Heavy Metal Detox Diet: Hype or Help?

There is lots of information floating around on the web and social media about heavy metal toxicity and attributing everything from arthritis to cancer on its deleterious effects.  But what does the science say? Are there actually legitimate things we can do and foods we can eat to help protect our bodies from toxic metal buildup?

Heavy metals can’t be avoided.  Compounds like arsenic, mercury, lead, and aluminum are naturally occurring in the earth and water.  But human industrialization and subsequent pollution has concentrated the amounts to potentially toxic levels, especially in food sources like fish and seafood.  Many of these metals are also used in the manufacturing of household and beauty products (like lead in paint , aluminum in deodorant, and bismuth in makeup).  Your body does have natural detoxification methods in place to eliminate these substances.  But if overwhelmed with high doses,  organs like the liver, bones, thyroid and brain can concentrate these toxins often to harmful effects.  

As for the science, there have been numerous studies on the effects of heavy metals and disease, mostly on the role that toxic levels play in the development and progression of neurological disorders such as Alzheimers Dementia, ALS, autism, Parkinsons Disease, and Multiple Sclerosis.  There are also proven associations between heavy metal toxicity and leukemia, liver disease, and thyroid dysfunction.  So from a health perspective, over-exposure to heavy metals is a legitimate health concern and natural methods that can limit the effects should be incorporated into your health routine.

Fortunately, except in extreme cases like-threatening  toxicity, pharmacological chelation therapy (which is done in a hospital setting intravenously, and can have serious side effects) isn’t necessary.  Heavy metal detoxification can be done on a daily basis by consistently incorporating certain plant based foods into your diet.  These are FoodTherapyMD’s top recommendations:

  1. Chlorella.  This is a green algae that can be taken in tablet or powder form.  It is particularly effective in eliminating mercury from the body.  It is also highly anti-inflammatory, and a powerful antioxidant.
  2. Cilantro.  The herb you put on your taco can actually be used to remove heavy metals and neurotoxins from your vital organs.  In addition to eating and blending it, you can supplement higher doses with a tincture.
  3. Atlantic Dulce.  This is an edible sea vegetable (aka seaweed) that binds aluminum and mercury in the body.  It works its magic in the digestive tract where it seeks out the heavy metals, grabs them, and continues through your colon to be eliminated in your stool.
  4. Milk Thistle facilitates toxin removal by improving liver function, which is a key organ for detoxification.
  5. Ginger contains gingerol, one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory phytonutrients.  It also is great for improving kidney function, which is vital for filtering toxicities from the body.

The bottom line is that heavy metal toxicity is a real and scientifically proven condition.  But it probably is not the answer to all your ailments.  If you are continuing to eat processed, refined foods and sugars and meat-heavy diets, your fatigue, poor skin, and bowel irregularities are most likely due to your nutrition.  But adding a few of the above foods to your plant-based diet can assist in detoxification, overall health, and disease-free longevity.

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