Copper Balancing: Why we actually NEED Copper!

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Copper is a HOT topic in the world of mineral balancing. Any of my current followers know that when it comes to copper, I try to know my stuff!  I already have written about Copper Dysregulation and Copper and Bipolar Disorder. But when it comes to the dreaded “copper toxicity”, I truly believe that all is not what it seems.

There is quite a crazy occurrence when it comes to copper.  You can be both copper deficient and copper “toxic” at the SAME TIME.  This is because of the copper binding protein that is needed called ceruloplasmin. Without sufficient ceruloplasmin, copper cannot be made bioavailable.  To make ceruloplasmin we need a few things. Sufficient adrenal and liver function is required to help make this protein. Ceruloplasmin is also dependent on animal-based retinol (vitamin A), whole food vitamin C, and copper/

Why are we lacking ceruloplasmin? There are actually many things that inhibit ceruloplasmin production. Obviously the biggest problem with creating sufficient ceruloplasmin is our overloaded livers from environmental toxins. Preventing the liver from becoming sluggish is key to making ceruloplasmin available. Other offenders include supplemental iron, calcium, and vitamin D, high fructose corn syrup, ascorbic acid (passed off as Vitamin C but it is generally made from GMO corn!), and too much stress.

Why do we focus on ceruloplasmin production? When we calculate unbound copper, we need the copper and ceruloplasmin level. For some reason, people have always deduced that when unbound copper is calculated, that means that it’s the copper that is the issue and it needs to be lowered. No one ever thought that maybe ceruloplasmin was too low instead of copper just being too high.

When you raise your ceruloplasmin your unbound copper comes down. Attacking and lowering copper (with zinc and other copper antagonists) first will only bring stress on your body. Yes, while you raise your ceruloplasmin you can still experience the dreaded copper dumping as well as some other detox reactions. But this method is creating less steps in healing for you. Instead of attacking copper and THEN rebuilding, we aim to rebuild to begin with.

Strengthen, nourish and rebuild the body- don’t aim to detox, cleanse, or rip metals/toxins out.

With my own personal experience with copper dysregulation, I think that there needs to be LESS focus on “toxic” copper and MORE focus on BIOAVAILABLE copper.  I truly believe that not having enough GOOD copper is more detrimental than having an excess of copper.  There, I said it! (Or wrote it!) I understand that we are ALL different and we might need different approaches. But I was the typical “copper toxic” person with high unbound copper- I went the traditional route of attacking copper and instead of improving, I kept declining until I FINALLY started to understand that this is not the right thing to do. There are so many people that start off on the path of attacking unbound copper, but I RARELY hear anyone that has actually healed this way.  Maybe it worked for people 10-20 years ago, but we are more imbalanced now than people were then- we NEED a better approach.

The Benefits of Bioavailable Copper:

From Linus Pauling Institute: “Copper is an essential cofactor for oxidation-reduction reactions involving copper-containing oxidases. Copper enzymes regulate various physiologic pathways, such as energy production, iron metabolism, connective tissue maturation, and neurotransmission”

Even a slight copper imbalance can contribute to impaired immunity, bone issues, and neurological and cardiovascular diseases. Copper helps certain gene transcriptions, plays a part in the production of melanin (helps skin pigmentation), and also has a huge role in Superoxide Dismutase, an important antioxidant.

Copper is a necessary mineral for making ATP, aka cellular energy. Low bioavailable Copper is associated with chronic fatigue. It is very common to be both copper toxic and copper deficient because copper needs to be bound to certain proteins to work properly.  Copper is needed for at least 300 enzymes in the body.  Bound, useable copper is absolutely essential for candida control (yes, those “candida cleanse” might work short term, but they are NOT addressing the real issue!).

Copper must be bound to special binding proteins, Ceruloplasmin and Metallothionine, in order to be able to get into the cells where it can be used by the mitochondria to make ATP energy in the Kreb’s cycle. Ceruloplasmin and Metallotionine are made in the liver when the adrenals signal to make them. However when the liver or adrenals are weak and sluggish, or if there is a zinc deficiency than these two proteins will be deficient which leads to unbound copper accumulating in the blood and tissues, especially the brain and liver.

Copper Deficiency Symptoms:

Decrease in number of white blood cells
Nerve damage can cause tingling and loss of sensation in the feet and hands
Impaired Coordination
Vitamin B12 deficiency
Iron deficiency
Low blood levels of fat-soluble vitamins, zinc, and folate
Hypochromic anemia
White, gray and silver hair
Varicose veins

Copper is also essential for making dopamine, adrenalin, and noradrenalin.  An imbalance of copper can lead to osteoporosis, anemia, arthritis, cancer, cholesterol dysregulation, cardiovascular diseases, epilepsy, impaired fat metabolism, free radical damage, immune and inflammatory diseases, and imbalanced thyroid health.

As you can see, copper has MANY uses in the body.  Copper deficiency is a huge factor for those with chronic fatigue because of its role in ATP energy production.  It is needed for brain health, immune health, and also for fat and sugar metabolism.  Many people with copper dysregulation have experienced many mental symptoms that are ONLY contributed to “toxic copper”.  But I firmly believe that is the LACK of bioavailable copper that could be causing these issues because of copper’s role in brain health.

Copper Dumping

The term “copper dumping” comes along often in a conversation about copper.  I myself have experienced over a year of copper dumping at this point- but I am beginning to question the whole validity of its purpose. I don’t think we should AIM to copper dump at all (so far, I have not been able to figure out how to avoid it, but let me keep going here).  I am starting to wonder if copper dumping happens more when we don’t have the ability to produce ceruloplasmin- which means that our livers and adrenals cannot physically make this essential protein.

So Ideally, one should not go on a “copper assault” protocol. Instead, they should focus on rebuilding the adrenals and supporting the liver (not detoxing it!).  This should help to support ceruloplasmin production and hopefully bypass the dreaded “copper dumping”. I can honestly say that copper dumping never made me feel better afterwards- it almost always made me feel worse. And I believe that is because it also dumps BIOAVAILABLE copper.

One day, I truly hope to figure out how to prevent copper dumping. In theory, it seems like supporting ceruloplasmin first before trying to attack copper should be the ideal way. Honestly, this should be the course of action for anyone trying to balance copper- why would you WANT to experience copper dumping? Want to know some of the symptoms?

Copper Dumping symptoms:

Anxiety, rashes, liver pain or a feeling of it being swollen, insomnia, depression, paranoia, panic attacks, loose stool or an increase in frequency (many claim it is a copper color), changes in appetite, anger, crying, hopelessness, feeling wired and tired, joint pain, and any exaggeration of current symptoms

We shouldn’t FORCE copper out. No one should have to experience the above symptoms. Anyone that has started a copper attacking route will understand- it is NOT fun. It is in fact terrifying at times.  And I believe that copper dumping only further weakens the body- and it will lead to a copper deficiency so you will have even more imbalances to deal with by the time you “deal” with all of the excess copper.

Going the route of strengthening the body instead of attacking the host is the common sense way to do thing. Detoxing, chelating, cleansing, etc- these can all be too harsh for people, especially while they are in adrenal fatigue.  Like I always say, this is why individualized testing is essential to heal from any illness.  But I would NEVER tell anyone to do things the way I was told to do because of how much longer it took me to heal from it. (Yes, I know I am just one person, but I am not the only one who “failed” with the copper detox-once you learn the TRUTH about copper, you will see that this method is flawed and no longer relevant!).

My goal is to approach healing in a gentle and effective manner.  We CAN heal. It takes time though. So if you are not seeing improvements right away, it does not mean that you not doing things correctly.  It just means that you have several imbalances and it will take time to sort them out.  Our bodies have innate wisdom on how to heal- however, they do not know how to tell us what exactly is going on! We have to trust the process. You did not get sick overnight, and unfortunately you will not heal overnight.

Healing is not for those that aren’t committed.  A complete lifestyle, diet, and attitude change is necessary!

Have you been duped by copper toxicity? Did you decline on a regular “copper attacking” program? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

Read more about why copper isn’t evil here:

Health Science Spirit

Copper: The Maligned Mineral

TEI and Copper

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14 Replies to “Copper Balancing: Why we actually NEED Copper!”

    1. I’m glad you liked the article, thank you for your comments! The best foods to balance copper are those high in vitamin C (citrus fruits, rose hips, peppers) and vitamin A as retinol (butter, eggs, liver and cod liver oil). Beta carotene is very poorly converted unless your liver is functioning at 100%, and even then we need 12 units of beta carotene to make into one unit of retinol. That’s the only thing I would fix in your article- the rest is great! 🙂

  1. Kristin, this is one of my favorite articles anywhere EVER!!! in the past couple of months, I became convinced through much research, that copper dysfunction is at the base of a lifetime of my increasing severe health challenges. I too saw it as copper toxicity and yet deficiency (interesting idea that it may not even be a toxic excess—or that this aspect is way less important). I joined some online forums where people were copper dumping, with a few amazing results for the lucky, and yet more so I was seeing unbelievably intense, harsh, and even dangerous experiences with it. I became convinced there HAD to be a better way. That is when I did more research, and happened upon your site!

    I love your food-based and “let’s not rip out metals” approach. So refreshing! But I wonder, too, when one is in a rather desperate state and NEEDS to make gentle but very significant progress, what else might help. I’m curious what you know about black radish, which is often mentioned for this. Dr. Wilson also says tarragon, but I don’t know why. On the supplement end of things, molybdenum is used for many kinds of detox (like candida aldehydes) –any thoughts? With pantethine added, it is supposedly even better. Ann Louise Gittleman says lipoic acid is the best supplement she has found to help with this process—what do you know about it? I am also curious how you suggest increasing glutathione levels, which seems key to having this happen with greater ease and efficiency.

    If you DO figure out how to prevent copper dumping one day, I think you should make a million bucks on it, or get the Nobel prize. At the least, you will have the undying gratitude of many! ☺

    1. Hi Elizabeth! I’m glad you enjoyed the article. It’s definitely one of my main goals to help people realize that we have been approaching copper the wrong way. I personally went that route of detox first and kept getting worse and worse. I never recommend that method because of the horrors I dealt with. Most people need a slow and steady approach at this point. But copper dysregulation is definitely at the core of many health issues these days, mostly because they are so many nutrients and processes involved in healing from it.

      As far as what I’ve noticed that helps with copper dumping, I did have this list on my main copper dysregulation post: To Help get through copper dumping: Castor oil packs, coffee enemas, red raspberry leaf tea, full-fat dairy (calcium helps slow the effects but doesn’t stop it), salt water (1/4 tsp in a glass once or twice a day), dandelion root tea, milk thistle, EFT (tapping), legs on the wall yoga pose, and Butekyo breathing (seriously, works wonders, check YouTube!), and rebounding on trampoline or yoga ball. Magnesium and potassium are also helpful as dumping copper can “waste” these nutrients. There are many ways that a copper dump can be induced, so be cautious: exercise, hot shower, consumption of a food or supplement high in molybdenum, manganese, or sulfur, and even anxiety itself can initiate copper dumping.

      1. Thanks Kristin. Yes, I had read all of that in your post…thanks for what I think were a few new pieces of helpful info about the minerals that can cause dumping. Was more interested in what I asked about black radish, tarragon, lipoic acid, etc, but maybe you don’t know.

        1. Black radish I have heard about, but don’t know of anyone that has actually used it. It is sulfur rich which can have an all-over copper dumping effect (meaning bound and unbound copper could be ushered out). ALA I don’t particular like- I prefer whey protein to help with glutathione production. I’m not sure about tarragon though! Haven’t heard of that in relation to detox before.

          1. Thanks Kristin! That does explain a lot more about the mechanisms and reasons and effects of those substances–exactly what I was seeking! I knew you were smarter than the average bear. 😉 Thank you so much for your expertise and time on this subject.

  2. I had high hopes with the title of this artle, why we need copper, until I saw that it is written from the viewpoint of “nutritional balancing”, a theory that always goes on to discuss “copper dumping”. I’ve yet to read one single person who has healed some of their copper deficiency symptoms by using the Nutritional Balancing theories, unfortunately.

    The “dumping” symptoms they all seem to talk about could be simply not feeling good because of a side effect of some of the new supplements they are taking: nobody ever seems to be able to really show this “copper dumping” is really “dumping” copper, nor that the person ever had “stored toxic overabundance” of copper in the first place.

    The symptom lists of copper deficiency and copper overload overlap too much to be of use. It’s just hopeless.

    1. Hi there. Sorry you were disappointed but I’m not entirely sure why you are. Have you been through copper balancing yourself? Have you experienced what is dubbed “copper dumping”? There are plenty of ways a person can get a build up of unusable copper: birth control pills, copper pipes, a vegetarian diet, etc. Saying that someone is probably was just “not feeling good” is a bit offensive to the MANY people that have been through this themselves. There is a specific set of symptoms that go along with copper (just like there are with pathogens dying off, or other heavy metals that are leaving storage).

      Where I differ from most of these nutritional balancing practitioners is that I never AIM to dump the copper- it still happens for many people though, especially if they are in slow oxidation and dealing with a sluggish detoxification system. I have healed myself from this issue using this approach, and many others are healing as well- not sure what your background is and why you would assume otherwise. I’m also not sure what your aim was with this comment and I debated on even approving it. But I really think you missed my whole point with what I’ve written.

  3. I agree with the writer. In my experience with my clients. Copper supplementation solve so many problem including anxiety and arthritis. There are naturopaths who advise taking mega doses of zinc . I tried this 5 years back with zero results. In fact back then 15 mg of zinc for 1 week lowered my vision and that raised a red flag and since then copper takes precedence now.

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