Limiting exposure to glyphosate and heavy metals


Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup, one of the most commonly used herbicides on the market, and functions both an antibiotic and a chelator of minerals. This chemical concoction has been touted as “safe” for humans and household pets on the basis that it disables an enzymatic pathway present only in bacteria and plants. However, because humans and other animals rely on the health of probiotic bacteria in their gut for good health and immune function, and glyphosate makes these bacteria die in droves, glyphosate is far from safe for humans and pets. Additionally, because it chelates essential minerals from the soil and from the digestive tract, glyphosate makes our food less nutrient-rich and limits the absorption of nutrients in the digestive tract. None of this is good news for those of us looking to promote optimal bone health, so here are a few strategies for limiting exposure:

  • Weed manually or mechanically rather than use these chemicals, and encourage your neighbors, family and friends to do the same. If you can get involved in larger-scale efforts to limit use of these toxic herbicides, even better
  • Ensure that household members and any indoor/outdoor pets are not tracking glyphosate residue into your home. Remove shoes before entering the home, and avoid walking barefoot in any outdoor spaces that may be contaminated. Don’t let politeness get in the way of obtaining information – always ask about herbicide use before letting children or pets wander.
  • Avoid foods contaminated with glyphosate by purchasing organic. Because non-organic wheat, sugar cane, soy and corn are extensively treated with glyphosate, it’s important not to make frequent exceptions for non-organic baked goods, sweets and treats while you’re out and about. These foods are loaded with ingredients contaminated with glyphosate.

Heavy metals

This is not a comprehensive summary, and the issue is extremely complex. If you want to learn more, I highly recommend Andrew Hall Cutler’s books Amalgam Illness and Hair Test Interpretation, available through the website

Heavy metals such as mercury, aluminum and lead can be absorbed by the body and interfere with the metabolism of minerals and other nutrients essential to bone health and other life functions. This is not a comprehensive guide, but a starting point for limiting exposure to some common metals. A very comprehensive guide for anyone wanting more information is Andrew Hall Cutler’s Hair Test Interpretation, which discusses the effects of toxic and essential minerals and offers information about sources of exposure.

Mercury – Safely remove any CFLs and replace with incandescent bulbs. When changing bulbs, always enclose these bulbs in safe disposal bags and safely dispose of them as soon as practically possible.

If you choose to be vaccinated, ask your doctor for thimerosal-free vaccines.

If you ever need a filling, ask for a composite filling (the white kind) and strictly avoid any fillings that contain mercury, no matter how much your dentist reassures you of its safety and practicality.

Limit fish consumption to 1-2 servings per week or less of low-mercury fish, such as wild-caught salmon and sardines. Avoid high-mercury fish such as tuna, swordfish and other large fish.

Aluminum – avoid all aluminum cookware and food storage items, commercial baked goods, baking powder, anti-perspirants (even the natural crystal kind, which are aluminum salts), bentonite clay and commercial table salt. A common food source that contains aluminum is black tea, even organic. Drinking it with lemon increases absorption further. Some water filters increase aluminum in water.

Oven-safe glass bakeware is a good alternative to aluminum bake-ware. Most natural food stores sell food-storage items made without aluminum.

Be cautious with antacids, which often contain aluminum.

Most vaccines contain aluminum as an adjuvant (to help stimulate the immune system to respond). If you choose to be vaccinated, ask about spreading out any medically recommended vaccines over time to keep the aluminum levels at each vaccine as low as possible. The larger the exposure, the more difficult it is for the body to detoxify.

Lead – Avoid do-it-yourself fix-it projects, which often stir up lead in paint. Test your soil prior to gardening. Some soils are naturally high in lead, in which case it’s best to garden in pots or construct a raised bed using organic soil certified low in lead. Safely and quickly dispose of old batteries, which can leach lead salts. Because excess vitamin D, especially in people consuming low-calcium diets, can encourage the absorption of lead, avoid excess intake of vitamin D and get your vitamin D levels checked regularly if you’re supplementing with it. Be especially careful about avoiding excess vitamin D in small children, who absorb much more lead proportionally than adults.

Antimony – Avoid furniture and mattresses that have been treated with flame retardant chemicals. In some states, you may need a doctor’s prescription to obtain these. In California, recent legislation allows any consumer to purchase furniture and bedding free of flame retardants (which may be based on antimony or on bromine, which is a potent endocrine disruptor and thyroid disruptor). Antimony is often used as a fire retardant on cotton clothing, especially sleepwear, and bedding. Laundering all cotton clothing and bedding (with or without other types of materials) in washing soda 5 times before using it will take care of this. Rinse well before use. (see Buying organic sleepwear and bedding, or with labels warning that they are not flame resistant, will get you around the problem.

Arsenic – Go easy on rice and avoid non-organic chicken, and stay away from treated wood and construction sites.

Silver – Common exposure sources include amalgam fillings, silver jewelry and colloidal silver products.

Titanium – if you have titanium implants, this is to be expected and is unlikely to be causing problems unless you’re allergic. Otherwise, if your titanium levels show up high on your hair test, check your sunscreen. Titanium dioxide from sunscreen is not usually absorbed through the skin, but if you are absorbing it, it’s best to change sunscreens.

Barium – Some medical and imaging procedures (such as an upper GI X-ray study and barium enemas) use this substance. If you test high for barium but are not aware of the exposure source, you may want to test your water and/or purchase a filter that removes barium, if you cannot identify the source.  Some water sources are high in barium, and I have recently started to see Bay Area clients with elevated barium levels in their hair.

Bismuth – commonly present in make-up, including mineral make-up, some antacids (Pepto Bismol® takes its name from bismuth) are the two most common sources.

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