What you need to know about heavy-metal detoxes

My undergraduate study of organic chemistry revealed a compelling symphony of metamorphisms, magnetic attractions and repulsions and fated completions and destructions. This rudimentary knowledge falls short in comprehending the bamboozling complexity of “sophisticated” synthetic and heavy-metal compounds and their interaction with our environment and bodies.

The deluge of synthetic compounds has been phenomenal since the end of the World War II. Our bodies haven’t had time to evolve detoxification pathways for many of these chemicals or their interaction byproducts. How to deal with these during “detox” is a very real conundrum, given many of them are persistent and harmful in nature.

Chelation is one section of the detox orchestra that posits hope for heavy metal detoxification. Chelation is the process whereby an agent surrounds, subsumes or binds up a “toxic” compound, rendering it able to be excreted. Think PacMan gobbling up pac-dots. Excretion is often in urine via the kidneys but also occurs in bile via the colon.

There’s a number of chemical chelation agents, such as EDTA and DMSA, used within orthodox medicine to detox veterans of war and other people exposed to high levels of heavy metals. These chelation agents are administered by a trained physician and are closely supervised to ensure the detox occurs safely.

Natural “detox” products currently on the market promise almost miraculous removal of heavy metals, persistent synthetic pollutants and depleted uranium (DU) from the body. I would suggest that these also should be administered carefully and within the context of a complete cleansing plan.


Zeolites are large, naturally occurring mineral complexes with a strong negative force to attract and encase substances that have a positive charge. Toxic substances such as lead, mercury or aluminium all have a positive ionic charge and are pulled into the zeolite complex and excreted. Toxic compounds often have a positive ionic force. Calcium, zinc, copper, magnesium, manganese, iron and other essential minerals also have positive charges. These can be victim to PacMen and deplete or unbalance the body.

Whether zeolites disrupt mineral balance in our bodies is something I have been wondering for some time. Dr Gabriel Cousens, raw foods pioneer and founder of the Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center, suggests zeolites discriminate between health-giving and health-depleting positively charged substances. While in Arizona last year, although I didn’t get to ask him directly, I did ask other physicians working at his Tree of Life Canter. They couldn’t clearly explain how this selection could happen but both respected Dr Cousens’ statement. Cousens’ evidence of zeolite’s action was gained within a supported and supervised fasting environment, not a busy city one. Certainly, he’s a remarkable holistic thinker who’s work I deeply respect. But I’m still not totally convinced about zeolites.

Fulvic acid

Fulvic acid is another interesting chelation agent. It comes from compost. It’s made in oxygen-rich environments by millions of microbes breaking down plant matter over many years. A rich supply exists in sedimentary rock deposits, called shale. Before the agri-chemical green revolution of the 1940s to 1970s and large-scale agriculture, fulvic acid was in the soil, joyfully taken up by plants and, via them, by humans.

Fulvic acid is a component of the Ayruvedic panacea shilajit, also known as “conqueror of mountains and destroyer of weaknesses”. This remedy has been harvested from rock crevasses in the Himalayas for millennia and is used for every curable illness known to man, excluding gout. It helps to fortify the body-mind through providing minerals but also through the fulvic (and other humic) acids assisting in their assimilation. Additionally, fulvic acid escorts toxins from the body.

The list of capabilities of fulvic acid makes your head spin. It has been described as “the link between living and non-living”. It can provide or take electrons to stabilise wayward, potentially destructive compounds. It can be chelated and act as a chelator. It takes in nutrients in order to enhance their assimilation by plants and animals. It’s a definite winner in the garden.

The Fulvic Acid Report from an anonymous internet author with impressive referencing skills suggests that fulvic acid has the capability of transmuting vegetable silica and magnesium into calcium for human and animal bone. Given the negative effects of calcification in the body, this action alone seems a major godsend. Physical properties of this kind beckon a swerve towards the ancient alchemical sciences. Certainly, the healing power of nature aligns to it as well.

The words of Dr Pauline Roberts, a natural practitioner working in Tamworth who has post-graduate, applied chemistry training from Cambridge, keep echoing in my mind. “You really have to know what you’re doing with chelation agents.”

A pristine environment for harvesting non-polluted compounds and sufficient processing to ensure there are no heavy metals already absorbed within the remedy itself are fundamental to avoid taking in pollutants with the remedy. So knowing the source is very important.

The naturopathic tenet, primum non nocere (first do no harm) stirs concerns within me. The intricacies of toxic biochemical events are far too complex to confidently put chelating substances into the mainstream marketplace, let alone the network-marketing marketplace.

If chelation is something you want to try, grow your own food in well-composted soil. Eat foods that possess natural chelation properties, such as coriander and chlorella, and foods that support alpha-lipoic acid. If you are keen to experiment with zeolites or fulvic acid, do so within the context of an entire supportive detoxification protocol, not as a stand-alone supplement.


Sally Mathrick

Sally Mathrick

Health educator, writer and naturopath Sally Mathrick provides the perspective of personal wellness to contribute to planetary health to cleansing, via Sparkle Well School online programs, writings and public presentations. She practices as a naturopath (on sabbatical until July 1st 2021), lectures at Torrens University, holds 3 university degrees and is a committed life long learner.

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