Copper has become a villain in the natural health field, but is it the issue? Do we have problems with the mineral itself, or is an increased intake in our modern world combined with an improper metabolism that causes issues? The mineral is needed by the body in minute doses for proper health. The mineral is essential for mitochondrial energy production, connective tissue formation (collagen), iron metabolism, zinc metabolism, the creation of SOD1/SOD3 (an enzyme that reduces oxidative stress), healthy function of the nervous system, neurotransmitter synthesis, and the formation of both myelin and melanin.1 Most of the mineral in the body needs to be bonded by ceruloplasmin by the liver to prevent free radical damage to the body2 and to prevent hindrance of the adrenal glands.3 The body uses very little unbonded copper, and too much creates toxicity issues.

Like most instances of hypermineralosis, toxicity rarely occurs from just dietary sources alone. The mineral is prevalent in many foods that we consume on a daily basis (meat, chocolate, potatoes, nuts, avocados, and seeds) which can contribute to copper toxicity if combined with excessive exposure and intake. Multiple sources of exposure include toxic amounts of leached copper from uncoated copper cookware, copper containing IUDs (intrauterine device), estrogen birth control pills, ingestion of excess copper in drinking water (usually due to the house containing copper pipes), occupational exposure, and taking excessive amounts of the mineral from supplementation.4 5

There are many different reasons why ceruloplasmin levels reduce and a build-up of unbounded copper occurs:6 7

  • Lack of nutrients in our modern diet is important for the mineral’s metabolism. Lack of vitamin A (retinol), magnesium, vitamin B6, sulfur, vitamin B2, and boron.
  • Frequent ingestion of fructose in the diet.
  • Over ingestion of isolated citric acid as a preservative. Over ingestion of citrate from supplements may also cause an issue.
  • Excess calcium dietary intake and supplementation.
  • Over supplementation of vitamin D may decrease ceruloplasmin.
  • Iron overload
  • Adrenal fatigue (increase need of cortisol and ACTH)
  • Chronic stress

Over time, the excessive ingestion and ceruloplasmin reduction can build up the mineral to levels of burden in the body. Too much-unbound copper stresses the adrenals and exhausts the liver, leading to even lesser amounts of ceruloplasmin being produced. The increase in unbound copper causes excessive inflammation in the body from oxidative stress and harms mitochondrial function. Unbound copper beings to accumulate in organs, furthering the inflammatory cascade. These problems are easily seen in Wilson’s disease, which comes from severe issues with the body’s ability to regulate ceruloplasmin and the mineral properly.8 9 10

Symptoms of mild to moderate toxicity will mimic the symptoms of adrenal fatigue. Those symptoms include:11 12

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Increased estrogen levels in women
  • Areas of dark skin pigmentation or blotches
  • Insomnia
  • Immune system down regulation
  • Slow wound healing
  • Brain fog
  • Yeast overgrowth, yeast use the mineral for proper metabolism.

I know when I was suffering from copper dysregulation, due to adrenal fatigue and prior Lisinopril13 use lowered my zinc stores in my body, throwing my copper zinc balance off. Every time I took a copper supplement, thinking it would improve my health, it would make me very, very tired. I would test out this theory if you think you are overloaded, take one capsule of Pure Encapsulations copper glycinate and if it makes you feel awful. More than likely, if you have issues with ceruloplasmin and unbounded copper, it will make you more inflamed and exhausted. In addition, getting your ceruloplasmin tested, RBC copper and serum, RBC magnesium, RBC zinc, serum histamine (should be low), and a spectracell test might help you determine if you are overloaded with the mineral.

You might also need to take a few other supplements to help facilitate endogenous ceruloplasmin production, correct the problems of unbounded copper, and reduce the amount of the mineral in the body. That include: 14

Supplements to Tackle Copper Toxicity

  • MSM – the production of ceruloplasmin requires sulfur. MSM supplementation increases sulfur. I recommend 1/4 teaspoon, twice daily. Do not use if you have CBS pathway issues or hydrogen sulfide overgrowth.
  • R-lipoic acid – eliminates some excess unbounded copper from the body, helps prevent excess free radical damage, and increases liver function. I recommend 100 – 300 mg daily. Take with food. Do not take if you are mercury burdened.
  • DIM – very useful for women with copper regulation issues and elevated estrogen. Promotes healthy estrogen metabolism.
  • Correct your probable magnesium deficiency.
  • Zinc – If you are unbounded copper toxic then you will need to reduce the amount of it that you are taking on a daily basis and slowly supplement with zinc. Increasing your zinc intake will help balance the copper levels in your body. I recommend most people supplement with at least fifteen mg of L-opti zinc every other day daily to start with and increase dosage to reflect blood test results of serum and RBC copper, RBC zinc, and ceruloplasmin. You do not want to take too much zinc in as it may reduce ceruloplasmin.
  • Vitamin A – retinol is needed for ceruloplasmin production. I recommend eating grass fed liver, once or twice weekly for a source of retinol and ceruloplasmin bounded copper or one tbsp. of cod liver oil daily.
  • Boron – supports ceruloplasmin production and copper assimilation. Do not take at the same time with copper if you have elevated unbounded copper. Take one every other day with food.
  • B complex – vitamins B3, B5, and B6 are important for proper copper metabolism.

It might take a few months of intake reduction and supplementation to reduce the mineral back to proper levels within the body. I would get another Spectracell test after six months to see if you are within range. If you are then deficient, and your ceruloplasmin is normal, then I recommend you supplement with Pure Encapsulations copper glycinate at a ratio with zinc intake of 15:1. For every fifteen milligrams of zinc, one milligram of copper should be supplemented once you are not overloaded anymore.

See more from this series:

  1. http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/minerals/copper/
  2. http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/minerals/copper/
  3. http://drlwilson.com/articles/copper_toxicity_syndrome.htm
  4. Gittleman, Ann Louise. Why Am I Always So Tired?, HarperCollins Publishers, August 3, 2010.
  5. Robbins, Morley. Musings From MAG!!! (volume 1), Createspace Platform, October 5, 2015.
  6. Gittleman, Ann Louise. Why Am I Always So Tired?, HarperCollins Publishers, August 3, 2010.
  7. Robbins, Morley. Musings From MAG!!!(volume 1), Createspace Platform, October 5, 2015.
  8. Gittleman, Ann Louise. Why Am I Always So Tired?, HarperCollins Publishers, August 3, 2010.
  9. Robbins, Morley. Musings From MAG!!! (volume 1), Createspace Platform, October 5, 2015.
  10. http://drlwilson.com/articles/copper_toxicity_syndrome.htm
  11. Gittleman, Ann Louise. Why Am I Always So Tired?, HarperCollins Publishers, August 3, 2010.
  12. http://drlwilson.com/articles/copper_toxicity_syndrome.htm
  13. http://drhoffman.com/article/drugs-that-steal-2/
  14. Robbins, Morley. Musings From MAG!!! (volume 1), Createspace Platform, October 5, 2015.
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