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Health Concerns

Heavy Metal Detoxification

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Heavy metals (including lead, cadmium, mercury, and the metalloid arsenic) are persistent in the environment and have documented potential for serious health consequences. Heavy metal toxicity may damage:

  • central nervous system
  • cardiovascular system
  • gastrointestinal system
  • lungs
  • kidneys
  • liver
  • endocrine glands
  • bones

Fortunately, integrative interventions like selenium and garlic have been shown to decrease the buildup and increase the excretion of toxic heavy metals.

Risk Factors for Toxic Metal Exposure


  • Lead-containing plumbing
  • Lead-based paints (in buildings built before 1978 and is the predominant source for children)  
  • Foods grown in lead-rich soil


  • Eating fish or shellfish contaminated with methylmercury (includes shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tile fish, bass, walleye, pickerel)
  • Breathing contaminated workplace air or skin contact during use in the workplace
  • Release of mercury vapor from dental amalgam fillings


  • Tobacco smoke
  • Eating foods containing cadmium (levels are highest in grains, legumes, and leafy vegetables, fish and shellfish)
  • Contact with cadmium from household products (electric batteries and solar panels)

Signs and Symptoms

These can be similar to other health conditions and may not be immediately recognized as due to heavy metal toxicity:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Central nervous system dysfunction
  • Heart problems
  • Anemia


  • Blood testing
  • Urine testing
  • Hair and nail analysis

Conventional Therapies

  • Chelation therapy, which enhances the elimination of metals (both toxic and essential) from the body, including:
    • DMPS, an oral medication for arsenic, cadmium, and mercury toxicity
    • Succimer (DMSA), an oral medication for mild-to-moderate lead, arsenic and mercury toxicity
    • Calcium-disodium EDTA for lead encephalopathy and lead poisoning

Novel and Emerging Therapies

  • Toxicogenomics, the study of gene expression changes by toxin exposure
  • New chelation therapies, including polygamma-glutamic acid-coated superparamagnetic nanoparticles that have a high specificity for metal toxins

Dietary and Lifestyle Changes

  • Avoid or replace mercury amalgam dental fillings with mercury-free composite material
  • Maintain nutrient sufficiency, as adequate intake of essential trace minerals may reduce toxic metal uptake
  • Limit consumption of high-mercury fish to no more than 1 serving/week

Integrative Interventions

  • Selenium: Selenium is an inhibitor of mercury accumulation and increases excretion of mercury and arsenic
  • Vitamin C: A free-radical scavenger that has been shown to reduce lead levels in humans
  • Folate: Higher blood folate levels in pregnant women were associated with lower blood mercury and cadmium levels
  • Garlic: Garlic lowered lead levels in the blood of industrial workers as effectively as the chelator d-penicillamine
  • Alpha-Lipoic Acid and Glutathione: In preclinical studies, these compounds reduced the adverse changes in blood parameters due to lead, cadmium, and copper