The human body is equipped to deal with small levels of toxins like lead, but serious or long-term exposure can be very dangerous - or even deadly. With constant exposure, lead poisoning can alter your brain tissue and fat cells, disrupting their function.
Your genetics, diet, age, exercise level, medical history, and current health all play a part in how your body manages lead exposure. You're an individual with a unique set of symptoms, and you need a practitioner with the training, experience, and a compassion required to identify the causes of your lead exposure and treat it successfully.
Our team of experts at the Texas Center for Lifestyle Medicine is dedicated to treating you with a personal, proactive approach. Dr. Ruan views you as a whole person with a unique biological ecosystem - not as a set of symptoms. Dr. Ruan will first identify your specific toxicity issues, then apply his integrative medicine expertise to treat your toxicity and improve your health.
Our sympathetic integrative medicine specialists will personalize treatment that addresses your specific condition and gets you back to the healthy life you desire and deserve. Call us today at (713) 690-1991 or contact us here.
When lead is consumed, your stomach acid breaks it down and passes it to your bloodstream. When inhaled, fine lead particles are absorbed by your lungs and passed to your bloodstream. Both types of exposure put you in danger of lead poisoning - a serious medical condition that can be fatal.
Lead mimics calcium in your body, which is why it impacts your brain and nervous tissue and can be stored in your bones. It can even be passed from a mother to her child through breast milk. By mimicking calcium, lead can replace essential vitamins or nutrients in your cells and take their place inside your enzymes.1
Allergies, arthritis, Alzheimer's, and many other inflammatory and degenerative diseases can be traced back to toxin and pathogen build up in our nervous, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal (GI) systems.2,5
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified several metals as potential carcinogens for our lungs, kidneys, liver, endocrine glands, or bones. Some can even damage DNA by disrupting our gene expression and deregulating cell growth and development.6
You may reduce or eliminate your risk of lead exposure by making safer lifestyle choices and remaining vigilant about where lead may be ingested or inhaled, and protecting yourself. Everybody is affected by toxins differently, so Dr. Ruan's strategy for reducing or eliminating your lead exposure is customized for your specific medical history and immune system.
Dr. Ruan treats a wide variety of patients who show many different symptoms. In some cases, these symptoms resemble those caused by other health conditions, making them difficult to identify as the symptoms of lead poisoning.
Even small amounts of lead can have dramatic effects on your health. Lead exposure can cause both short and long-term effects, and these can differ among infants, children, and adults.
Infant symptoms include:
Symptoms in children include:
Short-term (acute) symptoms in adults include:
The long-term effects can be even more dramatic, as they relate to your mental development, sexual health, and mood. Long-term effects include:
While rare, exposure to extreme levels of lead toxicity can be fatal. Symptoms of severe lead exposure include:
If you suspect that you or someone you know has been exposed to a large amount of lead and is showing these symptoms, don't wait - call 911 or get emergency medical attention right away. High levels of lead toxicity can be deadly or can cause severe, permanent damage to the brain and other organs.
Lead is found in many common places. Water can be contaminated from underground sources, or from waste dumps and manufacturing. Many paints and gasoline once contained high amounts of lead. Fishing equipment like sinkers are made of lead, and so is firearm ammunition. However, there's some good news: by the mid-1990s, lead has been removed from most US manufacturing processes - including paint and gasoline.
Lead must be ingested or inhaled in order to do you harm. If a child eats paint chips that contain lead, or a renovator inhales paint fumes or dust while working in an old building, or if you eat game shot with lead bullets or pellets, the danger of lead poisoning becomes very real. People who work with batteries or in car production or repair are also at a greater risk.
The most commonly reported sources of lead are:
In 1986 the state of California enacted Proposition 65, or the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, to help Californians make educated decisions about protecting themselves from chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm. Lead is a chief offender targeted by Prop 65, as it's commonly used in manufacturing overseas, especially in mainland China.
Many computer cables, power cords, holiday lights, and other electronic or electrical devices manufactured overseas contain lead levels above the generally accepted safety levels described by Prop 65. If you see a Prop 65 label, buy that product at your own risk - it likely contains lead dust that may harm you or your children. Inhaling lead dust is one risk, but children may also put smaller items in their mouths or touch these items and then put their hands in or near their mouths, which can result in lead contamination.
Children are at a heightened risk of lead poisoning because they're typically unaware of lead's presence, especially in old paint or on toys or other items manufactured outside the US. The results can be dramatic: a recent study points out a negative association with blood lead levels and IQ, with about a .46 decrease in IQ for each microgram per deciliter increase in lifetime average blood lead concentrations.2
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently reported that about 535,000 children in the US have blood lead levels at or above that agency's safe levels; the primary source of contamination is in old paint in these children's homes. In some areas of the US, up to 35% of children tested are exposed to lead from sources other than lead paint, including imported items and drinking water.3
Diagnosing lead poisoning isn't always easy. Its symptoms can be very similar to those caused by other medical conditions, so only by doing an in-depth examination can Dr. Ruan determine whether you're experiencing lead poisoning.
After learning about your dietary, environmental, and occupational exposure history, Dr. Ruan will confirm or rule out a diagnosis using one or more of these tests:
After treating a huge variety of patients and studying clinical reports, Dr. Ruan is well-equipped to help remove lead from your body. Dr. Ruan will recommend one or more of the following treatments depending on the type of toxin and how it entered your body:
An oral medication used to treat mild-moderate lead, or acute arsenic and mercury intoxication; side effects include rash, chills, and (rarely), decreased white blood cell count.
Can be magnetically directed at specific organs.
Adding certain healthy foods or supplements to your diet can help you avoid lead toxicity, or it can help you reduce your exposure to small amounts occurring regularly:
MCP mobilizes metals from body stores and increases urinary excretion of arsenic, mercury, and cadmium while decreasing lead levels in the blood.
Vitamin C is a free-radical scavenger that can protect against oxidative damage caused by lead. It may also prevent absorption of lead by inhibiting its cellular uptake and decreasing its cellular toxicity.
Through its antioxidant action, vitamin E mitigates some of the toxic oxidative damage caused by lead, which are strong inducers of oxidative stress in tissues.
Garlic contains many active sulfur compounds derived from cysteine with potential metal-chelating properties. These garlic constituents may also protect from metal-catalyzed oxidative cell damage.
Among their myriad functions, certain strains of probiotic bacteria may minimize toxin exposure by trapping and metabolizing xenobiotics or heavy metals. The probiotic bacterial strains Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus plantarum, and Bifidobacterium breve were all shown to bind both cadmium and lead.
Glycine is a conditionally essential amino acid found in plant and animal proteins. Chemically, glycine is the simplest of all amino acids. It combines with many toxic substances and converts them to less harmful forms, which are then excreted from the body.
Sulfur-containing compounds can compete aggressively with heavy metals during the race into our cells. The sulfur antioxidant alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) has been known to chelate cadmium, lead, zinc, cobalt, nickel, iron, and copper.
NAC provides a source of sulfur for glutathione production and can reduce oxidative stress due to heavy metal toxicity. As a sulfur-containing amino acid, it is capable of binding and sequestering divalent copper (II), trivalent iron (III), lead, mercury, and cadmium ions.
Bowel irrigation (introduction of water into the bowel to wash out its contents) may be useful for macroscopic particles of some metals like lead that can easily transit through the intestines. Activated charcoal may bind some ingested metals like arsenic and thallium, but not others like iron and mercury. Very large particles may even require surgical removal.
Dr. Ruan is pleased to offer you education about where lead is found and how you and your children can avoid it. You'll learn how to identify potential lead sources, recognize lead poisoning symptoms, and use first aid in the event of lead ingestion or inhalation.
Lead poisoning and chronic exposure remains a serious medical challenge in today's world. You may be exposed to lead more often than you think, and it could be taking a severe toll on your health and happiness.
Dr. Ruan and our team at the Texas Center for Lifestyle Medicine are ready to help you detoxify lead from your body with a customized treatment plan based on you as a whole person - not as a set of symptoms.
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1. Jang, David H., and Robert S. Hoffman. “Heavy Metal Chelation in Neurotoxic Exposures.” Neurologic Clinics, vol. 29, no. 3, 2011, pp. 607–622, doi:10.1016/j.ncl.2011.05.002.
2. Jusko, Todd A., et al. “Comments on ‘Recent Developments in Low-Level Lead Exposure and Intellectual Impairment in Children.'” Environmental Health Perspectives, vol. 113, no. 1, 2005, doi:10.1289/ehp.113-a16a
3. Binns, H. J., et al. “Interpreting and Managing Blood Lead Levels of Less Than 10 g/DL in Children and Reducing Childhood Exposure to Lead: Recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advisory Committee on Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention.” Pediatrics, vol. 120, no. 5, 2007, doi:10.1542/peds.2005-1770