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Does A Heavy Metal Detox Really Work?

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person with hands surrounding an illustration of a liver to signify a detox

Exposure to heavy metals is inevitable since we absorb them through our food, water, and air. Small amounts are not cause for concern and some are even necessary for our body to function. High amounts, however, can be detrimental to our health or even fatal. The growing concern for a build-up of heavy metals in the body has led to a trend known as the “heavy metal detox,” which predominantly consists of adding certain foods and supplements to the diet to support natural detoxification processes. But does a heavy metal detox really work? And what should you do if you are showing signs of heavy metal toxicity?

How Do Heavy Metals Enter Our Bodies?

There are several ways heavy metals can enter our bodies:

  • Contaminated food and water: This is a common source of exposure to heavy metals like mercury, lead, and arsenic. Contamination can occur during agricultural processes, industrial waste, or even certain types of cookware.
  • Air pollution: Traffic fumes and industrial emissions can release heavy metals into the air, which we then inhale.
  • Consumer products: Lead can be found in old paint and some cosmetics.

Symptoms Of Heavy Metal Exposure

It’s important to note that a heavy metal detox might not be necessary for everyone. However, some signs might indicate a need to test for heavy metal exposure. These include:

  • Fatigue and low energy
  • Brain fog and difficulty concentrating
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Digestive issues
  • Unexplained weight gain or loss
  • Joint pain and muscle aches

What Is A Heavy Metals Detox? 

A heavy metal detox aims to remove excess heavy metals from the body. Heavy metals are naturally occurring elements found in the environment. Again, some metals,  like iron and zinc, are essential for our health in small amounts. However, high levels of exposure to certain heavy metals can be harmful. 

Traditional methods for removing heavy metals from the body include the use of chelation agents. These are chemicals that bind with the heavy metals so they can be removed from the blood. The process is often long, requiring weekly visits that can produce unpleasant side effects.

The heavy metal detox diet is touted as a program that can help remove toxic heavy metals from the body naturally so you can avoid more aggressive therapies. The detox typically emphasizes the consumption of certain foods, supplements, and lifestyle practices believed to support the body’s natural detoxification processes.

Key Components of a Natural Heavy Metal Detox Program

Foods to Include In The Heavy Metal Detox

Leafy Greens 

Spinach, kale, and cilantro are often recommended for their ability to bind with heavy metals.

Cruciferous Vegetables 

Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower help support liver detoxification, which is where many heavy metals can accumulate. 

Fruits 

Berries, apples, and citrus fruits are high in antioxidants and fiber, which further aid in the body’s natural detoxification processes. They are also high in vitamin C. Deficiencies in this vitamin have been linked to poor heavy metal tolerance, especially cadmium and lead.  

Garlic and Onions

These contain sulfur compounds that enhance the body’s detoxification pathways.

Nuts and Seeds

Especially those high in selenium, like Brazil nuts, which support liver health.

Seaweed 

Alginates in seaweed may help bind and remove heavy metals, mimicking the chemical chelation process on a smaller level.

Supplements To Include In The Heavy Metal Detox

  • Chlorella and Spirulina: These are algae known for their potential to bind heavy metals. You can take them in supplement form in addition to consuming seaweed as part of your diet.
  • Modified Citrus Pectin: studies have shown a significant reduction in arsenic, lead, mercury, and cadmium with daily consumption of modified citrus pectin. Emerging studies also suggest benefit when taking pectin in tandem with alginates, like chlorella and spirulina. 
  • Activated Charcoal: Sometimes used to absorb toxins in the digestive tract.
  • Milk Thistle: contains silymarin, a compound known for its liver-protecting properties.
  • Vitamin B: vitamin B deficiencies, especially B1, have been associated with higher toxicity with certain heavy metals.

Lifestyle Modifications As Part Of A Heavy Metal Detox

Certain lifestyle modifications can promote natural detoxification. These include:

Saunas

Used for hundreds of years by Scandinavians as part of a healthy lifestyle, saunas promote sweating and have been shown to support the cardiovascular system and evidence supports their use in depuration, a general form of detox. 

Please remember that saunas are not recommended for pregnant women or those with certain health conditions. Always consult your medical provider before starting any heat therapy program. 

Regular Exercise

Regular exercise, especially cardiovascular exercise, helps promote circulation and sweating and improves the body’s digestion, all of which can support the detox process. 

Hydration

Adequate hydration is a critical component of the heavy metal detox and overall health in general. The body requires water to flush out toxins, which it eliminates through sweat and waste.  

So, Does The Heavy Metal Detox Really Work?

There is evidence to support the heavy metal detox diet and lifestyle modifications as a means of reducing certain metals within the body. However, we do not recommend beginning any new diet or supplementation program without the supervision of a qualified medical practitioner.

For many, the components of the heavy metal detox are those found in any healthy lifestyle: nutrient-dense foods, regular exercise, and vitamins to address deficiencies. That being said, other parts of the program specifically target the body’s natural detoxification processes and may be a sustainable way to maintain appropriate levels of metals in the body. 

For this reason, the heavy metal detox might be considered if blood tests show slightly elevated levels. For higher levels, however, traditional chelation therapies may be warranted.   

Heavy Metal Testing in Central MS

If you are concerned about potential heavy metal exposure, your first step should be to consult with an experienced functional medicine provider. Functional medicine utilizes a holistic approach that balances dietary, lifestyle, and medications to provide long-lasting relief from your symptoms. 

Modern Health is a top functional medicine provider in central Mississippi and the surrounding areas. If you have questions about heavy metal toxicity, please contact our office for an evaluation to discuss options for lab testing and nutritional detox strategies. Our customized programs are specifically designed to help patients take proactive steps toward better overall health. Book an appointment at Modern Health to get started toward optimal wellness today! 

author avatar
John@digitalbyserenity.com
Functional Medicine,Nutrition

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