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Copper Imbalance: Looking Beyond Copper Toxicity

 Copper toxicity or imbalance?

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.  Whether you call it copper dysregulation, copper toxicity, a copper imbalance, or anything else- the root issues tend to be the same.  I personally think viewing copper as toxic is a bit allopathic as there is so much more to it than that.

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 itself.

There are many things that can lead to a copper imbalance of any kind.  It usually has to do with how our bodies are making ceruloplasmin and how our livers are processing any excess, unbound copper. Obviously the biggest problem with both of these issues is that our livers are overloaded from environmental toxins, and we are depleted of crucial nutrients needed to function. 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. Ceruloplasmin is also needed for neurotransmitter health, management of yeast, parasites, and other nasty stuff, and it is important for ATP regulation (aka energy production!). Also, ceruloplasmin as a blood marker is actually used in some liver function panels- so if your number is not in a good range it can give us decent insight on how well your liver is working.  Want to read more about ceruloplasmin? Check out this 100 page study that has nearly everything you’d ever want to know about it.

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.  The key is to go low and slow with anything new that you are adding to your plan.

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, 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. 

Overall, bile and fiber are both incredibly important for detoxing of any kind.  Potassium especially is also helpful as dumping copper can “waste” this mineral- but be cautious as overdoing it when we’re potassium deficient can actually create more copper dumping (frustrating, I know! Low and slow, easy does it is the key). 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.  These just give some extra insight on what is going on with liver function and where the biggest focus needs to be (gentle liver love or lots of bile support).

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 can triple while we are pregnant- if we are depleted during or after the birth, then it is common for us to hold onto this excess copper instead of excreting it like we are supposed to.

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. But this doesn’t mean we should use the term copper toxicity- it’s just not what’s really going on.

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 toxicity

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!

You can order an HTMA here to get started on your healing journey!

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