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With most of the food now coming in from grocery stores, where many labels do not divulge the conditions the produce is grown in, there is no way of knowing if it is organically produced or not. As more fertilizers and pesticides are used in the production of grains, there is an increasing possibility of heavy metals found in them getting lodged in the food and entering the human bloodstream as food is consumed. The fertilizers, pesticides, along with industrial runoff also enter the various water bodies where they come in contact with fish. The fish with high amounts of metal, when consumed by people, also causes heavy metal poisoning.
Heavy metal poisoning can be diagnosed only by the doctor after running tests to determine which metal is in the body in excess. The symptoms of heavy metal poisoning range from headaches, fever, confusion to anemia, seizures, liver damage and in severe cases, even permanent neurological and brain damage or even a coma. People working in industries, mines, smelting plants, manufacturing facilities, ceramic industries are all at the risk of being exposed to high levels of lead, arsenic, mercury which can cause them irreparable damage. To rid the body of these heavy metals, there are various detoxification techniques that can be used, after a doctor’s approval.
One of the most common techniques to rid the heavy metal from a body is through a synthetic procedure called chelation therapy. The chelation agent latches onto the toxic agents in the body and helps the body get rid of them through excretion. The chelation agent needs to be soluble in water and blood, to facilitate its transport and excretion via the kidney. It must also be soluble in lipids, allowing them the ability to penetrate the cell membranes. It must also not become more toxic by reacting with the heavy metal, as it latches onto them.
There are some foods and naturally occurring chemicals that act as chelators. These foods and chemicals attach themselves to the heavy metal and aid in their easy removal from the body, through the process of excretion. Some of the chemicals are already produced by the body and external supplements only aid their optimum production to help them get rid of toxic metals.
Bran, or the hard outer layers of cereal grain, is known to help reduce mercury from the body, as well as known to lower cadmium in women. Diets and foods which are rich in sulfur, like broccoli, make good chelating agents as they stimulate the production of glutathione, which helps the metals get excreted from the body.
Garlic and onion are part of most cuisines in the world and they make for amazing natural chelators. Both garlic and onion have been found to protect renal damage in the body when taken in suitable doses, as they expel excessive cadmium out of the body. Cilantro is another herb found in most cuisines, which lowers the levels of mercury in the body, especially the excess caused by dental implants made of mercury. Curry leaves have flavonoids and phenols which function as chelators in cadmium-induced cardiac diseases. Tomatoes also have powerful antioxidant properties which have shown to reduce the accumulation of cadmium, lead and mercury in the body.
Taurine and methionine are amino acids which contain sulfur, and they help reduce oxidative stress markers which develop due to exposure to heavy metals. Alpha lipoic acid is an antioxidant which enables the regeneration of other antioxidants, to rid the body of heavy metals. However, ALA needs to be administered carefully as it has the ability to redistribute metals within the body. Glutathione is found in the liver and is essential to the detoxification process. It is not advised to administer it intravenously but rather via a nebulizer or through creams.
Foods rich in sulfur also help increase the glutathione levels in the body. Vitamin C works to protect the cells from oxidative damage while also helping regulate the amount of glutathione in the body. Selenium has been found to reduce the amount of cadmium and inorganic mercury from the body. It also counteracts against the carcinogens which induce skin, mammary and liver tumors.
These are supplements which are externally administered into the body. Being stable in the solution form, chelation agents like ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA), dimercaptosuccinic acid (DMSA), dimercaptopropane sulfonate (DMPS) and dimercaprol (British Anti-Lewisite, BAL) are injected into the body through an IV drip attached to the body. It is also administered rectally, orally and even through transdermal routes via creams and lotions. With the help of these chelators, a large amount of the metal is excreted through urine and also through bile. Through these chelators, however, there can also be the inadvertent loss of metals that the body requires. So, the body needs to be monitored to make sure there is not an excessive loss of essential metals like zinc, copper and iron during the process of chelation therapy.
There are very few foods which exist that provide benefits to the entire body, by being rich in various minerals, vitamins and proteins. They are accorded the status of superfoods and are increasingly being recommended to become part of daily diets of people. Blue-green algae is one such superfood which is packed with antioxidants preventing against various degenerative diseases, is high in amino acids and contains double the protein levels found in red meat.
Chlorella is a nutrient-dense alga which has gained popularity as a supplement, showing promise in helping normalize cholesterol levels of patients, while also helping the body get rid of harmful toxins like heavy metals. It is being touted as the superfood of the century, as it is enriched with proteins, lipids and minerals, while also being rich in vitamin B1,B2, B3, B5, B6, E and K. It also contains small amounts of vitamin B12, folic acid and biotin. It has passed safety tests and can be consumed by children, teenagers and adults to meet their daily vitamin and mineral requirements.
Apart from having anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties, chlorella is also an effective antioxidant. Lowering blood pressure, accelerating the healing of wounds and strengthening the immune system are some of the positive benefits of the supplement. Chlorella has also shown to detox the kidneys and liver of toxic metals, while in pregnant and lactating women, it has shown to have reduced toxic elements from breastmilk.
Usually referred to as blue-green alga, spirulina is a form of cyanobacteria which has also been classified as a superfood, for the various ways in which it strengthens the body. It has been found to be made up of good quality proteins, fatty acids, minerals and antioxidant vitamins to form a balanced nutrient profile. These qualities make it safe to be consumed as a supplement by adults, teenagers and children. Spirulina has shown to lower blood lipid levels. It is also packed with amino acids and a high concentration of protein. Having a high bioavailability makes it readily absorbed by the bloodstream when ingested. It has shown to be an effective antioxidant along with also demonstrating promise in cancer patients.
Toxic metals such as mercury, lead, arsenic, and cadmium play no beneficial role in the development of the human body. On the contrary, they only contribute to non-communicable chronic diseases to develop when the body is exposed to high quantities of the metal through various foods, water and even the environment. They can cause seizures, organ damage and even permanent brain damage if left untreated. Ridding the body of these metals requires the doctor to identify what is in excess in the body and subsequently assign a suitable therapy for it.
The most common method for detoxification is chelation therapy where a chelator is administered into the body which latches onto the metal particles and helps to remove them through excretion. Foods like bran, ginger, onion and coriander which are found in the everyday foods that people consume make the best chelators. There are pharmaceutical chelators which are administered through IV drips which act in a few hours to detox the heavy metals through urine, while superfoods like spirulina and chlorella are good for maintaining a balanced diet while also expelling heavy metals from the body.