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7 Ways Heavy Metals Damage Your Brain

How Heavy Metals Affect the Brain

Every time you breathe, eat, drink, and touch certain materials, you are exposed to tiny amounts of toxic heavy metals. One day of exposure certainly won’t cause harm. But these heavy metals can accumulate in your body over time and cause substantial damage to your health.

Chronic heavy metal exposure can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, cause organ toxicity, and promote inflammation. But what most people don’t know is that exposure to heavy metals can have a huge impact on your brain as well—on everything from your mood to memory.

1. Heavy Metals are Neurotoxins

Many heavy metals are what scientists called neurotoxins. This means when they get into your body, they kill nerve and brain cells. The blood-brain barrier normally prevents dangerous compounds from getting to your brain, but heavy metals such as mercury can break through this protective wall.

Once mercury gets into the brain, it causes oxidative stress and inflammation which ultimately can kill off healthy brain cells (1). Scientists have also found that several other heavy metals can kill off brain cells, including lead, cadmium and arsenic (2).

2. Impacts Poor Memory

Your memory affects nearly every aspect of your life. It helps you remember important dates, key information related to your job, precious memories, and it’s essential for learning new skills.

This is one of the many reasons why it is important to detoxify heavy metals from your body. Several studies have found that exposure to heavy metals can damage your memory.

Adults who are exposed to lead are shown to have significantly lower learning and memory scores (3). Chronic exposure to lead also appears to result in a progressive decline in memory (4). Arsenic exposure is also linked to deficits in verbal intelligence and long-term memory (5).

3. Increased Mood Disorders

Have you ever noticed how much your mood impacts your day-to-day life? When you’re in a great mood, you tend to be more productive, have healthy social interactions, and have more energy. But when you’re feeling down, the exact opposite can happen.

While external events often drive your mood, researchers have found that heavy metals can have a surprising impact on how you feel.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, mercury exposure can cause mood swings, irritability, nervousness, and excessive shyness (6). Scientists have also discovered that higher levels of lead or cadmium in the blood are associated with depression and anxiety (7, 8).

4. Decreased IQ & Intelligence

IQ ratings are the hallmark of cognitive intelligence. Experts agree that you can improve your IQ if you nourish your brain through learning new skills, and getting proper nutrition.

But IQ is not a one-way street. Your IQ can also decrease over time. One way your IQ can be negatively impacted is through chronic heavy metal exposure, especially during childhood.

One study in China, for example, found that children who had higher levels of heavy metals in their blood had significantly lower IQ scores compared to children with fewer heavy metals in their system (9). Other studies clearly show the negative impact of lead exposure on intelligence (3).

5. Compromised Executive Function

Executive function is a term used by scientists to describe several important cognitive functions in the brain. If your executive function is weak, you likely have a hard time paying attention, organizing, controlling your emotions, and resisting distractions.

There are several tactics you can use to strengthen your executive function, with meditation as one of the best methods (10). Another effective strategy is to avoid things that weaken executive function, such as heavy metals. Research has revealed that even low levels of arsenic or lead exposure can compromise your executive function (11, 3).

6. Sloppy Fine Motor Skills

Your brain and nervous system control fine motor skills. This includes skills that require dexterity like writing, playing musical instruments, texting on a smartphone, or even simple things like turning the pages in a book.

Since heavy metals are known to kill off healthy nerve cells, it makes sense that heavy metals can negatively impact your fine motor skills. Research shows that with mercury exposure, adults typically experience muscle weakness and a loss of overall coordination (12).

But when children are exposed to mercury, it becomes much more problematic. Multiple studies have shown that children and unborn babies can experience developmental delays in fine motor skills when they are exposed to mercury (13).

7. Deteriorates the Brain

Mild cognitive decline is a process that typically happens as a result of normal aging. It is most often characterized by decreased memory, language skills, and an impaired ability to think.

Cognitive decline can become much more severe if your brain is chronically inflamed and under constant oxidative stress as it is with heavy metal exposure. When this happens, the symptoms of cognitive decline are magnified, and the brain eventually stops working as it should.

One study suggests that aluminum-contaminated drinking water can intensify cognitive decline and lay the foundation for brain diseases like dementia (14). Another study found that long-term lead exposure is associated with cognitive decline in the elderly (15).

Heavy Metals Can Damage The Brain

How to Protect Your Brain from Heavy Metals

Now that you know how heavy metals can damage your brain, it’s only natural that you want to avoid this fate. To protect your brain from heavy metals, become aware of the different ways you are exposed to heavy metals.

In addition to avoiding heavy metal exposure, it’s just as important to detoxify heavy metals from the body. Heavy metals remain in your body for exceptionally long periods of time. Cadmium, for instance, stays in your kidneys for up to 38 years (16). 

This is why it’s important to detoxify on a regular, even daily basis. That way you can remove accumulated heavy metals from your body so they can no longer cause you harm.  

While some foods support detoxification, the best way to target accumulated heavy metals is with the natural mineral zeolite. The zeolite Clinoptilolite is renowned for its ability to selectively bind to toxic heavy metals as it quickly passes through the body. This can provide a simple, effective way to take out toxins on a cellular level, so you can stay sharp in the years ahead.