Year after year, every day, women are asking...
While our site www.coppertoxic.com provides the Internet's most comprehensive resource for understanding the copper connection, this page provides answers-at-a-glance to
how copper affects some of the more commonly seen symptoms.
As copper builds up, it has a stimulating effect on the brain (and adrenals), giving one a sense of increased energy. In fact, copper has an initial energizing effect similar to d-amphetamine. However, as the person takes on more and more, this constant overstimulation eventually 'wears down' adrenal function over time. Eventually fatigue and exhaustion set it.
As well, the increase in copper accumulation causes a corresponding increase of tissue calcification along with loss of cellular potassium. [Incidentally, this is why HTMA is so important, since these imbalances rarely show up in blood testing]. This mineral imbalance is going to impact the thyroid, leading to effects of hypothyroid (even if circulating hormone levels appear fine). The thyroid and adrenal glands are responsible for supplying the body with 98% of its energy, and so a trend toward hypo-functioning of these glands will most certainly impact energy over time, increasing the tendency for fatigue and exhaustion.
Copper also plays a key role in the electron transport chain which produces ATP - one of our body's key energy sources. When copper is bio-unavailable, ATP production is impaired.
Excess copper also antagonizes magnesium, manganese, and iron, all of which further play a role in energy production.
There are many pathways that link excess copper accumulation to depression. Importantly:
Side quote: 'A meta-analysis published in December 2013 in Biological Psychiatry analyzed 17 studies and found that depressed people tended to have about 14 percent less zinc in their blood than most people do on average, and the deficiency was greater among those with more severe depression.'
Similar to copper's role in depression, the drop in dopamine and rise in norepinephrine is strongly related to anxiety. Copper has an impairing effect on serotonin, and serotonin is a calming neurotransmittor that helps to control anxiety. Excess copper also inhibits the conversion of glutamate into glutamine and GABA, resulting in high glutamate levels. This in turn further contributes to anxiety (and other reactions such as increasing irritability). Magnesium tends to have a sedative effect on the central nervous system, and so low levels of magnesium can cause a more stimulated CNS and in turn a heightened state of anxiety...excess copper lowers cellular magnesium. Also to be considered, especially during the mobilization of copper as it enters the bloodstream, as well as with hypoglycemia, is that the body increases adrenaline...and adrenaline is an anxiety and panic hormone, potentially amplifying these reactions.
[See our infographic at www.coppertoxic.com/emotions for more explanation on this].
Like most of what is promoted about copper, there are two sides to the coin. Most articles talk about all the benefits of copper, not educating that most of these benefits reverse when high levels of bio-unavailable copper (toxicity) accumulate. Most sexual health, nutrition, and parenthood websites claim that copper (and/or the IUD) does not contribute to weight gain (nor any of these commonly seen IUD symptoms for that matter!). However, there is an endless stream of empirical evidence showing women on the copper IUD struggling with "unexplainable" weight gain. While all the mechanisms for this may not be fully understood, there are at least a few fairly clear connections. First is the estrogenic effect of copper toxicity (with weight gain being a recognized symptom of estrogen dominance). There is also the "hypothyroid effect" of copper on the broader mineral system (as discussed further below). The copper toxic profile as viewed through HTMA data also shows the slowing of metabolism - a quality that also increases the tendency toward weight gain. Even animal studies (such as this one) acknowledge this consequence of IUD-associated weight gain).
It is also known that copper itself (including that from supplementation, can contribute to weight gain. Keep in mind that a copper IUD tends to release (slightly) more copper during it's first month or two of insertion, and if heavy bleeding is a problem, that can further increase the copper released into the system. The more that copper accumulates over time, the more it may affect weight.
There is also the connection to bloating (as discussed further below).
"One common effect of supplementing copper is weight gain - as much as 5% or more, which is also possible when absorbing extra copper from non-dietary sources such as copper bracelets or copper IUDs. So unless gaining weight is a welcome benefit, or a reliable test indicates insufficient levels, most people should avoid mineral formulations containing either iron (which also causes weight gain), or more than 0.5 mg of copper." http://www.acu-cell.com/crcu.html
Sexually the copper toxic person is not only mentally, but also biologically forced to withdraw when burnout occurs - the body is trying to preserve its energy and so the sex hormones, being not as critical, are put on the back burner. It can seem to the patient that they no longer desire their partner, not understanding that this feeling is simply a survival mechanism and not their true self. The closer and more intense the relationship, and the more intense the copper-induced burnout, often the more intense the opposing negative withdrawal reaction is toward their partner. If a calcium shell is also present, the emotional numbing will be amplified, further "justifying" their lack of desire.
Also to consider is excess copper's effect on neurotransmitters. For example, excess copper lowers zinc, magnesium, and B6, the very 3 most important nutrients needed for serotonin production. Low serotonin can increase anxiety and depression, thereby affecting mood. Serotonin also plays a role in the vasocongestion of genital tissue, supporting arousal. Sexual arousal therefore may be compromised if serotonin is low.
More connections between copper toxicity and libido and emotions are provided at https://coppertoxic.com/emotions
As so many factors come together that affect relationships, almost too many to summarize briefly here, it would be recommended to carefully read through https://coppertoxic.com/emotions to fully understand the implications excess copper has on relationships. In brief though, the increasing fatigue and burnout, along with the lowering of dopamine, oxytoxinc and serotonin, can all erase romantic feelings.
"Apathy replaces joy, and life becomes boring. People start wondering if they really are meant for each other. They wonder what happened to the original feelings that got them together. Fatigue and exhaustion can do all of this and more. It can help destroy a marriage that should have lasted forever."
~ Colin and Loren Chatsworth, with Dr. Paul Eck
Zinc deficiency can lead to cell death in the hippocampus where meaningful memories are stored, affecting memory of the 'good times'. The calcium shell has a further numbing effect on the emotions and awareness, leading to emotional deadness.
"I would venture to say that divorce courts are loaded with people who's relationships were destroyed by copper toxicity. Because the role of copper toxicity impacting the emotions, thought processes and behaviors is not understood, it leads to a lot of animosity and anger and resentment, and revenge - that ultimately winds up destroying the relationship." ~ Dr. Rick Malter, Ph.D.
Intimate emotional recognition can become significantly impaired.
"Women with OC (oral contraceptive) use were less accurate in emotion recognition than women without OC use. The ability to recognize others’ emotional expressions is essential for the initiation and maintenance of interpersonal relationships, in particular intimate ones" (Schmidt and Cohn, 2001).
Many powerful stories are shared at: www.coppertoxic.com/cases-stories
Excess copper blocks the conversion of thyroxine (T4) into triiodothyronine (T3...the active form of thyroid hormone). Copper's influence can often be easily seen in the HTMA with high tissue calcium (blocking cellular absorption of nutrients and hormone) and low cellular potassium (impairing mitochondrial sensitivity to thyroid hormone). Many people have this form of "thyroid hypo-expression" even if clinically they are not hypothyroid by conventional lab markers. However, this 'cellular thyroid hypo-expression' is quite common and helps explain why so many women have many of the typical signs of hypothyroid even though their doctors diagnose them as 'fine'. In more fully understanding 'hypothyroid', we have to look beyond just the blood lab markers and understand the cellular effect and copper's influence on the mineral system, especially calcium and potassium.
Even beyond the above described and very common cellular effect so often overlooked in most studies, here is one study that presents the increased risk of ocult hypothyroidism amongst copper IUD users.
Copper toxic individuals very often will also have gut concerns, including candida and yeast, low HCl, poor nutrient absorption, gluten sensitivity, even leaky gut. One of copper's roles is that of an anti-fungal, and when in balance, helps to control fungi and yeast / candida in the gut. However, with toxic levels of copper, much of this copper is in a bio-unavailable form stored in tissues, and is not serving it's role in controlling candida / yeast, or other parasites. This, along with the anaerobic GI environment that's created, allows candida, fungi, yeast, parasites and bacteria to flourish. Meanwhile, by way of lowering zinc and other nutrients, excess copper also reduces hydrochloric acid production. When hydrochloric acid (HCl) is low, healthy gut flora are weakened and digestive enzyme function becomes impaired. This can further lead into symptoms of bloating, constipation, etc.
These symptoms are so commonly seen, yet the ongoing denial that a connection exists between the IUD and this and other symptoms is so discouraging. Even if practitioners don't fully understand these mineral connections, studies have shown the increased risk of the copper IUD on, for example, candida (example here), yet women are so often told there is no connection.
Copper and zinc both play a key role in hair growth/loss. Copper (in bioavailable form) is important for the production of collagen, which in turn helps the hair. Copper toxicity leads to bio-UNavailable copper - in other words a deficiency of available copper. Remember, to understand your copper status, it is never just about viewing the copper level by itself, this is what misleads so many people. Copper must be looked at together with various other markers.
Hypothyroidism and zinc deficiency are also two common causes of hair loss. Once again, copper toxicity contributes to both of these potential causes - zinc deficiency and hypothyroid, even if subclinical. Hypothyroid symptoms can appear even if thyroid lab markers look normal - hair analysis testing can show the reasons for this.
Also to consider is low iron. Most people don't have a deficiency of iron per se, but rather there is a metabolic issue with supporting iron bio-availability (as we teach in Mineral Mastery). Supplementing too much iron trying to fix a 'deficiency' can end up further impairing your zinc, leading to other problems. In short, if your copper is bio-unavailable (due to copper toxicity, low ceruloplasmin, etc), your iron will be impaired, and this can commonly result in hair loss.
There can be several other factors too. Proper testing and working with a professional can help you better understand the cause(s).
"Copper-bearing IUDs work in several ways to prevent pregnancy. The first mechanism of action is the foreign body response. A foreign object in the uterus elicits a local inflammatory response....The inflammatory response, which IUDs use to prevent pregnancy, increases with the size of the IUD.... Copper IUDs have added contraceptive effects due to the presence of copper ions. Copper ions are associated with an inflammatory response in the uterus...According to the manufacturers of Paraguard, the most common copper IUD in the US, common side effects of the copper IUDs include cramping and heavier, longer periods. There is also an increased risk for pelvic inflammatory disease". [Source: https://embryo.asu.edu/pages/copper-intrauterine-device-iud ]
The risk of uterus perforation is also present, and this side effect risk of the IUD has long been known, albeit brushed under the rug.
An increase in bleeding is quite common with the copper IUD. In fact, "increased bleeding and pain cause up to 15% of users to have the device removed within the first year" [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2702765/]. Typically the heavier bleeding decreases over time, though it may take many months or even a year or two. Often, the bleeding may result from the increased corrosion of the IUD releasing copper ("burst release") [http://dx.doi.org/10.1515/corrrev-2019-0012]. This increased copper release is at its peak during the first few months post-insertion, and then tapers off a bit and plateaus.
One consideration is that as the copper IUD dissolves and increases copper ion content in the endometrium, it may cause increased VEGF secretion in the endometrium. According to [https://scivisionpub.com/pdfs/a-comparison-of-vascular-endothelial-growth-factors-vegf-levels-in-menstrual-blood-between-women-with-and-without-endometriosis-1450.pdf] "VEGF levels in women with endometriosis were significantly higher than those without endometriosis". A dislodged copper IUD, or the (increased risk of) uterine fibroids may also be contributing factors to heavier bleeding.
Many women find that their abnormally heavy bleeding stops upon removal of the IUD.
Some women experience vision difficulties with their IUD. There are a few mechanisms for this. From a nutrient perspective, zinc and vitamin A are both very important for ocular health and vision. Zinc is found in particularly high abundance in the eye. Copper and zinc are antagonistic, and many with copper toxicity also have an increased need for vitamin A.
The IUD is also a stressor on the body, and under stress we lose more zinc. This in turn can flare up eye problems during times of stress, especially when the body is losing zinc. Zinc plays a role in protein metabolism, including the protein structure of the eye. If ocular protein structure is distorted, issues with focus can develop.
There is also the consideration of the increasing brain fog that often develops with copper toxicity, along with a sensitivity to computer screens and being able to "focus" on what one is reading.
Stomach acid, thiamine status, and other factors also play a role, underscoring why copper toxicity is never "just about copper", but needs to be considered in relationship to other nutrients and processes.
Beyond the symptoms mentioned above, some other commonly seen symptoms with copper toxicity include:
The full list of common symptoms (together with deeper explanations), is provided at www.coppertoxic.com
Copper dumping is the release of excess copper from cellular / tissue storage. An increase in metabolic energy, intense exercise (especially aerobic), increased periods of stress... these all can lead to a copper dump. While copper dumping is important in the overall detox process, the periods of the dump can sometimes make one feel horrible, even frightened due to the symptoms that can appear. The dumped copper enters the bloodstream, which can then lead to increased anxiety and panic reactions. Other symptoms that appear may include increased brain fog, PMS, headaches, flu-like symptoms, paranoia, despair, constipation, tachycardia, candida, mind racing, hypothyroid, decreased libido, digestive problems, nausea, and more. This underscores why it's important to be properly guided through the detox process and to avoid things (including too-intense detox protocols) that cause unbearable dumping reactions.
We explain copper dumping in more detail at www.coppertoxic.com
For decades, experts in this area of research have been working to get this message out, beginning with Dr. Carl Pfeiffer, MD, PhD in the 1970s with his book "Mental and Elemental Nutrients: A Physicians Guide to Nutrition and Health Care" in which he warned of the dangers of copper accumulation stemming from the Pill and copper IUD. This work was continued by such greats as Dr Eck and Dr. Watts (founders of ARL and TEI labs respectively), Dr. Malter PhD (4 decades of clinical practice working with copper toxic individuals and author of 'The Strands of Health: A Guide to Understanding Hair Mineral Analysis', Dr Wilson, Dr William Walsh, Dr. Anne Louise Gittleman in her book 'Why Am I Always So Tired', and myself Rick Fischer through clinical practice, guidance with international study on copper toxicity, nutritional education through the MineralMastery.com course, and my compilation of research at www.coppertoxic.
Yet, most doctors remain unfamiliar with (or even worse, in denial of) copper toxicity and how to address it. Part of the reason is just an overall lack of nutritional training in medical schooling. As well, the most important test for seeing and understanding the effects of copper toxicity, the Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis, has been subjected to constant attack and suppression since the 1980s. Even amongst those who do offer Hair Analysis, very few are trained to properly interpret the results - they assume levels can be read at face-value, and thus completely misinterpret what the HTMA is showing. HTMA copper, for example, is commonly low (at face value), and can appear so even with a toxicity condition.
Also to consider:
With practitioners not being adequately trained to address copper toxicity, the public not knowing any different and simply trusting these 'experts', widespread misinformation and 'opinions' flooding the Internet, and a global approach to health and nutrition that remains largely ignorant of cellular nutrition and the effects of mineral imbalances, copper toxicity remains largely unknown or denied. The enormous cost to lives left suffering as a result can be previewed in the 100+ examples provided here.
There are many additional factors why copper toxicity remains under the radar, the above just being a preview. A full explanation of the challenges behind greater awareness is explained at: www.coppertoxic.com/challenges-awareness
Minerals do not operate in isolation. When one mineral shifts, it creates a cascade of changes across the entire mineral system. "Fixing" copper toxicity is NOT about simply taking zinc or detoxing the copper. Many of the symptoms may not even be directly related to copper, but by imbalances in other minerals that copper has thrown off balance. Those imbalances need to be addressed. Approaching a proper copper detox involves not just the elimination of excess bio-unavailable copper (for which the liver needs to be supported and bile production optimized), but also looking at the entire mineral profile and addressing those other imbalances. Answers to many of the symptoms can be better understand and addressed when we do so. This is why HTMA (Hair Tiissue Mineral Analysis) is so foundationally important to detoxing intelligently.
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