Detox Learning Center

Heavy Metals: When Is "Toxic" Safe?


  • Heavy metals are not always toxic — their toxicity depends upon several factors, including where they come from. 
  • To have good health, you need heavy metals in tiny amounts.
  • In their organic form, heavy metals are useful and necessary, while heavy metals must be detoxed in their inorganic form.
  • Organic heavy metals provide energy, while inorganic forms do just the opposite.
  • Binders remove and bind the unhealthy inorganic ones.

What you consume daily is critically important to ensuring vibrant health. So when you consider heavy metal toxicity and how it can be detrimental to your body, it may cause concern. You hear things like: (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)

  • Baby food has extremely high levels of toxic heavy metals
  • Certain types of fish contain high amounts of heavy metals (especially farmed fish)
  • Cosmetic and body care products have high heavy metal toxicity
  • Dental amalgams are a source of mercury
  • MRI contrast can cause gadolinium poisoning
  • Plant protein powders have high levels of lead and other heavy metals
  • Some ceramic items and even toys have high lead content

Based off recent outpouring of information on the topic, avoiding heavy metal toxicity may seem challenging and overwhelming. However, it might ease your concerns to know that heavy metals are not always toxic — their toxicity depends upon their source. There’s a substantial difference when heavy metals are in food or plant-based dietary support.

There is a difference. Where these heavy metals come from matters.

Organic Heavy Metals vs. Inorganic

Metals are all around you. Your vehicle is made with heavy metals. The buildings you work and live in contain some. The device you are reading this on has heavy metals in it. Your clothes might have traces in buttons and zippers. Air, food, soil, and water all have heavy metals in them.

When exactly do they become dangerous?

Most heavy metals are needed in tiny amounts for you to be healthy, like iron and zinc. You may more commonly know them as minerals, but they’re actually heavy metals.

Keep in mind organic heavy metals are bioavailable. This means the iron and zinc are in a form your body can absorb and use to promote health. In contrast, heavy metals that harm your health are inorganic. That means they’re not bound to carbon or derived from living materials.

So the type of heavy metal in a dietary support makes all the difference. Is it organic or inorganic?

Take nickel, for example. You need this particular metal in small bioavailable amounts for: (8)

  • Breaking down urea in the body
  • Enhancing the activity of hormones
  • Lipid metabolism 
  • Preventing iron deficiency

It’s also in many popular foods like chocolate, nuts, seeds, and tea. These are bioavailable “organic” forms in amounts that are typically safe. You are meant to consume these tiny amounts to carry out these necessary functions. (9, 10)

But in higher amounts from inorganic sources, nickel can: (11)

  • Cause serious health issues
  • Cause skin allergies
  • Create liver toxicity
  • Harm the immune system
  • Hurt the unborn
  • Stimulate genetic damage

These problems come from more toxic forms of nickel that your body cannot use. Inorganic heavy metals come from industrial and manufacturing processes. They are often found in significantly higher concentrations than organic metals. To get these out of your body, you need to do a heavy metal detox. (12)

In the end, the form and source of the heavy metal distinguish it as a friend or a foe.

When Heavy Metals Are Friends

When are heavy metals your friends?

Plant sources of the trace heavy metals we need have gone through a microbial process. Essentially, the plant has “digested” and processed the inorganic heavy metals and minerals it absorbs from the soil. After processing, they become soluble organic minerals and metals which can be used in your body. (13)

When you consume a plant-based, organically-bound heavy metal, it’s not toxic to the body because if the body doesn’t need it, it gets rid of it. It’s the inorganic minerals the body cannot process that actually build up and becomes toxic.

The same “digestion” process occurs when plants or animals break down and decay in soil. This process produces helpful nutrients. The heavy metals are safe and non-toxic to your body, as they have gone through this microbial remediation process. The microbial activity is what bestows the balance and safety. (13)

When Heavy Metals Are Foes

When heavy metals should be avoided

Conversely, heavy metals are not helpful and friendly to the body if they’re inorganic minerals and metals. Heavy metals not transformed by microbial processes are called “free-form” heavy metals. These inorganic molecules cannot be used by the body, and they are not soluble. Inorganic, insoluble heavy metals can hang around and accumulate in your body, refusing to cooperate with your DNA and RNA. (14)

These free-form heavy metals create damage by: (15)

  • Breaking DNA strands
  • Inhibiting the proteins that repair DNA breaks
  • Generating contributors to oxidative stress, associated with various chronic conditions

These free-form, insoluble kinds of metals are the foes we need to get rid of through heavy metal detox.

Heavy Metals and Energy

Have you ever wondered why the dentist puts a lead vest over you for protection when he’s taking X-rays? The vest absorbs the radioactive elements, so your internal organs and thyroid aren’t harmed.

Inorganic heavy metals absorb energy. These dangerous metals attract and steal energy from whatever is around them. (16)

Think about how a sidewalk (inorganic) gets much hotter in the sun than the grass that is right beside it (organic). The sidewalk is low energy, so it readily absorbs radioactive elements from the sun. It becomes so hot you cannot walk on it with bare feet. The grass is already high energy and remains more stable in its temperature. That’s because it's filled with the elements that sustain life — high in carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen.

The organic, soluble forms provide energy. The inorganic forms do just the opposite — they rob energy from cells. This makes you more susceptible to electromagnetic damage. Therefore, you must detox heavy metals that are inorganic, so you don’t attract radioactive elements energy to your body.

Grappling with Gadolinium

Grappling with Gadolinium

One heavy metal many people focus on is gadolinium. This particular inorganic heavy metal is used as a contrast media or “dye” during an MRI. It doesn’t actually “dye” anything.

Here’s what happens:

The patient is injected with gadolinium before the MRI begins. When the MRI procedure starts, the magnetic energy from the machine is drawn to the gadolinium contrast. This makes it “light up,” so the radiologist gets a better picture of the area of the body being explored.

That’s useful for creating a better MRI image, for sure. But is it worth it?

The gadolinium injected is inorganic, so some people have trouble clearing it from their bodies. This can result in painful and unpleasant symptoms for them. Inorganic gadolinium can collect in the brain and bones, even in relatively healthy people. It can cause organ damage — the kidneys are especially susceptible. Your body can struggle with heavy metal detox when your system contains gadolinium contrast. (17)

However, keep in mind all this refers to inorganic gadolinium. Plant-derived gadolinium is non-toxic and actually helps to remove toxic forms of gadolinium.

How to Detox Heavy Metals and Prevent Heavy Metal Toxicity

Maintaining the right kind of heavy metals at the correct levels is a balancing act that your body always undergoes. You require specific levels for good health. But others rob your health and create the need for heavy metal detox.

The balance comes in two ways: 

  • Bind the bad
  • Build the good
  • Bind the Bad

    The first thing you need to do is detox heavy metals — the inorganic ones. Binders are one resource you can use. 

    When binders come into contact with the damaging, inorganic heavy metals in your body, they latch onto them. They act like a magnet to pull harmful heavy metals out of your body all the way out in your stools. (18, 1920)

    Build the Good

    Along with detoxing the bad, remember to build the good. Having an ample amount of essential organic minerals also helps prevent inorganic metals from accumulating.

    For example, lead mimics the essential minerals/heavy metals like calcium, iron, and zinc. Think of lead as a key that fits into the same lock that calcium does, but it cannot turn to move the deadbolt. The key fits, but it cannot unlock the door. In the body, it blocks your enzymes from doing their job, disrupting your metabolic systems.

    If there is an abundant amount of useful metals and minerals, there will be less opportunity for lead to "clog up" the locks for essential metals. As a result, there is less need to do a heavy metal detox. (21)

    Putting Concerns in the Right Place

    You are right in having concerns. You must detox heavy metals as the wrong ones can contribute to disease.

    If you know the difference and can choose the right form of heavy metal, your fear dissipates, and you are empowered. Organic plant sources give you the healthy and helpful heavy metals you need. They also help you get rid of the kind you don’t want in your body.

    Are you getting enough of the right minerals and heavy metals? 

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