Hidden Copper Overload

July 21, 2011

1001633941The copper connection to low thyroid, fatigue, anxiety, and insomnia.

Diagnosing copper overload is more of an art than an exact science. Ironically many people who have copper overload don’t initially test high in copper—at least 50% of my clients don’t—when they take a Tissue Mineral Analysis. Their metabolism is so depressed that the copper is tightly stored in tissue and hasn’t yet been released into circulation and deposited in the hair.

Yet, if they begin treatment for copper overload, eating a low-copper, high-zinc diet and taking supplements to boost their metabolism, copper will be mobilized from storage deports and show up in high amounts on a Tissue Mineral Analysis conducted within two months.

Since initial testing is simply not as sophisticated as the wisdom of our own bodies, taking my Copperhead Questionnaire will help you to better assess common symptoms and indicators associated with copper overload. If you answer “yes” to three or more questions in the quiz, some degree of copper overload is likely present:

1. Do you eat frequent light meals, but still lack energy? Meals consisting of legumes, whole grains, nuts, and especially soy products are healthy for some people, but not for those with copper overload.

2. Does your mind tend to race, even when your body is exhausted? Copper is a brain stimulant—it speeds up mental processing, so high levels usually lead to racing thoughts. But high levels also tamp down the thyroid and adrenal function, which are the glands most responsible for metabolism, and giving us our get-up-and-go.

3. Do you consider yourself a highly creative person, but one who is frequently anxious and drained of energy? Individuals who have high tissue copper levels tend to be right-brain dominant, thus they are intuitive, emotionally oriented, and artistically inclined—and tend to overdo it.

4. Do you tend to daydream and live in your head? People with copper overload sometimes are so overly creative that they become wrapped up in their thoughts and daydreams.

5. Do you frequently experience insomnia because your mind simply won’t calm down? Copper is a brain stimulant, so excess copper typically interferes with sleep.

6. Are you prone to emotional and physical highs and lows? Often people with copper overload are so stimulated by their creative ideas that they become emotionally and physically hyperactive for a while, drawing on borrowed energy despite their fundamental fatigue.

7. Do you have frequent cold and flus, slow wound healing, lack of taste or appetite, or white spots on your fingernails? These are all typical signs of a zinc deficiency—a common factor that leads to the development of copper overload. Zinc is the mineral antagonist or balancer to excess copper.

8. Do you suffer from any of the following conditions—migraine headaches, hyperactivity, panic attacks, mood swings, depression, premenstrual tension, or skin problems—for which no underlying cause has been identified? Women with high levels of copper in their body frequently experience these symptoms.

9. Do you have high estrogen levels or use birth control pills, estrogen replacement therapy, or a copper IUD? Estrogen and copper levels tend to go hand in hand in the body—as the level of one rises, the level of the other tends to rise, too.

10. Do you either crave or adversely react to high-copper foods such as legumes, whole grains, nuts, chocolate, soy products, avocados, and black tea? Individuals with copper overload tend to either crave foods high in copper (like those listed) or have adverse reactions to them.

11. Do you have areas of dark pigmentation or skin blotches on your face? Copper dependent melanin influences the color of hair, as well as the color of skin. Dark areas of pigmentation or skin blotches on the face are often signs of hidden copper overload. This unusual pigmentation is most likely to occur during pregnancy, when estrogen and copper levels rise.

Supplement Your Diet

A hidden place you may be ingesting copper is in your multivitamin. Copper-free multiples are hard to locate because even in the natural health industry, few people know about the problem of copper overload (meaning that most natural-product manufacturers don’t make copper-free products). I became aware of this problem when I learned that I had copper overload many years ago. As a result of my frustration at not being able to find a product that met my needs, I worked with UNI KEY to develop a copper-free multiple.

The supplement I developed, the Female Multiple, is completely free of copper and scientifically designed to meet the needs of women. I recommend it for all women who are tired and know or suspect that they have copper overload.

For those of you who are interested in having testing done, keep in mind that—as with most other tests—it’s helpful only if the results are evaluated correctly. I recommend UNI KEY’s Tissue Mineral Analysis. It measures levels of 29 major nutrient minerals and 8 toxic metals, is simple to do with speedy results, and comes with my personalized recommendations specific to you.


Take this advice from a fellow “copper head” and don’t allow preventable ailments to continue. With simple dietary and lifestyle change, you can cop out on copper. For more information on copper overload, please refer to my book, Why Am I Always So Tired?

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. Brigitte from Perth

    Wow – what good timing – my Naturopath has just indicated I have copper overload – something at last to explain EXACTLY they symptoms you are describing.

    Keep up the good work.

  2. Becky Gromlich

    I have an adult son who has nearly all of those symptoms. He is especially frustrated with his insomnia. I am not sure he even takes a multiple – can he choose a diet that will lower his copper?

  3. Administrator

    Becky: You will benefit from the book mentioned above as well as a TMA test that UNI KEY offers…

  4. Taryn C

    I’ve had a copper IUD for the last 5.5 years, because compared to the other birth control methods, this seemed to be one of the “safest” around. I have been dealing with a lot of fatigue, but just thought it was because of my unhealthy lifestyle. Should I remove the IUD or should I just try to balance the copper/zinc levels?

  5. Administrator

    Taryn – We would suggest that you consider a diet/supplement program to balance the possible copper overload. The book outlines such a plan.

  6. Lynn

    After reading an article on Dr. Peter Glidden’s website yesterday, I was wondering if I might be copper deficient. Now I wonder if I have more than enough copper, but it’s hiding in my tissues where is isn’t of any help. Are there specific supplements that Dr. Gittleman suggests for helping my metabolism, such as GLA or L-Carnitine? Thanks!

  7. Sierra

    Lynn, the Tissue Mineral Analysis will tell you a great deal about your metabolic type, as well as make dietary and supplemental recommendations based on the findings. An easy step if you are indeed copper toxic is to increase the zinc in your diet. More solutions are available, but you would need to be tested before specific recommendations can be made 🙂

  8. Lynn

    Thanks for the info, Sierra!

  9. Cheryl O'Neill

    Fantastic book and article, thank you. Being a vegetarian who has a copper overload, I would have loved a vegetarian version of the Energy revitalising diet. Thank you for researching and collaborating it into your wonderful books.

  10. Sarah

    I’ve read the book “Why am I always so tired” and I’ve had a hair analysis done. My hair analysis indicated that I have hidden and toxic bio-unavailable copper. But the hair analysis and my nutritional coach recommended that I supplement with both zinc and copper to help my body make the energy and enzymes it needs to eliminate the bad copper. From what I’ve read in her book she does not believe we should ever supplement with copper. Am I understanding that correctly? What is her view on supplementing with “good copper” when a person is copper toxic?

    • liz

      I don’t know which lab you used for your hair analysis, but the one we use, does not suggest supplementing when copper is present. Either does Ann Louise.

    • Tessa

      Hey… Did you supplement with copper? It’s now 2018 and I am just about to start supplementing. I am wanting to see how you are doing? thanks

  11. tarakay

    I’ve Had The Copper Iud For Almost A Year Now. 3 Months After Having The Iud Inserted I Began To Lose My Hair. I Recently Found Multiple Articles About Copper Toxicity, And My Symptoms Match. I Have A Bald Spot On My Crown As Big As My Palm. I Haven’t Worn My Hair Down In Public For Almost 9 Months. I Was Diagnosed With Alopecia Areta, Given Steroid Injections Once And The Pretty Much Told There Was Nothing Else I Could Do. I’m Thirty Years Old, I’ve Always Had Beautiful Hair, Now It’s Dull And Brittle And Half Gone. After Discovering It Could Be From My Iud I Removed It…Myself. Has Anyone Else Went Through Anything Similar? Will My Hair Grow Back:(? I’ve Taken Vitamins Like Biotin, Is There Anything Else I Should Do?

    • Team ALG

      A Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis would be highly encouraged in order to asses your mineral levels and reestablish a balance. You can certainly reverse the problem with the proper supplementation and dietary changes. In the meantime, make sure you’re including zinc rich foods in your diet, and be sure to get plenty of essential fatty acids from fish oil, flax oil, and black currant seed oil. A progesterone body creme like UNI KEY’s ProgestaKey may also be very helpful in combating excess estrogen associated with high copper. Please call a Wellness Consultant with Uni Key Health if you would like more information on the Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis- 800.888.4353

  12. Quinny

    Thanks for the post. I have copper toxicity and would like to know where can I buy the book mentioned in the article. Thank you.

  13. Julia

    Hi my son was diagnosed through hair analysis as having high copper overload. We have for the last 18mths used supplements prescribed by his nathropath to reduce the copper excess. However we have done a second analysis recently and his copper levels have doubled. Would this be due to the copper being mobilised from his tissues to his hair? or is there something we have missed? We use a carbon brita filter for drinking water. Any suggestions please would be appreciated.

    • liz

      It could very well be due to the copper moving out of the tissues and being picked up by the hair during the process.

      You might also want to look at getting a more complete water filter. The one you have is not really designed to take out copper. Check out the water filter options at http://www.unikeyhealth.com. Their filter does a great job of removing copper.

  14. saman

    copper overload and adrenal fatigue are related. what treatment should if one has both?

    • Team ALG

      Yes, the Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis, available through Uni Key Health, addresses both copper overload and adrenal fatigue as well as thyroid function.

  15. Ali

    I have a hidden copper toxicity. I got a HTMA 4 months ago and then just did another one this month. The one four months ago showed my copper levels as in the ideal range, but indicated hidden copper overload. I was hoping that the second test would show a higher copper levels, revealing that copper was coming out of my tissues, but unfortunately the copper just went down from about 2.2 to 1.8 I have been doing nutritional balancing, supplementation, and coffee enemas. I’m discouraged that it seems the copper isn’t coming out. Any advice? Or is there someone I can talk to more about this? Nobody in my area seems to know about copper toxicity. My PMS symptoms are so bad that I’m considering going on an anti-depressant if the copper is going to take a long time to get out of my system.


    • Team ALG

      Hi Ali, so sorry to hear of your troubles. Have you read the book Why Am I Always So Tired by Ann Louise Gittleman? It is a wonderful resource for someone in your predicament. You may also call UNI KEY to schedule a time to speak with their knowledgeable Wellness Consultants. 1.800.888.4353

  16. Asa

    Just this week I found out that I have copper overload! Today I found this homepage and that feels really good! I have been on birthcontrol pills for many years and now estrogen for menopause. I have had PMS for many years aswell – quite hard with depression and anxieety.
    My copperlevels were 5.0 but I m sure they are really high!
    I recognize many symptoms like insomnia and daytiredness. The past two years has been very hard for me. I man 58 and I want to have a LIFE. Can I just drop my estrogenpills and take Progesteroncream?
    Sorry my english is not perfect! Åsa from Sweden! PS I bought the book. Strangely enough, its not translated to Swedish!

  17. saman

    My answer to 4,5,6th questions are positive; I’m not sure about insomnia(5) because it may have been because of olanzapine withdrawal effect. Plus I’m not sure about hyperactivity and slow wound healing(it’s not as well as ago). The problem is only one institute in my country offers the test that they send the samples to USA. Is it safe to eliminate copper according their prescription because I have read that it can be dangerous if not well done and copper may move to (I don’t remember its name). Also the book is not available here.( we don’t have credit cards) is the book enough for eliminating the copper without prescription?

    • Lisa L..

      Saman, The book mentioned above “Why Am I Always so Tired” is excellent to help you balance your copper and get rid of excess. It is done through food choices and supplements and is very safe. I hope you can get a copy of the book.

    • Team ALG

      Dietary changes are certainly the best place to start for copper balancing. No prescriptions are necessary, but some supplementation will certainly be beneficial.

  18. Sefora

    I recently had my copper IUD removed because I had a feeling it might be one of the causes (if not the cause) of some auto immune issues and adrenal fatigue. I have started a mostly Paleo diet and have been taking a number of supplements but now I am getting hot flashes and night sweats (I am only 36). Do you think this could be from copper detox? Have you ever heard of that?

    • Team ALG

      Yes, it could be copper detox. Copper may be coming out of the tissues now that you no longer have a source of it.

  19. Rob

    Hello, Would there be anyone there who would be knowledgeable about a potentially rare case of very low copper? Discovered through a previous hair analysis? It might be good to have a second opinion. If so, could someone there please contact me, in case I lose this page.

    • Team ALG

      Rob, yes both Ann Louise and our Staff Nutritionist at UNIKEY, Liz are knowledgeable about low copper. We would advise that you take a Tissue Mineral Analysis to determine what your current levels are. You can find the test kit on http://www.unikeyhealth.com. We use the lab name Trace Elements.

  20. Sarah

    The main issue that led to the discovery of my own copper toxicity was my inability to keep up my levels of vitamins and minerals, especially iron. I would keep dealing with iron deficiency symptoms despite doubling up on my supplements. Adding on extra iron would introduce other problems like severe constipation or imbalance with other minerals. I finally decided to try a different multivitamin to see if the multivitamin I was using was the issue. I settled on one that had 73% zinc to 25% copper. The large zinc-to-copper ratio allowed my body to begin removing excess copper from my tissues. I didn’t realize this was happening until after I began researching copper, because I was concerned about the low amount in the multivitamin. The new multivitamin did eventually cause me to become deficient in copper, so I switched back to my old multivitamin and began trying to balance zinc and copper in my diet. So far, it seems to be working well, and I’m hopeful it will resolve my hypothyroidism as well. I’ve also had no need for extra supplemental iron.
    One issue I have is an extremely sensitive wheat allergy. I will react upon ingestion to tiny traces that others don’t seem to have issues with. Could a zinc deficiency (or copper toxicity) cause one to be more sensitive to traces of his/her food allergen? I figure that something else has to be going on to make me so sensitive. I can react to traces picked up on a surface that was wiped down but not wiped down completely, for example. I have a desk that my food cannot touch because my wipes cannot completely wipe it clean. It doesn’t have a smooth surface. The previous owner obviously put their “wheaty” hands and food on it.

    • Sam

      Hi Sarah
      Did you ever resolve your zinc/copper/iron issues? I just came across this post when researching my low ferritin. I also have hashimotos and my thyroid meds needs ferritin to work. A nutritional therapist suggested I have a test for ceruolplasmin which transports copper I think but is also needed for ferritin. All of which led me to research high copper

  21. Debbie H

    I have your book why am I always so tired and have been diagnosed with copper toxicity. I’ve ordered your female multi and melatonin. I should be getting them tomorrow. The book says the food list is a brief one. Do you have a complete list of the foods to eat and to avoid? Thank you, you have been a lifesaver to me!

    • Team ALG

      Debbie, the most complete list we have is in Why Am I Always So Tired.” You can see an expanded list online here: http://dietgrail.com/copper/

  22. Emma

    Hi < i have copper toxicity , with the worse earth shattering anxiety you can imagine, what i have been through in the last 6 weeks is enough to give you ptsd , i am on prozac for the anxiety.

    however need advice on food , because honestly i just want to better again , i have two beautiful children i love dearly and this floored me it put me in bed for four days , i was stuck in flight mode for a week , ive had double pneumonia , passed gallstone had a blood transfusion lost a child but nothing compared to how this made me feel.

    So far i have been eating chicken , beef , eggs , carrots , broccoli and cabbage and cauliflower all foods low in copper with butter .There is alot of food i cant eat at he moment i cant seem to eat sweet potatoes as before i had the coil removed they would bring me up in a rash .

    i also believe i had an anaphylactic reaction to wheat despite having allergy tests done which came back i have no allergies i was with the copper coil in allergic to grass i just had to touch it and hives would appear that has gone .Honestly the copper coil was the most horrendous decision i ever made .

    are there any suggestions to other food i could possibly eat ? many thnaks

  23. Team ALG

    Emma, I suggest getting the book ‘Why Am I Always So Tired” which has a complete list of high and low copper foods. It sounds like you have a good start with the ones you are eating. Best to you!



  1. Copper Toxicity Symptoms | eSystem Dynamic Care - […] Copper toxicity can be caused from many different things such as consuming acidic foods which were cooked in copper…

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This