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  • Writer's pictureDr. Kari Young

Are All Heavy Metals Toxic?

Heavy metals occur naturally, and they are defined as elements having an atomic weight and density greater than five times or more than that of water. Unfortunately, many toxic forms of heavy metals are present in our daily lives through the environment, the products that we use, and even in medical applications.

Certain heavy metals are extremely toxic, while others are actually essential to our health. It is important to understand the difference, and how to avoid those that can cause autoimmune or other chronic diseases.

Types & Forms of Heavy Metals

It is not surprising that people are confused about heavy metals and their effect on overall health. Certain heavy metals occur in the forms of organic, inorganic, nonessential, or essential. That being said, a metal is in the form of organic or essential, does not necessarily mean that it is safe.

Heavy metals are dangerous when they transform into ions and consume electrons. A change in oxidation is what makes the metal either toxic or non-toxic. When you consume a food that is rich in iron, the source of the iron is generally safe because it is interacting with hydrogens and carbons. Eating an iron pipe would not be safe because the source is a free ion.

Metals such as lead, mercury, cadmium, and arsenic, are among the most dangerous heavy metals. Their effect on the body depends on the manner of exposure and factors related to the individual being exposed. These metals are classified as human carcinogens and can cause cancer and multiple organ damage.

Are You At Risk?

Although we are all at risk of exposure to heavy metals, some people are more susceptible or tolerant of their effects.

When I begin working with clients, I always ask them about their past and present occupations, hobbies, and habits. What I have found is that people with the following exposures tend to suffer the most from heavy metal toxicity:

  • Dentists or Dental Hygienists

  • Smokers

  • Home renovators

  • Painters

  • Auto repair workers

And, people tend to be most susceptible to heavy metal toxicity when they also suffer from:

  • Autoimmune disease

  • Malnutrition

  • Poor liver or gallbladder health

  • Poor kidney health

  • High blood sugar

  • Leaky gut

  • Chronic infections

Signs Of Heavy Metal Toxicity

Heavy metal toxicity can express itself with a full array of symptoms, and can depend on the individual and their level of health and exposure. People with autoimmune or other chronic disease can experience extreme sensitivity, even to the smallest level of exposure.

Some of the Most Common Signs Include:

  • Miscarriage

  • Diarrhea

  • Anxiety or depression

  • Shortness of breath

  • Tingling of the feet or hands

  • Abdominal pain

  • Sleep problems

Common Toxic Heavy Metals

Let’s review the most prevalent toxic heavy metals to which we are exposed.


Aluminum is extremely common in manufacturing, and can also leach from the soil and the very pots and pans that we use to cook. In addition, exposure can be as a result of certain vaccinations, deodorants, tap water, and canned foods.

Aluminum can be found systemically, and in any organ in the body.

Signs of aluminum exposure are:

  • Neurodegenerative disease, such as Alzheimer’s

  • Bone disease

  • Breast cancer

  • Anemia


Arsenic is commonly found in the ground water in certain countries, as well as in our food supply. Arsenic toxicity causes damage to a number of organ systems, such as the heart, skin, nervous system, blood, renal, GI, and lungs.

Arsenic damages the cell’s mitochondria, and inhibits the energy of the cell from performing its vital functions. This heavy metal also depletes endogenous antioxidants, such as glutathione, which causes cellular inflammation.

Arsenic is found in some very common foods such as apple juice and rice, and is also found in the pesticides used in our food supply.

Common signs include:

  • Skin lesions and redness

  • Neuropathy

  • Cancer of the liver, kidneys, or bladder

  • Vomiting or nausea

  • Diarrhea


Cadmium is a water-soluble toxic metal, and is easily absorbable into the body. The main exposure of cadmium is through inhalation, cigarette smoke, and the consumption of foods contaminated with cadmium.

Low levels of cadmium can be found in leafy vegetables, grains, liver, shellfish, dried seaweed, and seeds.

Cadmium is known to damage the kidney and cause a decrease in the metabolism of calcium.

While some people suffer from a single exposure to heavy metal toxicity, others may have had exposure to several. When this is the case, the damage to the body is significant and needs to be addressed immediately.


Lead is less prevalent in industrial use as compared to the past; however, many older homes still contain contaminated paint and soil. Lead can also be found in food sources, tap water, cosmetics and tobacco products.

People store lead in their bones, and this exposure can be passed to fetuses in the womb. The result can be the building of lead toxicity from one generation to the next.

I had a 10-year-old patient who had been born significantly prematurely, and came to me with severe ADHD. He had been treated for years with conventional ADHD medication. After determining that lead was the root cause of the ADHD, I created a plan for him to remove the interference. After 4 months of detoxing the cells and brain, he was able to completely discontinue his medicine, and returned to a normal life.

In addition to affecting the brain, lead also damages the liver, bones, and kidneys.

Common signs of lead toxicity include:

  • ADHD or ADD

  • Premature birth

  • Mood disorders

  • Poor memory


Mercury is ironically used both in dental fillings (amalgams) as well as for the manufacturing of metal solvents. It is so toxic that it was banned by the U.S. government as an additive in paints and pesticides. That being said, many people still have mercury in their mouths!

Other types of exposures to mercury include vaccines, pollution, medical practices, and farming. Low level exposure can also occur through consuming large species of fish.

Mercury can damage the brain, and may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s. It also can damage the liver, kidneys and nervous system.

Common signs of mercury exposure include:

  • Headache

  • Chronic fatigue

  • Brain damage

  • Neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimers. MS, and Parkinson’s Disease

Heavy Metals that are Essential to Health

As mentioned, not all heavy metals are toxic or harmful. In fact, several are absolutely essential to the proper functioning of the body. Here are example -


Calcium is essential for many critical functions in the body, such as regulating blood pressure, bone building, and prevention of blood clots.


Cobalt’s function is to produce healthy red blood cells and vitamin B12. It is also necessary for a healthy nervous system.


Like cobalt, copper is also a necessary metal for the production of red blood cells. It is also essential for metabolism and the regulation of neurotransmitters.


Iron makes collagen, hormones, hemoglobin, and is necessary to activate enzymes.


Nickel is actually necessary to prevent an iron deficiency. It is also required to break down urea, and for the metabolism of lipids.


Potassium regulates heart rate and balances the fluids in our bodies.


Sodium also helps to balance fluids in the body, as well as assists in the contraction of muscles.


Zinc is needed for proper healing of wounds by helping with blood clotting.


As with many toxins, it is impossible to avoid all exposure. What is important is to become knowledgeable of sources of exposure, and how to properly detox.

Here are several solutions that will help you stay healthy.

  • Intermittent fasting

  • Block fasting

  • Eating foods that are nutrient dense, and free from all toxins

  • Drinking plenty of pure, clean water

  • Body movement and exercise

  • Regular bowel movements

  • Sweat, in order to move the lymphatic system

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