Learning that you or your family has been exposed to Lead can be terrifying and stressful. We'rehere to reassure and support you through these trying times. When you're worried about how the exposure will impact your family's health, well-being, and future, taking the following steps will assure that further exposure is eliminated, and the health effects of any prior exposure is mitigated.
“Children are more vulnerable to lead poisoning than adults. A child who swallows large amounts of lead may develop blood anemia, severe stomachache, muscle weakness, and brain damage. If a child swallows smaller amounts of lead, much less severe effects on blood and brain function may occur. Even at much lower levels of exposure, lead can affect a child's mental and physical growth.” 1
Lead Fighting Nutrients
Your mineral status is the first and most important defense against Lead toxicity. Because a good mineral status disallows Lead from being absorbed from the intestinal lumen, it never has a chance to do any damage. Your mineral status also defends and protects your body from any damage done from the Lead that does manage to be absorbed through inhalation or dermal exposure.
Iron- adequate iron in the diet decreases Lead absorption and reduces it's harmful effects on the body.
Vitamin C- increases absorption and utilization of Iron. Acts as a powerful antioxidant to mitigate oxidative damage caused by Lead.
Calcium and Phosphorous- in the face of Lead exposure, the body tries to sequester it in deep mineral tissues like bones and teeth. When the body has optimal amounts of Calcium and it's partner, Phosphorous, there is no room for toxic Lead in these tissues.
Zinc-Zinc deficiency has been shown to proportionately increase susceptibility of Lead accumulation in the brain. 4
Lead Toxicity Management when poisoning is severe
For those wishing to reverse any ill effects of lead exposure, simple inexpensive diet and nutritional protocols may be all that is required for lasting vibrant health! The physiological toxicity of lead is related to it's ability to replace Iron in the body, particularly in red blood cells. The symptoms of Lead toxicity can be explained partially by oxygen deprivation to vital tissues and organs due to this phenomenon. Lead is also sequestered into bones, the brain, and other soft tissues in the body.3
Assess your Lead Burden
Next to optimizing your body's mineral status, getting a hair analysis is the most important step in your lead toxicity recovery. The hair analysis allows you and your health care practitioner a valid starting point, and a thorough overview of what steps will need to take in order to overcome any deleterious effects of Lead toxicity.
Most medical doctors will perform a blood test for suspected Lead toxicity. Unfortunately, the half-life of Lead in the blood is only 28 to 36 days,7 while excretion of Lead is very poor. This means that true body-burden is not accurately reflected by blood tests.
Hair analysis is not only an accurate predictor of Lead levels in the body, but of all other metals and minerals. Hair grows slowly up from the hair follicle and accumulates any metabolic exposures, including heavy metals like Lead.8 Hair analysis will accurately reflect chronic Lead exposure, as well as past exposures that have accumulated in the body.
Interpreting a hair analysis requires some training. It is important not to take the hair analysis results as a definitive quantifiable number, and instead assess your mineral ratios, as well as changes in mineral and heavy metals over time. If you don't understand your results, as your qualified health care practitioner to go over your results with you.
Options for Lead Toxicity Recovery
Chelation Therapy-Pronounched Key-Lay-Shun, this is the practice of using specific compounds that grab and hold onto Lead molecules in your body, and help to remove them through urine, the bowels, or even sweat.
Chelating agents are effective at removing Heavy Metals because they 1) bind the offending toxin and 2) are natural metabolites of the body that are recognized and excreted as waste. In this way, your body can effectively rid itself of Heavy Metal toxicity.
Safe, Natural Dietary Chelators
Once you know your Lead and other Heavy Metal body burden, you may want to address your concerns with gentle, natural chelation therapy. There are synthetic and natural chelators alike that effectively and safely remove these toxins from the body. Talk with a practitioner to develop a plan tailored to your specific needs.
Vitamin E- studies have shown that those with Vitamin E in their diet absorb less ingested Lead. Vitamin E also improves absorption of Selenium, a powerful antioxidant.
Selenium- Selenium supplementation during Lead exposure protects against the deleterious effects of Lead toxicity.5
Iodine- Iodine ingestion immediately increases excretion of some toxins and heavy metals, including lead. Iodine works as a co-factor in creating Thyroid Hormone, which is indispensable in the body for regulating metabolism and many other vital functions.9
Silicon- Silica-alumina compounds called zeolites have been shown to correct heavy metal deposition in clinical studies. Inclusion of zeolite (as the zeolite clinoptilolite) in high-lead diets of laboratory mice reduced tissue lead concentration by 77-91%.
Probiotics- Among their myriad functions, certain strains of probiotic bacteria may minimize toxin exposure by trapping and metabolizing xenobiotics or heavy metals. The probiotic bacterial strains Lactobacillus rhamnosus (LC-705 and GG), Lactobacillus plantarum (CCFM8661 and CCFM8610), and Bifidobacterium breve Bbi 99/E8 were all shown to bind both cadmium and lead in laboratory studies (Ibrahim, Halttunen 2006; Halttunen 2008). Binding was observed for both live and heat-killed cultures of LC-705. However, the efficiency of heavy metal binding by probiotics may decrease when multiple strains are combined (Halttunen 2008). In mouse models, two different Lactobacillus plantarum strains reduced tissue accumulation of cadmium and lead and protected against oxidative stress (Zhai 2013; Tian 2012). Highly recommended.
Common Chelating Compounds:
Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) is one of the most effective chelating agents, and is one of the safest that can pass the blood-brain barrier (bbb). As such, ALA should be used with extreme caution and only in closely monitored, exactly measured doses in time with it's specific half-life. It's powerful chelating properties will mean that it can carry heavy metals out of and INTO the brain. ALA is a natural metabolite of the human body, so while it does chelate heavy metals, the body will break it down in a time scale consistent with it's metabolic half-life. If the mercury was not removed at the time of break-down, it is 'redistributed' wherever it happens to be. While this beneficial chelator is often the answer to many heavy metal toxic people, it needs to be used with extreme caution.
Dimercaprol (BAL). BAL is indicated for the treatment of acute lead encephalopathy in children and adults as well as acute inorganic arsenic or mercury toxicosis. It has also been used for chronic arsenic toxicity, but currently there are no guidelines to evaluate its effectiveness (ATSDR 2004; Jang 2011). BAL is given by intramuscular injection, often several times per day for a period of 5-10 days. Side effects include vomiting, excess salivation, watery eyes, runny nose, injection site pain, and possible chelation of essential trace metals if given for extended periods (Jang 2011). Not Recommended.
Glutathione Glutathione peroxidase is inhibited by mercury and less so by lead toxicity. Supplementation with glutathione reduces the severity of metal toxicities by providing the limiting nutrient.
Succimer (DMSA) DMSA is an oral medication used to treat mild-moderate lead toxicosis (acute or chronic) in children and adults as well as acute arsenic or mercury intoxication. For both lead and mercury intoxication in adults,DMSA is dosed at 10 mg/kg three times daily for 5 days, followed by 10mg/kg twice daily for 14 days. Side effects are mostly gastrointestinal (diarrhea and vomiting), metallic taste, and mild increase in liver enzymes; rash, chills, and decreased white cell counts have also (rarely) been reported (Jang 2011). This dosing is dangerous. Dosing is better started at no more than 1mg/25 lbs body weight. However, studies show that 25mg is the optimal dose per molecule chelated. DMSA should be taken per it's half life, about every 4 hours or so, EVEN AT NIGHT.
EDTA. Calcium-disodium EDTA is used to treat lead encephalopathy and moderate lead poisoning (Jang 2011; Born 2013). It is given by slow, continuous intravenous infusion. Side effects include malaise, headache, fatigue, chills or fever, myalgia, anorexia, nasal congestion, watery eyes, anemia, transient hypotension, clotting abnormalities, and kidney failure (Jang 2011). EDTA, particularly after prolonged treatment, can also chelate essential trace metals, such as zinc, copper, and manganese (Flora 2010). Sodium EDTA (without calcium) can cause life-threatening hypocalcemia (Brown 2006). This is a medically prescribed treatment that is used for acutely poisoned patients.
Penicillamine (Cuprimine®). Penicillamine has been used as an oral treatment for lead, mercury, and copper poisoning; its use has fallen out of favor due to its potential for serious complications, which include allergic reactions (seen particularly in people allergic to penicillin), a severe form of anemia, severe lowering of white blood cell counts, and kidney failure (Jang 2011). Not recommended, high chance of side effects
In conclusion, there are many viable options for you and your family to regain health and peace of mind after lead exposure. You do not have to be victim to the long-term mental and physical ravages of Lead. Many of these options are available to the layperson and are inexpensive. For those worried about higher levels of sequestered Lead, consultation with your healthcare provider can allow you to gain confidence and obtain a further personalized workable solution.