Is Copper Making You Crazy? A Closer Look at Copper Toxicity

I just ran into a new mom, a veteran Fat Flusher, who just had the most adorable baby.
She was telling me that since the baby – she has been losing hair. I immediately suggested a TMA to assess her copper – which can rise during pregnancy due to estrogen and progesterone fluctuations. Copper destroys protein bonds (like those of the hair) and is a hidden cause of alopecia and milder hair loss.

And so…I thought it was time to revisit this very misunderstood mineral.

Is copper making you crazy or emotionally unstable? High copper levels or copper toxicity is found in some people with depression, phobias, paranoid schizophrenia or bi-polar disorder. Copper is a trace mineral. It is needed in the human body, but in small amounts. It has become so prevalent in our environment that more and more of us have too much and suffer from the effects of copper toxicity.

A Copper Primer

As copper levels increase in the body, zinc levels decrease. These two metals work together in the body, with zinc being a natural antagonist to copper. Our body utilizes metals for a variety of functions and needs to maintain specific relationships between them. When this goes out of balance, our body and mind soon follow.

Copper stimulates the diencephalon – the emotional brain, while zinc stimulates the cortex – the calming, rational mind. In stimulating the brain, copper produces high levels of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. These work together and in opposition directing a wide range of emotional responses. This over-stimulation becomes the recipe for creating an unstable mind and ultimately mental illness. Various nervous disorders such as depression, phobias and schizophrenia are associated with high blood or tissue copper levels.

As copper levels increase in the body zinc and magnesium levels decrease. Zinc deficiency is often associated with copper toxicity. Zinc is an important mineral for the adrenal glands. The reduction of zinc and magnesium lowers our ability to handle normal levels of stress and significantly impairs adrenal function. This leads to increased levels of anxiety and exhaustion with a constant sense of urgency added to the mix.

Excess copper impairs energy production in the cells. Copper is a conductive metal with strong electrical charges which promotes free radical activity. Low energy production and damage from free radicals leads to an array of other health issues including acne, anemia, rheumatoid arthritis, PMS, Candidiasis (yeast infections), chronic fatigue, hormonal irregularities (elevated estrogen, decreased sexual function), hair loss, reduced thyroid function, irritable bowel syndromes (IBS), impaired liver function, and gall bladder congestion.

My Take

All of us need to watch our copper intake, particularly women. Food sources with high levels of copper include coffee, chocolate, avocado, soy, shellfish, pecans, and the drinking water in some areas. Household sources of copper include plumbing and cookware. Women are also susceptible to copper exposure through birth control pills, copper IUDs, and excess copper build-up during pregancy.

Vegetarians and others who consume high amounts of soy or soy protein beware as these products contain high amounts of copper. I recommend soy consumption in moderation; no more than two times per week. To counter the increased copper we need zinc. Zinc is found in meat and eggs.

Blood test and tissue mineral analysis (hair analysis) are effective ways to determine your copper levels and can identify other metal imbalances as well. Call Liz at 1 -800-888-4353 to check this out.

Make Sure Your Multivitamin Does Not Contain Copper

Many women need multivitamins for additional support. To address the copper toxicity problem and the fact that most women have sufficient copper, I have developed a unique women’s multivitamin – Female Multiple – available from Uni Key Health that does not contain copper. Almost all women’s multivitamins still contain copper!

To read more about Female Multiple you can go to Women’s Health – Female Multiple – NEW & IMPROVED!. My book Super Nutrition for Women details the special nutrition needs of women and explains in more depth the role of minerals in the female body with daily requirement recommendations. And for more information regarding copper toxicity and recovery see my book Why Am I Always So Tired?: Discover How Correcting Your Body’s Copper Imbalance Can Keep Your Body From Giving Out Before Your Mind Does, Free You from Those Midday Slumps, and Give You the Energy Breakthrough You’ve Been Looking For.

Gittleman, Ann Louise. Super Nutrition for Women. New York: Bantam, 2004.

Vernon, Theresa, Metals and the Mind, Wise Traditions, Volume 9, Number 4, Winter 2008, pp 35-45.

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