Copper Toxicity: Symptoms and Treatment
Copper Toxicity is a condition that is increasingly common in this day and age, due to the widespread occurrence of copper in our food, our hot water pipes, along with the common nutritional deficiencies in Zinc, Manganese and other trace minerals that keep levels of Copper from getting too high.
The use of birth control pills increases a woman's risk of having a Copper toxicity condition due to estrogen's effect of increasing copper retention in the kidneys. Estrogen over stimulates Aldosterone receptors in the kidneys, increasing Sodium, Copper and water retention. Both estrogen and Copper tend to raise the blood pressure by increasing water retention, raising the blood volume.
Copper builds up first in the liver and disrupts the liver's ability to detoxify the blood in general. This Copper toxicity in the liver therefore disrupts the Liver's ability to detoxify excess estrogen and other toxic heavy metals from the body by blocking Zinc in the binding sites of metallothionein and other Zinc dependent Liver enzymes needed to make Glutathione .
Other sources of chemicals which mimic estrogen, known as xeno-estrogens, may also increase the retention of copper. These include pesticides, plastic bags, Volatile organic compounds (VOC's), growth hormones used on animals, and all petrochemical waste products used in the manufacturing of plastic, gasoline and other petrochemical derivatives. These are all referred to as Xeno-estrogens.
Copper is a very stimulating mineral to the nerves and nervous system. Copper increases the production of epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine while also implicated in a decrease of histamine. These effects on neurotransmitter levels can give rise to many psychological imbalances such as mood swings, depression, mental agitation, feeling over-stimulated, restlessness, anxiety, insomnia and a racing mind with too many thoughts are all hallmarks of elevated Copper toxicity.
Elevated Copper in the body acts like caffeine or even amphetamines. It constantly keeps the conversion of dopamine into norepinephrine going so that you have a constant adrenaline rush to help you be on the go, but you also are unable to settle down or turn off your mind.
Copper toxicity symptoms
- Hair loss
- Attention deficit disorder
- Candida overgrowth
- Male infertility
- Migraine Headaches
- Chronic infections
- Racing thoughts
- Neuralgia (nerve pain)
- Bipolar (Manic Depression)
Copper and ATP
Copper is a necessary component in the manufacturing of ATP (Adenosine triphosphate) which is cellular energy. Low levels of Copper is associated with chronic fatigue. When someone has a Copper toxicity condition, they will most likely also have a concurrent Copper deficiency due to a bio-unavailability.
Copper must be bound to special binding proteins, Ceruloplasmin and Metallothionine, in order to be able to get into the cells where it can be used by the Mitochondria to make ATP energy in the Kreb's cycle. These proteins Ceruloplasmin and Metallothionein are made in the Liver upon receiving a signal from the Adrenal glands to produce these proteins. If there is a dysfunction with either the Liver or the Adrenals, or if there is just not enough Zinc in the body (Zinc is needed to produce all proteins in the body, especially Metallothionein), than these two proteins will be lacking and free and unbound Copper will begin accumulating in the blood.
When Copper is not properly bound to the proteins Ceruloplasmin and Metallothionein:
- The Copper cannot get into the cells to make ATP.
- Copper is now in a toxic and unbound form in the blood, agitating all of the tissues and creating many free radical type of reactions.
- Toxic Copper must be removed from the blood immediately so this Copper begins to build up in the soft tissues of the Liver, brain, thyroid, ovaries, skin, joints, nerves and all other soft tissues.
- This Copper toxicity seriously disturbs mental function, irritates the nerves and nervous system leading to many inflammatory conditions, agitates and stimulates the Adrenal glands, suppresses Zinc's function and its many roles in the body such as:
Zinc is needed to produce all proteins:
- Digestive enzymes
- Insulin production
- production of Adrenal hormones: Cortisol, Aldosterone, Progesterone, Testosterone
- Immune cells: killer T-cells, macrophages, eosinophils
- Zinc is needed in healing of wounds and scar tissue and all tissue repair, especially post operative healing.
- Maintaining healthy skin and clear complexion
- Detoxification binding proteins: Metallothionein, Glutathione, Ceruloplasmin
Copper levels rise in response to Stress.
When the mind and body is faced with mental, emotional or physical stress, the nervous system responds by switching to the Sympathetic nervous system also referred to as the “fight or flight" stress reaction.
This "Fight or Flight" stress reaction requires a jolt of quick energy to give us the adequate resources to be mentally alert and capable of handling the "Danger" which this stress mechanism was designed to protect us from. The Adrenals provide this energy in the form of Adrenaline, Cortisol, and Aldosterone.
Aldosterone works by increasing the retention of Sodium and Copper in the Kidneys, which are substances that provide that quick energy and mental alertness needed for the stress reaction. At the same time, Aldosterone causes an increase in the elimination of Zinc and Magnesium because these two minerals have a calming and sedating effect on the nervous system. Your body has no need for calming and sedating substances when it is preparing for a fight or quick escape.
Under normal circumstances, this temporary rise in Copper and Sodium and concurrent decline in Zinc and Magnesium is very useful in responding to a distressing situation, and the body chemistry is balanced quickly after the danger has passed.
However, with repeated stressors and stress reactions occurring on a daily basis for weeks, months and years, this Biochemical pattern becomes more and dysfunctional and increasingly difficult to reverse.
The stimulating effects of Copper on the Adrenal glands is partly the reason why Copper is so agitating to the nerves, brain, and tissues. When the Adrenal glands are constantly being stimulated by stress, the body retains Copper and eliminates Zinc. Zinc is necessary for the removal of all toxic heavy metals including Copper, and is also necessary for the production of neurotransmitters in the brain. When the brain starts becoming saturated with Copper but is lacking the necessary neurotransmitters to calm the brain, the mind becomes very agitated and is prone to severe mood swings and the mind and body generally feels agitated, making it very hard to relax.
These stress reactions in turn cause an even greater increase in Copper and a continuing decline in Zinc and Magnesium.
Since Zinc is needed to create the proteins Ceruloplasmin and Metallothionein which make Copper bio-available and non-toxic, this decline of Zinc causes a Copper toxicity which builds up first in the Liver, then the Brain, skin, nerves, muscles, ligaments, connective tissues, etc.
This lack of Zinc and Magnesium is in itself somewhat agitating to the brain and nervous system since they act to sedate and calm the mind. Coupled with the agitating effects of Copper toxicity in the brain, you now have a biochemical pattern that readily produces Stress reactions which continue to stimulate the Adrenal glands to produce more Aldosterone, Cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine. Copper is also very stimulating to the brain and causes the over-production of the stimulating neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, epinephrine and norepinephrine, causing manic behavior, paranoia, anxiety, Bipolar disorder, and even Schizophrenia
Stress and Adrenal Function
When the Adrenal glands are always being stimulated by stress reactions and Copper toxicity, constantly being called upon to produce hormones like cortisol, aldosterone epinephrine and norepinephrine, after a while your Adrenals become depleted in energy and your cortisol, aldosterone and adrenaline levels begin to decline.
Cortisol is the main anti-inflammatory compound in the body, so if the production of cortisol declines, you end up with all sorts of chronic infections, and chronic inflammatory diseases. And since Copper is also very agitating to the tissues like the nerves and skin, inflammation of all types increases.
Cortisol is also the main Gluccocorticoid responsible for maintaining Blood sugar levels. Cortisol maintains blood sugar levels by converting fats and proteins into glucose. When there is an insufficient amount of Cortisol, the risk of having a Hypoglycemic attack. When blood sugar levels drop severely, that again puts the body into a state of panic, which puts the nervous system into that same old "fight or flight" reaction.
This can also lead to a perpetual cycle of Stress, decreased Zinc and Magnesium, increased Copper toxicity, more Adrenal Fatigue, low levels of Cortisol, Hypoglycemia and Blood sugar swings.
This creates a situation where you have intense Sugar cravings as you panic to try to raise your blood sugar. The intake of Sugar in a pure form, such as:
- Energy bars
- Fruit juice
- Chips, crackers, pasta, potatoes, starches
- Alcohol creates yet another Stress reaction as our Adrenals are stimulated by the large quantities of Sugar entering the blood all at once, instead of the preferred steady trickle. The body immediately starts producing and releasing Insulin in the Pancreas to get the Sugar out of the blood as quickly as possible.
Elevated Blood sugar levels degenerate all of the tissues and is the reason why Diabetes is such a deadly disease and causes blindness, gangrene, loss of limbs, nerve degeneration, numbness, kidney disease and death. Sugar in large quantities is a toxic substance.
Sugar, like all Toxins such as Heavy Metals, Copper, Mercury, Aluminum, etc., food preservatives, alcohol, household cleaners, VOC's (Volatile Organic Compounds), bleach, and other industrial chemicals in our environment, all cause a Stress reaction in the body.
This stress reaction over-stimulates the Adrenals again (Zinc and Magnesium declines, Copper and Sodium levels rise) giving us the sense of energy. Many people who have Adrenal Fatigue rely on toxins such as Alcohol, Sugar, and the toxins in the environment to stimulate the Adrenals to produce a stress reaction which will give us the False impression of Energy, when in fact we are completely burnt out. Copper and other Heavy Metals which have accumulated continue to create internal Stress reactions which both stimulate the release of energy and also continue to deplete our stores of energy. These internal Toxins become sources of stress and agitation that prevent the Adrenal glands from ever truly relaxing out of the "Fight or Flight" sympathetic nervous system, and into the Recovery mode of the Parasympathetic nervous system, which is needed for sleep and digestion and truly regenerating our energy.
Copper Toxicity makes it impossible to truly and completely relax, so you can never truly rest and allow your Adrenals to heal and regenerate. They just keep being stimulated to death, or Adrenal Burnout.
Put into a sequence, it looks like this:
1. Low blood sugar attack or some other Stressor
3. "Fight or Flight" reaction
4. Zinc and Magnesium gets eliminated
5. Copper and Sodium levels rise
6. Adrenal glands produce more epinephrine and cortisol
7. Adrenals become fatigued and are unable to signal the production of Ceruloplasmin and Metallothionein in the Liver
8. The lack of Zinc in the body from all the stress reactions, lack of dietary nutrition, and the suppressing effect of Copper on Zinc's ability to function, causes a decline in the production of all proteins in the body: Ceruloplasmin, Metallothionein, Digestive enzymes, Neuro- transmitters, etc.
9. Copper remains unbound in the blood and so gets stashed away in the Liver, Brain, joints, nerves, muscles and other soft tissues
10. This Copper Toxicity continues to agitate the mind, nervous system and Adrenal glands, keeping the nervous system in a perpetual state of "fight or flight".
11. The mind and body are unable to relax due to agitating effects of Copper toxicity, the lack of Zinc and Magnesium, an inability for Zinc to help create calming neurotransmitters in the brain, and the Adrenal fatigue which causes an inability to relax out of the sympathetic nervous system into the parasympathetic nervous system.
12. This leads to insomnia, anxiety, over-emotional behavior, Bipolar syndrome, mania, PMS, Mental disorders such as Schizophrenia and Depression.
Adrenal Fatigue and Copper
Adrenal fatigue alone can cause Depression as the body is unable to perform the many tasks that modern society demands of us. So we turn to stimulants such as Coffee, chocolate, sugar and even Stress itself to give us a quick rush of energy, so we go numb to how tired we really feel. It can become very hard to stop using these stimulants since the Adrenal fatigue, which lies underneath this false energy, can feel so debilitating.
If we don't give the Adrenal glands a chance to rest and regenerate, they will continue to under-perform and the production of Cortisol and Adrenaline will continue to decline. This will severely reduce the production of Ceruloplasmin and Metallothionein, which as I stated previously, are necessary in the proper binding of Copper in the blood, so that it can get into the cells for energy production, and to prevent all of the degenerative effects of Copper toxicity.
Copper and Women
Because estrogen increases the retention of Copper in the body, many women who take Birth Control pills to control their PMS and pre-menstrual symptoms, menstrual cramps and acne are actually creating an environment within their bodies which will exacerbate those exact symptoms.
Both Copper and Mercury can accumulate in the Thyroid and cause Hashimoto's Thyroiditis or block the conversion of T4 into T3, the active form of Thyroid hormone. Estrogen has a similar structure to T3 and can block thyroid receptors on cell membranes throughout the body, causing a physiological Hypothyroidism, even though T3 production may be normal.
Hypothyroidism is much more common in women, in part due to the effects of estrogen on the bioavailability of Thyroid hormone. Low thyroid action results in a slower metabolism with weight gain, fatigue, low immunity, and feelings of cold.
Copper and the Liver
In Chinese medical theory, the period is regulated by the Liver which, when loaded with a toxic burden of excess Copper buildup, will become stagnant and be unable to perform its task of keeping everything flowing and circulating smoothly.
This results in such signs of Liver Qi stagnation as:
- Abdominal Pain
- Angered easily
- Muscle spasms and tension
- Tight ligaments
See how these Liver Qi stagnation symptoms are just about identical to Copper toxicity symptoms. Stress and our adverse reaction to it has an extraordinary effect on our health in a multitude of ways.
The Liver likes to relax. Stress makes the Liver's job of keeping everything running smoothly much harder. As we can see from the above explanation, Copper retention is a major reason why stress affects the Liver so adversely.
Qigong exercises and Meditation can help you to not only relax out of the 'Fight or Flight' sympathetic nervous system, but also help recover from or prevent the accumulation of Copper toxicity and protect the Adrenal Glands from burning out and dropping you into (CFS) Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Copper toxicity makes it very hard for the mind to settle down, making it very difficult to relax, meditate or 'calm down'. Copper toxicity alone is extraordinarily stressful as it stimulates the adrenal glands, keeping them stuck in overdrive or 'fight or flight'. The nervous system, simply cannot relax and slow down.
Copper and Diet
Avoiding a vegetarian diet is recommended to help recover from Copper toxicity as well as prevent it from occurring.
Just about all foods contain Copper. The main foods that have high amounts of Copper are:
- Nuts and Seeds (except for pumpkin seeds)
- Soybeans (tofu, tempeh, miso, etc.)
- Leafy Greens
The only foods that have an adequate amount of Zinc (which can help eliminate and counterbalance Copper toxicity) without also having a high level of Copper as well are red meat (best source) such as beef, lamb, and venison, chicken, eggs and pumpkin seeds.
This is why many vegetarians have Copper toxicity and Zinc bio-unavailability to some degree. This can make people "spacy", over-emotional, and generally lower fertility rates in both men and women.
When choosing what kind of meat to buy, it is always best to buy Organic, Free-Range Chicken and Beef. Also make sure the beef you buy is Grass fed in order to get the most nutrition without any toxic residues of antibiotics, pesticides or growth hormones.
The structure of growth hormones are very similar to that of Estrogen, and therefore Meat that is raised on these hormones and pesticides will increase the rate of Copper retention in the body. These compounds are also linked with a greater occurrence of Cancer and Liver disease.
All toxins affect the Liver first and foremost and Estrogen compounds have been shown to increase the occurrence and rate of growth of cancer cells. This is like the way a pregnant woman will become saturated with estrogen to help promote the growth of the fetus.
Copper in Children
When women become pregnant, their estrogen levels rise, greatly increasing the retention of Copper in the body. This Copper toxicity will pass through the placenta into the unborn child. So many children are being born with toxic levels of Copper and other Heavy Metals which were stored in the mother's body.
This congenital (since birth) source of Copper toxicity is a huge factor in the higher incidence of Autism in children as well as ADD (attention deficit disorder) as well as teen depression, Bipolar, and even Schizophrenia.
Instead of putting these children on dangerous drugs such as Ritalin, Wellbutrin, Prozac or Dexadrine (Pharmaceutical Crystal Meth), we need to get them on a Nutritional Balancing program designed to address their root problem of Adrenal insuffiency and Copper or other Heavy Metal Toxicity, which is causing their minds to "Freak Out" and causing them such great mental and emotional disturbances.
Copper Toxicity Treatment
The main thing to do is to increase Zinc and Magnesium levels to calm the mind and nervous system. However, just taking Zinc alone can cause serious side effects as Zinc will cause a Copper detox as the body dumps this excess copper and Mercury and other heavy metals from the tissues. This can cause rashes and flu-like symptoms. Zinc will also lower Sodium levels which may make you feel extremely tired.
I recommend a Hair Analysis test to evaluate your Soft tissue levels of Copper, Zinc, Sodium, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium and other trace minerals and toxic metals to help design a custom tailored Nutritional Balancing program. Hair Analysis is a very accurate and non-invasive means of analyzing the Mineral Levels in the Soft tissues. These readings can help us determine how much Heavy Metal and Copper toxicity there actually is and what type of Supplement and Nutritional therapy will be able to correct your Biochemical imbalance.
By balancing your Hair mineral levels and ratios, the Adrenal glands are strengthened, Zinc levels and bio-availability will rise, and the Liver will be able to produce adequate amoounts of Ceruloplasmin, Glutathione and Metallothioneine, which will help eliminate the Copper toxicity and also make the Copper available to the cells that need it.
Meditating, practicing Qigong, and enjoying a relaxed and stress free lifestyle is also extremely important in recovering from Adrenal Fatigue and Copper Toxicity. Try to remember to breathe deeply and slowly and not react to every little stressor that you may encounter. Peace of mind is essential for Copper toxicity recovery.