Five signs you may be suffering from copper toxicity
Copper toxicity is not a hot topic in today’s health world, but it should be. In the 1950’s about 40-50% of HTMA (hair, tissue and mineral analysis) were showing copper toxic patterns, while today, that number is soaring to between 70-80% of HTMAs with a copper toxic pattern.
Here are 5 key signs you need to look into copper toxicity:
#1: You Are Emotionally Numb
You may feel like you are in a tunnel. Things that used to excite you no longer do. Perhaps you aren’t sure where your own emotions have gone to. You may feel disconnected and withdrawn.
How is numbness related to copper toxicity? Excess copper pulls calcium from the bones (where it should be), and it deposits in your soft tissue (where it should not be). As a result, a calcium shell may form around your cells and can prevent nutrients from getting into your cells or leaving your cells. High levels of calcium can also lead to calcification of your organs. Your body allows calcium levels in the soft tissue to rise in order to address increasing stress, which is an indirect result of high levels of copper. When I did my first HTMA, calcium came back as 5 times higher than the normal level, which explained the emotional disconnect I was experiencing.
As copper increases in relation to zinc, it leads to lower levels of NGF(nerve growth factor), which has been shown to play a role in the first 1-6 months of early romantic love. High levels of copper also stimulate the adrenal glands, which in turn stimulates cortisol production. Given that cortisol opposes oxytocin production; as cortisol goes up, oxytocin goes down. This means that we won’t get the amazing benefits of the feel-good oxytocin hormone, which is responsible for sexual arousal, bonding and trust.
“As excess copper and calcium increase in the cells and tissues, a calcium “shell” will build that will tend to block more and more feelings until the person no longer is aware of what is being felt and experienced. Such a person often talks of “not feeling anything” or being “numb” and “dead” emotionally. As the calcium shell builds, a person’s perception and awareness diminish. The overall psychological effect of excess copper is a loss of emotional control and awareness accompanied by diminished feelings and numbness.”
~Dr. Rick Malter, Ph.D.
For me, I felt like I couldn’t connect with my emotions. I could cry, that was certain, but I couldn’t seem to be able to feel. I was used to having a big heart with sensitive feelings, but found instead that I was not interested in anything – nothing could pull on my heartstrings anymore. This sensation of numbness was strange for me. My interest in the arts and crafts world dried up and a task like creating a birthday card or baking for someone felt like a chore instead of the joy that it once was.
#2 You are anxious and have a racing mind
Anxiety is one of the hallmarks of excess copper. This is because excess copper stimulates the adrenal glands. Initially, this may feel like increased energy, as a result of high levels of cortisol production. Eventually, it starts to feel like you can’t stop your thoughts, and have a racing mind that won’t turn off. When the adrenal glands become active, they also produce aldosterone,which is a stress hormone linked to an excitatory effect on the brain, increased blood pressure and the stimulation of the sympathetic flight/flight system.
In addition, copper stimulates the diencephalon. This is the ‘old brain’ which is responsible for the fight/fight response. As copper increases, zinc decreases. Zinc activates the ‘new brain’ which is associated with the higher emotions of compassion and love. You can see that as copper increases and zinc decreases, the emotional tendency would shift towards negative, anxious and avoidant emotions.
For me, my mind was racing, pretty much all the time. I remember going to bed stressed out because there was a blog I wanted to finish. I had trouble falling asleep that night despite the fact that the blog had no deadline, and nothing negative would happen if it was not done. I was well aware that my anxiety was disproportioned, but no amount of CBT or reframing was going to calm my brain down.
#3 You are exhausted
This symptom often comes a bit later in the game. As a result of the ongoing stimulation of the adrenal glands by the excess copper, the adrenal glands slowly begin to burn out. Essentially, they become so tired of producing cortisol and aldosterone, that the adrenal glands go on strike. This is a common symptom of ongoing chronic stress, and typically happens during the end phases of illness.
The situation becomes a bit more complicated when you consider the cyclical nature of stress and the impact of stress on minerals. Due to stimulation of the adrenal glands by copper, the body experiences stress. As a result of this stress, and any additional contributing stressors (i.e. emotional or hidden infections in the body), the body burns through zinc and magnesium (which serves to calm the body). As the zinc levels lower, copper levels increase, which results in further activation of the adrenal glands, and the cycle continues.
When adrenal activity decreases, the production of ceruloplasim also becomes impacted. Ceruloplasim is made in the liver and is response for the transportation of most copper (up to 95%) in the blood.
The challenge with insufficient ceruoplasim is that without it, the copper that does exist within the body is bio-unavailable, meaning that the body cannot effectively use it. I liken this to being in the middle of the ocean, but being unable to drink the water. What this means is that the body can have large amounts (read: toxic) amounts of copper, but without enough ceruloplaism, the body cannot use the copper and so essentially starts to present symptoms of copper deficits, despite being copper toxic.
This may seem like a stretch. How could copper toxicity impact gut issues? The answer lies in the lack of zinc. Ideally, copper and zinc have a balanced relationship. However, as copper increases, zinc decreases. Zinc is a key factor required for the production of HCL (hydrochloric acid). HCL is needed to make your stomach acidic. An acidic stomach environment serves a few purposes. One purpose is to break down your food, and the second purpose is to kill pathogens that enter into the gut. Without sufficient amounts of HCL you are more likely to have partially digested food, and more likely to have gut infections. Zinc deficiencies also contributes to leaky gut. Bio-available copper also serves as an anti-fungal, and assists in preventing overgrowth of yeast/candida in the gut. This is because copper is critical for aerobic metabolism, while yeast and candida are anaerobic. However, if copper is bio-unavailable and stored away in tissues, the aerobic metabolism is impacted and yeast begins to thrive.
My high copper was likely maintaining my chronic gut issues. Once I started to rebalance my minerals, my gut health improved significantly.
#5 You are estrogen dominant
Estrogen dominance is when estrogen is higher than testosterone (in males). In females, this happens when estrogen is higher than progesterone. You can typically tell if you are estrogen dominant through testing, or if you have the following symptoms:
- Irregular or heavy periods
- Breast Tenderness
- Mood swings
- Gall bladder issues
There are many factors that contribute to estrogen dominance. In females, synthetic hormones (the pill, and IUDs) are one of the main contributors to estrogen dominance. High levels of estrogen causes the storage of copper in the body’s tissues. As a result, when estrogen levels climb, so does copper toxicity.
How Do You Test for Copper Toxicity?
Unfortunately blood (serum) testing is not the best indicator of copper stores. This is because the blood likes to maintain homeostasis (or stability) and does not necessarily reflect what is in the tissues. Currently, an HTMA (hair, tissue and mineral analysis) is the best test on the market to determine copper toxicity.
Treating Copper Toxicity
Removing copper safely from the body can take years and should be part of a wholistic nutritional rebalancing program.
Strategies to eliminate copper include:
- Supplementation to rebalance minerals
- Eliminating the sources of copper. Sources of copper include copper IUDs, copper cooking gear, copper in the water from copper water piping and certain pesticides.
- Binders to remove excess copper from the body. My favourite are Bio-Active Carbon MetChem by Microbe Formulas and Pectasol -C.
- Reduce Stress
- Support Adrenal health
- Support the liver and detox organs
- Careful use of copper antagonists such as vitamin C, zinc, manganese and selenium.
Looking to run an HTMA on yourself? Contact me for a free consultation.