous levels of inorganic metals. If you want to test for those, you’ll need a hair heavy metal test or a heavy metal test using urine provocation. Personally, I prefer the hair test as it doesn’t aggravate the heavy metals in the body as much as the urine test. Most of us have some level of heavy metals present. However, there are certain metals you do not want to see at all.
For example, there are no safe levels of mercury, lead, and aluminum. Metals, just like stealth pathogens, are not found in the bloodstream and usually settle in joints, fascia, fat tissue, and lymph. That’s why it’s not good practice to look for heavy metals with a blood test.
Symptoms are vague and hard to pinpoint. Some include gingivitis, heart disease, neuropathy, extreme shyness, mental health disorders like depression and bipolar disorder, headaches, and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. Autoimmunity and cancer are also connected. For example, we know mercury interferes with proper thyroid function.
Q: Can you share a bit about heavy metal detoxing? What is your protocol? How long does it last?
I prefer to open up the body’s natural drainage pathways, or emunctories, to help the body release metals. Regular bowel movements, bile movement, proper liver function, steady lymph flow, and daily sweating is imperative.
Stagnation really does breed disease. In fact, sweating is more efficacious than bowel movements or urine at removing certain metals like mercury, nickel, or cadmium.
Pair sweating with toxin binders such as zeolite or bentonite clay to pull out even more. I also really love the HM ET binder by Cellcore Biosciences which uses a carbon bond to inactivate the heavy metal so the body can process it safely. I also really appreciate Andy Cutler’s heavy metal detox which protects the brain while removing metals from the body. Finally, chelation is my absolute last ditch effort as there are some risks involved including mineral and nutrient stripping.
Q: Is heavy metal detoxing safe for everybody? Can you do it alone or is it recommended to use a practitioner to guide your journey?
I honestly think it’s better to use a practitioner or some sort of guide, especially if you are new to detoxing and understanding what the body’s clues might mean. If you are a pro, I feel Cellcore’s protocol and phases are pretty easy and you can always sweat in a sauna on your own too!
Q: Can I do other detoxes at the same time as a heavy metal detox?
I feel if you are appropriately pulling things out of the body and properly opening up a person’s natural drainage pathways, then you really cannot differentiate HOW and WHAT is detoxing first. For example, certain parasites, particularly intestinal acanthocephalans and cestodes of fish, can accumulate heavy metals at concentrations that are orders of magnitude higher than those in the host tissues or the environment. The mechanism which enables intestinal fish parasites to take up metals appears to be based on the presence of bile acids, which form organo-metallic complexes that are easily absorbed by the worms due to their fat content. Metals love to hide in our fat tissue! Therefore, when you attempt a parasite detox or other pathogenic cleanse, you may also be pulling metals out with the parasites.
Q: Once I’ve detoxed heavy metals from my system — are they gone for good?
Since they are ubiquitous in the environment, it is impossible to fully avoid exposure over our lifetime. The best prevention is ensuring your body can get rid of its daily exposures, without letting things settle in the body and hide there.
You can do this by making sure you cleanse your liver, move your body daily, sweat regularly, have two to three normal bowel movements per day, get lymph massages, try out breath-work, and have restorative sleep at night.
As we are bombarded by so many toxins, so often, I also recommend a full body detox for these organ systems once to twice a year. Bottom line is that even if you remove them, they may come back, so always keep your body in top priority.
Q: What are the benefits of doing a heavy metal detox?
Many people who successfully complete heavy metal detoxes are free of autoimmunity, anxiety, depression, neuropathy, brain fog, fatigue, joint pains, pain, teeth issues, and neurologic issues. This is often the answer for many people’s mystery conditions. Keeping our bodies clean and free of harmful toxins can keep our body functioning at a higher potential. Heavy metals also attract pathogens, which act as the “great decomposers” and as we can see in animal studies, digest the metals. Therefore, heavy metal detoxing protects us against microbial infestations. Remember, most of us are sick due to what is stuck inside of us that does not belong there.
Dr. Jess is a former hospitalist, internal medicine based medical doctor, and a certified Gerson Practitioner. She is an expert in the areas of stealth infections, environmental toxicity, regenerative medicine, ozone, and cannabis. Her passion lies in uncovering the mystery behind the chronic illness, whether that be stealth infections, heavy metals, stress/trauma, or other environmental toxicities. You can find her at Dr Jess MD or tune into her episode on THE FULLEST Podcast!