he cost of allowing your body and brain to be systematically poisoned by heavy metals and chemicals is enormous: increased risks of disease, deteriorating quality of life, increased medical costs, loss of cognitive function, and much more. That’s why it makes such good sense to invest in the knowledge and behavioral strategies needed to eliminate and avoid heavy metals and the toxins that cause these costly problems.
However, there’s a lot of misinformation about so-called “detox” in the natural products and supplements marketplace. One of the most unfortunate heavy metal detox memes that has emerged over the past few decades is the idea that detox must be “heroic” to be effective. This idea says, essentially, that an effective detox can only be achieved through tremendous suffering and pain.
Usually, this is the narrative offered by companies selling aggressive heavy metal detox products made with ingredients like cascara sagrada, which can cause extreme digestive irritation and diarrhea. While a little cascara can be quite useful in a holistic formula that’s also made with supportive, healing herbs, some companies go too far and formulate their products to cause what they label a “healing crisis,” a process in which the body attempts to eliminate toxins and heavy metals faster that it can dispose of, resulting in a temporary increase in symptoms.
The term “healing crisis” is often used to explain away the fact that many heavy metal detox products are too aggressive and too difficult for consumers to endure. The idea that “you have to get worse before you can get better” is similar to the iron-pumping slogan “No pain, no gain.”
Both ideas are blatantly false.
In fact, detoxification of heavy metals, chemicals and other wastes is an everyday biological process that your body has been automatically achieving from the moment you were conceived. Every cell in your body has a natural detox process, and your body as a holistic system is also quite adept at detoxification of heavy metals and just about anything else for that matter. You have entire organs dedicated to it: the liver, kidneys, and bladder, to name three. Lungs are also involved in detoxification, as is your body’s largest organ, your skin.
Realizing this allows us to step back, calm down, avoid the cascara sagrada overdose, and think about how to truly support our body’s own natural ability to remove toxins and chemicals.
Avoidance of Toxins
Because your body is “detoxing” every second, the best strategy starts with the avoidance of toxins. Although this position won’t make me popular among heavy metal detox supplement companies, I believe that the first and foremost strategy for detoxification must be avoidance.
“Avoidance” means avoiding continued exposure to toxic chemicals and heavy metals in your food, water, medicine, personal care products, home-cleaning products, lawn-care products, pet-care products, and even the air you breathe. Everything you touch, inhale, or consume becomes a part of your physical body. So removing toxic heavy metals, chemicals and poisons from your system must begin with eliminating new exposures to those very poisons.
In fact, the most sound method for what I call “lifetime detox” works like this:
1. Identify the sources of your exposure to toxic substances.
2. Avoid those substances by reforming your behavior and consumption choices to break the cycle of repeated exposure to those toxins.
3. Support your body’s natural detoxification and elimination abilities.
Let’s explore each of these:
Identify: Identifying means educating yourself about all the sources of exposure to toxic heavy metals and chemicals that are negatively impacting your health and brain function right now. This step is especially difficult because all the corporations that are poisoning you with their toxic medications, toxic food additives, toxic herbicides, and toxic home-care products are precisely the same corporations who insist all of their products are safe and even “green”!
To really get up to speed on this step, you’ll need to learn to read and understand food labels, educate yourself about hidden toxic chemicals in personal care products, learn about the toxic additives and heavy metals hidden in vaccines and medications, and awaken to the dishonest marketing strategies invoked by corporations to deceive consumers about the supposed safety of their products.
Avoid: Once you identify the sources of these chemical and heavy metal toxins, you must then pursue aggressive reforms in your own behavior and consumption patterns to avoid purchasing or consuming these products.
To begin, this step will require you to go through your entire home—medicine cabinets, pantry, refrigerator, garage, laundry room, and so on—and throw out the products containing toxic heavy metals chemicals. Yes, this includes your toxic laundry detergent and dryer sheets, your toxic cough medicine, your toxic weed killers and bug sprays, and even your toxic air fresheners (which actually pollute your air rather than clean it).
This step can sometimes stress marriages, so here’s a tip: If you’re a woman reading this, and you want to get your husband on board with the household detox program, just remind him that these toxic chemicals reduce sperm count, diminish male virility, and interfere with male hormones (which is true). Tell him that endocrine disruptors really do promote the “feminization” of males, and pesticides like atrazine really do cause amphibians to develop dual sets of sex organs (both male and female). This knowledge might open your husband’s eyes to a legitimate reason to reduce your household chemical exposure.
If you’re a man who wants to convince your wife to get on board with the program, explain to her that corporations have been violating our bodies with toxic chemicals and heavy metals that aggressively promote cancers, including breast cancer and ovarian cancer (this is also true). Suggest that one of the best ways to reduce cancer risk is to detox the heavy metals and chemicals out of your lives, which will also reduce future hospitalization expenses and healthcare costs.
An important strategy here centers around the replacement of toxic products with non-toxic products. For example, after you throw out your toxic laundry detergent, you’ll need to discover non-toxic brands that still clean clothes without saturating them in synthetic chemicals.(Ecos is my favorite brand of natural laundry detergent.)
Nearly all the toxic soap products in your home can be replaced with Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps. Toxic air fresheners can be replaced with essential oil diffusers. Toxic personal care products can be replaced with organic products made with non-toxic ingredients. For every toxic product you used to buy, there’s a non-toxic alternative available today that’s safer, cleaner, and more environmentally friendly.
The Environmental Working Group, a consumer advocacy organization that specializes in identifying toxic chemicals, launched an online database called Skin Deep that provides safety profiles for cosmetics and personal care products, as well as offers tips on how to find the best products that are free from chemicals and heavy metals. EWG scientists compare the ingredients of personal care product labels to information in nearly sixty toxicity and regulatory databases, giving consumers the power to protect their health by choosing clean, non-toxic personal care products and cosmetics. You can access the profiles and tips at ewg.org/skindeep.
Support: Your body won’t eliminate water-soluble toxins very well if you’re dehydrated, so drinking plenty of water is the first and simplest way to support your everyday heavy metal detox strategy. Physical movement is also key, both for circulating lymph, which allows your body to expel metabolic garbage more proficiently, and producing sweat, which eliminates toxins through your skin. However, when you sweat, many of these toxins then get absorbed by your clothing. This is why changing your clothes after a sweaty workout is very important.
It’s also smart to support the healthy function of your detox organs (liver, kidneys, and digestive system) with medicinal herbs, superfoods, and other dietary strategies. Herbs such as yarrow, dandelion, and yellow dock are well known to support liver function. Superfoods like chlorella help support the body’s natural elimination of toxic elements through its ability to remove chemicals and detox heavy metals. Even everyday foods like beets and white carrots are “liver cleansers” that give the liver added support to carry out its job. Supporting your body’s detox of toxic elements and heavy metals also requires boosting your body’s intake of nutritive elements. Nearly all people living in Western society today are chronically deficient in vitamin D, zinc, selenium, magnesium, and many other nutrients. Nutritional supplements that help restore the balance of those vitamins and minerals in the body are remarkably safe, effective, and affordable. But the best method for acquiring minerals is to grow them into your own food, and then eat that food.
To help support this effort, I launched www.foodrising.org, which features a revolutionary nonelectric hydroponics grow technology you can easily build yourself. Using mineral-enhanced plant-food formulas I developed in my lab (using an Agilent ICP-MS instrument, a tool capable of detecting metals and nonmetals at very low levels), you can grow your own lettuce, strawberries, tomatoes, and other garden vegetables that are exceptionally high in selenium, zinc, and other trace minerals. By eating or juicing these foods, you are “supplementing” your body with potent sources of truly organic (plant-based) forms of these nutritive minerals.
Eliminating Toxins in Household Water
Hydrating our bodies with clean, chemical and heavy metal free, non-toxic water is equally as important as avoiding toxins found in food. Unfortunately, tap water contains many impurities and often times heavy metals, highlighting the need for an optimal water filter.
I strongly recommend every household be equipped with some sort of water-filtration device due to the very poor quality of municipal water. Never drink unfiltered tap water! It contains many toxic chemicals and often times heavy metals as well, including some that were not added by the water treatment plant but rather formed in the pipes as the water made its way to your home. One example would be chloramines, carcinogenic chemical compounds that form when ammonia and chlorine are added to treated tap water.
As part of my laboratory investigations into healthy living, I’ve conducted detailed testing of the ability of commercial water filters to remove toxic heavy metals.
I tested all the popular gravity water filters, including the Big Berkey, ProPur, Zen Water Systems, and other brands. All the results are published on www.waterfilterlabs.com.
The bottom line from the results? The Big Berkey (with fluoride filters) and Zen Water Systems filters removed the most toxic heavy metals in our tests. For countertop water filters, the Zerowater brand did the best job by far. In fact, many cheaper brands of countertop water filters barely removed any toxic heavy metals at all. Reverse osmosis (RO) water systems do an excellent job of removing toxic heavy metals.
I am also the inventor of 3D-printable water-filtration devices that you can download free and print on most 3D printers. You’ll find those downloadable water-filter files at www.foodrising.org.
Use Plants and Air Filters to Clean Your Indoor Air
In addition to filtering your water, you can also remove toxic elements and chemicals from your indoor air. Indoor air quality is atrociously bad in newer U.S. homes due to the “green building” phenomenon. Although it seems counter-intuitive, “green” construction techniques actually make homes more airtight (and thus, because of reduced air loss, less expensive to heat and air condition, which is what most of the “green” claims are based on), not less toxic.
By making your home more airtight, this construction method also means toxic chemicals remain at a higher concentration inside your home. With less outside air mixing with indoor air, there’s nowhere for toxic off-gassing chemicals to go. That’s why so-called “green homes” can actually be extremely toxic environments, filled with VOCs from glues, formaldehyde, plastics, wood varnishes, home-cleaning chemicals, molds, fungi spores, and more.
There are essentially two ways to eliminate these airborne toxins: living plants and high-efficiency particulate arresting (HEPA) air filtration.
Living plants are living air filters. The more plants you have thriving in your home, the cleaner and more refreshing your indoor air will be. So make it a goal to invite more living plants into your home and enjoy their many benefits on your physical and even emotional health (plants make humans happy!).
For serious HEPA air filtration, the best unit on the market today, to my knowledge, is the IQAir system. It’s European-made and very expensive, but it works flawlessly, moving a tremendous volume of air through its HEPA filtration modules.
Personally, I use HEPA filtration in my lab but living plants in my home.
Avoiding Toxins Where You Live
Another key strategy in avoiding chemical and heavy metal toxins is choosing to live far from congested cities. It’s no exaggeration to say that if you’re living in Los Angeles, you’re inhaling tens of millions of microscopic pollution particles each day. If you live in Mexico City, it’s far worse.
Living in cities subjects you to pollution sources you may have never considered. For example, vehicle brake pads often contain cadmium a potent heavy metal that needs detoxification. Walking along the sidewalk of a busy street quite literally results in you inhaling trace levels of cadmium with every breath.
Lead is still used in the aviation fuel used by most small aircraft. (The fuel is called 100LL, in which “LL” stands for “Low Lead.”) If you live underneath a common approach or departure path of small aircraft, you are literally having microscopic lead particles dropped on your yard and house any time aircraft are directly overhead, that you need to regularly be detoxing to keep your body free of heavy metals.
Chemically ignorant municipal decision makers may also subject you to toxic chemical fumigation by spraying your entire neighborhood with malathion or other mosquito-deterrent chemicals. City workers are also known to spray toxic glyphosate (Roundup) to kill weeds on sidewalks, curbs, and city streets, subjecting you to an extremely toxic substance that has been linked to cancer at parts per billion concentrations.
The only reliable way to control your environment and dramatically reduce your exposure to heavy metal toxins and chemicals is to get out of the city. Move out to the country and buy as much land as you can to have buffer space between yourself and your chemically ignorant neighbors who still probably douse their weeds with cancer-causing chemicals. Buying a buffer zone is really the best strategy, because you can only truly control the land that you own.
The avoidance of dietary toxins and chemicals can be significantly enhanced through the defensive eating strategies covered in this book that help your body to detoxify heavy metals. By consuming chlorella (an extremely nutritious green algae), strawberries, fruit fibers, or even activated charcoal at the same time you are eating a meal with a high likelihood of containing toxic heavy metals and substances, you can “bind up” those toxins, push them through your digestive tract, and avoid absorbing them into your blood and tissues.
I won’t eat at a restaurant without bringing a bottle of chlorella with me. I never eat meat unless it’s accompanied by a fresh salad or whole fruit. Interestingly, the Southern tradition of eating barbecued meat with coleslaw coincides with this same advice: The cabbage in the slaw helps block the absorption of heavy metals and prevent the carcinogenic effects of the charred meats. Vitamin C found in fresh fruits creates yet more of a protective effect during digestion. That’s why people who say things like, “It’s unhealthy to eat barbecued meats” really only grasp half the picture. In truth, it’s only unhealthy to eat such meats if they are consumed alone, without the chemical and heavy metal protective benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables.
One of the simplest things you can do when eating questionable meals is to take extra fiber supplements. The best choice for this, in terms of ability to bind with toxic elements and detox heavy metals and chemicals, is apple fiber. As it turns out, apple fiber supplements are very inexpensive and readily available.
Detoxing From Bad Fats
How do you eliminate the toxic effects of bad fats you’ve consumed in the past? The simplest answer is also the most scientifically sound: Start eating good fats, and they will eventually replace the bad fats.
It really is that simple. Every cell in your body consists of a membrane made with fat molecules. But those molecules aren’t stuck there for life; they are eliminated and rebuilt quite frequently, using whatever fat molecules are found in your blood at the time. If your blood is circulating fats from low quality cheese, onion rings, and genetically modified soybean oil, then all your body’s cells will have membranes made from the same garbage. But if your blood is circulating fats from avocados, chia seeds, clean fish oils and high omega-3 oils, then all your body’s cells get a boost in health as a result.
If you want to change your body, I’ve always said, change your blood first. And if you want to change what’s in your blood, change what you eat.
Detoxing From Heavy Metals
Eliminating heavy metals from your body can be significantly more challenging than a chemical detox. There’s evidence that mercury, for example, can almost never be fully eliminated from brain tissue. This is a good reason, by the way, to completely avoid all vaccines that contain thimerosal as a preservative. It’s made from mercury, and it’s still used in vaccines sold in the United States (despite the myth being circulated that falsely claims mercury was removed from all vaccines).
Heavy metals are difficult to detox and remove once they become embedded in tissues. Just as mercury clings to neural tissue, lead gets “stuck” in skeletal tissue (your bones). Once lead is integrated into your bone tissue, it’s almost impossible to eliminate it unless you undergo hormonal changes that lead to an erosion of bone mass. This is why many elderly women can experience lead poisoning even when they have had no recent exposures to lead: The heavy metal is literally coming out of their bones.
The difficulty of eliminating and detoxing heavy metals from body tissues and organs underscores the importance of avoidance. Your first defense against heavy metals is to avoid exposure. Your second defense is to block them during digestion with formulas such as the one I invented and patented called Heavy Metals Defense. It’s made of an ion-ex-change material, derived from selected seaweeds, which efficiently binds with lead, cadmium, mercury, and other toxic heavy metals. When taken during a meal, it can bind with those substances during digestion, supporting your body’s natural elimination process that shuttles these substances out of your body through digestive elimination.
If you don’t have specialized formulas like Heavy Metals Defense, eating more whole fruits and vegetables with every meal can go a long way toward blocking the absorption of heavy metals and detoxifying them from your body.
Health Foods That Are High in Heavy Metals
Beware of the hidden sources of heavy metals in many foods and beverages that are considered “healthy.” Many tea products are shockingly high in lead and fluoride. Tea is generally viewed as a healthy beverage, which may lead many people to mistakenly believe all teas are “clean” when it comes to heavy metals. They aren’t.
As I also documented, many organic foods and superfoods can be surprisingly high in toxic heavy metals. As a general rule, anything imported from China, India, or Thailand has a much higher risk of being contaminated than foods from North America, Europe, New Zealand, or many South American countries like Bolivia. In my lab, I’ve seen alarmingly high levels of lead in mangosteen powder, and almost all spices from India are consistently contaminated with lead. China’s agricultural sector is widely contaminated with heavy metals, so almost anything you get from China is immediately suspect.
On the good news side, however, fresh foods grown in the United States and sold at local grocery stores were found to be quite clean. Local farmers’ markets in North America or Europe are likely to offer foods with very low levels of toxic heavy metals. Purchasing and eating more of these foods is a smart way to avoid toxic heavy metals in your diet and detoxify heavy metals from your body in general.
Infrared Saunas and Sweat Lodges
One other option for healthy chemical and heavy metal detox is infrared saunas. These saunas can be extraordinarily useful but only if these two conditions are met:
1. The sauna must cause your body to produce sweat. If there’s no sweat, there isn’t much health benefit; the chemical and heavy metal toxins aren’t exiting your body.
2. You must wash off the sweat immediately after exiting the sauna. (Otherwise, the chemical and heavy metal toxins can be reabsorbed through your skin.)
Some people are fans of sweat lodges, which sometimes combine fasting with heat-induced delirium that’s marketed as a spiritual experience. After the death of two sweat lodge customers a few years ago in a “spiritual journey” retreat, more people have come to realize just how dangerous it can be to torment your body in the hopes of detoxing it of heavy metals and other impurities. The key to staying safe is to limit your time in the heat to fifteen minutes or less per session.
The bottom-line truth I hope you remember in all of this is: heavy metal detoxification doesn’t have to hurt. It should never involve diarrhea, hallucinations, or intense cramping. You don’t have to suffer to heal. In fact, the best way to detox your body of heavy metals and chemicals is to pursue cleansing diligently but patiently, allowing time to work in your favor as your body does what it already knows how to do: heal itself from within.
This article on heavy metal detoxification is excerpted with permission from Food Forensics: The Hidden Toxins Lurking in Your Food and How You Can Avoid Them for Lifelong Health by Mike Adams (BenBella Books, 2016)