Copper Toxicity and Disease
Copper is essential for normal functioning health, required for several key functions such as neurotransmitters function (Dopamine), enzymes for digestion and digestive function. Copper toxicity, especially in Perth, Western Australia is much more common than deficiencies in copper. The result is an imbalance in nutrients and pressure of detoxification pathways, gut health, neurotransmitter function and a whole range of biochemical pathways.
Copper ingestion and absorption can be reduced with optimal intake (usually supplementation in most of Australia) of zinc and molybdenum. Unfortunately most foods and vegetables are grown in depleted soils (especially in Perth) and foods lack the levels of zinc and molybdenum necessary to combat the accumulation of copper.
Today, many newborns are born with excessive tissue copper. This is partly because of the elevated oestrogen levels of the mother during the pregnancy which encourages storage of copper. Furthermore this occurs more pronounced with lower levels of the antagonistic minerals such as zinc.
What are the problems with Copper Overload?
The main problems related to copper toxicity include:
- Hormone Imbalances – particularly thyroid function as it blocks T4 production and conversion into T3
- Fatigue – by blocking iron absorption, storage and its effects in the mitochondria, also blocks magnesium, and disrupts hormone production
- higher acidic load – possible cancer involvement
- Anxiety/Depression – it reduces serotonin production
- Joint Pain and arthritis
- Poor Immunity – partly because of low zinc and other beneficial nutrients
- Poor sleep – it blocks melatonin production
- Hypoglycemia – higher cases of insulin resistance, metabolic disorder and type 2 diabetes
- Cancer – it is involved in angiogenesis which promotes cancer growth and nutrient flow to the cancer
- Allergies/Intolerance – it increases histamine production
Many of the above are because of the interaction of copper with zinc, selenium, molybdenum, magnesium, iron, Silicon, Vitamin C, folic acid, Vitamin B1, B5, B6 and Vitamin A. When the action of these nutrients is blocked many physiological processes are unable to function correctly and this results in diseases. Normal, healthy functioning biochemical function is reduced and normal functions cannot be conducted optimally.
The presence of oestrogens and xenoestrogens seems to encourage retention of copper. Therefore if you are low in zinc and molybdenum and are exposed to oestrogens/xenoestrogens or oestrogen dominant it could potentially lead to copper overload because of copper retention. The metallothionine protein responsible for the removal of copper from the body may also be affected thus also causing copper accumulation. Commonly transferrin levels will be high.
Where Does the Copper Come From?
The source of copper is usually from a number of different areas. As discussed nutritional balance is part of the reason for retention.
Environmentally, copper comes from cookware, dental materials, vitamin supplements, fungicides and pesticides residues on food, copper intrauterine contraceptive devices and birth control pills (oestrogen). Adrenal hormones cause the liver to produce ceruloplasmin, the main copper binding protein in the body and you can read more with the disease called Wilson’s disease. A sluggish liver and/or weak adrenal glands may cause copper to build up in the tissues.
Food sources include chocolate, oats, wheat bran, butter, eggs, apples, apricot kernels, bananas, olives, oranges, peaches, raisins, mushrooms, chickweed, soya beans, chicken, nuts, lobster, salmon, kelp, avocado, beetroot, tomato puree and grapes to name a few. This underlines the importance of maintaining optimal levels of the other minerals instead of cutting out foods. It is all about balance.
Testing Copper Overload
Hair mineral analysis is considered by many integrative practitioners as the most accurate means to detect excessive copper. Copper is stored in other parts of the body such as the liver for some time before it starts to be excreted into hair. When this overflow occurs into hair tissue is where it will be detected in hair analysis. If hidden copper overload is present, that is high copper levels in other tissues but not yet in the hair, it is not as obvious as overtly excessive levels. The practitioner will be able to assess this based on the response of other minerals. Based on Dr Wilson in the USA, signs of hidden copper overload include ratios of Zinc:Copper ratio less than 6:1, mercury greater than 0.4, sodium:potassium ratio less than 2.5:1, copper:molybdenum ratio greater than 625:1, Molybdenum less than 0.003.
This test is recommended for all patients who have been diagnosed with any form of cancer and is paramount for the optimal, personalised treatment of patients with cancer.