Copper Imbalance

Copper is one of the most common imbalances seen on Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis test results. Two forms of copper can be found in our bodies. Bioavailable copper is an essential trace mineral that is vitally important for both physical and mental health. Bio-unavailable (also referred to as “free” or ”unbound”) copper can’t be utilized, and begins to build up in tissues and its “target organs”, which are the liver, brain and reproductive organs. With an imbalance, there’s either not enough bioavailable copper or too much bio-unavailable copper.


I’m going to give you an overview of:

  • symptoms of copper imbalance
  • common reasons for copper imbalance
  • ways to support yourself when you’re eliminating copper

Symptoms of copper imbalance

Copper imbalance is associated with:

  • weakened immune system and the health conditions that result
  • mental and emotional symptoms including anxiety, depression, mood swings, panic disorder, crying spells, mind racing
  • premenstrual tension
  • endometriosis
  • tumors
  • fatigue
  • many skin diseases
  • hair loss
  • graying of the hair
  • insomnia
  • liver disease
  • Candida and/or fungal infections

Copper imbalance can be passed on to children, and is associated with attention deficit disorder, infections, and impaired growth and development.


Common reasons for copper imbalance

Copper imbalance can result from:

  • deficiencies of zinc (also manganese and other minerals)
  • environmental copper exposure
  • adrenal gland insufficiency or exhaustion

Zinc deficiency

Zinc and copper normally exist in a delicate balance. When zinc is deficient (which is quite common), copper tends to build up in tissues and organs. As you replenish the zinc and other vital minerals, the body begins to eliminate excess copper. A zinc deficiency can be due to:

  • acute stress of any kind (causes increased excretion of zinc)
  • a high sugar and carbohydrate diet (lowers tissue zinc levels)
  • vegetarian and vegan diets (they’re lower in zinc, since a main source of zinc in the diet is derived from meat protein, particularly red meat)
  • low levels of zinc in the soil (resulting in lower zinc levels in foods)
  • processed foods

Environmental copper exposure

  • copper water pipes and tubing (found in plumbing, water coolers, and ice-makers in fridges)
  • copper cookware (cooking acidic foods, such as tomatoes and okra, adds to the problem)
  • drinking water (some areas have high amounts of naturally-occurring copper in their water supply, and copper sulfate is added to some municipal drinking water supplies to kill yeast and fungi)
  • birth control pills (there’s a close association between the hormone estrogen and copper levels)
  • copper intra-uterine device (IUD)
  • fungicides for swimming pools and foods (used to slow the growth of algae and fungus)
  • vegetarian and vegan diets (these tend to include foods that are naturally very high in copper and low in zinc)
  • occupational exposure (including plumbers, welders, machinists, electricians and others who work with copper)
  • dental appliances (copper is used in dental alloys in fillings, crowns and other appliances)

Adrenal gland insufficiency or exhaustion

Reduced adrenal activity is perhaps the single most important physiological reason for copper imbalance. The reason is that adrenal activity is needed to stimulate production of ceruloplasmin, the primary copper-binding protein. According to hair analysis research, 70-80% of people tested show weak adrenal glands!


How is copper eliminated?

To eliminate copper, it’s first mobilized from tissue and organ storage sites and moved into the blood. The blood transports it to the liver and kidneys and it’s eliminated from there. Elimination symptoms happen because a lot of copper may be dumped into the blood at once and it’s not cleared from the blood rapidly enough by the liver and kidneys. Also, there’s often a deficiency of the copper-binding proteins (ceruloplasmin and metallothionine) due to sluggish liver production of these proteins. Sulfur, found in some foods and supplements, helps the detoxification pathways in the liver.


Ways to support yourself when you’re eliminating copper

To reduce or stop the symptoms of copper elimination you can slow the movement of copper from tissues and organs, assist the binding of copper, and speed up the clearing of copper from the blood. The goal is to eliminate as much copper as possible, as rapidly as possible, without causing uncomfortable symptoms.


Here are some initial things to do:

  • Stop taking your supplements (except for digestive enzymes) for about 3 days to slow down the elimination process. After 3 days, resume your supplements but take only one dose each day. If you’re symptom-free after 5 days, increase to 2 doses per day. If you’re still symptom-free after 5 more days, increase to 3 doses per day.
  • Eat eggs and animal protein regularly (these contain sulfur).
  • Eat full-fat dairy products regularly (calcium helps ease symptoms).
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Avoid constipation (take magnesium or extra digestive enzymes if needed).
  • Drink at least 6, eight-ounce glasses of water each day.

If symptoms continue, try the following supplements (I can make recommendations about which ones and how much to take):

  • molybdenum (it binds with copper and helps the liver escort it out of the body)
  • l-taurine (an essential amino acid that’s high in sulfur)
  • n-acetyl cysteine (contains sulfur)

These procedures can also support you:

  • slow walking and deep breathing: encourage relaxation by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which also activates the liver, kidneys and intestines to help remove copper
  • coffee enemas: these stimulate bile flow and enhance liver detoxification (can be very effective to relieve a headache associated with copper elimination)
  • reflexology
  • sauna: sweating encourages the removal of some copper through the skin
  • massage therapy: enhances circulation and help decongest the internal organs such as the liver and kidneys
  • acupressure or acupuncture: can balance the flow of subtle energy through the liver and kidneys
  • chiropractic treatment: can clear nerve blockages that may be interfering with the activity of the liver and kidneys

Releasing fear can also a powerful way to assist copper elimination. Copper is associated with fear, and fear has a paralyzing effect on the body, slowing down elimination. Consider arranging a counselling session with me to help remove emotional interference.


The Takeaway

If an individual is tempted to quit a Mineral-Nutritional Balancing Program because of copper elimination symptoms, consider some of the benefits of getting rid of excess copper from the body.

  • stable mood
  • focus
  • improved sleep
  • resolution of candida and/or fungal infections

Copper elimination symptoms are temporary. They’ll disappear as the copper level decreases and the organs of elimination function better. Staying on the Mineral-Nutritional Balancing Program is worth the temporary discomfort in order to achieve and maintain excellent health.


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