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Copper Toxicity

Copper is essential for good health and is required for several physiological functions such as the production of neurotransmitters (Dopamine, noradrenaline), the enzyme cytochrome C oxidase (breaks down Vit C), for lactase activity (lactose digestion) and for elastin and collagen production, to name a few. Therefore sufficient amounts of copper are necessary for good health however real problems can occur when levels become excessive. Copper toxicity appears to be far more common than copper deficiencies and can be just as devastating to your health as heavy metals such as mercury and lead can be. Unfortunately for many copper toxicity is largely being ignored by the mainstream medical profession.

The main problems related to copper toxicity include:
(1) Hormone Imbalances – blocks T4 production and conversion into T3, by blocking iron it also inhibits steroid hormone pathway resulting with low hormone levels.
(2) Fatigue – by blocking iron absorption, storage and its effects in the mitochondria, also blocks magnesium, and disrupts hormone production thus reducing metabolism.
(3) Anxiety  – it increases adrenaline and noradrenaline.
(4) Joint Pains
(5) Poor Immunity – viral, fungal and yeast infections
(6) Poor sleep – it blocks melatonin production
(7) Hypoglycemia – by impairing digestion effects sugar absorption, also increases insulin.
(8) Cancer – it is involved in angiogenesis which promotes cancer growth.
(9) Low Histamine - copper-containing enzymes, histaminase and ceruloplasmin, regulate histamine. Elevated copper increases the levels of these enzymes, promoting histamine breakdown. The low histamine levels, allow copper to continue to rise. Histamine is an essential protein metabolite (a product of metabolism) found in all body tissues. In the brain, it acts as a neurotransmitter.

Many of the above can be explained by coppers ability to interfere with zinc, magnesium, iron, Vitamin C, folic acid, Vit B1 and Vit E and decreased histamine production. When the action of these nutrients is blocked many physiological processes are unable to function correctly resulting with the following: arthritis, fatigue, adrenal burnout, insomnia, scoliosis, osteoporosis, heart disease, cancer, migraine headaches, seizures, fungal and bacterial infections including yeast infection, gum disease, tooth decay, skin and hair problems and female organ conditions including uterine fibroids, endometriosis and others. Mental and emotional disorders related to copper imbalance include spaciness, depression, vertigo, mood swings, fears, anxiety, phobias, panic attacks, violence, autism, schizophrenia, and attention deficit disorder.
Copper ingestion and absorption is very easy and is inhibited by zinc and molybdenum. The presence of estrogens and xenoestrogens seems to block the body’s ability to excrete copper. Therefore if you are low in zinc and molybdenum and are exposed to estrogens/xenoestrogens or estrogen dominant it could potentially lead to copper overload because of copper retention. The metallothionine protein responsible for the removal of copper from the body may also be affected thus also causing copper accumulation.

Sources of copper include: chocolate, bee pollen, buckwheat, oats, wheat bran, butter, eggs, apples, apricot kernels, bananas, olives, oranges, peaches, prunes, rasins, mushrooms, chickweed, soya beans, chicken, nuts, crab, lobster, salmon, kelp, avocado, beetroot, tomato puree and grapes to name a few.
Today, many children are born with excessive tissue copper. It is passed from high-copper mothers to their children through the placenta which may result in conditions such as ADD/ADHD.
Stress from any cause contributes to copper imbalance. Stress depletes the adrenal glands and lowers the zinc level in the body. Whenever zinc becomes deficient, copper tends to accumulate.
Another source of copper is drinking water that remained in copper water pipes, or copper added to your water supply.
Other sources of copper are copper cookware, dental materials, vitamin pills, fungicides and pesticides residues on food, copper intra-uterine devices and birth control pills. Deficiencies of manganese, iron, B-vitamins and vitamin C can cause copper to accumulate. Adrenal hormones cause the liver to produce ceruloplasmin, the main copper binding protein in the body. Therefore, a sluggish liver or weak adrenal glands may cause copper to build up in the tissues.

Blood, urine and hair analysis may all be used to detect copper toxicity. Challenge tests with a chelating agent such as EDTA should be used to detect excess copper levels in blood and urine analysis however, they may still not be totally accurate as copper is stored mainly in the brain, liver and other organs, and not in the blood or urine. A liver biopsy may also be performed but this is very invasive and unnecessary.
Hair analysis is considered by many as the most accurate means to detect excessive copper. Copper is stored in other parts of the body for some time before it starts to be excreted into hair follicles. When this overflow occurs into hair tissue is where it will be detected in hair analysis. If hidden copper overload is present, that is high copper levels in other tissues but not yet in the hair, it is not as obvious as overtly excessive levels however is clinically significant and should be treated exactly the same. Signs of hidden copper overload include: Zinc:Copper ratio less than 6:1, mercury greater than 0.4, sodium:potassium ratio less than 2.5:1, copper:molybdenum ratio greater than 625:1, Molybdenum less than 0.003.

Reducing Excessive Copper 
A comprehensive approach should be used to reduce copper levels.
The first step is to reduce copper intake by limiting foods with a high copper:zinc ratio such as chocolate, crab, nuts, bakers yeast, mushrooms, avocado, grapes, bran flakes. In addition avoid any source of copper exposure such as water from copper plumbing, swimming pool treatments, vitamins, etc, all mentioned above.
Use copper antagonists such as zinc, manganese and iron to compete with copper for absorption and utilization. Other antagonists include vitamins B6, folic acid and selenium.

Research indicates copper is eliminated by binding with a protein called metallothionine which requires certain nutrients for its activity. By providing all the necessary nutrients for this protein to function correctly will help reduce copper levels. This nutrient combination is known as a Metallothionine (MT) Primer. A MT primer should contain all the necessary nutrients required to reduce copper levels by supplying the nutrients for the MT protein to function normally.

MT Primer capsules are available online in the members section of this website. Our MT Primer can also be made manganese free for those who also suffer from High Histamine (under methyltors) where manganese is contraindicated.

Alternatively the mineral molybdenum may be used to chelate excess copper from the body. The usual dose is 300mcg daily. These also are available in the members section of this website.

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