Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Award-winning nutritionist and New York Times bestselling author.

June 29, 2009

Copper CRAZY

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.

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.

I’d like to meet and greet you on my Facebook groups, so won’t you check us out at the Radical Metabolism RevolutionFat Flush Nation, or my Inner Circle!


  1. Carol

    I know that coffee and black tea are both high in copper, but have been unable to find any data on the copper content of green tea. Can you tell me whether it’s high in copper, too, and also whether drinking it at the same time as eating something acidic, like grapefruit or drinking it with lemon juice, would increase the absorption of the copper? (I know, for instance, that eating iron-rich foods with something acidic increases the absorption of iron, and thought it might be true for copper, too.)

    Thank you for your reply. Your books and website have been incredibly helpful to me, over the years.


  2. Jessica

    That is a great question above about green tea, and also about eating copper with acidic food. I have wondered the same. Did anyone know the answer?

  3. Marina

    While we’re on the subject, I drink white tea all day long. Specifically, Prince of Peace 100% Organic Premium Peony White Tea, according to the label. I’m wondering about the copper content, and also, as I purchase it at a too-good-to-be-true price, if anyone knows anything else positive or negative about this product in general. Thanks!

  4. profling

    Well and good for most people, but it is not advisable to exclude copper from the diet of women with rheumatoid or osteoarthritis, particularly those who consume no tap water.

  5. True Religion Jeans Sale

    There’s seriously a fortune to discover this specific. I reckon that you’ve made some very good points with alternate options way too.

  6. euan williamson

    Interesting reading. However, I think you ”tilt the boat” too far one way. We NEED copper – in a daily amount: 7mg per day is advisable. The relationship between zinc and copper is a problematic one, but if you exclude coper you might as well exclude iron as copper is indispensable in the absorption of iron in the body. Much copper is rejected by the body, and in fact it can be argued the copper deficiency is a GREATER problem than excess. But I see your main mission is to promote your vitamin tablets, so there is a serious issue of conflict of interest here.

    • James

      I agree with this comment; health degrades rapidly when copper is depleted. 99% of vitamins do not contain the right content of copper for humans, especially multivitamins. They also have WAY too much manganese, which is implicated in ASD and all other neurological diseases. All kids with ASD are actually entirely copper depleted, which is why nobody will allow a liver biopsy to prove it. There has been a couple people I’ve read online about actually having the gonads to try copper on their ASD kids, with a perfect. Ire rate. The modern-day herbicides actually bind copper better than anything else, not manganese. Try it yourself; take 8mg of copper per day for 4 weeks, and get a before after blood test. You will Ceruploplasmin and serum copper go DOWN, indicating inflammation is reduce (and you’ll feel young again!). You know, people are slowly figuring this out, so articles like this are almost ridiculous. Pretty much the only people left that have adequate copper are people running soft water through copper pipes, that is not fluoridated (CuF2 is not bioavailable). Additionally, most companies are purifying their products (on municipal water) with KDF, which emits zinc nanoparticles when used, and binds up copper.

      • April

        A person can be both copper toxic and copper deficient at the same time. Our bodies need copper but only when it is bio-available. Our adrenals produce ceruloplasmin which combines with copper to make it bio-available. When our adrenals are stressed and worn out they don’t produce ceruloplasmin and then the copper in our bodies builds up to toxic levels. It can get stored in the brain and liver, overloading them. It is a DELICATE matter balancing copper with zinc and also detoxing copper and strengthening the adrenals. A person should find someone who is an expert in HTMA (Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis) AND SLOWLY balancing the mineral imbalances that are revealed through that test. I presume Liz (who is mentioned in Anne’s article) is such a person. There is also another website that is also informative and Rick, at that site, is very helpful and knowledgeable.

        • Penny

          I agree with the first comment, not the one from James. Copper is needed for ceuroplasmin. It seems copper is actually needed to use copper. This copper toxic scare isn’t healthy in my opinion. I don’t think Rick understands copper regulation.

          • Penny

            I mean I agree with the first two comments including what James had to say. I don’t agree with what April had to say. Copper is really important.

  7. Rachel

    Hi! I am new to this site, so forgive me if this was discussed previously. I stumbled.upon this blog because I was diagnosed with Wilson’s Disease in 1993. Wilson’s Disease is a disease in which your body isn’t able to process copper, so it builds up in your liver, kidney’s and brain. I actually inherited the disease from my mother, who passed away from it in ’93 as well. I thought this site was interesting and was wondering if anyone else has heard of this disease before? I currently take Zinc to maintain my copper levels.

  8. Shellie M. Richter

    I owe my sanity to Dr. Gittleman and her book “Why Am I Always So Tired?” I was unknowingly predisposed to copper overload (should’ve believed my Mom when she said she broke out when she ate chocolate), was a VERY soy-happy vegetarian and vegan for most of my life, was on birth control pills for fifteen years, and had a copper IUD.
    None of the Western medicine doctors I saw could find anything and couldn’t bear to admit they didn’t have the answer so they told me nothing was wrong. I spent years of my life in utter misery, depressed and anxious, had high blood pressure all of a sudden, was full of candida, and my face covered in dark melasma and golf ball-sized acne. It hurt to smile or wash my face…but nothing’s wrong, right?
    I tried literally everything, spent a ton of money and time, nearly lost my husband in the process. Then I found Dr.Gittleman’s book and started experimenting on myself.It was a really hard decision to start eating meat again, but my acne’s long gone, my blood pressure and cholesterol are down dramatically, and the melasma’s improving VERY slowly. It’s been a few years since then and there’s great improvement, but I’m still in the process. I now see a naturopathic doctor who still isn’t quite sold on the copper toxicity idea, even when I showed him my hair mineral test, but we’ve gotten rid of the candida, we’re working on the adrenal burnout, and I’ve just had my first liver flush (Glutathione and phosphatidyl choline- IV), I need to get a few more in the next two months, but I think they’re really going to help.
    As far as the blood pressure medicine, I’ve had some infusions of L-Arginine as I didn’t even register on the nitric oxide meter the first time he tested me, now I’m at full levels and just need to take a few readings to make sure I can eliminate the prescription altogether.
    I know the last post to this article was last year, but I wanted to share how much Dr. Gittleman’s book means to me. I can’t wait to finish with the liver flushes and see how I look and feel. When I’m done, I want to write about this in more detail so other women don’t struggle like I did or for as long; it’s been about ten years since this started. Doctors made me feel like I was crazy, but the spreading discoloration on my face and the fact I felt like garbage were evidence to the contrary.
    The gentleman in a previous post mentioned that we need copper, to a degree we do, but to me, it’s like saying we all need salt. Yeah we do, but how many of us really a supplement to get it, especially with the way things are salted in this country. I’ve used some of the supplements she promotes and can tell you they work. I didn’t jive with the way he was saying it was a conflict of interest. If they were garbage supplements, that would be different.
    Anyway thank you eternally Dr. Gittleman, your book was the candle in the darkness. I was lost at that point, not knowing which direction to go next.

  9. Mery

    Ive just started your book after testing high for copper and having terrible fatigue and other symptoms. Two questions, one how much zinc should I be taking roughly a day, to detox copper, and can I drink herbal tea? I have been taking chlorella to detox copper, and made major dietary changes. Thanks so much I would love to hear from you!

    • Team ALG

      To determine an adequate zinc intake it would be advisable to do a Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis. Herbal tea tends to be a source of copper and fluoride, so hot lemon water would be a wonderful alternative.

  10. MikeT

    IS COFFEE REALLY HIGH IN COPPER? When I read the book “Why am I always so tired”, it listed 100g of “GROUND COFFEE” as having 1.26mg of copper.

    I figured that meant 3.5oz of ground coffee beans had that much copper. I figured that meant that 8oz of water passing over a scoop of coffee would have negligible amounts.

    However, here, it’s listed as high. Which is it?

    Is coffee HIGH OR LOW in copper? Is Decaf any different than regular coffee?


    • Team ALG

      Hi MikeT, after reviewing the new data at , We can see that there is a negligible amount of copper in a brewed 8 oz cup of coffee. Given this finding, coffee can be considered low in copper. Decaffeinated coffee would be the same.

  11. Slavea

    Hi, i am curently detoxing copper and the simptoms that i am getting are really not plesant at all! But I would like to ask is it normal, to get ringing in the ears while detoxing copper? Are you a practitioner, that deals with metal detox?
    Thank you for your work on copper detox!
    Please peply!

    • Team ALG

      Hi Slavea, Ann Louise is a pioneer of nutrition and has been talking about copper toxicity for years. Her book “Why Am I Always So Tired” is a wonderful resource for anyone concerned with detoxing from copper overload. It could be that excess copper is interfering with your B12 metabolism, which can sometimes be an underlying cause of tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Have your B12 levels check and supplement accordingly with methylcobalamin, a form of B12 that is most easily used.

  12. Alex

    Is black or green tea high in copper? In the book it says it is but lab results yield negligible copper. Thank you.

    • Team ALG

      It’s the pesticides and fertilizers used on tea that contain high levels of copper. Additionally, the high caffeine stimulates cortisol, which pumps up estrogen production and can perpetuate high copper.

  13. JPK

    With regard to copper levels, what about fruit teas e.g. strawberry?

    • Team ALG

      Fruit teas usually still have a base of green or white tea, so the same rules apply.

  14. Alex

    Thank you for your reply regarding tea and the pesticides containing copper. What if you drink organic tea? I’m presently drinking kukicha tea – it’s the stems and branches of green tea. It’s very low in caffeine. So would organic tea make a difference? I’m assuming if coffee isn’t organic it would as well contain copper from the pesticides. Thank you for your guidance.

  15. Shellie

    I have a question please. So if it’s the pesticides, etc. that cause tea to be high copper, what if you are drinking organic? When I do drink tea, it tastes like metal to me. Boo! It didn’t used to be this way. Does anyone know why this might be? Online searches have yielded nothing and there is no way I’m pregnant. Thank you!

    • Lisa

      Organic tea is much better. It has low copper. Some people say that if you taste metal you probably are high in it. It may just be a pregnancy taste.

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  17. Rouss

    Hello, can please anyone help me with accurate information about teas?, I’m currently getting a copper detox, should I drink chamomile tea? I used to do daily but I’m not sure if that tea contains high traces of copper?, please somebody knows about this? That nos a lot!!!

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  19. Casual Remark

    Don’t organic crop farmers utilize copper-based fungicides to a much higher degree than conventional growers even? Organics would then presumably have more copper than their conventional couterparts, no? I figure it’s just best sticking with stuff that’s basically low in copper and that I can peel. Tea is out IMHO.

    • Penny

      Copper is needed to build ceuroplasmin. This fear around copper isn’t healthy to me and just creates copper regulation issues in my opinion.

      I’m not scared of cooper one bit. Recusing copper intake and eating more meat caused low copper and calcium on HTMA. Low calcium isn’t good, neither is low copper. My serum copper was high but due to inflammation and free copper. I was just throwing my copper out of ceuroplasmin. My RBC zinc was really high and cutting meat especially red meat, stopping supplements, and increasing copper through diet helps me use copper properly. I needed to reduce molybdenum intake and do better with less beans. Taking vitamin C and magnesium citrate was bad for my ceuroplasmin and copper utilization as well too. My body needs copper to use copper. I do better as a pescatarian with some eggs, plenty of dairy, and some fish. I eat potatoes and veggies. Copper is an essential nutrient in my opinion.

      Only my experience and opinion but I think the fear about copper isn’t healthy and that copper regulation is poorly understood. And I think too much zinc isn’t healthy. I have read copper intake doesn’t affect zinc absorption but zinc absorption affects copper absorption. My views on copper have changed greatly.

      Best of luck figuring out what you need.

      • Penny

        Please remove my comment. I don’t want to be apart of the non sense on this page.

  20. Penny

    This sounds like the advice I received from an ND and integrated MD. Their advice never helped, it only made me worse. I think copper is poorly misunderstood. Copper regulation is poorly understood.

    Copper is needed to make ceuroplasmin. Copper is needed to use copper. What happened when I started reducing copper and increasing zinc? My RBC zinc went to toxic levels, my serum copper went up but due to increased inflammation and free copper, my copper and calcium dropped really low on HTMA, my urine copper dropped, etc.

    Too much zinc causes low HDL, high LDL, altered lymphocyte functioning, GI pain, focal neuronal deficits, increases chances for protests cancer, focal and negatively affects calcium, copper, manganese, and iron.

    Reduced copper intake is linked to bone loss and cardiovascular disease. Copper is needed for mitochondria and ATP. They use copper topically on horses to help healing. Copper is an essential trace element.

    I needed to reduce my zinc intake, stop supplements, and increase copper in my diet. I need copper to build ceuroplasmin and use copper.

    There are cultures all of the world that have more cooper intake through plant food sources and eat less meat yet they are healthier than most Americans. How is this so if copper is so bad?

    • Penny

      Please remove my comment. I don’t want to be apart of this nonsense on this page.

  21. Karyn

    Thank you for this article. I’m surprised this came up in a Google search because they seem to favor WebMD and other such sites. I got some valuable information even though I’m looking to increase copper and lower zinc, from a way off HTMA ratio. My hair has been getting noticeably thinner lately and I never would have suspected copper supplements. Also, I had no idea soy protein was a source of copper. That knowledge could really help peri-menopausal women with estrogen dominance. I was using a lot of soy protein at that time in my life and benefitted greatly from progesterone cream. Morley Robbins says that if progesterone cream helps you, it means you are zinc deficient. This Cu/Zn balance is complicated and very individual. Thanks for the pearls of wisdom contained in this article.


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