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Heavy Metal Toxicity and Testing

Another aspect of my practice that I want to inform you about is heavy metal toxicity diagnosis and detoxification. I am referring to the pollution of our environment and of our bodies with such toxins as lead, cadmium, arsenic, mercury, aluminum, nickel, and others. As part of my program for healthy ageing, I recommend that every adult undergo testing to determine if there are increased stores of these toxins in one's tissues.

In the same way that we are urged to have pap smears, mammograms, digital rectal exams, prostate specific antigen blood tests, cholesterol and blood sugar screenings, bone density tests or colonoscopies, I believe that sometime soon after the age of 40 years old, we should all be tested for heavy metals. (Some individuals merit testing prior to 40.) Finding these metals and detoxifying them from the body is an important way to help prevent cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, dementia, and osteoporosis. These are common devastating diseases that occur as we age, but realize that these diseases don't just appear without cause. And I believe that in most people these conditions can be prevented or delayed with the correct measures. Heavy metal detoxification is one of these measures. And if these diseases are all ready present, they can be better treated if heavy metal toxicity is addressed.

"The amount of lead introduced into our environment since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution is enormous. From 1720 to 1979, close to 55 million tons of lead were added to the industrial supply in the USA. More than 7 million tons of lead has been used as lead additives in the US alone. Much of this lead is now widely distributed on the earth's surface. For example, lead has been found at levels of up to 7,500 milligrams per kilogram of house dust and the earth's crust at levels of only 15 milligrams per kilogram. This means that urban soil and house dust can contain 33 to 500 times the normal concentration of earth lead. The bottom sediment of US lakes now contains about 20 times more lead that they did just 100 years ago."

Without ever having an occupational or avocational exposure to such metals, almost all of us are exposed over the decades of our lives (often without knowing it). Exposure occurs through our food supply (not just seafood), water, lead soldered water pipes in our homes or workplaces, cosmetics, paint, vehicular and aviation exhaust, weed killers, insecticides, baking powder, deodorant, antacids, mercury containing dental fillings, first and second hand cigarette smoke, and many more items.

We all have an innate ability to excrete toxins but with a continual low level exposure over decades, often combined with inadequate nutrient and antioxidant reserves, our detoxification and excretory capacity is overwhelmed and many of us end up accumulating these toxins and end up storing them in our tissues - our organs, cartilage, bones, and brain.

When toxic metals are stored in our tissues, some of us might still feel entirely well. We all have varying capacities to hold and sequester certain toxins and may not always be adversely affected by them. However, these silent depots of metals could be like a ticking time bomb, with the potential over the years to eventually trigger a deterioration of your health.

Did you know that nearly everyone with high blood pressure that I have tested in my office has elevated levels of lead, cadmium, mercury or all three. Medical textbooks tell us that these metals can cause high blood pressure. They also relate these toxic metals to: heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, cancer, osteoporosis, memory/cognitive disturbance as well as Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. Toxic metals can also be related to fatigue, headaches, depression, behavioral disturbances, neuritis, neuralgia, paresthesias, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, unexplained anemia, and many other conditions). If you have any of these conditions, I would recommend that you be tested for toxic metals. If you are well and want to stay that way and you are a member of our toxic twenty first century environment, phone us to discuss heavy metal testing.

It is conventional for doctors to draw blood to test for lead or mercury or other toxic metals. This test is useful, however, only for acute or significant daily exposures because metals do not stay in the blood much longer than a week after exposure. They seek intracellular spaces - tissues like the organs or bones or brain. In such cases of chronic exposure, a simple blood test would not show up elevations because it would not be measuring the compartment where the metals reside.

In order to more accurately test for chronic exposure or assess for tissue storage, a chelating agent needs to be given, one that will mobilize the metals out of their storage compartments into the blood, and then the blood carries the metals to the kidneys where they are excreted into the urine. Therefore, the testing I provide includes the administration of chelating agents intravenously (EDTA and DMPS) or in some cases orally (DMSA), and then a 6 or 12 hour urine collection. Prior to testing I require a recent serum creatinine level or will draw a new one—creatinine is a measure of kidney function. Incidentally, I no longer do hair analysis testing for heavy metals as I have found it to be substantially less accurate than the provoked urine test.

Suppose you discovered a toxic waste dump in your back yard, and knowing that you want to live in that house the next 20 or 40 or 50 years, you would do the right thing and have the toxic site cleaned up in order to prevent the possible health threat that continual exposure could foster. To protect your health, it makes sense to have a screening test to determine if you harbor a silent (or not so silent) internal toxic waste dump. If elevated levels are found, a detoxification (clean-up) program would then be in order. Such a program requires careful supervision.

If you have my book, Optimal Wellness, you can find a lot more information on toxic metals on pages 277-285. Much of the information there on heavy metal toxicity is still current, although since publication, I have modified aspects of my treatment program.

Please give us a call if you are interested in this kind of testing.

Ralph Golan, MD

 
   This information is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional advice. Although the material may help you understand a diagnosis or treatment, it cannot serve as a replacement for the services of a licensed health care practitioner. Any application of the material set forth is at the reader's discretion and sole responsibility.

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