In a previous post, Why Copper Toxicity Could Be Causing Your Mental Illness Symptoms, I provide some symptoms of copper toxicity and discuss how copper can disrupt your neurotransmitters. I’m often asked, “Do you think I might have high copper? And Why doesn’t my doctor identify excess copper as a possible cause?” So for this post, I will dive more into explaining copper symptoms and proper testing.
Generally, women have more copper in their bodies
Copper is sometimes referred to as the “feminine” mineral because of its critical importance to fertility and maintaining pregnancy. An imbalance of copper may be a contributing cause of premenstrual syndrome, ovarian cysts, uterine fibroid tumors, infertility, miscarriages, amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, endometriosis, polycystic ovaries, and pelvic inflammatory, and fibrocystic breast disease.
Birth control methods affect copper metabolism in the body. Some women can handle them, but estrogen-dominant women are more prone to symptoms because estrogen can cause copper to retain in the body. In addition, women with multiple births are more prone to copper overload. Also, the use of manufactured hormones such as birth control pills, copper IUDs, prenatal vitamins, and hormone replacement drugs inhibit the body’s natural hormones. In addition, from a physical perspective, estrogen production can store fat which tends to produce a more curvy body and a symptom of weight gain and an inability to lose weight.
Men tend to have higher levels of zinc, while women have higher levels of copper
Zinc, the antagonist to copper, is the “masculine” mineral because it is necessary for the prostate gland.
Copper is involved in testicular problems, erectile dysfunction or impotence, prostate enlargement, prostate infections and prostate cancer, depression, anxiety, testicular pain, and testicular cancer.
Other excess copper symptoms in males tend to be related to growth and developmental delay, ADD, ADHD, and autism.
Anger and violent behavior are more common in males because copper enhances all emotions, so violent behavior can occur from excess copper.
Copper and cognitive issues
Too much copper can stimulate the production of the neurotransmitters epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine. For this reason, it is also known as the “emotional” mineral. Consequently, it is involved in central nervous system disorders like memory loss, depression, postpartum depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobias, attention deficit, hyperactivity, autism, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, spaciness, panic attacks, migraines, brain fog, mind racing, insomnia, nervousness, and irritability.
Copper’s effect on sex drive
Sex drive is sometimes affected by high copper because many women will have low energy causing the body to become numb and lose interest in sex. Conversely, excess copper being a stimulant can also produce excessive sexual interest.
Men’s sperm and fluids are rich in zinc. Therefore, low sexual interest may occur when copper reduces zinc. If zinc becomes depleted, male fertility and male sexual performance can suffer.
Common health issues connected with copper imbalances
The thyroid gland is susceptible to copper, so hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s disease may exist as well.
Both vaginal yeast and intestinal yeast or fungus that cause gas, bloating, stomach pain, and other digestive problems are common infections of copper imbalance. Without the proper ratio of copper and zinc, conditions can become chronic, including sinus and ear problems like allergies and tinnitus.
As for bone health, copper fixes calcium in the bones as it builds and repairs bones and connective tissue. Symptoms related to connective tissue are arteries, veins or cardiovascular problems, tendons and ligament conditions, scoliosis, and other skeletal issues. In addition, copper can affect tooth decay, gum disease, bone spurs, weak bones, skin conditions, hair, and nails, such as sensitive skin and skin rashes.
Many doctors misdiagnose copper symptoms
Medical schools and many naturopathic schools don’t teach much about copper. Also, it is not easy to detect. A trained doctor needs to know to look at other indicators of hidden copper imbalance rather than just copper. Since mainstream doctors do not have training in nutritional supplementation, they only test for those things they can treat with a pharmaceutical. Copper imbalances respond to natural treatment.
Proper testing involves a blood sample, kyptopyrrole urine test, and possibly a hair analysis. A trained doctor will initially test for copper and zinc levels, zinc to copper ratios, percent free copper (unbound copper), ceruloplasmin (binding proteins that attach copper to cells), histamine, and pyrrole disorder. Doctors may also test other vitamin levels and thyroid levels depending on the individual’s symptoms. Finally, additional tests like allergies to foods can be helpful to bring the individual into balance.
It is not uncommon for other imbalances like methylation or a deficiency or abundance in another mineral or vitamin to coexist with copper overload. Misdiagnoses occur when doctors treat the symptom rather than the root cause resulting in a band-aid effect. A doctor trained in biochemical imbalances detects the root cause of the symptoms. Thus, correcting the problem and promoting healing.
Causes of copper overload
There are many causes from genetics as the mother can pass copper to the baby in utero to Adrenal Burnout Syndrome or adrenal gland weakness. The adrenals help stimulate the liver to produce needed ceruloplasmin or necessary binding proteins.
High copper diets such as vegetarian or vegan can also contribute. Meats contain copper, but zinc balances it. Another source of copper in drinking water that remained in copper water pipes or copper added to your water supply. A list of some environmental sources will follow.
Our soil is low in zinc, and many foods have been stripped of zinc, causing zinc deficiency. Also, vitamin and mineral deficiencies like manganese, iron, selenium, chromium, and B and C vitamins can cause copper to accumulate.
A copper dysregulation is when the body does not metabolize copper properly. Copper requires particular binding proteins (ceruloplasmin and metallothionine) to be able to get into cells. When copper is not bound to these proteins, it roams freely in the blood, leading to oxidative stress, causing the body to constantly be in fight or flight, making it difficult to calm down.
Added stress, whether joyful or not, can cause copper to rise and add to unwanted symptoms.
Adrenals, copper, and addictive behaviors
It is also not uncommon for those with adrenal imbalances to have addictive behaviors, not just adrenal insufficiency causing cravings for sweets or salty foods. Drugs, loud music, and even exercise stimulate the adrenals keeping copper available. Unbound copper can build up quickly without this stimulation, causing fatigue, moodiness, or feeling depressed. This type of copper imbalance symptom can result in a compulsive need for stimulants like those already mentioned or caffeine, which help lower copper temporarily by stimulating the adrenals.
Environmental sources of copper
Hormone replacement therapy of any kind, whether DHEA, pregnenolone, testosterone, progesterone, or cortisol, can disturb the delicate hormone balance and worsen copper imbalances. The same with copper IUDs and birth control pills.
Xeno-estrogens are toxins that mimic estrogen in the body. Plastics, fuels, dry cleaning chemicals, industrial waste, animal growth hormones, and many household and personal care products contain xeno-estrogens.
Other outside environmental copper includes copper sulfate, often sprayed on crops to kill yeast and fungus. Unfortunately, these fungicides and pesticides leave a residue on food. Swimming pools and hot tubs often use copper to control yeast and bacterial growth. Copper cookware, dental materials, vitamin pills, jewelry, and already mentioned copper pipes and vegetarian/vegan diets and stress also contribute to copper overload.
Correcting a copper overload
Targeted nutritional supplementation helps get the excess copper out and rebalances other nutrients that became unbalanced from the copper being too high. This balancing with target treatment can correct copper overload.
Consume a low copper diet. Vegetarian and vegan diets tend to be high in copper and lower in zinc. Being compliant with nutritional supplementation is critical. Incorporating meditation, yoga, sound therapy, tapping, or any form of stress-reducing activity such as deep breathing helps calm the nervous system. Mind, body, and spirit healing becomes possible by understanding how the individual responds to copper symptoms—more about that to follow.
Excess copper attributes
The traits of high copper individuals include being warm, caring, gentle, sensitive, intuitive, and creative. Often high-copper people are young-looking with a child-like quality. Spaciness, racing thoughts, excessive emotions, depression, fears, phobias, and anger appear when copper is too high. Most severe, however, is a form of psychosis and violence resulting from copper functioning as a psychological defense mechanism. Some extremely high copper individual becomes slightly detached from reality, creating a sense of relief from stress. But if the copper becomes too high, it can cause a psychotic break from reality.
Overall, high copper individuals become more aware and alert after the excretion of heavy metal. Some experience an awakening and a renewed life.
Learning from experience
Talking to doctors and reading articles is enlightening. However, what I have learned from others’ experiences is also valuable. We all have unique biochemistry, and our symptoms are never going to be precisely the same. But hearing someone with copper toxicity express they had ringing in their ears is a light bulb moment. It makes sense that the stimulating effects of a copper imbalance can affect tinnitus.
I am a firm believer that knowing how your body and mind respond to excess copper will create a more successful healing journey. For example, I have an indicator of stress on my left foot. It is a tell-all sign that there is inflammation in my joint, and I am doing more than my mind and body can bear.
Aside from medical treatment and advice on what to eat and reduce stress, there is one other thing that can assist in achieving balance. Pay attention to how you feel from your heart space. High copper individuals are prone to anxiety which causes getting into the head and overthinking. Often getting wrapped up in “what if.” The mind will always try to protect and will even use limiting beliefs to do so.
Switching to the calm guidance of what we know from the heart is essential to avoid overthinking. Some get a gut feeling. However, creating a practice of getting to know when something doesn’t “feel” comfortable or connected from the heart is a way to “know” when you are out of balance.
Doing the inner work
The above copper symptoms is a general list of possibilities. Self-examination to determine if symptoms are copper-related or ingrained behavioral patterns is highly effective.
The first step when you have a symptom is always to ask yourself what have I done differently. It could be something simple like not being compliant with the nutrients or eating something that didn’t agree and may have caused brain fog. Whether it is physical or psychological symptoms, the cause may be something that needs to be released. For example, are you holding on to bad feelings about someone or a situation or judging others? There may be a need to step back and explore similar behaviors in self. We all have a shadow side but often do not want to recognize it. Making peace with self and giving grace to others will benefit healing.
Hugely minimizing watching or listening to the news is helpful to the nervous system. The media is masterful at sensationalizing events which cause many to be in a constant state of stress. Stay abreast of what is happening in the world, stand behind your beliefs, and advocate for causes but don’t getting wrapped up in all that negativity.
Most of us understand chemical energy and the importance of good nutrition. In a future post, I will discuss the benefits of Chakras balancing and our energetic body. Energy healing is a vital component to finding balance.