Heavy metals are found everywhere. They can be difficult to avoid. Most people are able to effectively eliminate heavy metals from their body without even knowing they were present. Some people are not able to clear the toxins from the body as efficiently and they build up, accumulating until they experience heavy metal poisoning.
What is Heavy Metal Poisoning?
Heavy metal poisoning occurs when heavy metals are accumulated in the body at a higher rate than the body can metabolize them. Heavy metal elements have a relative density higher than 5.0, this is greater than waters specific gravity. The most common heavy metal exposure is to mercury, lead, aluminum, arsenic and cadmium.
Some heavy metals are of nutritional value to our body in small amounts. When the body has too much and is not capable of metabolizing them, they accumulate in the soft tissues and lead to complications such as abdominal pain, stomach pain, headache, impaired cognitive or motor functions and sometimes death. The intensity of the symptoms is directly related to the amount of heavy metal toxicity present.
Symptoms of Heavy Metal Poisoning
Many times heavy metal poisoning is mistakenly diagnosed as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic depression, autism, Alzheimer’s disease and other illnesses or diseases because of the similar symptoms. If you are exhibiting the symptoms of heavy metal poisoning, request that your doctor check for it.
- Frequent headaches
- Chronic muscle, tendon or soft tissue pain
- Chronic fatigue or malaise
- Forgetfulness, confusion
- Chronic inflammation
- Vertigo, dizziness
- Food sensitivity
- Diarrhea or constipation, changes in bowel habits
- Bloating, flatulence or indigestion/heartburn
- Vision Changes
- Heart issues, palpitations, arrhythmias or heart attack
- Symptoms of depression or anxiety
Treating Heavy Metal Poisoning – What to Expect
Preventing buildup of toxins in your system is essential for your overall good health. Some natural chelating agents included in your daily diet such as vitamins A, C and E, minerals, garlic, green tea or glutathione are naturally detoxifying agents that can help keep you free from toxin buildup. However, even if you are doing all you can to prevent the buildup of heavy metals in the body; if you believe you are suffering from heavy metal poisoning you should contact your physician. If your symptoms are severe, go to the nearest emergency room. Do not delay treatment you may be risking serious damage to your soft tissues, your nervous system and your digestive tract and others.
Treatment is determined by the type of heavy metal poisoning you have and the amount of poisoning that has been incurred. Medications used range from oral medications and injections to intravenous medications. It may also include gastric lavage and inducing vomiting to help remove any ingested toxins. Some of the common treatments seen in hospitals for treating heavy metal poisoning include:
- Chelation therapy – The administration of chelating agents either orally, intramuscularly or intravenously to help remove the heavy metals from the body. These agents bind with the metals and are released from the tissues into the bloodstream where they are filtered by the kidneys to be passed through the urine out of the body. Hydration needs to be monitored and this process takes quite a while to complete. The patient is hospitalized for this treatment. It is effective for lead, mercury, arsenic and iron poisoning.
- IV treatments of hydrocortisone are given in cases of mercury to prevent respiratory complications followed by chelation therapy.
- IV treatments of desferrioxamine are immediately given in cases of iron poisoning to counteract the iron poisoning effect.
- Intravenous Fluids are given to continue hydration and treat and prevent complications such as kidney failure, shock or anemia.
- Activated Charcoal induced vomiting – If the heavy metal has been ingested, such as with thallium, arsenic or mercury vomiting is induced by using activated charcoal. Activated charcoal absorbs the metal and it is removed from the body by vomiting or lavage.
- Gastric lavage is the washing out or irrigation of the entire stomach and bowel using polyethylene glycol electrolyte solution. The heavy metal can be seen through radiological studies in the digestive tract then this method is very useful in removing it.
- Observation and care to ensure all body functions are performing correctly, replacement of lost electrolytes and hydration maintenance.
- Referrals to other practitioners for any aftercare related to complications of the poisoning such as physical therapy for muscle weakness or muscle contractures, Urology or Nephrology for any damage to the kidneys.
- If the poison was intentionally ingested for the purpose of suicide, psychiatric treatment will be necessary and a referral will be made while in the hospital.
It is important to note that the source of the poisoning needs to be identified and removed to prevent further exposure of the victim or others to the toxin.
May 6th, 2010
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