The word ‘Detox’ makes us smile as we feel that it’s the best way to get rid of impurities from the body such as alcohol, drugs or poison. Detoxification is nothing but cleansing the blood and now we can see a plethora of detox programs advertised to the health-conscious public as an aid to help resolving depression, bloating, headache, joint pain and fatigue. Even Hollywood celebrities are fans of detox diets which they believe are helpful for restoring energy, losing weight and even relieving symptoms of chronic conditions. Understand more about detox diets and their place in today’s world by visiting the website www.firsteatright.com. We are still debating on the effects of such detox diets but I recently came across another detox called as the ‘heavy metal detox’ that triggered my attention.
The environment is full of pollution that is taking a toll on our health in different ways. Tattoos, environmental pollutants, contaminated water, dental fillings and certain household products expose individuals to the dangers of heavy metals such as mercury, nickel, lead, aluminium, uranium and cadmium that rest upon our brain and bones after years of accumulation diminishing your mental and physical health. The presence of such metals in abnormal quantities affects human health increasing the risk of heart disease, thyroid problems, dementia, anaemia, autism, Alzheimer’s disease, infertility and birth defects and sometimes even cancer. The functioning of organs such as the brain, liver and the lungs are also greatly affected disrupting blood composition and reducing energy levels. Just like how we believe that detoxification helps the body get rid of toxicity there are certain foods and medicines that help remove heavy metals from the body and use of such substances is called as heavy metal detox.
Individuals generally think twice before accepting job offers from chemical, leather or other such industries as their work environment involves breathing air that’s mixed with chemicals, metals and other elements that disrupt body health. But every one of us is not blessed to choose our work profile or our environment. Working in such hazardous environments involving industrial, agricultural, water and sewage waste, soil erosion, mining, pesticides in crops, tobacco smoke and fossil fuel emissions puts the body at risk for heavy metal poisoning. Such hazards faced by the body is reversed by a process called as ‘chelation’.
There are certain substances present in foods and medications that bind to heavy metals allowing them to be dissolved and excrete them out of the body through the process called as ‘chelation’. The process sounds simple and we assume that eating certain foods helps us cleanse ourselves but people should not try heavy metal detox without the supervision of a healthcare professional. Physicians use certain drugs such as penicillamine or dimercaprol which have the ability to bind to the heavy metals resting within the body flushing them out. There are some of them who might be exposed to low levels of heavy metal poisoning regularly and using heavy metal detox helps to avoid a number of chronic conditions. We even have research showing the usefulness of this detox in preventing kidney, cardiovascular and neurological conditions.
These days more and more doctors are using chelation in treating other health problems such as cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s and even autism. We have various research showing that Alzheimer’s and autism might be the result of metal interaction involving copper, zinc and iron.
Each of us contain a certain proportion of heavy metals in the body and their effects on health vary based on the quantity present. When individuals contain normal levels of the metal the process of chelation can bring in more harm than good. The treatment too must be done under extreme supervision as there are greater chances of debilitating consequences-for instance, cases of death have been reported after chelation treatment due to lower calcium levels in the blood that resulted in cardiac arrest.
While chelation does guarantee detoxification, it can also lead to serious side effects such as drop in calcium levels, headaches, reduction of blood pressure and even kidney damage. Hence there has been proposals to clear metal toxification in the body using dietary modifications-such as including cilantro and spirulina and many others such as the ones given below.
We have research showing that including dietary fibre such as fruits and grain with bran helps removing heavy metals, especially mercury. Sulphur-rich foods such as garlic and broccoli play integral roles-garlic helps in preventing kidney damage from cadmium. Chlorella (green algae) increases detoxification of mercury in mice. Cilantro, in combination with chlorella is the perfect detoxification aid as cilantro leaves are full of anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antiseptic and antimicrobial properties helping to flush out heavy metals through the excretory system.
There are supplements too proposed for heavy metal removal from the body but these need to be consumed only under the supervision of a physician. Though heavy metal detox might help in improving mental performance, improving skin health, reduce free radical damage, enhance immunity and improve digestive function there are cases when chelation could become extremely dangerous affecting one’s life too. Take caution while performing chelation and look out for safer alternatives to serve your purpose in terms of relying on various food sources.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.