Copper Toxicity

Copper is essential for good health and is required for several physiological functions such as the production of neurotransmitters (Dopamine, noradrenaline), the enzyme cytochrome C oxidase (breaks down Vit C), for lactase activity (lactose digestion) and for elastin and collagen production, to name a few. Therefore sufficient amounts of copper are necessary for good health however real problems can occur when levels become excessive. Copper toxicity appears to be far more common than copper deficiencies and can be just as devastating to your health as heavy metals such as mercury and lead can be. Unfortunately for many copper toxicity is largely being ignored by the mainstream medical profession.

Copper deficiency is relatively rare while excess copper is common, especially as in Australia most of the homes have copper pipes as plumbing for water supply in homes. This problem is exacerbated in women in women as 45% of women with depression have elevated copper levels. Why? because estrogen elevates copper levels, just as zinc elevates testosterone levels. Excessive copper also increases noradrenaline levels which causes anxiety.

Other signs of copper excess include:

  • Anxiety- copper has been called the “emotional mineral.”
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Poor concentration
  • Depression
  • Post-natal depression
  • Tinnitus
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Temper
  • Hyperactivity
  • Annoyed by tight clothing
  • Endometriosis/fibroid/ovarian cysts (note that if copper levels are high, women will do worse on progesterone therapy).
  • PMS
  • Thyroid disease- both hyper and hypothyroidism
  • Infertility
  • Low libido
  • Prostate disease
  • Recurrent infections, particularly fungal
  • Hair loss
  • Anorexia- copper shuts off the appetite
  • Cancer- copper causes new blood vessel formation which is required for cancer growth.

Copper has multiple roles in the body. Any imbalance will impair these functions:

  • Fixing calcium in the bones.
  • Energy production in cells.
  • Immune function, particularly when it comes to yeast.
  • Neurotransmitter production – as well as mental illness and behavior disorders, epilepsy can respond to copper balancing.

Many of the symptoms can be explained by coppers ability to interfere with zinc, magnesium, iron, Vitamin C, folic acid, Vit B1 and Vit E and decreased histamine production. When the action of these nutrients is blocked many physiological processes are unable to function correctly resulting with the following: arthritis, fatigue, adrenal burnout, insomnia, scoliosis, osteoporosis, heart disease, cancer, migraine headaches, seizures, fungal and bacterial infections including yeast infection, gum disease, tooth decay, skin and hair problems and female organ conditions including uterine fibroids, endometriosis and others. Mental and emotional disorders related to copper imbalance include spaciness, depression, vertigo, mood swings, fears, anxiety, phobias, panic attacks, violence, autism, schizophrenia, and attention deficit disorder.

The presence of estrogens and xenoestrogens seems to block the body’s ability to excrete copper. Therefore if you are low in zinc and molybdenum and are exposed to estrogens/xenoestrogens or estrogen dominant it could potentially lead to copper overload because of copper retention. The metallothionine protein responsible for the removal of copper from the body may also be affected thus also causing copper accumulation.

Stress from any cause contributes to copper imbalance. Stress depletes the adrenal glands and lowers the zinc level in the body. Whenever zinc becomes deficient, copper tends to accumulate.

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The main problems related to copper toxicity include:
(1) Hormone Imbalances – blocks T4 production and conversion into T3, by blocking iron it also inhibits steroid hormone pathway resulting with low hormone levels.
(2) Fatigue – by blocking iron absorption, storage and its effects in the mitochondria, also blocks magnesium, and disrupts hormone production thus reducing metabolism.
(3) Anxiety  – it increases adrenaline and noradrenaline.
(4) Joint Pains
(5) Poor Immunity – viral, fungal and yeast infections
(6) Poor sleep – it blocks melatonin production
(7) Hypoglycemia – by impairing digestion effects sugar absorption, also increases insulin.
(8) Cancer – it is involved in angiogenesis which promotes cancer growth.
(9) Low Histamine - copper-containing enzymes, histaminase and ceruloplasmin, regulate histamine. Elevated copper increases the levels of these enzymes, promoting histamine breakdown. The low histamine levels, allow copper to continue to rise. Histamine is an essential protein metabolite (a product of metabolism) found in all body tissues. In the brain, it acts as a neurotransmitter.