Heavy Metal Testing:
The truth is, all of us have had exposure to various heavy metals as a part of our modern day society. There are some people that have had greater levels of exposure and there are also those individuals that have less of an ability to detox and eliminate these toxic metals. People that have less of an ability to get rid of the metals are going to have an increased level of metals stored in their tissues. These metals can cause significant and long lasting health problems.
Research has shown many significant health issues are associated with heavy metal toxicity. Testing for heavy metals can be an extremely important part of your evaluation and treatment if necessary. Heavy metal detoxification can be the key to overcoming health related obstacles.
What are “heavy metals”?
In Santa Rosa and Sonoma County, there are many heavy metals in our environment both naturally and from pollution. The term “heavy metal” applies to a group of metals with similar chemical properties. Some of these, including copper, iron and zinc, play important roles in our bodies. Others have no known benefit for health - and examples of these are:
- lead, which is found in paint in old homes as well as many other sources;
- arsenic, which can be found in well water and wood products;
- mercury, which can build up in fish that we eat
At very high levels, most heavy metals will cause a variety of health problems. Even at low levels, heavy metals are toxic and can cause damage to the body.
How are people exposed to heavy metals?
People may be exposed to small amounts of heavy metals through food, water, air, and commercial products. In Santa Rosa or any other city in the country, people can also be exposed in their workplace, as several industries use or produce these toxic metals - many of which end up as waste products in the environment. Each metal is different in where it is found and how it behaves in our bodies. Exposure alone does not mean that it is in your body causing any disease or harm. Once an exposure is evaluated, then the key is determining what amount if any has accumulated in your body.
What is acute heavy metal poisoning?
Acute heavy metal poisoning usually occurs when people are exposed to large amounts of a metal at one time. For example if a child ends up swallowing a leaded toy, this can cause a large amount of lead exposure all at once. This generally does not occur from exposures that you are not aware of. Acute exposures are dangerous and can quickly cause serious health effects or death - especially with children.
What are the symptoms of "Chronic" heavy metal poisoning?
There is growing evidence that “chronic” or long-term exposure to lower levels of heavy metals causes serious and sometimes irreversible health problems. The symptoms of chronic heavy metal poisoning can be severe, but are often less obvious and develop much more slowly over time than the symptoms caused by acute exposure. This is a topic of growing scientific evidence that still needs more research to clarify all the possible health effects. Chronic heavy metal poisoning can be challenging for both health care providers and patients because there are often many more questions than answers.
Many of the symptoms of chronic heavy metal toxicity can include:
- Feeling tired
- Muscle and joint pains
- Neurological symptoms
- Endocrine system (hormone system) disruption
True chronic heavy metal poisoning is rare. More often, these same symptoms can be caused by other health problems not related to a metal exposure at all. It is important to know that it may not be possible to find the true cause.
How do you know if your symptoms are due to heavy metals instead of more common causes?
Diagnosing chronic heavy metal poisoning can be challenging for both health care providers and patients because there often are many more questions than answers. The bottom line is that diagnosis of chronic heavy metal poisoning relies on having a known exposure and positive results on approved tests that are specific to each metal.
If I have these symptoms, should I be tested for chronic heavy metal poisoning?
It is generally not recommended to test for chronic heavy metal poisoning unless directed to by your health care provider based on your symptoms and a known exposure. Exceptions to this include screening high-risk children for lead poisoning; and certain occupational settings where specific metals may be present. If you think you have been exposed to greater than normal amounts of a heavy metal, such as lead, mercury or arsenic, be sure bring your concern to your doctor's attention.
How do you test for chronic heavy metal poisoning?
Different heavy metals are best tested for in different ways. Some are tested for in urine, and some are tested for in blood samples. One single test is not going to give the best information for all heavy metals.
The tests do not tell you if the metal is causing health effects. Again, because heavy metals are all around us, the unfortunate truth is that we are all expected to have some in our body. Dr Hoffman has been testing his patients for heavy metal toxicity for 12 and most people come back positive to heavy metal toxicity. Whether heavy metals in your body are causing health problems is a different question, and this must be determined in collaboration with a doctor that is skilled in the evaluation of heavy metal poisoning.
Should I have a hair analysis?
Diagnosis or treatment should NOT be based on hair analysis alone. Hair is very good at picking up material such as sweat and dust that can contain many things, including heavy metals. This makes it hard to tell if a metal is from inside or outside of the body. Other sources of metals can include hair products such as shampoos, perm products, bleaches, and hair spray. These will show up on a hair test even though they may not have entered your body.
While a positive hair test can suggest that you have been exposed to heavy metals, it cannot tell you anything about how much of the metal is in your body or whether or not it is causing disease..
What is the best treatment for chronic heavy metal poisoning?
The safest thing you can do if you are concerned about chronic heavy metal poisoning is to identify the source and remove it to prevent any further exposure. Preventing exposure in the first place is ideal.
If you are interested in heavy metal detoxification, call:
Dr Justin Hoffman practices medicine at Tru Health Medicine, an Integrative Naturopathic Medical Clinic in Santa Rosa.
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