Copper Imbalance: Looking Beyond Copper Toxicity

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Copper Imbalance or “toxicity”?

In the world of mineral balancing you’ll come across the term “copper toxicity” often. While it’s true that many people suffer with a toxic excess of copper, the reality is that many people also suffer from copper deficiency. People end up in the state because of a deficiency in the copper binding protein ceruloplasmin.

 Ceruloplasmin Production

Ceruloplasmin production depends on a few things. Sufficient adrenal and liver function is required to help make this protein. Ceruloplasmin is also dependent on animal-based retinol (source), whole food vitamin C, and copper.

There are actually many things that inhibit ceruloplasmin production as well. 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. Loving your liver is one of the KEY things to do to heal from a copper imbalance, as well as healing your adrenals.

Ceruloplasmin in is the key to regulating copper and iron. CP is also needed for neurotransmitter health, management of yeast, parasites, and other nasty stuff, and it is important for ATP regulation (aka energy production!)

Healing from Copper Dysregulation 

So when it comes to healing, I like the idea of rebuilding and nourishing as opposed to flushing, ripping, and fasting.  You can still experience detox this way- but you are also trying to support the whole body in the process as well as prevent adrenal crashes that are extremely common with detox programs.  This means that our goal should be to strengthen the adrenals, support the liver, and focus on ceruloplasmin production instead of trying to eliminate copper (or any other metals/toxins) with harsh methods that eventually weaken the body.  These methods make little sense because in the end, you are going to have to rebuild anyway!

For most people, the dreaded copper dumping is inevitable though. It’s hard to say if it could be prevented or at least lessened in intensity. I would love to think that one day we will figure out how to avoid it completely. But when we have excess unbound copper stores in our livers and brains, it has to come out. I haven’t found information that says this copper can be made bioavailable as it comes out- I personally don’t believe it can, especially when it could have been building up for years.

Symptoms of Copper Dumping:

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

Dr Rick Malter says that during a copper dump we waste potassium which in turn makes our Na/k imbalanced and increases our fight or flight response. Copper dumping can be intense and many people might try to seek the help of an emergency room or conventional Doctor- however they will not understand the process of copper elimination. Having support while going through this process is extremely important. It is a very uncomfortable experience but after each copper dumping episode, you will start to feel much better, especially if you are supporting ceruloplasmin in the process

How to get through Copper Dumping

There are many ways to help decrease the intensity of copper dumping. Keeping your liver  working well is key, as well as reducing the stress and anxiety that comes along. To Help get through copper dumping: Castor oil packs, coffee enemas, red raspberry leaf tea, nettle infusions, 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.

Testing for copper dysregulation:

A hair tissue mineral analysis is a huge part of the healing process. This will not only show you  the relationship between your zinc and copper, but it will give you an idea on the state of your adrenal glands. Strong adrenals are needed to balance copper. An HTMA will also show your magnesium and calcium levels, which both play a part in regulating copper.

The blood tests that are very helpful are copper serum, plasma zinc and ceruloplasmin.

If you are on any kind of birth control, have been diagnosed with estrogen dominance, or are in the post-partum period, it would be very crucial for you to test for copper dysregulation.

copper testing

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 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 Excess Symptoms:

Feelings of doom
Fatigue and exhaustion
Hypothyroid (slow thyroid)
Mind is in a fog
Headaches, migraines
Mood swings
Super-sensitive, weepy
Cold hands, and/or feet
Dry skin
Chocolate cravings
Feeling of loss of control
Despair, suicidal feelings, hopelessness
Arthritis, calcium spurs
Racing heart, pounding heart
Adverse reaction to vitamins and minerals
Problems with concentration and memory
Short attention span, ‘spaciness’
Eating disorders: anorexia, bulimia, overeating
Panic attacks, high anxiety, free floating anxiety
Yeast infections (candida)
Aching muscles or muscle cramps
Mind races — insomnia, interrupted sleep
Low blood pressure
Obsessive thoughts

(These lists are from This Article on nutritional balancing)

Estrogen dominance and postpartum depression/anxiety are also related to copper imbalances. Copper and estrogen are related, just like zinc is related to testosterone and progesterone.

My goal with this post is to help those that are suffering with a copper imbalance but can’t seem to find a definitive answer on how to test or treat it. A majority of the articles you will find only tell you about excess copper and how to reduce this.  We have to change our view on copper and realize that it’s not just toxic in excess- it’s also essential when it’s bioavailable .

I am always here for support for those going through this process.  It can be hard and scary but it does get better. Check out the Mineral Mavens group on Facebook for lots of support!

Happy Healing!

copper dysregulation

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22 Replies to “Copper Imbalance: Looking Beyond Copper Toxicity”

    1. No one has really been able to answer that for me. My theory is that the stored copper (which could have been building up for years) isn’t usable and has to be eliminated. It’s only new, incoming copper that is being bound.

      1. from what i’ve read is that stimulating the adrenals activates the liver to bind free unbound copper with the help of zinc and vitamin retinol A. which is why many people with copper over load may have weak adrenals and they seek out sugar and drugs and stimulating things to kick starts their adrenals and this helps eliminate some of the copper excess.

  1. Hi Kristen I take a basic iron tablet ,think it saved my life a year ago ,, i have had cfs after a bad virus and stress etc,, living off 7 foods due to food intolerances ,, no docs help me ,, i started with celtic sea salt and amenas seaminerals that i drink all day ,,does help alot compared to the fact that i was completely bed ridden for all of 2015..but i have gone from being a normal person and so hope i will get my strength back one day ,, the only thing i eat thats alive is green beans cooked twice a day and i cant push that either ,,, ive dropped my iron tab to every second day,, because of everything i have read ,i have had to find out everything via internet ,forums etc ,have appt in nov with someone that will test adrenals thyroid and hormones ,,thanks for listening..Vanessa I am also Kundalini activated!

    1. Food intolerances may be due to gluten (wheat/barley/rye..oats/corn/rice) and hidden gluten. LDN/gluten enzymes may help block hidden gluten. Hair tests show good minerals/heavy metals. I like sea salt..many minerals. I need no gluten/dairy/soy/sugar/GMO…take vitamins/good oils/minerals…probiotic…LDN..detox and take Amour thyroid/bioidentical hormones. Best wishes.

      1. Hey Shasha ,,salicylates prevent me from good oils ,, i eat butter though , fine with wheat ,,but cant eat all other grains,,most of all i have to be careful not to stress,,, thanks for the wishes

      2. HI, You are welcome! Wheat may hurt more than other grains for most people. I take fish oil/evening primrose oil/lecithin/krill oil/phosphatidylserine/DMAE/CLA/raw walnuts (open shells to avoid hidden gluten)/poached organic cage free/antibiotic free eggs. I can’t have dairy. Stress uses up B vitamins and zinc and steals progesterone. Best wishes.

  2. I have been looking all over the internet for a recommendation for the best mode (liquid tincture, pill, cream….whatever) for adding copper back into my diet, but haven’t been able to find recommendations by PATIENTS for any product in particular.

    I was told YEARS ago, my copper was low…the doctor told me I must be taking too much zinc. He told me my zinc was low…so I started taking ONE 50mg per evening…that was when he broke the news that the zinc was now too high. I went home and started reading chemistry books, pharmacology, etc… Interdependent and synergistic mineral issues seem REALLY tricky and touchy.

    Right now, I am awaiting my skin biopsy results for confirmation of EDS, which a scholarly study I read 2 weeks ago said is most likely secondary to MCAD and if one person has both…they likely have POTS as well. I magically developed scoliosis in my lumbar region AFTER decompression in 2012. They found it on a MRI in 2015. It wasn’t there before.

    It is amazing the resistance I find in the medical community when all I NEED is to KNOW. I don’t expect them to “cure” me. There IS no cure. But, if this crap isn’t on my medical records every time the military moves my husband and our children, we start at ground zero again. They move us every 3 years on the dot.

    Can you tell me what copper supplements work best? I have poor absorption and most of the things I take HAVE TO be veggie caps, liquid, or powder form. Even my prenatal vitamins were chewable. NataChews. Any recommendations would be much appreciated.

    You know, I used to read medical encyclopedias for FUN when I was young. Started at age 6. I wanted to be a neurosurgeon. I find it unbelievably ODD that I fixated on THAT…. I didn’t know until the year I turned 30 that I had chiari. The day my daughter was born I KNEW she had it. It took me 2 years to convince a pediatrician to LOOK with a MRI. She had it, and a FAR worse herniation than I had. If that hadn’t been discovered and put on her medical records NOW…when the military moves us, they aren’t required to consider her possible need for a pediatric neurosurgeon. But it IS on there….and it could be the difference between living and dying for her.

    I believe both of our sons have EDS and my oldest is displaying symptoms of POTS…especially in gym class. The “hoops” of HELL a parent has to jump through to create medical necessity on PAPER to be allowed to have a specialist see and diagnose a child is….it is absolute TORTURE.

    Those reasons alone make me determined to still choose a specialty of neurosurgery when I go premed. But….I LISTEN to people. I have heard the phrase “anecdotal evidence” hundreds of times in doctor offices, yet…one of my chiari support groups has over 40k people worldwide and EVERY single one of us has a C2/C3 herniation and complete ABSENCE of curvature in the C spine. That is still considered “anectodal”…if it was an automatic assumption that a fusion like that led to a MRI in EVERY case, the stats on chiari would SKY ROCKET…right now, or last I checked it was 1 in 1,000 which is actually INCREDIBLY high to me. If a MRI was mandatory in that instance, I believe….with the math….it would change the statistic to somewhere around 1 in 350 with chiari. That is a medical epidemic level occurrence and it deserves MORE research, BETTER training, less ahole bedside manner doctors, better surgical approach, and….NO MORE WAITING for irreversible symptoms before treatment. In Canada…when there is a CM1 diagnosis and also syringomyelia ANYWHERE, ANY size…the presence of the syrinx makes the decompression AUTOMATIC. In the U.S…..they wait until someone is crapping their pants or has begun to have permanent nerve damage before they correct the malformation. What a pussified way to approach the problem! It is insane the difference between MDM (medical decision making) here in the states and the HUGE requirement and stipulation list that neurosurgeons use as a road map to whether or not they will operate. In Canada….quality of life means MORE than what Sx a patients presents with, or not.

    I wish I had TIME to go to medical school NOW…and the energy. I am SO sick and tired all of the time, I have to get my body under control first. I have been having severe depression in the last 2 years as well. We moved in and the hard water here…we installed a softener immediately and we use a triple filtration system because of fluoride, pesticides, farm run off, chemical fertilizers, chlorine…and what the hell ever else they put in the city water here in Omaha. I looked at the city water website when we moved in…it was pretty bleak. I just wondered recently if that triple filtration is taking out too many GOOD trace minerals and not just the bad ones. You can buy trace mineral water drops…I used to take them but when I watched my son empty my glass of water into one of my potted plants and it completely transformed it into a HUGE, healthy BEAST of a plant, for whatever reason I started using it on my plants instead of myself lol #suchanidiot I just…I’ve not allowed fluoride into my body since about 2000. I was laughed at, given dirty looks, and told I was a nutter. But…lucky for me, Harvard completed that study that confirms….fluoride is making people STUPID. Which…makes a whole lotta sense. Thing is…a doctor discovered that and published his findings in the 50s! That was the study I read and lived by. Last year when I told my pediatric dentist we don’t use fluoride toothpaste, he looked at me like I was insane. Sorry! We use Young Living Dentarome Ultra…it remineralizes teeth, helps with tooth sensitivity….it is perfect.

    Sorry I wrote so much but…there is a lot to say about a life with these problems in it. I have struggled with severe depression and anxiety my WHOLE life. So has my paternal family. I wonder if they all have MCAD and EDS….which is giving them copper problems. Lord…unreal. Every female in our family has been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I think it is a garbage can diagnosis if ever there was one.

    Thank you for your page! You do great work! Please recommend supplements that work well! Liquid, powder, or veggie caps work best for my body! I look forward to your response! =)

    1. Hi Amanda! I’m sorry you’ve been through so much, wow. I know it can be so hard to find answers, especially in the medical community. Honestly the best copper Supplement that I recommend is desiccated beef liver (whether it is powder or capsules). Copper needs vitamin A to work correctly (that is the short explanation) so copper on its own can be a really bad idea. Working on the adrenals and liver as well are essential to help with making the copper binding protein, ceruloplasmin. EDS is definitely something that can be linked back to copper dysregulation as well, and I know many that have reversed their lax ligament issues with copper balancing, myself included.

      My main recommendations for copper balancing include the beef liver, cod liver oil, a whole food vitamin C (not ascorbic acid), and then lots of liver loving and adrenal support. Hope that helps a little!

    1. Cu from jewelery can go into the skin. A penny is Cu on the outside and Zn on the inside now. Hair tests show Cu/Zn balance and other minerals/heavy metals. Taking Zn may lower Cu.

  3. Hello,

    Thanks for your article. I have the copper iud since two years, have been very happy with it, no discomfort or changes in my period. Then, a bit more then 6 months ago, I started to have sleep insomnia, anxiety and depression. A body scan that I did 1 month ago showed that my copper is too high. So I started my own research and read from so many women with the same symptoms I have, and everyone had the copper iud. I’m ready to take it out but I’m scared as to how to balance my copper. I’m a vegan, so I learned that most of the food I eat is high in copper naturally.
    I would appreciate any help of a holistic doctor that could help me detox from the copper.

    Thank you,

    1. Hi Jana- I’m sorry to hear about your experience with the IUD. There is a lot more to fixing copper dysregulation than just getting rid of the copper though. I offer the hair tissue mineral analysis which can give us some insight on how well your adrenals are handling things, and there are blood tests you can get that help figure out the extent of the unbound copper situation (copper serum, ceruloplasmin, zinc plasma/serum) that you are either have a doc order or you can order yourself through Request a test or Walk In Lab.

  4. Lyme/coinfections may lower Mg/Mn/Mo which then affects Cu/Zn ratio and blood sugar etc. Too low in Zn/Cu is not good. They run many chemical reactions. Zn/Cu balance is also needed. When detoxing Cu made me smarter I thought…”I could have been a music major”…played piano well then, better than any other time. To me it was the freeing of the Cu that helped maybe as it was detoxed. My Cu was very high when my MS started and my allergies to outside leaves didn’t show up that year since Cu destroys histamine. Vit C also destroys histamine. I didn’t react to the prick allergy tests when I was high in Cu. High Cu pushes Zn lower.

  5. I have symptoms on both sides of this. The low white blood cell count was one for not enough copper as well as about 5 others. On the excess side, I had about 8-9 symptoms. Yes, I am gonna get the HTMA. Hubby just retired and is due a bonus check from the govt. When that comes in, I have already asked that I can get an HTMA. So it should be sometime this summer. Your HTMA does tell about copper levels, yes?

  6. So what does it mean when we have many symptoms from the excess list and many on the deficiency list? Scary thing. My doc was gonna send me to go see a blood specialist because of my drop in white blood cells, but I never went back to get the third set of blood work. AND now I am switching to a cheaper insurance and a different doc closer to home. My new school district charges too much for the old insurance. So I am doing their plan and saving 200. a month.

  7. Fist thing is hello I have been dealing with Lyme’s disease for 9 months . I would really like to know how I could get the HTMA test done . Thank you .And I am concerned malutioned ,and still don’t have it under control. I have a lot of ANXIETY and some depression.

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