Detox Foods and Supplements

How to Remove Aluminum, Heavy Metals & Other Toxins

If you haven't already, please read the disclaimer on the detox intro page.

Foods, supplements and drugs used to eliminate metal toxins from the body are known in the health care business as “chelating agents”, or chelators. The word chelate comes from the Greek khele, which means claw or talon. Most chelators are organic substances (i.e. foods, supplements or drugs) that bind to metal, dislodge it from where it’s located, and carry it out through the bloodstream.

Traditionally, chelation (pronounced “key-LAY-shun”) therapy is implemented in hospitals for cases of lead poisoning and other heavy metals contamination.  It’s also used on occasion to clear hard plaque from the arteries.  In a typical procedure, synthetic drugs are administered intravenously, such as Dimercaptosuccinic acid (DMSA) and Ethylenediamine tetraacetic acid (EDTA).  Unfortunately, this type of therapy has the disadvantage of removing all the healthy minerals in the body as well.  So once the chelation phase is completed, mineral supplements are provided to patients to replenish their supply.

Oral chelation therapy with over-the-counter drugs and supplements is a second option. A suggested program for aluminum toxicity can be found in the fifth edition of Prescription for Nutritional Healing.

When there's no medical urgency, however, most detox experts recommend the use of natural foods and supplements to filter out metal toxins over a much longer period of time.  Many different chelators and other agents for removing toxins are available, as you’ll see in a minute. Each has a different capacity to capture and transport toxins safely to the kidneys, liver or other detox organs, so you should take time to learn the different properties, contra-indications and cautions for any item before using it as a detox solution. For a more comprehensive look at the body's internal detox operation, see the section Science of Detox

For aluminum and other metals that may be lodged in the brain, the best chelators are those that can cross the blood-brain barrier. a web of filtering blood vessels that surrounds the brain, keeping most foreign substances from getting inside it. ( A tasty herb known as cilantro, for instance, boasts the ability to do just that. Sometimes a combination of two or more chelating agents is recommended in order to successfully move a toxin from the place where it’s holed up, to the place where it gets eliminated.  Otherwise, the toxin may detach from the chelator during its travels and get lodged somewhere else. This scenario is called retoxification.

The remedies included here can be found either at your neighborhood grocer, a natural food store or through online sellers like Iherb.com.  (Iherb.com, on last check, had good prices, an easy to navigate website, low shipping rates and occasional discount coupons you can google.) Amazon also carries many detox supplements at affordable prices. 

A few other things to keep in mind when reviewing the suggestions below:

So here are your options for chelating and removing aluminum from your body:

Drink Silica-Rich Mineral Water

According to an Alzheimer’s research team, reporting results of a 2013 study, “We have shown that drinking up to 1 liter of a silicon-rich mineral water each day for 12 weeks facilitated the removal of aluminum via the urine in both patient and control groups without any concomitant affect upon the urinary excretion of the essential metals, iron and copper.” Similar studies corroborate these findings.  The team said the chelating effect of the silica is more effective when you drink a lot of water (e.g.  a pint or half liter) in one sitting, rather than sipping small amounts throughout the day.

Mineral water brands like Fiji, Spritzer and Volvic all fall into the “silica-rich” category.  As for others, you’ll have to check company websites for an analysis of what’s in the product. Beware of added fluoride and flavorings, as these ingredients either interfere with chelation or deposit other bad stuff into your body.

Take a Bentonite Clay detox supplement with water

This is a cheaper alternative to expensive mineral waters.  Silica is one of this clay’s primary ingredients, although it also contains natural alumina. The folks at Livestrong.com say that when combined with water, bentonite “creates an electrical charge that allows it to absorb toxins, heavy metals and contaminants in your body, although there is insufficient evidence to support these claims.” The article goes on to say that good bentonite clay is gray to cream colored, has a fine velvety feel, does not stain and has no odor.

Be sure to keep your clay out of contact with metals – like a metal spoon. Such metals may get chelated by the clay and be inadvertently ingested.  Use a plastic measuring spoon instead. 

You should buy the food-grade, detox version of this clay, since it’s cleaned and processed more thoroughly than bentonite used for other purposes, such as drilling mud and kitty litter. Follow the instructions on the bottle.

Take Epsom Salt baths

The chemical name for Epsom Salt is magnesium sulfate.  When added to bathwater, it has the ability to draw out toxins by way of an ionizing electrical reaction. One cup of the bath salt per 60 pounds of body is typically recommended, with a maximum of four cups.

Beware, many Epsom Salt products are advertised as a detox supplement that can be taken orally.  But there are better types of magnesium for this purpose, according to Metabolics.com.  

Eat Apples, which have Pectin and Malic Acid

Whenever you eat an apple or drink juice, you get a dose of pectin, a chelating agent that’s first on the list for treating aluminum toxicity in Prescription for Nutritional Healing.  Pectin is the water-soluble fiber that makes up most of the apple, that is, aside from its high water content.

If you check the internet, you can find recipes for “homemade apple pectin”, a jelly that’s made by heating the apples and evaporating some of the water away.

Apples themselves are low in acidity, which helps to counteract the impact of acidic  body wastes and toxins. But they do contain some malic acid, which aids digestion and assists cellular detoxification of toxic metals, particularly aluminum and strontium, according to Metabolichealing.com.

Magnesium Malate

Magnesium malate is a combination of the mineral magnesium and malic acid, a natural fruit.  According to Livestrong.com, it can chelate toxic metals, including aluminum. Organic apples are a good natural source magnesium malate.  (Apples also contain pectin, a chelator mentioned earlier.)  Other sources include bananas, almonds, fish, grains, black beans and cashews.  You can buy magnesium malate as a supplement, which is sometimes prescribed for Fibromyalgia.

All that said, concerns have been raised in recent years about an unwanted substance in the body called biofilms. and how Magnesium Malate may exacerbate Lyme Disease.  So you should consult with a health care practitioner before using this detox remedy.

To learn  more about the benefits and cautions for magnesium, see Natural Defenses.

Cilantro

This kitchen herb, also known as Chinese parsley, has the capacity to cross the aforementioned blood-brain barrier. This is a super important feat when it comes to treating aluminum toxicity. Cilantro can also chelate heavy metals from bones and the central nervous system.  At the same time, it stimulates the gallbladder to release bile, which helps break down the metals when they reach the liver. 

One caveat about cilantro to remember.  This leafy herb tends to draw out more metal than it can transport back through the bloodstream by itself.  To prevent retoxification somewhere else in the body, you should take a second chelator at the same time. Chlorella, listed below, is recommended for the assignment.

Cilantro is a staple of salsa recipes, as well as a garnish used on salads, burritos and chip dips.   You can buy prepared salsa, then chop up fresh cilantro leaves and mix them in.  Alternatively, you can buy cilantro in tincture (fluid extract) form.  Follow the instructions on the bottle..

Chlorella

This green superfood, a freshwater algae, is the chelating agent of choice for those health-conscious people who can afford its slightly high price.  Besides being touted as the perfect food on earth, it acts on a wide range of illnesses and medical conditions..  It’s high in protein, rich in chlorophyll, contains 20 vitamins and minerals, and also has all the essential amino acids onboard, as well as anti-oxidants,  There are a few different types of chlorella sold., but the one that works best for detox is known as Pyrenoidosa.

It’s recommended that you don’t consume any Vitamin C within a few hours before or after taking  chlorella. Vitamin C has been shown to disrupt the algae’s ability to bind with contaminants, reducing its efficacy as a detox remedy.

Most chlorella comes from Japan, Korea and Taiwan.  Concerns about the nuclear accident at Fukushima have raised suspicion about the Japanese chlorella, but it’s generally grown on islands near Korea and Taiwan, not the island where the nuclear plant is located.  (It’s also grown in freshwater ponds, not seawater.)  Regardless, you should research any company before buying its product.

For an informative introduction to this supplement, here’s a video from the Japanese company Sun Chlorella, whose products you’ll find at many natural food stores, as well as on Iberb.com and Amazon.

Make a tea from the spice Turmeric

Turmeric helps the liver detoxify contaminants and stay in good heath, which is probably why it has been used for centuries as a healing agent. The key ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, which is what gives the spice its yellow-orange color. 

Dr. Joseph Mercola states in an article that “Curcumin has a protective effect against aluminum-induced damage by modulating the extent of oxidative stress. It also decreases beta-amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimer's, delays neuron degradation, chelates metals, decreases microglia formation, and has an overall anti-inflammatory, antioxidant effect.”  

It’s a tasty spice, too, sprinkled on scrambled eggs and omelets, as well as curry dishes.  You can buy it raw or in powder form to make the popular ginger-turmeric tea, or simply a turmeric tea sweetened with honey.  Alternately, it can be purchased as a tincture or in the form of capsules at a natural food.  The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends taking 400 to 600 mg in powder form three times per day or 30 to 90 drops per day of fluid extract. 

Keep in mind that some people have an allergic reaction to the spice, so taking it in a concentrated dose as your first exposure is inadvisable.  Try a little of the natural spice or the tea to see how your body reacts. 

Use an MSM supplement

MSM, which stands for methylsulfonylmethane, is suggested to treat aluminum toxicity in Prescription for Nutritional Healing.  This is a naturally occurring sulfur compound that chelates metals and converts them to a soluble form.  MSM is commonly used to combat arthritis and inflammation, while sulfur has anti fungal properties and defends the body against oxidative damage,.  MSM further promotes gastrointestinal health and aids your immune function. 

While it’s already found in many foods, any drying or processing of those foods will eliminate MSM from the equation.  The book recommends 1000 mg per day for detox, although in one study it was shown that a dosage up to 3,000 mg twice per day was safe and effective in treating patients with osteoarthritis. When taken with Vitamin C, the effects of MSM can be enhanced. 

Quality varies among MSM supplements, so read reviews and/or research each company that sells it before you select a product.

Use an NAC supplement

Dr. Merrel Woodson writes in The Detox Prescriotion that "N-acetyl-cysteine NAC is hands-down my favorite supplement for detoxification because it supports Phase II sulfation, as well as amino acid and glutathione conjugation." He's talking about the body's chemical process for detoxing itself. "It also has kidney-protective and immune-boosting properties, and is converted by the body into glutathione, which is sometimes called 'the master anti-oxidant'." Glutathion is discussed in the section Natural Defenses.

Increase your Vitamin C intake

High-dosages of ascorbic acid are routinely recommended for chelating aluminum.  But you will get better absorption of this vitamin through food than you will with high-milligram supplements, since the latter don't get absorbed as well.  Rich-in-C vegetables include red, yellow and green peppers, broccoli, red cabbage, Brussels sprouts, snow peas and cauliflower.  Fruits include Guava, papaya, kiwi fruit, oranges, strawberries, pineapple and grapefruit. 

As mentioned before, you should try to avoid taking Vitamin C supplements while you’re taking chlorella, since it disrupts chlorella's chelating effect.

Increase your supply of Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland that helps us sleep. But it serves another role as well.  According to Dr. Mercola’s article on aluminum, “Melatonin has a metal binding role and is a useful supplement in the treatment of neurological disorders in which oxidative stress is involved, which includes Alzheimer's. Melatonin can travel freely across all cellular barriers, facilitating the removal of toxic metals such as aluminum. It also appears to suppress the oxidative activity of aluminum in your brain.”

A note of caution, however.  If you take melatonin as a supplement more than a few days, your body will stop naturally producing its own melatonin.  Better to eat foods the contain it.  According to nutritionfacts.com, cherries, orange bell peppers, walnuts, flaxseeds and tomatoes are excellent sources. Almonds and raspberries contain a tad less of the stuff.   A teaspoon of fenugreek or mustard seeds, meanwhile pack a lot of the hormone, and if you can get hold of some lycium berries, their melatonin level is off the charts.

Drink Lemon Water

According to The Detox Diva, “Lemon water stimulates the lymphatic system to remove the toxins accumulated in the lymph glands, colon, and bladder overnight.  Adding ginger further helps in elimination of waste through the colon and studies have shown that it provides protection against the development of cancer cells and polyps. Lemon ginger water is also extremely beneficial in cleansing the liver.”

So buy a couple of organic lemons every week if you can handle the tartness, slice them up and squeeze them into your spring or mineral water.  Lemons carry a concentrated amount of citric acid, which is a chelating agent.  The acid also stimulates bile secretion from the bladder, helping the liver filter out toxins.  (Incidentally, there’s no Vitamin C in citric acid.)

Dilute a Teaspoon of Apple Cider Vinegar in Water

This old-age old remedy for basically whatever ails you is a good nutritional supplement to a detox regimen. Apple cider vinegar is considered a fermented, cultured food (like sauerkraut). It's rich in natural enzymes and probiotics, contains Vitamins B and C, and has anti-bacterial properties. Bragg's organic, raw, unpastuerized ACV is recommended. Some cautions to keep in mind when using it, courtesy of NewHealthAdvisorcom:

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About Drinking More Water and Eating “Raw”

Virtually every detox program calls for extra water intake to flush chelated toxins out of your bloodstream.  This is an essential step that should never be overlooked. However, blanket recommendations such as “10 glasses of 8 ounces daily” should be taken with a grain of salt.  Consider that body weight among adults ranges anywhere from say 90 to 300 pounds; that we live in different climates (i.e. temperature and humidity); and that in cold weather you may be at risk of accumulating too much internal dampness, which leads to indigestion, headaches and other problems. 

If your detox program is not executed under the care of a licensed provider, you should add only the volume of water that feels reasonable and comfortable.  For those who’ve historically suppressed their thirst reflex, keep a water bottle or a glass of water nearby, and train yourself to respond to that reflex. It really helps to be able to gulp down at least a small glass of water once in awhile. After taking chelating supplements, wait an hour or two, then give it a go.

Another common detox suggestion is to eat only raw vegetables and fruit, since heating reduces the potency of a chelating food. While that may be true, you may also be shooting yourself in the foot by quenching your internal heat with too much cold food.  Traditional Chinese Medicine describes this condition as “damp spleen” or simply dampness, which again hinders your digestion. Chinese people traditionally stir vegetables in  a wok for a couple minutes to heat them, so not that much potency is lost.  You can also lightly steam vegetables, just enough to soften them a bit, which will accomplish the same thing.  Just remember that keeping your body warm in the winter, and your kidney fire well lit, takes priority over a raw food diet.

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