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The Difference Between Copper Dysregulation, Copper Toxicity And Copper Deficiency

The Difference Between Copper Dysregulation, Copper Toxicity And Copper Deficiency

We've all heard of it, "copper is bad", "copper is the root cause to all health issues", "copper is a volatile metal" but rarely do people mention that despite the fact copper can, yes, cause some problems, there are instances people can be completely deficient as well!

First off, let's understand the functions of copper in the body.
Copper is really important for 

  • ATP production
  • Plays a role in the electron transport chain
  • Supports hemoglobin synthesis
  • Responsible for the making iron bioavailable
  • Aids in neurotransmitter activity
  • Supports the immune system by acting as an anti fungal, anti mold and anti bacterial
  • Important for cardiovascular health
  • Protects myelin of nerves 
  • Important for the synthesis of collagen production

and so much more!

However, there are times in which too little or too much can be a hindrance to our bodies and cause a lot of problems. This is why we thought exploring the three case scenarios of how copper can be within our systems would be good for you to understand. For starters, let's begin by exploring copper dysregulation. 

Copper dysregulation is when we have an abundance of copper circulating the system that isn't considered bio available. Bio availability is what makes it useable within us. Question now is just what makes it bio available and bio unavailable? The answer all comes down to the sourcing and if we are producing specific proteins such as ceruloplasmin and metallothionein.

Let's break it down even further for you to understand. Typically, copper found in food is what we would call "bio available" as the food itself will supply other nutrients, enzymes, proteins, etc., to help us utilize the copper easily. That being said, we still need to metabolize and usher copper in and out of tissues once we break it down from its food source and carry it around in the body on one of the proteins we mentioned before called ceruloplasmin. Ceruloplasmin is predominantly made in the adrenal glands and the liver. If at any time these two organ systems are hindered, so will are ability to utilize copper, hence the prevalence of why so many people struggle with copper dysregulation on an HTMA. In addition, the times we cannot produce metallothionein, which is mostly found in the liver and kidneys, we can over absorb copper, for its role is to increase resistance to copper exposure and balances out the zinc within our cells. This is important because we need a balance between both zinc and copper for adequate hormonal levels, immune function and resistance to specific heavy metals like iron. 

In times in which there isn't adequate ceruloplasmin or metallothionein copper can accumulate in our tissues, particularly our brain, liver and reproductive organs, as well as act similarly to a heavy metal. 

Then we have copper toxicity which is when one doesn't have adequate zinc to balance it out or one is exposing themselves to an exogenous source of copper such as birth control, the copper iud, or copper pipes. Too much of anything is a bad thing as we know, and the same thing could happen as it would with copper dysregulation where copper can accumulate in tissues that we don't need it to. Symptoms of too much copper are typically a sign of a slow metabolism, anemia, hair loss, infertility, grey hair, estrogen dominant symptoms in women, low libido in men, viral infections, headaches and more.

For copper deficiency, we typically see this in individuals who have a very fast metabolism and very fast acting bowels specifically. This is when they're adrenals are over working and potentially hypoglycemic where they burn through energy very quickly. Copper deficiency can also occur if the diet is void of copper as well which typically only happens if the person is eating a lot of processed food.

The best way to test for any of these different states of copper is to always test via HTMA which you can do here with us. Always remember though, HTMAs are a lot more complicated than they seem and reading it at face value will not quite express copper dysregulation, toxicity or deficiency which is why we also recommend booking a consult with one of our trusted nutritionists on our team once you get the results!

Barbara Madimenos
Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis Practitioner
Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner
Integrative Health Coach

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