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Because of its newfound impacts on the entire body, most especially the brain, aluminum is one metal that is seen making headlines and news stories across the globe in recent years. In response to these effects, health agencies throughout the US have issued ‘safe limits’ of this substance for human consumption, and these levels differ depending on the mode of absorption. For example, the EPA limits aluminum in drinking water to .2 milligrams per liter, and 15 milligrams per cubic meter in workspace air. For absorption methods other than ingestion or inhalation (such as injection), the FDA has set a limit of 25 micrograms per day. When the aluminum load on the human body exceeds these recommendations, the excess has been found stored all throughout the body, including bone, brain, liver, heart, and spleen, and these deposits can lead to disease or even death.
How Does Aluminum Get into Our Bodies?
Many, many products that people use on a daily basis include aluminum. These products range from cosmetics and self-care products, like shampoo, lotions, and deodorants, to products intended for consumption, like infant formula, processed cheese, and food dyes.
Aluminum in Food
Aluminum foil and aluminum grill pans are one of the most obvious ways that this substance in included in the very food we eat, and while these manufacturing companies claim that their product is “safe for food contact”, studies are revealing that this may not be the case. Certain foods, especially citrus and others more acidic in nature, aluminum is more easily leached into the meal and can easily exceed the ‘Tolerable Weekly Intake’ by up to 298%. Temperature also plays a big factor when using aluminum cookware, and when these dishes are used to cook, and then cool the food, “high amounts of aluminum” can be found. And, because of the “high overall aluminum exposure of the general population”, we should be minimizing intake wherever and whenever we can.
While not much research exists on dietary aluminum, and its effects on human health (which is a shame, because most of our daily aluminum intake stems from diet), it appears that breads, baked goods, soy products, and pastas are of greatest concern when it comes to aluminum consumption. Studies into oral aluminum consumption have pointed to many different health effects, including lower memory function, neurological impairments, and reproductive toxicity. And, while we don’t fully understand aluminum’s health effects on humans, “no conclusive evidence suggests that aluminum is essential for growth, reproduction, or survival of humans or animals”, so it really has no place in our food to begin with.
Aluminum in Personal Care Products
It is very well-known that many personal care products, like antiperspirants, contain aluminum. Not only are antiperspirants loaded with aluminum, but it deposits into the breast tissue, has the ability to transform and mutate human cells, and even plays a role in the development of breast cancer[9, 10, 11].
These same health effects can be said for other personal care products, such as sunscreen, cosmetics, and lotions. The most common forms of aluminum found in these types of products are aluminum hydroxide and aluminum starch octenylsuccinate. Because of the skin’s permeability, aluminum hydroxide is easily able to cross the barrier, and has the ability to “accumulate in the skin and be transported to sites throughout the body“.
Aluminum in Medicine
Antacids are one of the most well-known sources of aluminum when it comes to medicines. A growing number of Americans can be seen taking these acid-reducing drugs, especially children, where we have seen a 16-fold increase of prescriptions being handed out since 1999. And, while these drugs do help control heartburn, and other symptoms of acid reflux, the aluminum within them often reacts in the intestine, leading to adverse reactions. Aluminum hydroxide and Magnesium aluminum is the most common form of aluminum found in many different antacids, including Zantac, TUMS, and Pepto-Bismol, just to name a few.
Adverse reactions to these drugs have been documented as including muscle weakness, respiratory failure, bone pain, debility, weakness, malaise, coma, excessive calcium in the urine, and phosphate deficiency. The reason for most of these side effects is because these aluminum-containing antacids, even low doses for short periods of time, have been known to lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies as they reduce a person’s ability to absorb them. Absorption of B12, Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, and Magnesium may all be reduced in a patient taking these drugs.
In truth though, one of the largest burdens of aluminum placed on the human body is through vaccination. According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, during the standard 2-month vaccinations, a child is injected with roughly 1.5 milligrams of aluminum in one visit. This may not sound like much, but in actuality, it means that your average 2-month-old is injected with approximately 60 times more aluminum than is safely allowed per the FDA’s 25 mcg per day limit. In fact, not one single vaccine on the childhood schedule is at or below the FDA’s safety limit.
And this excess is not without health effect.
Sadly, much research has not been done on these aluminum adjuvants within vaccinations, especially their potential toxicity, because, according to the FDA, “vaccines have not been viewed as inherently toxic.” In laymen’s terms, this literally means that today’s children are the experiment – simply based on the assumption of vaccine safety. Research that has been conducted is not supportive of this assumption though. In humans, aluminum adjuvants have been documented as having the potential to induce autoimmune conditions, long-term brain inflammation, neurological complications, and widespread health consequences, contact dermatitis (eczema), cell death, muscle pain, headaches, asthma, delayed neurological development, and even death[18, 19].
So, it’s in My Body, How Do I Get it out?
1. Consume Silica
Silica is a naturally occurring, colorless mineral primarily sourced from sandstone and other rocks, is one of the best assets available to help your body rid itself of excess aluminum. Research is teaching us that, not only does silica consumption help protect the body from “aluminum-induced adverse effects”, but it can also enhance aluminum excretion. The process of aiding the body in removing metals (though aluminum is not considered a heavy metal) is called chelation, and this is extremely important in protecting your body from health effects produced by aluminum. Consuming higher levels of silica has been linked with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s Disease, and other types of dementia, because the substance helps reduce the bioavailability of aluminum. One main reason that silica is so valuable when helping the body detox aluminum, because of its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, aiding in removal of this unwanted element from the brain.
Silica can be found in many different foods, especially fruits and vegetables straight from the Earth, but the best sources of it come from mineral rich water and Diatomaceous Earth(DE). In the United States, water rich in minerals, especially silica, can prove quite difficult to find. Fortunately for us though, some companies have made this a bit easier – sourcing their water “through layers of volcanic rock”, which allows this water to naturally contain high levels of silica. FIJI Artesian Water contains the highest amount of silica that is commercially sold in America (available here), and has been connected to many health benefits[23, 24].
Another silica-rich, easily accessible, natural aluminum detox exists in the form of DE. About 85% pure crystalline silica, and mined from waterfront beds, DE is extremely beneficial for those aiming to remove excess aluminum from their bodies. 1-3 tsp of DE, mixed into a smoothie, water, or juice per day grants you a heaping dose of silica. And the great news is the DE can be found relatively easily (available here), and one of the simplest ways of dosing can be found through capsule form.
2. Sweat it Out
One of the absolute best ways of detoxing, well anything really, is to get sweaty. Sweating utilizes your bodies innate detoxification system, and activities such as exercise and visiting a sauna help this process along. It has been documented that North American Native Americans have taken advantage of this natural form of detox for thousands of years, primarily through the performance of sweat lodge ceremonies.
Modern-day Americans can find the physical equivalent of these sweat lodge practices through, what we know today as, a sauna, most often offered through spas, wellness centers, and naturopathic doctors. Regularly visiting the sauna is proven to have numerous health benefits, including improvement of cardiovascular function, reduction of headaches and other pain, lowered rates of depression, improved detoxification, and even reversible reduced male fertility (hey, hey, another form of male birth control!). Deeply fascinated in human detoxification, scientific studies are pointing to sweating as deserving of “consideration for toxic element detoxification.”
Aluminum, specifically, has been detected in high concentrations in human sweat, even higher than typically found in urine, which indicates that heavy sweating is the “major route of excretion of systemic aluminum in humans.”
3. Supplement L-Theanine
L-Theanine, an essential amino acid commonly found in foods like green, black, and oolong tea, is absolutely incredible in helping detox and protect the body from aluminum. Not only does L-Theanine specifically target brain protection, reducing neuron-death and cognitive damage, but it also boosts the bodies production of glutathione – one of the most important antioxidants relating to the body’s ability to detox itself[29, 30].
As it relates to aluminum, L-Theanine is an unbelievable asset to have in the medicine cabinet. One particular way L-Theanine helps is by boosting tau proteins in the brain, as well as reducing their loss due to toxicity in the body, and reduced tau proteins are one of the first things doctors notice in patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease[31, 32]. And, because aluminum has been shown to reduce the body’s production of glutathione, L-Theanine really shows promise when it comes to protecting, and healing, the brain. In the lab, supplementation with green tea extract (high in L-Theanine), tested on subjects with aluminum neurotoxicity, has shown ability to “completely reverse” damaging effects – indicating its beneficial nature for those with Alzheimer’s Disease, and other complications of aluminum toxicity.
Find your L-Theanine Supplement here.
Aluminum is dangerous – but the truth of the matter is, aluminum is everywhere, and it gets into our bodies every single day, sometimes in massive amounts. By avoiding aluminum-heavy foods, products, and medicines, we are able to limit our toxic loads, and by utilizing nature, and our bodies natural detoxification systems, we can protect ourselves from the unavoidable sources of aluminum.
Until next time,
1. 9News.com Read This Before You Cook with Aluminum
2. ATSDR Public Health Statement for Aluminum
3. FDA Code of Federal Regulations Title 21
4. Medscape Aluminum Toxicity
5. NCBI Migration of Aluminum from Food Contact Materials to Food – A Health Risk for Consumers? Part III of III: Migration of Aluminum to Food from Camping Dishes and Utensils Made of Aluminum
6. PLOS One Release of Aluminum and Thallium Ions from Uncoated Food Contact Materials Made of Aluminum Alloys into Food and Food Stimulant
7. Springer Open Aluminum Content of Selected Food and Food Products
8. University of Ottawa, Canada Human Health Effects of Dietary Aluminum
9. NCBI Analysis of Aluminum Content and Iron Homeostasis in Nipple Aspirate Fluids from Healthy Women and Breast Cancer-Affected Patients
10. Wiley Online Library Aluminum Chloride Promotes Tumorigenesis and Metastasis in Normal Murine Mammary Gland Epithelial Cells
11. NCBI Aluminum, Antiperspirants, and Breast Cancer
12. ScienceDaily Aluminum Found in Sunscreen: Could it Cause Skin Cancer?
13. WebMD Are Too Many Babies Getting Acid Reflux Drugs?
14. Clinical Trends and Topics Adverse Effects of Aluminum-Containing Antacids on Mineral Metabolism
15. NCBI Proton Pump Inhibitors and Risk of Vitamin and Mineral Deficiency: Evidence and Clinical Implications
16. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Vaccine Ingredients – Aluminum
17. Lupus Mechanisms of Aluminum Adjuvant Toxicity and Autoimmunity in Pediatric Populations
18. NCBI Aluminum Vaccine Adjuvants: Are They Safe?
19. NCBI Comparative Safety of Vaccine Adjuvants: A Summary of Current Evidence and Future Needs
20. Oxford Academic Aluminum and Silica in Drinking Water and the Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease or Cognitive Decline: Findings from a 15-Year Follow-Up of the PAQUID Cohort
21. Oxford Academic Relations Between Aluminum Concentrations in Drinking Water and Alzheimer’s Disease: An 8-Year Follow-Up Study
22. NCBI Influence of Nanoparticles on Blood-Brain Barrier Permeability and Brain Edema Formation in Rats
23. US National Library of Medicine Effects of Naturally Silicon-Rich Water on Bone Metabolism in Women
24. BMC Absorption of Silicon from Artesian Aquifer Water and its Impact on Bone Health in Postmenopausal Women: A 12 Week Pilot Study
25. Hibbard, Whit PhD, The Native American Sweat Lodge Ceremony: Reports of Transpersonal Experiences by Non-Native Practitioners
26. Hindawi Clinical Effects of Regular Dry Sauna Bathing: A Systematic Review
27. Hindawi Arsenic, Cadmium, Lead, and Mercury in Sweat: A Systematic Review
28. Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology Aluminum in Human Sweat
29. NCBI L-Theanine Protects Against Excess Dopamine-Induced Neurotoxicity in the Presence of Astrocytes
30. NCBI Glutathione
31. NCBI L-Theanine Attenuates Cadmium-Induced Neurotoxicity Through the Inhibition of Oxidative Damage and Tau Hyperphosphorylation
32. Alzheimer’s Society How does Tau, a Hallmark of Alzheimer’s Disease, Affect the Connections Between Brain Cells?
33. Semantic Scholar Protective Effect of L-Theanine Against Aluminum-Induced Neurotoxicity in Cerebral Cortex, Hippocampus and Cerebellum, of Rat Brain – Histopathological, and Biochemical Approach
34. NCBI Influence of Green Tea Leaf Extract on Neurotoxicity of Aluminum Chloride in Rats