What is Heavy Metal Toxicity and How Can I Recognize It?

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Currently, environmental exposure to heavy metals and other toxins is nearly assured. Because of this it is important to understand heavy metal toxicity, its impact on health, and methods of effectively identifying it.

The Hidden Dangers of Environmental Toxins

Heavy metals are substances that occur naturally in nature. By definition they have a high atomic weight and a density that is at least five times that of water. Many heavy metals are used to great effect in various industries including agriculture, medicine, and technology. However, you can suffer significant harm if you are exposed to these substances.

Due in part to their prolific usage, toxic heavy metals have pervaded our environment. Toxin prevalence has reached a point that it is virtually impossible to avoid some degree of heavy metal exposure. As we continue to come into contact with heavy metals the risk of toxicity increases.

Toxicity of heavy metals depends on multiple factors including dosage, the manner in which one was exposed, and individual patient factors such as age, gender, genetics, and the nutritional state of the body. As levels of heavy metals and other toxins increase in the body, they begin building up in the cells of various tissues. Once established in these locations, toxins can remain for years and cause serious damage.

The Impact of Heavy Metals on Health

Studies show that heavy metals negatively affect various aspects of health including weakening of the cell membrane, mitochondrial disruption, inhibition of enzymes involved in metabolism, and limiting regeneration. Heavy metals also influence DNA proteins and may damage DNA resulting in cancer formation and cellular death. Perhaps the greatest concern regarding heavy metal toxicity is the associated risk of developing neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and ADD/ADHD.

Lead, cadmium, arsenic, chromium, and mercury are considered systemic toxicants and are of primary concern regarding heavy metal toxicity. Studies show that even at low doses these metals are associated with organ damage, cardiovascular disease, developmental abnormalities, neurological and behavioral disorders, various cancers, and many other forms of dysfunction.

Signs of Toxicity

Symptoms of heavy metal toxicity typically impact the brain and frequently result in various forms of neurological dysfunction. In some cases, toxicity can present symptoms similar to those associated with ADD/ADHD. Symptoms shared between attention disorders and heavy metal toxicity include difficulty focusing, impulsivness, forgetfulness, reduced attention span, changes in mood, anxiety, and compulsions.

Symptoms of acute heavy metal toxicity are relatively easy to recognize and at the very least typically raise enough concern to seek medical attention. Acute cases of heavy metal toxicity may cause the following symptoms:

  • Coma
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Headaches
  • Impaired cognitive and motor skills
  • Nausea
  • Sudden cramping and/or convulsions
  • Sweating
  • Tremors
  • Vomiting

In contrast to these easily recognized symptoms, heavy metal build-up or limited exposure to heavy metals present symptoms that are less apparent. In part, this is because the symptoms are relatively common and may mimic other conditions including ADD/ADHD. Mild cases of heavy metal build up may induce the following symptoms:

  • Aching joints
  • Anemia
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Infertility
  • Insomnia
  • Irregular blood sugar
  • Menstrual changes
  • Neurological disruptions
  • Poor digestion and absorption
  • Skin irritations
  • Weakness

The Importance of Toxin Identification

Chelation is the most common method of heavy metal detoxification. However, for this to be effective it is important to know what toxins are present in the system. Chelators work by binding to specific molecules in toxins. This triggers their breakdown and subsequent removal. It is important to identify which toxins are present and at what concentration so the correct chelator at the appropriate dosage can be implemented. Fortunately, there is an accurate and efficient method of assessing the levels of toxic substances in the body.

The Oligoscan testing apparatus is an impressively accurate and expedient method for assessing tissue levels of various substances including heavy metals. The speed of Oligoscan is made possible through the use of spectrophotometry. This technology utilizes the relationship between material density and light reflectivity to determine the composition and prevalence of substances within tissue.

All compounds absorb, emit, or reflect light at specific wavelengths ranges. By shining calibrated light on bodily tissue, the Oligoscan can measure these qualities in a process known as spectrophotometry to identify what substances are present in tissues and at what concentration. Spectrophotometry is more accurate than traditional testing methods that only measure the concentration of substances pulled from a specific location. Using the Oligoscan method allows for impressively specific identification of mineral values throughout the body.

Once data has been collected by administering Oligoscan’s non-invasive and pain free light source, it is sent off and quickly analyzed by Oligoscan’s server. This system compiles the data and returns information regarding concentrations and prevalence of toxins contained in the patient’s tissues. This process is completed within 20 seconds, which decisively positions Oligoscan as the fastest method of acquiring accurate results regarding the concentration of heavy metals in bodily tissue.

Use Effective Testing to Resolve Toxicity

Environmental exposure to heavy metals and other toxins is a constant threat. Although it is rare for individuals to develop acute cases of heavy metal toxicity, it is likely that many individuals suffer from some degree of heavy metal build up. This can contribute to the development of various nagging symptoms and neurological or attention disorders.

Resolving toxicity requires effective testing and toxin identification. By using advanced testing methods such as the Oligoscan available at Holtorf Medical Group, you can quickly and accurately assess the level of heavy metals and other toxins present in the body. Utilizing methods such as these allows for higher quality patient-specific treatment that results in greater patient wellness.


1. OligoScan Testing. OligoScan. https://www.oligoscan.net/

2. Toxic Metals: The Reason You Still Feel Sick. Mercola. https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2008/07/22/toxic-metals-the-reason-you-still-feel-sick.aspx

3. What Is Heavy Metal Poisoning? Everyday Health. https://www.everydayhealth.com/heavy-metal-poisoning/guide/

4. Dangers of Heavy Metals & How to Do a Heavy Metal Detox. Dr. Axe. https://draxe.com/heavy-metal-detox/

5. Heavy Metals Toxicity and the Environment. Paul B Tchounwou, Clement G Yedjou, Anita K Patlolla, and Dwayne J Sutton https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4144270/