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Excreting Toxic Metals (Mar 2006)

There is an often overlooked concept with regard to toxic metals that warrants consideration.  In fact, this may explain why some patients have toxic effects from toxic metals and some patients seemingly do not. The concept may relate to the electrical state in which the metal is found.  To set the stage, let’s start with a simple analogy using chlorine/chloride and then discuss the concept in more detail.  The difference between chlorine (bleach) and chloride is simply the ionic state.  Chlorine is quite toxic to the body and yet chloride is found in a relatively generous concentration in the blood as a necessary electrolyte.  So let’s use this observation to help us improve our management of toxic metal exposure…

Metals are shiny solids at room temperature (except mercury), with characteristic high melting points and densities. Many of the properties of metals, including large atomic radius, low ionization energy, and low electronegativity, are due to the fact that the electrons in the valence shell of metal atoms can be removed easily.  Because the valence electrons can move freely, metals are good heat conductors and electrical conductors.

Terms like “toxic” metals or “heavy” metals are often used but are ill defined.  Certainly some metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic and others are dangerous pollutants. However, copper, zinc, manganese, and especially iron can cause just as much damage just as quickly.  All metals are capable of the Fenton reaction, which produces a huge avalanche of free radicals.  Unfortunately, there is not enough awareness that metals in their ionic state have the ability to increase the production of free radicals.  Ionic metals are electrically charged and ‘stick’ to the body just as hair will stick to a balloon when rubbed against wool.  If these ionic metals build up, they become ‘toxic’ and create an over-production of free radicals.

There are a number of experts who consider free radicals to be the root cause of most chronic diseases from rheumatism to arthritis, asthma, diabetes, arterial and heart diseases, strokes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, MS, cancer, etc. and ageing.  Detecting ionic metals in your urine is accomplished with an IMT (Ionic Metal Test), which could be considered a “chelation ability test” since it detects electrically charged metals.  We detect free radicals in your urine using the test that measures MalonDiAldehyde (MDA) called an ODT.

If you chelate ionic metals or bind them to an amino acid or enzyme, their electric charge is rendered neutral, and your body can either use the metals where needed, or eliminate them if they are not needed. Differentiating between ionic and chelated forms of metals is crucial since it is a measure of how effectively you can chelate ionic metals.  Your biochemical state determines in large part the level of ionic metals. Correcting this state of ionic metal excess appears to be a critical aspect of successful heavy metal excretion and of minimizing free radical damage.  This also explains why some people are affected by toxic metals more than others.

The Urine IMT allows us to detect ionic metals. If the test turns any color other than green, we know that your body is not effectively chelating ionic metals, which are then able to get ‘stuck’ in tissues and produce free radicals.  By the same reasoning, we can assess the effectiveness of a metal detoxification program by monitoring the Urine IMT.  When you are given the right chelating agent and your body is in an optimized state, your test turns green. Green is the color that indicates your body is chelating all metals.

If your IMT shows…

  • bright red or pinkish red = you are excreting large amounts of ionic metals.
  • slightly grayish/brownish = low amounts of ionic metals.
  • green = no ionic metals.

Chelation is taking place throughout your body at all times.  Digestion and assimilation of foods is an important component of chelation because your body uses proteins (amino acids) to chelate with minerals for transportation or in which cells latch on to.  For example, hemoglobin is a chelate of iron.  When you eat iron-containing meat or green vegetables the digestive process releases the iron from the food so it is available to be combined (chelated) with amino acids (protein fractions) so that it can be carried through the intestinal mucous membranes into the bloodstream (ferritin).

If you are not efficient at chelating metals (such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron etc.), you would not be able to efficiently utilize these ‘essential’ metals.  Likewise, if you are not chelating ionic metals, you would not rid of ‘toxic’ metals, such as lead, cadmium, mercury etc.

Every human body has available mechanisms that allow you to eliminate unwanted toxic metals.  These mechanisms are the same in everyone, but they do not function the same way in everyone.  For example, a school in Argenton, near Newcastle Australia is very near a metal smelter that had contaminated the entire area with lead. The Department of Health tested the children attending that school for lead levels in their blood. The officers were at a loss to explain why some children had high blood lead levels whereas others had low levels. What was the difference?

There are several possibilities – First acid body ‘traps’ metals and especially lead.  Lead is very ‘acid sensitive.’  Using the Urine IMT, a red test sample indicates lead.  If you add a tiny amount of acid (lemon juice) the IMT will turn back to green.  Other metals need much more acid to turn the urine IMT back to green…and some metals (especially mercury) don’t seem influenced by acidity at all.  Hence, people who are acidic ‘keep’ lead much more readily than those with a more alkaline body.

Secondly, your stomach and small intestine digest or absorb proteins to manufacture amino acids, which ‘chelate’ the metals and make them electrically neutral in order for the body to use them where necessary or eliminate them where not.  If there is mal-digestion or mal-absorption, chelation/neutralization/utilization is inefficient. Furthermore, impaired protein metabolism creates over acidity…

Can a mineral be both essential and toxic even if there is no overload?  Yes.  Iron, which is obviously essential to life, is considered to be the worst perpetrator when it comes to the over production of free radicals.  Oxygen free radicals can be directly toxic and has been blamed for ageing.  Neither of these examples is based on overload, which is a whole other situation.  In nature, everything has to be “just right.” If iron is ionic, for example, it will accumulate rapidly in tissues and produce avalanches of free radicals, which in turn will manifest as diabetes, joint disease, liver cirrhosis, liver cancer and so on. This is why the iron overload disease, hemochromatosis, is often called the “most wide spread and deadly genetic disorder known to man.”

Of course, each metal has its own potential for toxicity.  One copper atom reportedly can catalyze a million molecules and turn them into free radicals.  A couple of copper atoms in peanut butter can make the peanut butter rancid, which is another term for oxidization of oils and fats.  By the same mechanism free radicals produced by ionic metals oxidize cholesterol, testosterone and other fats in a human body.  In order to prevent rancidity, many packaged foods today contain chelating agents and/or anti-oxidants (BHA, BHA, EDTA, etc). Often the species of free radicals involved are the most dangerous kind, so-called hydroxyl radicals. How transition metals produce hydroxyl radicals is explained by the ‘metal mediated Fenton reaction’.

Antioxidants stop free radicals from causing chronic disease and ageing. The problem is that free radicals also form part of our immune system…and if we do not have sufficient amounts of free radicals, we will vulnerable to infection.  Your cells use those same free radicals to help kill bacteria and yeast.   As so often the answer lies in the middle.

It is probably unlikely that you can take enough anti-oxidants to totally suppress your cell’s production of free-radicals.  But the ever present ionic metals are always potentially over producing free radicals.  Hence we use foods or supplements with anti-oxidant potential to “intelligently” balance the system. That is why it was so important for us to develop a test which would allow us to tell whether the body was burdened with an excess of ionic metals or not and make visible the results of our remedial efforts.

What is the use of taking handfuls of anti-oxidants, if the metals keep on producing more free radicals than the anti oxidants can control?  Isn’t it better to remove the cause of the problem?  Once the free radical overproducing metals are removed, the body should experience a greater level of balance and harmony with the need for extra anti-oxidant beyond what fresh and wholesome foods provide.

The pH can change rapidly when eating food to which you are allergic.  Now, here is the connection to the metals: when the tall ships sailed the oceans of planet earth, a lot of seamen developed scurvy. Then somebody found that the disease was caused by a lack of vitamin C. Hence lime juice (a natural source of vitamin C) was added to the water in the big holding tanks on the wharfs. From the wharf, the water was conducted into the ships water storage tanks via lead pipes…now the seamen did not develop scurvy, but many suffered from lead poisoning because the acid dissolved the lead pipes.

Your pH can temporarily be balanced by taking in buffers: bicarbonates and citric acid.  Here is an example mixture – mix approximately one teaspoon full of bicarbonate into one half glass of water. Stir well. Now slowly add citric acid – slowly because it will fizz. You should have a ratio of 1.2 parts of bicarbonate to 1 part of citric acid. That means just take a little bit less of the citric acid. When the mixture is right, it will taste ok…..rather sweet.  After you had your mixture drink a glass of water (preferably filtered etc.).

Both bicarbonate of soda and citric acid are natural to the body. A healthy pancreas produces bicarbonate of soda (which can be an electron donor and an electron acceptor) in order to ‘buffer’ (balance, prevent pH ‘bounce’) the water in your body and also to neutralize the acid coming from your stomach. If the acids were not neutralized, the mucous lining of the small intestine would burn.

Citric acid is being used by the body in the ‘citric acid cycle’, sometimes also called ‘Krebs cycle’.  Often people are confused about using an acid to correct over acidity.   All fruit acids, including citric acid has an alkaline ash in your body.

Because the pH of the citric acid/bicarbonate mixture is nearly neutral in that combination, the digestive juices of the stomach are little influenced.  Nevertheless, if you suffer from gastritis, ulcers, or a sensitive stomach, etc. be careful and start with small doses.

Chelation works better when the body is alkaline.  If you are in an optimal state for chelation, you will have a green IMT on your first urine sample in the morning.  Alternatively, if you are not ‘handling’ ionic metals well, your IMT will show a strongly reddish color.  The reason for the red color may be that the most abundant unchelated metal is zinc (pink) plus a couple of other ionic metals.

Another important measurement is pH. If your urine pH is too low (< 5.0), you may be out of balance and lead may be “masked” with your IMT showing green despite lead being present.  Lead is the metal which turns green again when adding acid to a sample. Bring in a lead fishing weight and add it to de-mineralized or distilled water, run an IMT and you will see how the red color develops.  If you add a couple of drops of acid solution (e.g. lemon juice), the red color turns green.

Because ionic metals can be “trapped’ in tissues through their electric charge, they may not be eliminated and the IMT will appear green.  To determine if this is the case, we can “challenge” you with a supplement that traditionally gets metals out of their storage sites.  For example, you might be given Captomer/DMSA the night before your IMT.  If your first morning IMT now changes, you know that ionic metals were “stuck” in your system.

In order to be more accurate, your urine can be adjusted to a pH of 7.0 with either an acid (if your urine pH is too high) or an alkali (if your urine pH is too low).  If the IMT shows ionic metals either before or after adjusting the pH, start chelating.

Notations about IMT:

  • Sometimes only the ‘ring’ on top of the liquid changes color, but the entire aqueous substance below the ring may change color as well.
  • Copper – may show a faint bluish hue under the “copper ring.”
  • Lead – has a typical red “lead hue.”If we acidify the urine, the red “lead” color starts to disappear and the ring turns green again.  Lead can form a very red and thin ring below a greenish ring. What gives the lead away is that urine under the color ring will turn reddish. If you add an acid, the colored ring returns to green and the redness in the aqueous solution under the ring fades.
  • Mercury – the yellowish/brownish color of mercury is usually easy to identify.In case of “hidden” mercury overload, the initially greenish color (which seems to indicate ‘no ionic metals’) can turn the typical mercury color over time (> 30”).
  • Zinc – the pinkish/red of zinc is usually easy to detect.

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