Heavy metals are naturally occurring elements that have a density at least 5 times greater than that of water. The 5 main heavy metals that pose the most significant risk to our health are arsenic, lead, cadmium, mercury, and chromium. This is due to their high degree of toxicity, even at lower levels of exposure. Elevated chromium rarely occurs, but the other four do, and these heavy metals pose significant effects on the thyroid.
What do heavy metals do to your thyroid?
Mercury accumulates in the thyroid and reduces iodide uptake at the sodium/iodide symporters by binding to iodide. Studies show this causes T4 depletion (iodide is needed to create T4), although it does not have the same bearing on T3 levels. That said… T4 converts to T3, so there is a functional deficit caused by mercury exposure.
Even at low levels, Arsenic has been shown to affect thyroid function in various ways. Individuals exposed to Arsenic have both increased TSH and Thyroglobulin (Tg) levels, leading to slowed thyroid function. As Tg is the main protein component of thyroid follicles, it is possible that the increase in Tg may be a compensatory response by the thyroid gland due to the increase in TSH. In addition, Arsenic may further contribute to increased TSH by inhibiting TPO activity, in turn, reducing thyroid hormone synthesis. Arsenic exposure can also destroy thyroid hormone receptors through gene-mediated mechanisms, which are crucial for normal development and reduced disease risk.
Aluminium exposure is common and typically in the spotlight due to its potential in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. However, it can also alter pituitary endocrine regulation of the thyroid gland. Exposure decreases TSH levels and may indirectly alter thyroid function by disrupting the sodium-iodide symporters (NIS), which is the transport system responsible for moving iodine from the blood to the thyroid. Like Cadmium, Aluminium is a Copper antagonist (which means it can deplete Copper) and due to Copper’s importance in thyroid function, imbalance of this mineral can lead to hyperthyroidism and Grave’s Disease. As previously mentioned, Zinc and Copper also have a close relationship and fortunately OligoScan reads Al, Zn and Cu levels. This enables you to look directly at the relationships within your body and to treat accordingly without upsetting the apple cart.
Cadmium is considered a category 1 carcinogen. It accumulates in the liver, pancreas, kidneys, and also in the thyroid. Blood levels of Cadmium correlate with concentrations in the thyroid. Smoking decreases Tg-Ab and TPO antibodies and prevents hypothyroidism by 40%. This may be due to activation of nicotine receptors, but possibly also due to the cadmium content of cigarettes. This is obviously not a reason to take up the ole cancer sticks. Especially considering cigarette smoking increases the risk of Graves’s disease by two-fold. Cadmium is associated with decreased TSH levels, and increases in both T3 and T4., 
How can you get tested for heavy metal toxicity?
Hair tissue mineral analysis (HTMA) is an accepted method for assessing heavy metals and the balance of minerals in the body. The person must have open detox pathways for metals to show up, as the hair shows excretory levels only.
Provocation testing is another option for those open to the medical route. This involves taking a chelating agent such as DMSA or EDTA, which mobilises the toxic metals, and then measuring excretion levels in the urine.
Where are we getting exposed to heavy metals?
Metals are hard to avoid in modern life. Everyone will have some burden of heavy metals, no matter how careful you are. They’re virtually impossible to avoid. Many of us are born with heavy metals, obtained in utero courtesy of our mothers’ own heavy metal load. Some report that a mother’s first child will receive 2/3 of the mothers’ body burden of mercury. Having a baby is the most effective detox!
Can be found in dental amalgams (silver fillings), paints, bleaches, batteries, some diuretics, fungicides, fluorescent lamps, cosmetics, hair dyes, contaminated seafood, and petroleum products. Vaccines such as tetanus toxoid contain thimerosal, which is a mercury compound.
Can be found in our environment due to use in fertilizers, batteries, LED televisions, pigments and some plastics. It can also be released from mining and smelting plants. Of course cadmium is also a problem for cigarette smokers.
Can be found in drinking water, food additives, baking powder, spices, brewed tea, buffered aspirin, vaccines, antacids, aluminum pots and pans, cans, foil packaging, antiperspirants and deodorants, and polluted air.
Can be found in dust, cigarettes, lead cookware, some Ayuervedic remedies, PVC products, leaded paint, ground water, and like other toxic metals, from foetal exchange.
Can be found in found in chicken (they receive anti parasitics that contain arsenic), fish, mushrooms, rice, cigarette smoke, glass blowing, pigments, leather, insecticides, farming chemicals, and lead smelters.
How can you detox from heavy metals?
An important note about Glutathione and metals
Glutathione is a master antioxidant. When your body produces glutathione, it helps to prevent pollutants from hurting your body. People who are glutathione deficient are less able to defend against heavy metal toxicity, often storing heavy metals in their brain, muscles, organs and other tissues. There is a very close realtionship between the thyroid and glutathione in its own right. In order to optimise your body’s’ ability to produce glutathione, and help your body rid itself of metals, you’ll need to ensure the methylation cycle is performing well, and sulphation is also adequate. This can often be treated by increasing sulphur containing foods, such as onions, garlic, eggs, broccoli, cauliflower, leeks, asparagus, cabbage, and artichokes etc.
So you’re full of metal. Just like me. Unfortunately not in an X-Men type way; we have no super powers. Heavy metals can have quite substantial effects to your thyroid, and are unavoidable in our modern life. The best strategy to deal with this is to find out which metals your body has accumulated, address environmental exposure, and beginning (and never ending) a detox strategy to help reduce these harmful metals.
If you are Looking for a Functional Medicine practitioner or a Chronic Fatigue Specialist in Adelaide? Contact Elemental Health and Nutrition to help you with your needs. We’re committed to empowering you on your wellness journey. Our holistic approach focuses on integrating nutritional medicine with cutting-edge testing techniques.
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