SHA Magazine Health & Beauty

Heavy metals: a trigger for autoimmunity, chronic inflammation, and neurodegeneration

SHA Magazine
March 16, 2024

Lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, and chromium are among the heavy metals that are often associated with harmful effects on human health. These metals enter the body through inhaled air, through contaminated water or food, as well as through direct contact with some materials in consumer products, such as toys and cosmetics.

According to Dr. Rosario García, specialist in Revitalising Medicine at SHA Wellness Clinic, their presence in the body can be measured through blood and urine tests after a stimulation test consisting in the administration of a substance that causes these metals to leave the place where they are accumulated, in order to be eliminated, for example through urine. It is also possible to measure it in the hair where it accumulates over time. Hair analysis is an effective tool for assessing exposure to heavy metals and monitoring the effectiveness of detoxification treatments.

When heavy metals accumulate in the body, they cause tissue transformations. “We come into contact with them through food, water or air. Let us say that it is inevitable, but in a healthy system with adequate detoxification capacity they do not accumulate in large quantities, the problems begin when the excretory system does not perform well, there is slow methylation in the tissues and this can cause heavy metals to accumulate in the body. Then they bind with the proteins of the tissues and the body begins to see them as foreign, so it produces antibodies against its own proteins“.

When such an autoimmune reaction occurs, immunosuppressive treatments are usually prescribed and this only aggravates the problem. “We are leaving unprotected a body which is trying to fight against a very toxic element,” argues the doctor.

Some heavy metals are necessary for the proper functioning of the body, but this is not the case with lead, cadmium, aluminium, and mercury, and some that we already mentioned, which are strongly related to inhalation and ingestion.

For these reasons, it is recommended to eat an organic diet, because it has been proven that organic vegetables have a lower heavy metal load. It is also helpful to avoid eating large fish, such as salmon, which are loaded with mercury, and it is advisable to use filters for drinking water,” says the doctor, who believes that we should also be cautious when cleaning at home and clean the dust with damp cloths to prevent breathing in these toxins through the dust, or use vacuum cleaners with special filters.

The harmful effects of heavy metals on human health can affect various bodily organs. Exposure to lead can cause irreversible neurological damage, especially in young children, and has been linked to developmental delays, lowered IQ and behavioural disorders.

Mercury can damage the central nervous system, cause neurodevelopmental disorders, and affect kidney function. Cadmium has been associated with respiratory diseases, kidney damage, and increased cancer risk, while arsenic can cause skin problems, gastrointestinal disorders, and skin, lung and bladder tumours.

In addition to generating autoimmunity, heavy metal accumulation greatly increases oxidative stress and, therefore, inflammation. These processes alter cell membranes, enzymes, and affect the normal functioning of the cell, which is why they are associated with autoimmune, chronic, and degenerative diseases and cardiovascular pathologies,” explains Dr García.

Heavy metal elimination is a complex process and, depending on the specific metal and the amount present in the body, several routes can be attempted. Among these is renal excretion, as the kidneys are critical for filtering blood and excreting waste products through urine. Mercury and cadmium can be eliminated through urine to a large extent.

Other metals, such as lead and arsenic, can be excreted through the bile secreted by the liver and then eliminated in the faeces. Perspiration through the skin can also eliminate certain heavy metals from the body. When we say that sauna and intense physical exercise eliminate toxins, we include heavy metals.

Finally, they can be eliminated by chelation, a process by which chelating agents, such as dimercaprol, dimercaptosuccinic acid (DMSA), or ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) are administered to bind with accumulated heavy metals in the body and assist in their elimination through the urine. Generally, this method is used in cases of acute poisoning.

We do not have the same capacity to eliminate these toxins at every stage of our life. Age, general health, previous exposure to these substances, and the presence of underlying diseases affect the efficiency of the body’s elimination and filtering processes.

In addition, heavy metal elimination is a slow and gradual process, especially if exposure is chronic and has accumulated over a long period of time. It is important to consult a health professional always, so as to avoid any doubts, to measure our levels of heavy metals and decide on the best strategy to follow.


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