Update: 17 February 2018

Copper Toxicity & Self-Evaluation

Author: Julie Casper, L. Ac. is a hTMA clinician and works with patients across the U.S. and internationally healthelite.org

Both copper excess and copper deficiency, will disrupt healthy metabolic function by creating mineral imbalances. Having the proper levels and ratios of nutrient minerals is crucial for good health.

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Copper is an essential trace element that is vital to the health of all living things (humans, plants, animals, and microorganisms). Copper is essential to the proper functioning of organs and metabolic processes. Copper also is an essential trace element that is required in enzyme systems, and enzymes are responsible for countless metabolic processes required to sustain life. For example, enzymes are indispensable in cellular activity for signal transduction, and cell regulation.

Carl Curt Pfeiffer, M.D., Ph.D. (1908 – 1988) of the Brain Biocentre in Princeton, New Jersey, conducted extensive research on copper metabolism and human health.1 His findings indicate that a high body copper burden can be responsible for disorders such as;

The human body has complex homeostatic mechanisms which attempt to ensure a constant supply of available copper, while eliminating excess copper whenever this occurs. However, like all essential elements and nutrients, too much or too little nutritional ingestion of copper can result in a corresponding condition of copper excess or deficiency in the body, each of which has its own unique set of adverse health effects.

A common source of ingested copper comes from our drinking water supplies which run through copper piping, particularly in areas where the water is soft and acidic, as this corrodes layers of copper from the pipes releasing it into drinking water. This action also occurs when acidic foods are cooked in copper pans. Cigarette smoking is another prominent source of excessive copper accumulation.2 Additionally, oral contraceptives are notorious in raising the body's copper burden due to estrogen's effects on tissue copper accumulation.

Until recently, the recognition and treatment of heavy metal excesses and trace and macro-mineral deficiencies has been hindered by a lack of reliable diagnostic techniques. Although blood, sweat and urine have been used, these have been found to be ineffective in detecting long-term exposure due to the fact that body fluids are in a constant state of flux, thereby reflecting only a very recent exposure within only hours or days. Since the development of modern laboratory techniques, trace element concentrations can now be measured from the smallest of samples with great precision and accuracy. Particularly, since the introduction of the inductively coupled plasma mass spectometry (ICP-MS) system which has a multi-detection capacity, hair tissue mineral analysis has become the diagnostic tool of choice because it can measure the presence of nutritional and toxic trace elements reliably, and non-invasively.

Symptoms of High (Excess) Copper

Symptoms of Copper Deficiency

  1. Mental and Elemental Nutrients., New Canaan, CT. Yeats Publishing Inc. 1979.
  2. Elevations in serum copper, erythrocytic copper, and ceruloplasmin concentrations in smokers, American Journal of Clinical Pathology, 1978.
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