Claudine Phillips

Heavy Metal Toxicity (Poisoning): Symptoms, Causes, & Treatment

In this episode of The Claudine Phillips Show, I cover heavy metal toxicity, the symptoms of heavy metal overload, how we get toxic, and how to remove the heavy metals from our system. This is a super long post, yet hang in there, it is information packed. I also cover my personal journey and discuss the differences in the types of heavy metals. Don’t forget to download your PDF to assist you in your detoxification process. 

Heavy Metal Poisoning

I am 100% a product of the 1980s. At the ripe age of 18 years old, you could catch me cruzing down the highway in my black Ford Probe, windows rolled down, rockin’ out to Guns N’ Roses, Def Leppard, Poison, and Bon Jovi. My hair height matched theirs and my shoulder pads could rival any fashionista.  I was on fire and ready for this world! I had big dreams and an even bigger hair.

That 18 year old was healthy, strong, and vibrant.  I was unafraid to try new things. I believed I could do all things and I did.  I ran marathons, obtained a bachelors, earned my Dietetics degree, and achieved a masters degree back to back without a blink of the eye. I was a personal trainer, aerobics instructor, and a Sports Dietitian at the prestigious Cooper Aerobics Fitness Center, coached clients, and ran a personal chef service. I even married and gave birth, naturally, to two children. I was unstoppable and on top of the world.

“I grew extremely tired, irritable, and depressed. I became hopeless, powerless, and uninspired because the once vibrant Claudine could barely get through a day.”

Life seemed grand, and it was, until after the birth of my third child. I had my amalgams removed unsafely a few months after his birth and the rest is a blur. I grew extremely tired, irritable, and depressed. I became hopeless, powerless, and uninspired because the once vibrant Claudine could barely get through a day. Little did I know at the time, I was experiencing the perfect storm of a sudden heavy metal load and an autoimmune disease called Hashimotos Thyroiditis. No longer was I rockin’ out to the tune of a heavy metal. I became obsessed with studying the rocks that were stealing my life. 

Can you relate to any of my story? Are you unusually exhausted regardless the hours you sleep? Are your food allergies growing? Is is hard to think clearly? If so, I understand. And it can be scary, yet it doesn’t have to be. Being your own advocate is the start to the healing process. understanding where your symptoms are coming from is key. You must find the root cause to your symptoms and disease (like Hashimotos for me).  Heavy metal toxicity just may be it.

In this post, I will cover:

My Story of Metal Toxicity

What if I told you that understanding what heavy metal toxicity (or poisoning) was and what they are doing to you may release you from your autoimmune disease(s)? Would you do the work and the research that may finally heal you from your chronic dis-ease?  

My answer, and I hope yours is, a resounding YES!  Heavy metal poisoning refers to when excessive exposure to a heavy metal affects the normal function of the body.  Exposure may occur through the diet, from medications, from the environment, or in the course of work or play.  Heavy metals in the body are dangerous and life altering. Everyone is at risk of heavy metal toxicity. Sudden, severe exposure, or chronic exposure over can result in a heavy metal burden. These metals can enter the body through the skin, inhalation, or ingestion. And varying symptoms occur from toxicity depending on the metal involved, the amount absorbed, and the age of the person exposed.

“I immediately entered a health crisis. I became sick with the autoimmune disease Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, experienced hair loss and extreme fatigue, and slowly increased in weight, regardless of efforts, due to my metal overload.”

What prompted me to dig deep into heavy metal toxicity research was my own experience. In 2015, I made a huge mistake that cost me years of my life. As a result to this decision, my brain fog was unprecedented, my fatigue was crippling, my relationships wained due to unpredictable health status on the daily, and my family was feeling the effects of “mom not feeling well”, ever. What was that fatal decision? On a whim, I decided to get a silver filling removed while getting a cleaning by a new dentist. Dr Dentist told me I had a broken filling and it needed replacement. “Would you like to have your filling replaced now?” At that time, I had heard of amalgams being toxic, so I thought, “What the heck, let’s get her removed.  What is the worst that could happen?”  Years later I am still paying for that fatal and uninformed decision. 

The dentist conducting this procedure was not trained in safe amalgam removal what so ever. Due to the doctor not having the education of a safe removal protocol in place, upon removal, I was exposed to significant amounts of mercury vapors that were detrimental to my health. I cringe to think that I laid there as he drilled out the mercury and other heavy metals from my tooth. The vapors filled the air and were absorbed into my and everyone else’s system that was in the office. Not a single precaution was made. Within minutes, I knew something was wrong. I immediately felt ill upon leaving the office. This is when health crisis began. Over the next few months, I became sick with the autoimmune disease Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, experienced increased hair loss, experienced extreme fatigue, and slowly increased in weight regardless of efforts. I was toxic. The combination of my heavy metal load and my inability to detoxify due to my dirty MTHFR gene mutation, my body could not methylate the metals out of my system which left me ill and at the end of my rope in health. 

What are Heavy Metals?

When we think of heavy metals, we easily can come up with the top ones that we hear about all the time like mercury and lead. But did you know that we need some heavy metals to survive? At just the right amount, these metals help keep us alive! All heavy metals occur naturally in our environment in rocks, animals, plants, water, and soils as trace elements, but they are not to be treated the same. We actually can divide heavy metals into two categories. One category that is helpful to our health at just the right amount, essential heavy metals, and another category that is harmful, even in its trace amounts, non-essential heavy metals

Essential Heavy Metals

Essential heavy metals are involved in critical physiological processes and considered essential, in trace amounts, to maintain various biochemical and physiological functions to keep us alive. (See below for a few examples of essential heavy metals).

Non-Essential Heavy Metals

Non-Essential heavy metals are heavy metals not used (or needed) by the human body in normal physiological functions.  They are released into our environment by wind, rain, and other environmental activities such as volcanic eruptions.  By-products from industrial production, such as steel manufacturing and mining, and certain synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, rodenticides, and fungicides used in agriculture also release heavy metals into the environment. Toxic heavy metals, such as mercury, are also found in amalgams (the silver fillings) some dentists still use to fill cavities in our teeth. (See below for a few examples of non-essential heavy metals).

Being able to identify metals and understand their toxic effects is key to healing. Bottomline, all metals are toxic at higher concentrations and levels can which becomes damaging to the body. Non- essential heavy metals have no beneficial role in human homeostasis and contribute to noncommunicable chronic diseases. Identifying them is the first step to eliminating these metals from our systems. The following list includes a list of commonly found toxic metals in humans causing disease:

Top 5 Heavy Metals Found in our Systems Causing Disease

These metals are not tested routinely, and maybe not at all, in your doctor’s office. My sister, who lives in New York City (Manhattan), told me that her children’s doctors test for lead routinely due to old buildings and the city water and its possibles contaminants.  If you find yourself in a similar situation as my sister, or even have amalgams, getting tested for heavy metals is crucial. 

Testing for Metal Poisoning

Testing can be so tricky. A simple blood test from your general practitioner is often not enough. Dr. Mark Hyman takes a diet-first approach to detoxing heavy metals. He says that one way to find out your total body load of heavy metals is to take a chelation challenge test. This test is used widely by physicians who practice environmental and functional medicine but is still not widely accepted in traditional medicine.  It’s unfortunate that given the evidence of its effectiveness and safety, it’s still not utilized in medical practices.  Chelation challenge tests works by binding to the mercury like flies to flypaper. They should be administered only by a trained physician. The most reliable testing is done by Doctor’s Data.

Although the list of heavy metals is longer, they test for the top, most common metals found to be toxic in the blood causing health issues. They include aluminum, arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury.  We will be covering these metals specifically in this post. 

The Effects of Having Heavy Metals in the Body

We require varying amounts of heavy metals in our bodies to function. Some of these essential metals are iron, cobalt, copper, manganese, molybdenum, and zinc. Other heavy metals, such as mercury, plutonium, and lead, are toxic metals that have no known beneficial effect and can cause serious illness. Following is a list of the top five heavy metals and their effect on human health when toxic: 

The Causes and Symptoms of Heavy Metal Toxicity and Poisoning

Heavy metal toxicity has proven to be a major threat and there are several health risks associated with it. The toxic effects of these metals are life altering.  Having the right balance of essential metals and removing the non-essential metals is imperative. Some metals can be removed without intention of effort through elimination activities such as diet and sweat. Other metals could get stuck in the body resulting in annoying symptoms and disease such as:

Common symptoms of heavy metal toxicity or poisoning can include: 

Following is a breakdown of the causes and symptoms of heavy metal toxicity and poisoning specifically for aluminum, arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury.


Aluminum is the third most abundant element found in the earth’s crust. It occurs naturally in the air, water and soil. Mining and processing of aluminum elevates its level in the environment. Because aluminum is found in food, water, air, and soil, people may be exposed to high levels of aluminum on a daily basis without any knowledge of it. Exposure can also be attributed to aluminum containers used in the manufacture and processing of some foods, cosmetics and medicines, and also for water purification. Following are a few symptoms of Aluminum toxicity.

Aluminum Poisoning


Arsenic is a naturally occurring element that is widely distributed in the Earth’s crust. It is found in water, air, food, and soil.  Arsenic is used in the manufacture of pesticides. The gas from arsenic also has some industrial uses. Contamination is caused by arsenic from natural geological sources leaching into the soil and water and, therefore, into our food and drinking water. contamination may also occur from mining and other industrial processes. Arsenic is present as a contaminant in many Chinese medicine traditional remedies and is currently used to treat acute promyelocytic leukaemia. The focus of management is to reduce arsenic ingestion from food and drinking water as well as to eliminate pesticides all together.  

Arsenic Poisoning


Cadmium is used for many items, including electroplating, storage batteries, vapor lamps and in some solders. The onset of symptoms may be delayed for two to four hours after exposure. Long-term exposure to cadmium through air, water, soil, and food leads to cancer and organ system toxicity such as skeletal, urinary, reproductive, cardiovascular, central and peripheral nervous, and respiratory systems. Cadmium levels can be measured in the blood, urine, hair, nail and saliva samples.  If you are experience any of the following symptoms and think you have been exposed, make sure you get tested.

Cadmium Poisoning


Lead is a highly toxic metal whose widespread use has caused extensive environmental contamination and health problems in many parts of the world. Lead is a bright silvery metal, slightly bluish in a dry atmosphere. It begins to tarnish on contact with air, thereby forming a complex mixture of compounds, depending on the given conditions.  The sources of lead exposure include mainly industrial processes, food and smoking, drinking water and domestic sources. The sources of lead were gasoline and house paint, which has been extended to lead bullets, plumbing pipes, pewter pitchers, storage batteries, toys and faucets. In the US, more than 100 to 200,000 tons of lead per year is being released from vehicle exhausts. Some is taken up by plants, fixation to soil and flow into water bodies, hence human exposure of lead in the general population is either due to food or drinking water.  Following are a few symptoms of lead poisoning.

Lead Poisoning


Mercury poisoning refers to a toxicity from mercury consumption. Mercury is a type of toxic metal that comes in different forms within the environment. Common causes of mercury poisoning are from consuming too much methylmercury or organic mercury linked to eating seafood and having amalgam fillings.  Small amounts of mercury are present in everyday foods and products, which may not affect your health. Too much mercury, however, can be poisonous. Mercury itself is naturally occurring, but the amounts in the environment have been on the rise from industrialization. The metal can make its way into soil and water, and eventually to animals like fish. Do youhave amalgam fillings and are you experiencing the following symptoms? If so, get tested and get those fillings removed! Here is a post I wrote about my amalgam removal.

Mercury Poisoning

We come by these essential and non-essential heavy metals innocently through our water, beauty products, food we eat, containers we store our water and food in, and the air we breathe. It is everywhere and we can not avoid heavy metal consumption completely. But, we can learn how to decrease our exposure and open up our detoxication pathways to deter the detrimental side effects of heavy metal toxicity.

Heavy Metal Removal

Besides eliminating the symptoms of a heavy metal load, there are other benefits that come with a heavy metal detox regime. Implementing a heavy metal detox program improves gut health. An imbalanced gut is the root to most autoimmune diseases and healing the gut will support future health. Metal detoxification opens pathways to continue the elimination process of all toxins. You will find increased energy levels and well as increased mental alertness. Lastly, your immune system will be stronger to help evade those bugs your kiddos bring home!

Removing heavy metals from the body is a tricky process and must be done under the care of a health practitioner that understands and embraces functional health.  The heavy metals have been stored in your fatty tissues and need to open up your detoxification pathways to get them out.  This is no sprint. It can take  years for the body to clean out heavy metals from the body.  It is a marathon worth running. Especially if you are willing to give your right arm to feel better.

STEP 1: Stabilize the Gut

Your gut is the gateway to your health and getting your gastrointestinal system ready for repair and the key to successful detoxification. The 5 R Approach is a functional way to look at gut stability. So let’s start here.

  • Remove (bugs, drugs, inflammatory foods). The Anti-inflammatory Diet: Preparation, of course, begins with Diet. Adopting an Anti-inflammatory diet is key to calming the system and priming it for its detoxification process. You can find a great resource in Food: What the Heck Should I Eat by Dr. Mark Hyman, MD . Stop taking any and all medication that is deemed unnecessary and may be just a habit (meds doctors have not prescribed you like asprin, etc) As for “bugs”, If you are able to meet with a functional health practitioner that can test you for any bugs (EBV, h pylori, lyme,…) in your system and begin an elimination process, that would further support gut health and therefore support your detoxification pathways.
  • Replace (stomach and bile acids, enzymes, amino acids)  Working with a functional medicine practitioner, replace digestive secretions: add back things like digestive enzymes, hydrochloric acid and bile acids that are required for proper digestion and that may be compromised by diet, drugs, diseases, aging, or other factors.
  • Reinoculate (probiotics, prebiotics, commensal yeasts) Starting on prebiotics and probiotics through food and supplementation will flood your gut with beneficial bacteria, therefore, increasing your immune system which supports the (can be) heavy hitting detoxification process. Pre and probiotics are powerful detoxifiers and are very nutrient dense foods carrying the essential B vitamins important in the methylation process which is part of the detoxification process. You can find pre and probiotics in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, and homemade sauerkraut to name a few.
  • Repair (Nutrients, botanicals, amino acids, healthy fats) This is a phase where it is essential to work with a functional health practitioner. He/She may conduct advanced laboratory testing in order to decipher your best approach to creating a healthy gut microbiome (key to the detoxification process).  You may begin an herbal regime to remove the “bugs”, a supplementation program to supply the body with missing vitamins and minerals to be at your best health, and proper protein supplementation may be a part of this process as well. 
  • Rebalance (Nutrition, sleep, exercise) Making sure that you get AT LEAST 8 hours of sleep is essential in total health. Sleeping is key to the repair and recovery of the body. Think about it this way, if we depend on the body daily to perform and provide, and never give it a break to recover and regenerate, then it will not do its daily job at its fullest and never heal. Exercising at least 30 minutes a day is essential to allow the body to sweat and eliminate toxins. We must balance out the calories are are taking in,  we must continue to provide resistance to our bones to keep them strong, and last, to push the muscles past comfort in order to keep our body strong and able to carry us though a very long and healthy life. Then we must continue to maintain an anti-inflammatory diet throughout a lifetime, with grace of cheat meals here and there, because life!

STEP 2: Detox Diet and Foods to Avoid

Now that you have started and are continuing to work on re-balancing the gut, it is important to follow a diet that matches the measures you are taking to heal your gut to support detoxification. I have found that the Anti-inflammatory / Autoimmune Paleo Diet Combination works.

I get the question all the time, “What is the best diet to be on (in general)?” Everyone is different and each person has their own unique needs and we must approach diet as a personal approach. BUT, in this case,  I recommend following the anti-inflammatory diet in combination with the auto-immune paleo diet (provided no allergies to it) works to protect the body from clogging up any detoxification pathways and to guard against  inflammation.

And I can not express enough that the need for water every day is essential to flushing the system of toxins. At least half your body weight in ounces every day, minimum. 

STEP 3: Supplements to Aide in the Detox Process

  • Liposomal Glutathione The body’s own flypaper is called glutathione, which is the most powerful detoxification compound naturally produced in the body. Certain genetics and an overload of environmental chemicals may lead to depletion of glutathione. Luckily, healthy levels of glutathione can be increased and supported through a healthy diet and added supplements. 
  • Populus Nigrais a herbal extract made from the black poplar tree is very effective at removing toxic metals and chemicals from the body. 
  • DOSAGE: Mix 1⁄2 teaspoon in water twice daily for 6 months. Take on an empty stomach in the morning and mid-afternoon 1 hour away from food). 
  • Pure Radiance C is a non-GMO vitamin C derived from organic and wild berries. It acts as a powerful antioxidant for the body during the detox.
  • DOSAGE: Take one serving (the amount directed on the bottle) for 6 months with breakfast and with dinner. 
  • Minerals replace minerals displaced by mercury fillings.
  • DOSAGE: 1 vial at breakfast and dinner for 5 days
  • Sulfur  enhances mercury detoxification
  • DOSAGE: 1 teaspoon in water 3 times per day on an empty stomach in the morning, mid-afternoon, and before sleep for 6 months
  • Sesame Oil is used for oil pulling.
  • DOSAGE: Every day for 6 months.
  • PROCEDURE: Hold a mouthful (usually 1 – 2 TBS of unrefined sesame oil (dark bottle) in your mouth for 3-10 minutes intermittently swishing it around, “chewing it,” and gargling. When you can’t hold it any longer spit it out. Then gargle and rinse with salt and baking soda, and brush your teeth. Do this treatment daily for 6 months. The change of color from golden to white as well as the change of texture from thick to thin upon spitting out this oil indicated the degree of lipophilic (fat-loving) toxic chemicals, metals, and microbes that have been absorbed into the oil from the oral mucosa, as well as throughout the entire body as the blood circulates through the oral mucosa. Environmentally sensitive individuals particularly like the chemical-clearing effects of Dr. Karack’s Ayurvedic sesame oil treatment. (Biodynamic Wellness)

What about Chelation Therapy and Other Modalities?

Chelation therapy needs to be considered in your detoxification process. Chelation therapy is a procedure usually done under the supervision of a  physician since since serious side effects are possible, such as removal of essential minerals and cognitive impairment.  Chelation therapy binds the metals in the bloodstream by circulating a chelating solution and removes the heavy metals from the body allowing them to be dissolved and excreted in the urine.  Chelation is part of the natural detoxification process of heavy metals because it works with glutathione, a powerful detoxification compound naturally produced in the body.

Herbs are often used to aide in the break down of the heavy metals into smaller molecules so they can be removed from urine, feces, sweat and even the breath. Dr. Lee Cowden is an incredible resource on curing disease through herbal remedies. Check out Dr. Cowden and his herbal approach to healing over at Nutramedix and here. He is my personal physician whom I am currently working with in my healing journey. 

Make sure you sweat, too!  I mean drip with sweat at least three times a week through exercise and/or a sauna to aide in the elimination of toxins.

Heavy metal toxicity could be the cause to many aliments you are experiencing at this time. As simple as brain fog could be a sign of possible toxicity. The good news it is reversible. Take your health into your own hands and be your very best. Embrace your Wholisitic Greatness and return to that girl that could do all the things and did!

Do you want to keep reading?! Well, you are in luck!

– Click here to learn how to remove amalgam fillings safely. 

– Click here to learn how to safely detox before and after amalgam removal.


I am Claudine Phillips, a Registered Dietitian and Exercise Physiologist who in recovery from Hashimotos Thyroiditis and other autoimmune diseases. I journal, vlog, and podcast my experiences to help you find your healing as well. I termed the phrase #wholisticgreatness to embrace mental, physical, and spiritual health in order to achieve complete recovery. I share my research and protocols to provide inspiration, tactics, and strategies so that you, too, achieve the best life you could image! Is that you? Then let’s do this! I can be found speaking locally and nationally, journalling and vloging my research and protocols on this site, and connecting with you on my podcast The Claudine Phillips Show and on all the socials at @claudinephillips. I can’t wait to connect!

If you would like to connect now, click here! I can’t wait!