(Health Secrets Newsletter) The human body has a remarkable ability to regulate the amount of trace elements such as zinc and copper circulating in the blood and stored in cells. If blood levels are low, these elements are pulled into the bloodstream. If cellular levels are depleted the elements are pulled into the cells. If levels are adequate or high in both the blood and cells, the metals are excreted in urine and feces. When this system fails to function properly or just has too much of one of the elements to excrete readily, abnormal levels of trace metals can develop in the brain and other parts of the body. One of the most common trace metal imbalances is elevated copper and depressed zinc. Because copper and zinc are antagonistic, an excess of one leads to a deficiency of the other.
The government regulates how much copper can be present in the water you drink. However, this does not include the copper that may be coming from the pipes in your home. If you have copper pipes, your exposure to copper is dramatically elevated. Again, as in all the trace minerals present in the body, the balance of copper to zinc is as important as the actual numbers. If you were to have levels tested, both may appear in the “normal” range but if not in proper balance, you could still have signs of copper toxicity.
Copper is an essential mineral necessary for bone and connective tissue production and repair, a component of many enzymes, and must be present for the body to absorb iron. Copper deficiency can lead to osteoporosis, lowered immunity, joint pain and anemia. Acute copper excess will cause cramping, vomiting and diarrhea but this is rare. The long term effects of excess copper exposure are more insidious and hard to diagnose. These symptoms include depression, schizophrenia, signs of dementia, insomnia, hyper excitability and other mood disorders. Copper excess has such behavioral effects because it increases production of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine, epinephrine and dopamine. These neurotransmitters all have stimulating effects on the body.
Copper is plentiful in many foods while foods have become deficient in the minerals needed to balance it such as zinc, magnesium and manganese. Excess copper blocks the liver’s ability to detoxify by blocking zinc from the binding sites on metallothonein and other enzymes necessary for the production of glutathione. Glutathione is the body’s master anti-oxidant.
Copper must be bound to metallothonein and ceruloplasmin to produce ATP (adenosine triphosphate) which is the cellular energy unit. When there is a zinc deficiency present or simply too much copper, the copper cannot bind and instead becomes unbound and toxic in the blood. The body rapidly removes the copper from its blood by placing it in all the tissues, organs and glands in the body, including the brain. This leads to an irritated nervous system, mood disorders, body wide inflammation and disruption of the thyroid and adrenal glands.
Zinc is necessary to the production of all proteins including:
- Digestive enzymes
- Insulin production
- Adrenal hormones: cortisol, aldosterone, progesterone, testosterone
- Immune cells: killer T-cells, macrophages, eosinophils
- Zinc is needed in healing of wounds and scar tissue and all tissue repair, especially post operative healing.
- Maintaining healthy skin and clear complexion
- Detoxification binding proteins: metallothionein, glutathione, ceruloplasmin
When there is too much copper and/or not enough zinc present, production of these proteins is greatly inhibited leading to malfunction of every system in the body.
What can you do to prevent this imbalance?
- Never use water for cooking or drinking that has been in contact with household plumbing for more than a few hours. Run the cold water for 2 to 3 minutes first. Each tap you use for drinking/cooking water must be flushed separately.
- Never use hot water for cooking or drinking
- Use filtered water for cooking and drinking
- Does your water taste metallic?
- Look for blue or blue green stains around sinks, tubs and other plumbing fixtures.
- Consider taking a zinc supplement
- Get your water tested by a certified lab. Since lead enters the water the same way that copper does, if you test, get lead tested also.