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Avoiding Exposure to Toxic Minerals Lead and Mercury

Lead and mercury are toxic minerals found in food and water and some nondietary sources. Changes in your diet may help you avoid exposure to these minerals. Some nutrients are even known to help you metabolize these heavy metals if you are exposed to them.

Exposure to lead is common from old paints, contaminated water and foods, as well as from cosmetics, pottery, soldered cans, and gasoline. Fortunately, for your health and the well being of your children, exposure from paint, gas, and kitchenware has lessened over the last 20 years.

Here are a couple of key problems associated with lead:

  • Because lead gets into the nervous system and brain, it can cause learning and behavioral problems in children as well as adults, affecting attention span, memory, hyperactivity, and general learning capacity. Lead toxicity can also cause muscle pains, poor appetite, headaches, anemia, and problems with appetite and digestion. It also acts as an immunosuppressant.

  • Treatment of lead toxicity requires EDTA chelation therapy or other chelating agents. See your doctor for an assessment of your metal toxicity and to discuss chelation therapy.

Prevention involves avoiding exposure and maintaining adequate calcium and zinc levels. A high-calcium diet can reduce lead absorption, and increased vitamin C intake may enhance lead elimination. You can gain some protection with adequate intake of calcium, iron, zinc, copper, and vitamin C. These nutrients prevent lead from getting into the body.

The most widespread neurotoxin in modern society — and the one causing the most concern — these days is mercury, which is found in nearly all seafood as well as in dental fillings, cosmetics, pesticides, and fungicides.

Major issues associated with mercury include

  • Serious problems can result from acute mercury poisoning. However, most of the concern is with slow, chronic exposure, which can cause generally poor health with headaches, fatigue, loss of appetite and other gastrointestinal upset, loss of sex drive, and poor memory and other neurologic symptoms.

  • Treatment of mercury toxicity may require the same kind of chelation therapy used to treat lead toxicity. Mercury is difficult to eliminate from brain tissue. Increased intake of vitamin C, selenium, and the fibers pectin and alginate (from seaweeds) can lower absorption and help eliminate mercury from your body.

Prevention of mercury toxicity involves avoiding exposure by eating organic foods (which are grown without fungicides), limiting or rotating seafood intake, and using a safer material for dental fillings. Today, some dentists are refusing to use mercury filling materials and will even take your present fillings out. Unstable dental amalgams can release daily levels of mercury into the blood, which are then stored in the tissues. In Sweden and other countries, authorities have already banned mercury fillings.

Milk protein may bind some of the mercury in the stomach, reducing its absorption. Selenium and L-cysteine may help counteract and eliminate mercury.

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