My Heavy Metal Mystery

March 8, 2011
Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Award-winning nutritionist and New York Times bestselling author.

77005633Recent test results left me mystified.

For over ten years, I have been on the trail of heavy metal. And no, I’m not talking Led Zepplin, here! Twice a year, I test myself using a Tissue Mineral Analysis to identify patterns of glandular health and emotional trends that can be assessed from mineral ratios (sodium to potassium correlates with adrenal function, calcium to potassium reveals thyroid efficiency, low sodium and high potassium is known as the fear formula, while calcium to magnesium is associated with blood sugar).

Imagine my surprise when I received my latest TMA—which is done by collecting a hair sample—and saw aluminum levels that were sky-rocketing. Hair is an especially good barometer of toxic metals because it reveals a three month window into your body’s biochemistry. There are many inherent dangers in the widespread use of aluminum. I know because I have written about them!

For starters, aluminum compromises digestion because it has a tendency to neutralize the protein-digestive enzyme pepsin in the stomach. In addition, it interferes with the body’s ability to use magnesium, calcium, and phosophorus, putting one at increased risk of osteoporosis. Impaired motor coordination and Alzheimer’s have been associated directly and indirectly with aluminum. Autopsies of people who have died with Alzheimer’s have found aluminum in the nerve cell plaques in the cerebral cortex.

Other symptoms include dryness of the skin and mucus membranes, heartburn, colic, flatulence, ulcers, spasms of the esophagus, appendicitis, constipation due to muscular weakness, and long-term memory loss. Parkinson’s and dementia have been associated with early signs of aluminum toxicity.

But where oh where was my aluminum coming from?

As I write this blog, I can hear the words of Dr. Hazel Parcells, grande dame of alternative medicine, “I’d rather have the most deadly serpent in the kitchen than a single aluminum pot or pan.” So, for decades (literally) I have never (knowingly) used an aluminum pot or pan, got rid of every aluminum utensil I owned—including tea kettles, measuring cups, and strainers—and banished aluminum-containing antiperspirants, cosmetics, and antacids (like Maalxo, Mylanta, and Gelusil) from my medicine cabinet.

But, truth be told, I might have gotten a little bit sloppy in the past few years with aluminum foil for cooking and reheating—especially when I have run out of parchment paper. After all, as I wrote in my first book, Beyond Pritikin, “No food or drink, especially acidic foods that are tomato based should be cooked or covered in aluminum or aluminum foil.” No more foil for me!

Hmm. I also realized that I have been traveling quite a bit lately and that aluminum is used to purify water in municipal water supplies. Since I have made it a habit to drink hot water (and lemon) in restaurants, could it have came from an aluminum pot or kettle they most likely use? Or was the water itself full of aluminum from being treated with aluminum salts?

From now on, I will try to drink room temperature bottled water when I am eating out. (While there are no guarantees here, at least I can eliminate the possibility of it being heated in an aluminum pot or kettle).

Since my analysis, I have become more passionate than ever in figuring out the cause—not just the condition—behind accumulating aluminum and all kinds of maladies.

The bottom line: No matter what your condition, identifying and eliminating toxins you never suspected you were exposed to can transform your health with some simple, common sense environmental intervention. I will report on my progress shortly after I retest with a second TMA in about a month.

Related Articles and Podcasts

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS, is an award-winning New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty books including The Fat Flush Plan series and her latest book, Radical Metabolism. She’s been rewriting the rules of nutrition for more than 40 years and is internationally recognized as a pioneer in the field of diet, detox and women’s health issues. 

For a FREE daily dose of tips and strategies for maintaining healthy weight, conquering insomnia, and much more…check out my Radical Health Tips.

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  1. Biba

    Perhaps hair color? Even some that claim to be “natural” have it.


    Time for you to pay attention to Chemtrails…in the sky.
    See the movie “What on Earth are they Spraying”.

    Aluminum is one of the chemicals being sprayed on us
    by Chemtrails…along with Barium and some others.
    It’s Wake Up to Chemtrails time…here on Earth.

  3. Nancy

    I have your books and was on Fat Flush program for 4 months without losing 1 pound!
    I am suspecting a “cortisol” type problem, but have not thought about metal toxicity.
    Can these metals disrupt normal metabolism? I’ve had NO thyroid gland since 1975, and can’t seem to lose ANY weight.

  4. Twirpy

    We are disconnecting from source when we live our lives from a place of fear – fear of toxic exposure on a daily basis. I have been there! If feels better to work from a place strength – to develop a detox protocol so that whatever we are exposed to is eliminated. Healing the digestive tract so that the body eliminates properly as well as discovering methylation issues – over or under. Those who are under have difficulty detoxing.

  5. Heather

    Aluminum isn’t a good conductor, but perhaps there is some in the sheets?

    I’d like to know what metals are in there… can you find that out?


  6. Liz

    Heather the metal in the earthing sheets is silver.

  7. Liz

    Nancy – it could be heavy metals like mercury or even an out of balance of a nutrient mineral like copper, that effects the speed of your metabolism. The TMA would really be a helpful test.

  8. Elizabeth Good

    Since aluminum is one of the largest components, when I read your post Ann Louise, my first thought was, “Chem Trails.” Although some have found the very idea to reek of conspiracy theory or highly controversial, the more research I do, the more I have found it to appear solid. I agree, upon reading other comments, not to come from a place of fear with it, but to be calmly informed, and to be activist when appropriate. One of the best sources is the film “What in the World are They Spraying?” I also wonder, with your travel schedule, what is being sprayed on airplanes, and if that could be a factor.

  9. Jennie

    My 1st thought was chemtrails as well.

  10. ione

    I just listened to a CD on Chem-trails. I do think that might be something more
    to explore as an enviromental toxin.

  11. Sue

    So even if it is Chem-trails or some other source that cannot be found at this time, isn’t the important thing to figure out how to get it out of the body?

  12. administrator

    Great comments, all. The spraying is definitely a consideration, I would think. In the interim, ALG will be taking more magnesium and supplementing with pepsin (two substances axed by aluminum) and report again soon…

  13. Lynne

    What about deodorant…does it have aluminun in it? I thought that is why you are not supposed to use it before a mamogram.

  14. Liz

    Yes, antiperspirants do have aluminum compounds in them. It is better to select one of the many options available at the health food store.

  15. cj

    I am a flight attendant. NOTHING is sprayed in airplanes. The FAA is very strict about what can be used to clean aircraft. (You know…flammability and all that happy stuff). Some foreign (third world) countries require us to spray a disinsectant after pax have left the A/C, but even that is being gradually discontinued. It is barely discernable after being sprayed. It probably doesn’t even work.

  16. Mika


    I working in a machine shop and the main material I work with is aluminum! :O

    I guess start reducing my exposure at home with the pots and pans, and actually using my ipod cover on my ipod touch(aluminum backing).

    I was thinking i was developing a wheat sensitivity because of my on the go lifestyle(i tend to eat made in house sandwiches from coffee shops, mmmm! But I suppose it’s not!)

    But what are some steps to take to minimize my contact at work when I’m handling it ALL day?! D:

  17. GP

    I’m chuckling, because no one has mentioned another obvious source of excess aluminum (and mercury) — DENTAL FILLINGS! It came to my mind as soon as I saw the picture of the woman with her finger in her mouth. In fact, that’s what I thought this article was going to be about. If you look it up, fillings are made of an amalgam of silver, ALUMINUM and copper, with liquid mercury.

    Does the author have any metal fillings? If so, how old are they? They do break down eventually and leach into your system.

    Good luck!

  18. Marcel

    Barium is allegedly another major component of chemtrails. Worth including barium in your next TPA if possible. High barium levels may indicate the aluminum is also from chemtrails. Regards, Marcel

  19. Martha

    In 1983 I started getting hives and the more natural I went – the worse they got! The traditional doctors said it was because I had been nervous and stressed b/c of my wedding – I pointed out my husband had gotten married too… w/o hives.

    One day, sitting on the sofa with my face so swollen one eye was shut … there was a doctor on a local (NYC) station and he was talking about the metals in our food, environment, etc. He gave some of the symptoms and lo and behold – HIVES!

    I made an appointment at his clinic and, while they took blood for metal testing, they prescribed mega C and manganese. Within 24 hours the hives had subsided and never have come back. Just as they suspected, I was extremely high in copper. The tin that lined my copper pans had worn thin, I had been cooking with lots of mushrooms – they are high in copper.

    Carl Pfeiffer, M.D., Ph.D. was truly a pioneer and saved me from years of bouncing between doctors searching for a rather simple answer. The reason I was accepted into his practice was my extreme allergies. His work was remarkable.

  20. Liz

    GP – metal fillings do break down over time and even when you chew some metal is released into the body. Also when you drink carbonated beverages, the phosphoric acid will cause the mercury to come off as well.

  21. linda mitchell

    I’m soooo glad I took the advice of Dr. Ann Louise and had a Tissue Mineral Analysis. They found High Mercury Toxicity in my Hair analysis and my Blood test. The mercury overload according to my doctor was effecting a whole host of things; Thyroid Adrenals Sugar levels etc. I was eating a lot of fish at the time and discovered the one I was eating almost daily was among the highest in Mercury. I also went to the dentist to have my fillings checked. My dentist was alarmed when she saw how my fillings were eroding and underneath was such decay. I didn’t realize filling could decay and erode like that. I have had all of my Mercury fillings removed and I’m careful about the fish i eat and how often. I feel so much better, my whole system is relieved.


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