I have written about copper toxicity from several different perspectives in the past. I am seeing more and more hair analysis with elevated copper in children and of course their parents, from whom this is often inherited.
I have used hair analysis (HTMA) in my practice for more than fifteen years, in cases where well prescribed remedies do not bring change. More and more I am seeing cases with a whole range of physical presentations and ailments, that appear to indicate elevated copper. Through an examination of these cases, often coupled with hair analysis, it has become evident that the real story is often about the impact of our environment on our health.
Elevated copper may be only part of a bigger picture of toxicity and imbalance, but it is important to address these levels in order to start to bring about change. Homeopathic chelation can be gentle but effective and is often more rapid than other forms of chelation.
This is a shortened blog to just identify the symptoms you might see in a child who potentially has elevated copper levels. For more information on sources of copper from our environment and the issues we may see in the parents, the two blogs below have a lot more information on this topic.
Oestrogen dominance, autism, high copper & more
High Copper, Environmental Toxicity and Thyroid Dysfunction
Copper Imbalance in Children
Dr Wilson (see references) explains that children are born with high copper levels. Young children are generally very sensitive and intuitive. They often lose some of their sensitivity as their copper levels naturally diminish around age four. Today, however, persistently elevated copper levels in children are commonly seen, resulting in children who are chronically sensitive, among other things. At times, the copper is hidden in a hair analysis, ie not evident to the inexperienced eye, but the indicators will be there if you know where to look.
The problem of copper imbalance often begins in the womb, where a high-copper mothers passes on excessive copper (and often low zinc) through the placenta. It can be prevented by correcting the mother’s copper metabolism before becoming pregnant. It can also be corrected after a baby is born, though this takes much more effort in most cases, particularly if not picked up until later on in childhood which is often the case.
Copper imbalance can also develop after the baby is born. Inadequate zinc or high copper in the breast milk, poor nutrition and stress of any kind can lower zinc and raise the copper level. Frequently children with high copper suffer from learning problems, developmental delay, chronic infections, etc.
Mothers may also pass on other nutrient deficiencies and toxicity, which impair the child’s adrenal glands. Weak adrenal glands worsen a copper imbalance, continuing the cycle.
Vaccination and the use of prescription drugs can aggravate a child’s copper imbalance, again, usually by depleting the zinc level.
There are also, occasionally, children who are fast metabolisers and do actually need additional copper. Again, an experienced overview of a hair analysis is required.
What symptoms and conditions do we see?
Some of the symptoms/conditions are as follows. Many of these we have seen increasing through each generation, as copper levels build and go unrecognised and untreated:
- ADD, ADHD, Autism
- Temper tantrums
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- OCD tendencies
- Excessive fears and phobias
- Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
- Poor concentration
- Learning disabilities
- Headaches, migraines and sometimes tummy pain
- Tics of the face, neck or hands
- Tooth delay
- Infections, especially sinus and fungal
- Glandular fever
- Skin and respiratory allergies to airborne and ingested allergens
- Ear infections
- Kidney problems, UTIs
- Impaired ability by the liver to detoxify
- Muscle and joint pain
- Chronic fatigue symptoms (general tiredness in children)
- Internal parasites
- Failure to thrive
- Cystic fibrosis
Sources of Copper (1)
Copper is found naturally in many foods in very small amounts, but it is the copper that comes from our environment that is a major problem. As you read through the list you may be surprised at the list of everyday substances which lead to an increase in copper in our system. Sometimes, on a hair analysis, the elevated copper is not evident, as it may hide away in the tissue, so knowing what to look for is also part of the investigation. However, when copper is a big issue it is going to be staring us in the face! Often, I don’t need a hair analysis to be fairly certain it is part of the problem, although confirmation is always good and brings additional useful information on mineral levels and ratios.
- Hormones (Oral Contraceptive Pill, patch, Mirena, HRT, copper IUD, IVF drugs) are a major source. Not just taking them, but potentially an inherited load from a mother who has taken the OCP or IVF drugs in the past.
- Hormones are found in our drinking water supply, partly through the disinfecting process but also eliminated in the urine from the food we eat, which has been fed hormones in the growth process, and through hormones we ingest, as above. They end up in our water system because (so some sources say) they cannot be completely filtered out. (2)
- Steroid drugs such as prednisone can raise tissue copper levels and deplete zinc.
- Other medical drugs may impair the liver’s ability to remove copper from the system, a process which should happen naturally to maintain homoeostasis.
- Chlorinated swimming pools and hot tubs, through the use of fungicides.
- Fungicides and insecticides generally.
- Dental prosthesis and other dental materials. Copper is used in dental alloys in fillings, crowns and other appliances.
- Copper pipes (and potentially plastic pipes – see below).
- Hair treatments and dyes, particularly red hair colours.
- Industrial emissions and wastes.
- Smoking – see below.
- Vitamin tablets often contain copper, which people may take on a daily basis, not realising part of their problem is elevated copper.
- Some foods are naturally high in copper (dark chocolate, some teas, nuts, avocados, yeast, soy products, dried fruit, mushrooms, shellfish and organ meat).
- Many diets today are high in copper. In particular, vegetarian proteins such as soybeans, nuts, seeds, tofu, avocados and grains are high in copper content. Fast food hamburgers and other popular foods are soy-based. Soy protein is coming into wider usage, due to its low cholesterol level and lower cost.
- Other high-copper foods are organ meats, shellfish, wheat germ and bran, yeast, corn oil, margarine and mushrooms.
- Some foods have artificial hormones added in the growth process, such as the hormones fed to cows, chickens, etc.
- Environmental xenoestrogens are a considerable issue, being substances which mimic oestrogen action, affect oestrogen levels, or bind to oestrogen receptors. Chemicals like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), dichlorodiphenyl-trichlorethane (DDT), some drugs (e.g., anti-epileptic drugs), fungicides, cotinine, phytoestrogens, mycotoxins, bisphenol A (BPA) – which is found in many household plastics, phthalates, alkylphenols, and metalloestrogens. (3)
- Xenoestrogens are present in a number of substrates such as cigarette smoke, automobile exhaust, chemical industry pollutants, grilled meat, volcano dust, forest fire smoke, milk, water, and cosmetic products. This means the whole population may be exposed to them and while at the high end of the scale, there are becoming more prevalent issues with a variety of cancers and in the clinic we are seeing hormonal and thyroid issues. (3)
Zinc Deficiency and Copper Toxicity
Zinc deficiency is widespread in our population and is another major cause of copper imbalance. Zinc and copper exist in a delicate balance. Zinc and copper are antagonist to each other so if zinc is deficient, copper tends to build up and accumulate in various organs. Levels of zinc to copper are critical and taking too much zinc can also be a problem, pushing copper down to levels too low for certain processes to happen effectively.
Zinc deficiency may be a result of:
- Stress of all kinds resulting in increased excretion of zinc.
- High sugar high carb diet which lowers tissue zinc levels.
- Vegetarian diets where levels of zinc in foods may be lower than required.
- Soils depleted of zinc, resulting in lower levels in foods.
- Manufacturing processes which over-refine foods, removing zinc.
- Many children today are born zinc deficient because their mothers are deficient.
More and more we are seeing low iron/anaemias which do not respond to iron therapy in children. These cases may indicate bio-unavailable copper. Copper is required to convert iron from the ferric to ferrous form and to help incorporate iron into the haemoglobin molecule. Copper also has a relationship with manganese which is necessary for efficient production of iron, so anaemia may result from a copper-induced deficiency of manganese.
Treating Copper Imbalance
Some cases will respond to normal constitutional treatment, but sometimes this toxicity creates an obstacle to cure and needs to be removed before health can be restored. This is done through chelation (removal of the toxic overload) which can be very effective and gentle with homeopathy, looking at mineral levels and also looking at nutrition.
There is a growing body of research relating to high copper in relation to children. This is just a small selection of articles:
Increased Copper in Individuals with Autism Normalizes Post Zinc Therapy More Efficiently in Individuals with Concurrent GI Disease; Anthony J. Russo
A Case of Isolated Elevated Copper Levels during Pregnancy; LaToya R. Walker, Meghan Rattigan, and Joseph Canterino; Journal of Pregnancy
Decreased Zinc and Increased Copper in Individuals with Anxiety; A.J. Russo
- Creedy M. Oestrogen dominance, autism, high copper & more [Internet]. [cited 2017 Feb 26]. Available from: https://www.elementsofhealth.com.au/oestrogen-dominance-autism-high-copper-more/
- Drugs in Our Drinking Water? [Internet]. [cited 2017 Mar 19]. Available from: http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/features/drugs-in-our-drinking-water#1
- Fucic A, Gamulin M, Ferencic Z, Katic J, Krayer von Krauss M, Bartonova A, et al. Environmental exposure to xenoestrogens and oestrogen related cancers: reproductive system, breast, lung, kidney, pancreas, and brain. Environ Health [Internet]. BioMed Central; 2012 Jun 28 [cited 2017 Mar 2];11 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):S8. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22759508
Gamble, J. Mastering Homeopathy 3; Obstacles to Cure: Toxicity, Deficiency & Infection; Karuna Publishing 2010
Dr Janet Hull http://www.hairanalysisprogram.com/
Wilson, L. Nutritional Balancing and Hair Mineral Analysis; 4th revised edition. 2010