Margaret was a recent 39-year-old patient who ate a clean diet, drank plenty of bottled water, and as she described it, "did everything right." But despite these (and other) healthy efforts, she struggled with fatigue and arrived in my office looking haggard and frustrated that her efforts were yielding such dismal results.
As a medical doctor who focuses in fatigue, I immediately pinpointed Margaret's problem as she sipped on a liter bottle of designer water and casually described the amazing salmon she'd had last night at her favorite restaurant. A urine challenge test1 confirmed what I suspected: Margaret had heavy metal and chemical toxicity.
As a fatigue specialist, this is how I treat chemical and heavy metal toxicity.
I treated Margaret with zeolites, specifically nano-zeolites that come in liquid form. Sometimes referred to as "molecular sieves," zeolites work2 to trap heavy metals and remove toxic compounds through the urine. I also used the antioxidant glutathione to open up Margaret's detoxification pathways and boost her mitochondrial function. I have had a lot of success with this protocol and have used it on hundreds of fatigue and heavy metal/chemical toxicity patients over the years.
Unfortunately, Margaret's situation isn't unique. Modern industrial practices mean you're exposed to numerous heavy metals and toxic chemicals that contribute to problems like neuropathy, inflammation, fibromyalgia, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disease, and, yes, fatigue. Mercury, lead, aluminum, bisphenol A, perfluorochemicals (PFCs), and other heavy metals and chemicals hide in everything from last night's salmon dinner to the water you picked up at the gas station. Even the most health-focused person becomes inundated with these chemicals, which stealthily find their way into your body, where they linger and accumulate.
Learn how to downsize your toxic burden
And while you can't completely avoid these toxins, you can definitely limit your exposure to reduce fatigue and other problems. Besides focusing on the essentials like proper sleep and reducing chronic stress, I helped Margaret reduce her toxic burden with these five strategies:
1. Limit fish consumption
2. Become aware of sneaky toxin sources
3. Mind your mitochondria
These little powerhouses, located inside your body's cells, produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is your main energy source, and insufficient ATP means you will become fatigued more quickly. Heavy metals and other toxins can damage5 mitochondrial membranes, making them unable to produce sufficient ATP and keep you energized throughout the day.
4. Consider a professional detox
Although you can't completely avoid toxins, supporting your body's detoxification process is an extremely important part of healing from the toxins you are exposed to. A trained nutritionist or physician can guide you through an effective, fatigue-reducing detox protocol.
5. Supplement the smart way
Consider seeing a functional medicine practitioner
These simple measures can help greatly reduce your toxic load, but if you suspect heavy metal toxicity is one of your major fatigue culprits, I recommend visiting a functional medicine practitioner.
A functional medicine doctor can conduct a health inventory and perform lab testing to determine how many—and what kind of—toxins most accumulate in your specific body. Based on your lab results, symptomatology and medical history, he or she can determine whether or not you will benefit from a heavy metal detoxification protocol.
Evan Hirsch, M.D., is a family medicine doctor based in Olympia, WA. He received his degree from the University of Toledo College of Medicine. Hirsch has lectured nationally and internationally on topics in Integrative and Functional Medicine and is Board Certified in Family Medicine and Integrative Medicine. He authored "Fix Your Fatigue," his four-step process to relieve chronic fatigue and restore energy.