The human body has evolved to excrete toxins and chemicals that can be harmful to its overall function. Such toxins include any excess of heavy metals as well. We can help our body eliminate heavy metals by following certain routines, including a natural heavy metal detox diet.
What are heavy metals, and how many are of concern for our health?
Heavy metals are naturally occurring metals with a density of more than 5 g/cm3. There are >100 chemical elements that could be described as metals. However, only 23 of those are in the category of heavy metals and pose a concern for our health. These are antimony, arsenic, bismuth, cadmium, cerium, chromium, cobalt, copper, gallium, gold, iron, lead, manganese, mercury, nickel, platinum, silver, tellurium, thallium, tin, uranium, vanadium, and zinc.
How do heavy metals get into our bodies?
Heavy metals become toxic only once they enter our bodies. The gates to our body are mainly via inhalation (i.e., breathing and smoking), ingestion (e.g., eating), and dermal contact (e.g., skincare products).
Are all heavy metals toxic?
Heavy metals are not necessarily toxic for our bodies. In fact, some of them are essential for our bodies ‘ functions. For example, iron is a vital element for red blood cells’ ability to bind oxygen. The imbalance of iron levels in our body can cause severe diseases such as anemias. Other essential heavy metals that play an important role in certain biological processes include zinc, selenium, manganese, copper, cobalt, etc. On the other hand, chromium, arsenic, cadmium, mercury, and lead should be of great concern for our health as they can be extremely toxic in relatively low levels of exposure. Below we provide a list of health effects linked to these toxic heavy metals:
Arsenic: Chronic exposure to lower arsenic levels can cause nausea and vomiting, a decrease in red and white blood cells, abnormal heartbeat, and damage to blood vessels. Exposure to higher levels can lead to skin lesions, internal cancers, neurological problems, pulmonary disease, peripheral vascular disease, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.
Cadmium: Most of the evidence so far links cadmium exposure to kidney problems. However, more and more research shows that cadmium exposure can cause bone problems that lead to osteoporosis, severe damage to the lungs (if inhaled), stomach issues such as vomiting and diarrhea, premature birth, and low birth weight if the exposure happens during pregnancy.
Chromium: Exposure to higher amounts of chromium compounds, especially hexavalent chromium, has been linked to skin rashes, upset stomachs and ulcers, respiratory problems, weakened immune systems, kidney and liver damage, cellular DNA damage, lung cancer, and rare cases death.
Lead: Acute exposure to high levels is linked to headache, loss of appetite, hypertension, abdominal pain, renal dysfunction, and arthritis. Longer exposure periods to lower levels can cause mental retardation, birth defects, autism, allergies, weight loss, muscular weakness, brain damage, and kidney damage.
Mercury: The most serious health effect linked to increased exposure to mercury is brain damage, especially if exposed to it prenatally (during pregnancy). In addition to this, mercury exposure has been linked to multiple other adverse outcomes such as memory loss, vision and hearing problems, lung damage, vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, skin rashes, and increased heart rate or blood pressure.
How can I make sure my exposure to heavy metals is within the safe levels?
The only way to accurately know the heavy metals’ levels in your blood is to measure them. This requires a visit to a certified lab, and it will cost you some money. The downside of this solution is that you only get an answer for the time point you take the blood test. If your exposure changes, the levels of these metals will also change in your blood. For example, if you change some dietary habits or stop/start smoking, the concentrations will change in your blood.
Following a natural heavy metal detox diet and avoiding conditions that expose you to heavy metals is a good idea. Such examples are smoking (contains cadmium, chromium, lead, and others ), eating a lot of rice (it often contains mercury and arsenic), eating certain big-sized fish that contain mercury (e.g., tuna, swordfish, king mackerel, etc.), living near a coal-burning factory or living in a lead-painted house. If you are uncertain about potential routes of exposure, please seek advice from your personal medical doctor.
Are wild blueberries good for natural heavy metal detox diets?
The short answer is yes. Wild blueberries (also known as bilberries) are among the most well-studied foods in the scientific field. The reason being their high nutritional value and especially the amounts of blueberry antioxidants. When heavy metals enter our bodies, they oxidize our cells. This process causes all sorts of problems for our cells, which we should definitely try to avoid. To eliminate oxidization, our body needs a constant supply of antioxidants throughout our daily diet. Therefore, we must have a diet balanced in foods that contain high amounts of antioxidants.
Wild blueberries (NOT cultivated) are one of the richest foods in antioxidants. To benefit from these antioxidants, we should add them to our diet regularly. The problem is that wild blueberries are not easy to find, especially in certain parts of the world. If you do not have access to fresh/frozen wild blueberries, you can check our premium quality wild blueberry (bilberry) powder. It comes from the clean forests of Arctic Finland, it is 100% natural, and it is available all year round. Other foods suitable for a natural heavy metal detox diet are green tea, cilantro, garlic, spirulina, tomatoes, etc.
We hope you found this blog informative!