Posted on by Margo Gladding
Copper is an important trace mineral that is involved in many metabolic processes within the body. It plays a role in iron metabolism, antioxidant defense, immune function, as well as in blood vessel, nerve and bone health. However, despite its importance, too much copper can be toxic and cause significant imbalances in a person’s biochemistry and neurotransmitter activity. It can also cause inflammation, oxidative damage, and contribute to a variety of chronic health problems. Millions of people have elevated copper levels and are not aware of it because most doctors do not test for copper toxicity.
High copper levels can have a profound impact on mental health and is especially prevalent in women. Copper overload can cause the body to feel like it is in a constant state of fight-or-flight, by increasing the neurotransmitter norepinephrine and decreasing dopamine levels. Research shows that elevated copper levels are commonly found among individuals with anxiety, panic disorders, depression (especially postpartum), bipolar, ADHD, autism, paranoid schizophrenia, violence, neurodegeneration, poor stress tolerance, and sleep disturbances. Fortunately, specific lab testing can determine copper toxicity and taking targeted nutrients can correct imbalances and provide significant improvement in symptoms.
Causes of Copper Toxicity
In the body, there is an inverse relationship between zinc and copper. A proper balance of these two minerals is essential for healthy functioning. However, there are many factors that can cause too much free copper to be present in one’s blood and too little zinc. This can have harmful effects on the body, as zinc is a powerful antioxidant and plays a critical role in activating hundreds of enzymatic reactions, regulating the immune system, promoting wound healing, enhancing DNA repair, and calming and relaxing the nervous system.
Contributors to Copper Overload
1. Zinc deficiency
Poor diet, vegan/vegetarian diets, depleted soil, GI malabsorption, chronic illness, and genetic SNPs can lead to reduced zinc levels.
2. Environmental exposure to copper
Copper is much more abundant in the environment than zinc and exposure occurs from eating copper-rich foods (soy, beans, grains, nuts, avocados, potatoes, oysters, mushrooms, etc.), leaching form copper water pipes, cookware, dental fillings, pool chemicals, pesticides, fungicides, fossil fuels, etc.
3. Oral contraceptives and copper IUDs
Increased estrogen levels cause copper retention, which can lead to copper overload and decreased zinc levels.
Endocrine disruptors from pesticides, plastics, dry cleaning chemicals, growth hormones in meat, personal care products, etc., can lead to hormonal imbalances and drive copper levels upwards.
5. Mother’s copper level
A mother can pass on her high copper levels to her baby.
6. Low levels of the key binding proteins
Key proteins, including ceruloplasmin and metallothionein, bind to copper and help keep copper levels in check. However, low levels of these proteins can cause a large percentage of unbound copper to accumulate in the blood.
Common symptoms of Copper Overload
- High anxiety
- Skin sensitivity
- Severe fatigue
- Episodes of rage
- Panic attacks
- Estrogen intolerance (doesn’t do well on birth control pills)
- Problems that start with puberty, pregnancy or menopause
- Emotional meltdowns
- Ringing in ears
- Sensitivity to shellfish
- Sensitivity to food dyes
- Gets sick a lot
- Joint pains
- Sleep problems
Identifying & Correcting Nutrient Imbalances
Laboratory testing is a very helpful tool for determining how a person’s biochemical individuality may be affecting their behavior, mood and mental well-being. Measuring serum copper, plasma zinc, and serum ceruloplasmin levels are considered very accurate ways to assess zinc and copper status. Because other chemical imbalances are commonly associated with elevated copper and low zinc levels, two additional tests, whole blood histamine and urine pyrrole levels are highly recommended.
Village Green’s Brain Chemistry Panel includes these key tests and is based on 30+ years of research by Dr. William Walsh. Dr. Walsh’s extensive research has found that these lab tests can help to identify the most prevalent nutrient imbalances found in individuals with mental health issues. And Dr. Walsh’s research shows that these imbalances can be naturally and effectively corrected by taking specific nutrients.
Based on test results, a customized blend of vitamins, minerals and amino acids can be formulated by a skilled practitioner and created in a compound pharmacy, like Village Green Apothecary. Individualized nutrient formulas provide targeted support for mental health by balancing biochemistry and promoting neurotransmitter activity.
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