Janie: The High Copper Detox Queen

Though this Stop the Thyroid Madness blog and website pertains to thyroid patients and their issues, it’s been observed that a lot of thyroid patients have also found themselves with high copper, whether because of the MTHFR or other methyl mutations, chronic high stress, mold exposure, high estrogen, the use of a copper IUD, or other causes.

I am one who found myself with high copper. 

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My story

Looking back, I’m fairly certain my high copper was manifesting itself in 2014 by suddenly developing very weird iron labs. My serum iron plummeted from 103 down to 55 in just one week of high physical activity. Huh?? I’d get it back up, then down it would fall.

Turns out that high heavy metals can mess with your iron levels–others might see low ferritin with high iron. I also started to notice movement headaches in the Fall of 2014, and I’m not a headache person, so that was new. In October of 2014, I did hair testing and though copper was midrange, I didn’t understand the significance. In early 2015, I was seeing my hair come out in clumps, yet I had gotten my iron back up once again. Finally in March of 2015, I was noticing I had ruminating negative thoughts--not at all like me!! What the heck was this about?? So by April of 2015, I did serum testing of copper and zinc and there it was: high copper, relatively low serum zinc–they have a see-saw relationship! Another important test is hair testing, also called the HTMA, since not everyone is lucky with blood testing as I was. Finally, a good indication is high calcium, which I had and is called the calcium shell, but didn’t know the connection to high copper!

How my labs revealed a copper problem

First, the clue that a problem was brewing was shown in October 2014, but I didn’t understand the significance. i.e. I did hair testing showing Copper was going up at 23 (11-37).

Additionally, a Calcium result was SUPER high 1840 (300-1200) which correlates to rising copper. It’s called a Calcium Shell, meaning a high tissue level that that forms to protect against stress. That should have screamed at me, but I wasn’t informed.

Then, after having months of increasing and horrific symptoms, these were done in April 2015.

Copper, Serum: 1.36 mcg/mL (.75 – 1.45) HIGH
Zinc, Serum: .81 mcg/mL (.66 – 1.10) LOW
Ratio: 1.68 (should be .7 – 1.0) TOO HIGH
Ceruloplasmin: 40.5 mg/dL (16 – 45) (this is the protein that binds and carries copper around)

Bound Cu: 121.5, Unbound Cu: 14.5 (optimal unbound Cu: 5-15)
% Unbound Cu: 10.7% (optimal 5-15%)

*** Note that I did serum copper and zinc–some will say it needs to be plasma, but serum confirmed it anyway as did my symptoms. Others recommend Copper RBC and Zinc RBC, but again, serum proved it (SEE UPDATE on COPPER/ZINC LABS at the bottom of this post)

What caused my high copper

I’m fairly certain it was because 2014 was a year of constant and unrelenting high stress, both good and bad. I was editor of the STTM II book, plus had many other things going on in my life–good things, but chronic and stressful. And turns out that chronic high stress can deplete your zinc, which in turn can cause copper to rise.

Additionally, I was recovering from mold inhalation, which left me quite sick the year before. And what can mold do? Tank your zinc. (You will see later in this article that only in 2017 did I discover my RBC zinc was BELOW range)

On top of the stress/mold zinc fact, I was eating a huge amount daily of stevia-sweetened chocolate daily as my way of self-comforting myself through the unrelenting stress. And chocolate is high copper! I was unknowingly feeding my internal levels of copper that were destined to climb. 

Additionally, I found out later the next year via hair testing that I had low levels of both manganese and chromium—another inducement of rising copper.  Some literature states that deficient levels of B-vitamins and vitamin C can also promote rising copper levels—I had both deficiencies but didn’t know it at the time.

How I started the detox

This is where there is all sorts of strong opinions in groups, so I had to do careful reading in books and on the net to make a decision for myself.

1) I first got on Manganese and Molybdenum (not even knowing I was low in both, as I found out later). Manganese is stated to help remove copper, especially from the liver. Molybdenum is stated to bind to copper and greatly facilitates its excretion.
2) I also got on B-vitamins, especially b6 and zinc to start detoxing. But I had to learn the hard way that the b’s heightened the speed of my detoxing (and fatigue misery) and I had to take MUCH lower amounts. I may be a fast metabolizer.
3) Some will say take no zinc whatsoever, but my experience is that very low levels were fine.
4) I was also taking curcumin/turmeric and astaxanthin for inflammation–don’t remember why I thought I had inflammation.
5) It was later in my detox than I realized that my main focus needs to be to support my liver and kidneys—the detoxing glands!! I used Milk Thistle (but had to eventually stop as it was lowering my ferritin too much) then moved to Dandelion Root, plus Swanson’s Kidney glandular. P.S. I also stopped eating chocolate completely during detox. **sigh** (Update: I also detoxed a second time starting June, 2016)

My detoxing experience

I started detoxing in late April 2015, and it ended on its own by October 2015. And frankly for ME, it was absolutely miserable with fatigue and weakness. I was completely exhausted the entire time in an extreme way–much worse than I read in others. Turns out I had a mitochondrial problem beneath it all, probably due to nutrient deficiencies and also due to inherited issues, and I think the copper detox overwhelmed my mito. Detoxing takes a lot of energy, and my energy metabolism was faulty already…even if I didn’t know it.

What did I do about the extreme fatigue? On an Organic Acids Test, I had super high Succinate, Fumarate, Malate and a-ketoglutarate–meaning I had an energy metabolism disorder. And the strongest recommendation to treat this?? CoQ10! I got on 1500 mg liquid Ubiquinol daily. That did help!

Ironically, though my body stopped detoxing on it’s own as I neared six months, and though my serum zinc levels were fabulous now, my serum copper was still a little too high. But I redid hair testing, and things were good enough there in my mind i.e. 16 (11 – 37). That was far better than the previous mid-range of 23—and which I have no doubt got MUCH higher before I caught it all (In hindsite, I probably should have detoxed more, but who would when you feel that awful and fatigued).

Did the high copper affect my emotions and brain?

It sure did. I had movement headaches in late 2014 before I ever knew about my rising copper i.e. if I bent down to pick up something, there it was. Right before I started to detox the first time in April 2015, and when my copper had to be sky high, I noticed I had ruminating fearful negative thoughts. My brain must have been loaded with copper by then, as copper is a known neurotoxin. The second time around in 2016, and as I was entering the third month of detoxing, I noticed depression was creeping in, irritability, impatience. I can imagine that the latter is related to the copper moving around to be released.

Did the high copper and especially the detox effect my thyroid?

Yup. It sent my RT3 up, which is probably due to the inflammation levels it pushed up. I had to be on mostly T3 instead of the NDT I had been on.

Was I able to keep my copper levels down after detoxing?

Unfortunately, no. There was evidence that it went back up. Because in the Spring of 2016, I was seeing more hair loss than normal again, yet my iron was great. No, I didn’t have the movement headaches or the ruminating negative thoughts like I did the year before, but the hair loss was a sign. Then at the beginning of June 2016, my body started detoxing copper again! I wasn’t trying to do so–it happened from taking phospholipids, known to help heal the mitochondria (of which I had a problem as revealed by the Organic Acids Test and symptoms–not everyone does). But it turns out that phospholipids induce detoxing! So here I was, once again detoxing copper with the exact same symptoms I had in 2015–copper-colored stools, adrenal stress, fatigue. It all lasted nearly 6 months again. The two phospholipids were NT Factor and Body Bio–one in the morning and one in the evening. Some just use NT Factor.

Then it happened again in 2017, but luckily only a month. And you know what started the detox this time? Trying out 10 mg of lithium instead of 5–I was using low dose lithium to help get B12 to my cells better.

And then, again in April 2018–very strongly as revealed by the stools and fatigue. But this time, I was prepared, and taking many adrenal-calming supplements helped a lot in that area. I also went back up on my ubiquinol.

Why the continual copper detoxing? One clue is the excessively high amount I may have done to myself–some literature says it can take a few years to get it all out.

What did 2017 reveal about my zinc?

All through 2015 and 2016, I was always doing serum zinc. In April of 2015, when I first understood I had a serious Copper problem, it was LOW:  81 (.7-1.10). I got it towards the top of the range by the end of 2015, and did so in 2016 and worked to maintain that. 

But in the Fall 2017, I did an RBC zinc instead of serum: BELOW RANGE. That threw me against the wall: I may have had below range RBC zinc ALL this time. No wonder I had a copper problem!! I was already on 30 mg zinc, and I went to 80mg zinc. THAT is one way we can all control our levels of zinc–keep it up!

What about the MTHFR mutation in all this?

Since the MTHFR mutation can contribute to high heavy metals, there is a question if my single 1298 heterozygous mutation may have contributed, or my other methyl mutations like COMT. I’ve seen that happen to others. So just in case, I stay on folate plus other B vitamins. 

What are surprisesI had during the entire high copper journey?

My biggest one was finding out that not only did I have high copper, I also had high lead (though not as high as the copper). Both were revealed by the hair testing I did in 2014…and both came down after those six months of detoxing in 2015 as also revealed by another hair test. The second surprise was discovering that copper detoxing (or high copper) can cause SIBO…Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth. Have never had gut problems in my life, then found myself with SIBO that I had to treat. The third surprise was that I started to detox again in 2016 by accident!

And the final surprise?? Finding out why this may have all happened in the first place. My RBC zinc was BELOW range in 2017.

Copper-color stools when detoxing–really??

Absolutely! It happened when I detoxed for six months in 2015 (and went away once my body stopped), happened exactly again when I started to detox in 2016, and happened in 2017 and 2018 for shorter, but still challenging, detoxes.

If I could change anything about detoxing and teach you, what would that be?

One, I find the biggest emphasis should be on supporting your natural detox organs like the liver, kidneys and skin. If you do a sauna to sweat out the metals, it’s the skin helping you. But I supported more my liver (Dandelion Root twice a day, for example) and kidneys (Swanson Kidney Extract twice a day) during the second round of detox. Why? Because I see to naturally detox with elimination! 

Second, I find it quite important to take key antioxidants when detoxing like Astaxanthin, Grape Seed Extract, Vit. C and E, etc. I didn’t get into that well enough the first time around and regret it, so I did much better using them the second time around.

Third, it’s going to be quite important to find out if you have the MTHFR mutation and treat it.

Fourth, with what I know now, I would be on high amounts of CoQ10 (ubiquinol, not ubiquinone) while detoxing to support my mitochondrial. I did that for the second detox and felt a little better. But you may not have the energy metabolism issues I had as discovered via the Organic Acids Test. 

Did detoxing effect my adrenals in any way?

Boy did it. Detoxing heavy metals can be a huge stress on one’s adrenals! Now understand that I didn’t have an adrenal issue before I started detoxing. So at the beginning of detoxing, I didn’t even think about it. But as it continued, it became clear that my cortisol was shooting high. I started to have sleep issues through the night. I felt shaky in the morning (adrenal excess can go with high cortisol just as it can with low). And around dinner time later in my detoxing, I had the internal buzzing feeling that can go with a cortisol issue. The second time around with detoxing high copper brought on high cortisol again–sleep issues, morning adrenaline and shakiness, evening same. What was effective for me was to take Holy Basil in the morning, again in the late afternoon if I noticed symptoms, and before bed. A side note: during the second detox, and after 4-5 weeks of my mitochondrial treatment with high-dose CoQ10 and B-vitamins, and my cortisol issue mostly went away. I also learned to take supportive adrenal supplements like Taurine, GABA, holy basil, ashwagandha, rhodiola….etc. 

Other bits of info

  1. Once I start detoxing, my body is simply going to continue it on its own no matter what. I must be a super detoxer.
  2. If there is excess fatigue with detoxing, look at your mitochondrial function via an Organic Acid Test (OAT). I am thinking my mito were functioning less than optimal before my 2015 detox, and the detox plus the SIBO plus a yeast infection from hell….ruined my mito. I took a very high dose of CoQ10, and added in NADH, along with the other supplements that the OAT told me about. 
  3. I got a lot of good information from these websites: http://www.drlwilson.com/articles/copper_toxicity_syndrome.htm and http://www.coppertoxic.com/
  4. Use your best judgment after reading several sources. Be wise within any copper groups, as you will have to sift through strong opinion vs valid information and decide what fits you.
  5. This is the hair testing I have used twice, also called HTMA, and I will use it again to keep track of where my metals are: https://www.directlabs.com/sttm/OrderTests.aspx (3rd test down)
  6. Testing via blood should always be copper, RBC zinc and ceruloplasmin at the least (ceruloplasmin is the major copper-carrying protein). If ceruloplasmin is quite low or below range, might want to explore Wilson’s disease.
  7. It’s rare, but there are some who might have Wilson’s disease, which is an autosomal recessive inherited disorder. It causes accumulation of copper in major organs like your liver (failure to filter it out), brain, and more. www.wilsonsdisease.org/
  8. About zinc and how it can be depleted: http://drlwilson.com/Articles/ZINC.htm
  9. TEST YOUR RBC zinc!!
  10. About ceruloplasmin: http://www.clinchem.org/content/51/8/1558.full
  11. Since high levels of copper is usually in the unavailable unbound form, you might see problems with yeast.
  12. Also going hand-in-hand with high copper is high calcium, called the “calcium shell”. With that high calcium can be lack of emotion/apathy.
  13. High copper can also cause excess fears or anxieties. Detoxing may create some of the same.
  14. You will see ceruloplasmin mentioned on key copper websites–the major copper-carrying protein. Some will state that the lower it is, the quicker copper will build up in your liver and brain. Janie had high ceruloplasmin and still an obvious brain buildup! Just to show that there can be exceptions to the rule.
  15. If you want to work with a doctor, find one who is open-minded about hair testing aka HTMA. But you may be lucky and the blood testing shows the problem anyway along with symptoms. Want to order your own HTMA?? You can! Go to the following page, scroll down and click on the DIRECT LABS icon, and the hair test is the 3rd one down: www.stopthethyroidmadness.com/recommended-labwork
  16. Copper IUD’s have caused many women problems with rising copper levels! That can especially be true if you have the MTHFR mutation or even high stress. 
  17. It’s stated that vegetarians have a high risk of becoming copper toxic.
  18. Foods high in copper include chocolate (darn it), avocados (darn it again) molasses, liver, oysters, shrimp, mushrooms, sesame or sunflower seeds, cashews, etc. A more comprehensive list is here.

PLEASE WORK WITH AN INFORMED DOCTOR IF YOU CAN FIND ONE.

If you found yourself with high copper, let us know your story by commenting below!

UPDATE FROM JANIE, late NOVEMBER 2016

Here is what I got down to in Sept. 2015 when I suddenly stopped detoxing following 5 1/2 months:

COPPER: 1400 (810-1990) (I was 1571 after detoxing two months)
ZINC: 1.09 (.66 – 1.10)
RATIO: 1.0 (you want it to be .7 – 1.0)

And here is where I am in late November 2016, after 5 1/2 months of detoxing high copper once again

COPPER: 1400 (810-1990)
ZINC: 130 ug/dL (60-130)
RATIO: 1.0 (you want it to be .7 – 1.0)

You can see they are nearly identical, each after detoxing 5 1/2 months. Zinc was a different measurement above, but at top of the range, just as last year.

And, with both detoxes:

1) High inflammation
2) High RT3, needing T3-only
3) Massive easy fatigue (I think both detoxes heavily messed with my mitochondria–the powerhouse of energy

Why test RBC levels of certain minerals? Because it’s measuring the intracellular levels in your body, which is even more important than serum levels. What can mess up your cellular levels? Toxic levels of other metals, for one. Those minerals which can have the RBC tested include Zinc, Copper, Potassium, Vanadium, Chromium, Manganese, Potassium, Selenium and Magnesium. The other metals need more then RBC, such as hair testing, i.e. they can be good with RBC, but high in hair. More good info here.

ADDITIONAL READING:

  1. This is a great read about what high copper can do to you: https://healdove.com/alternative-medicine/Hypercupremia-High-Copper And also note in the latter article that high copper can mess with your Glutamate/GABA balance, ie resulting in high glutamate levels in your brain (causing inflammation), plus in some,impaired speech, aggressive behavior, intense irritability, anxiety, inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract (GIT), and eventually neuronal destruction.
  2. Great website on the copper issue: https://coppertoxic.com/

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47 Responses to “Janie: The High Copper Detox Queen”

  1. James Bond

    Janie, besides upping your RBC Zinc would you say that you succeeded detoxing copper and healed thyself?
    I mean do you have any long term subjective improvements?

    Reply
    • Janie Bowthorpe

      Bringing my zinc up means I won’t have to deal with the misery of either high copper or even worse, the copper detox anymore. I am now detoxing other crap I apparently did to myself, and seeing the end of the tunnel finally.

      Reply
  2. Kitty

    Hi Janie, Thank you for your reply! Yes, I will have the RBC zinc value checked once I start testing again. And glad you found the PKU mutation; I will look into that as well.The reason I asked about the mold is I do have some vaguely damp spots in this apartment and have decided to move to another unit the end of March. This mold seems to be a very common occurrence these days. Thanks for always digging deep…I learn so much from you! PS. Staying on the low copper diet and I have added small amounts of zinc, manganese, and NADH to start another detox.

    Reply
  3. Kitty

    Hello Janie, so I’m back in the US and back to copper detoxing again! Oh man…I was not careful with high copper foods such as nuts (bars & nut butters), beans, & chocolate…so here I am again. My symptoms- very heavy brain feeling & numbness, headaches, brain depression and the huge clue was the red lines and cracks around my mouth. I also stopped NADH a few months ago which probably also contributed. I have been in my apartment for 2 days, not functioning and have realized what has transpired… It is not easy doing the low copper diet since I’m grain-free and almost dairy-free. Looks like this is a significant issue for me and I will have to make a serious commitment with my diet to eat high copper foods only as a treat. I was indulging in refried beans with salsa, hummus dip ,baking with almond butter, and Indian dishes with lentils. I just purchased molybdenum, manganese, NADH and taking zinc again. Also, Janie, you mentioned mold exposure lowers zinc…can you please elaborate on this topic? Also, can you both give examples of your copper-free meals? I feel very restricted on a low copper diet but now know that if I want to function I need to commit to copper-free Food diet as a way of life. Many Thanks! Kitty

    Reply
    • Janie Bowthorpe

      Hi Kitty. I want to give you an update since the above article was written—I discovered just four months ago that I should have always tested my RBC zinc, NOT serum zinc. i.e. my RBC was BELOW range, and that was while on zinc, but clearly not enough. I can only imagine how much lower it was. That was huge information and this can happen even though you can good serum zinc. I strongly recommend that you do the RBC zinc if you haven’t. I’ve brought it up since then using 50 mg zinc, though at first, I was doing 100 mg for several weeks.

      Here is one of several mentions that mold can tank your zinc levels: https://moldsafesolutions.com/zinc-deficiencies/

      Also, I have Kryptopyrroluria aka PKU. i.e. I have high levels of phenylalanine, implying the enzyme that breaks it down is not working right. And KPU can cause the pyrroles it produces to bind to zinc, for one.

      I’m not necessarily eating low copper anymore, but I am AWARE of how I need to be careful with high copper foods like chocolate, etc. I even avoid caffeine free coffee for that reason. And I now definitely avoid almonds, not just because of the copper but they are high oxalate…and I have too much of the latter in my body.

      Reply
  4. Cisca

    It was a good read! I was guessing a copper toxicity but my level were very normal. You gave me the idea to calculate the ratio… 1,49! And you have also explained my orange stool when I took some zinc… Now I reached the point I react with nerves symptoms if I take zinc and Bs and p5p and methyl B12 and folate.
    One thing that helped me a lot was to take orange/lemon juice in the morning, with a lot of olive oil. My liver and gall bladder thanked me! I am 50 and I think my hot flushes can be related to copper making estrogens high, or a histamine problem.
    My guts are fine at the moment, I think thanks to diatomaceous earth.
    What do you think about my genetic results?
    MTHFR – Ala222Val – AA – very high
    MTHFR – A1298C – TT – neutral
    MTR – 2756A>G – GG – high
    MTRR – Ile22Met – GG – high

    Reply
  5. Kelsey J

    Hi Janie! I’m so grateful for this post. I be recently learned that I am homozygous for the A1298c gene mutation. The last few years have been a doozy for me. I’ve spent the last year following recommendation from the patient experience forums but have struggled to get answers that I’ve needed. I’ve also been following your protocols with little success. I’m sure this is because of my gene mutation! I trust what you say and because of having low ferritin (that would not successfully rise with supplementation)…I decided to check for MTHFR. The only mutations I’ve check for are 677 and 1298 due to money struggles. My thyroid is low but my T3 is pooling due to iron supplementation and being on adrenal cortex by itself for 8 months now. Everytime I tried thyroid (NDT, T3 only etc.) I struggled so I Gave up on it for a while. I’m now just testing for copper overload but I’m wondering what I should do about needing thyroid? Should I take it while I am detoxing? It’s been a really confusing process! Plus, I live off of chocolate and actually crave it(not sure if it’s the chocolate or the fat and sodium my adrenals are craving). I’m scared to give it up because it’s the only way I function! Now knowing that chocolate increases copper, Is there something I could replace the chocolatw with to help with energy? Or could it possibly be I just need thyroid? On a side note, my adrenal cortex makes me extremely tired after taking it. Dr. Lams website mentioned something about how- if adrenal medicine is making you feel really tired can point to a gene mutation- which is one of the reasons I checked to see if I have one. I’ve been on the search for a good doctor but haven’t found one that seems to know enough to help me. Any thoughts are greatly appreciated! Thanks for your wisdom!!

    Reply
    • Janie Bowthorpe

      Lots to say to you, Kelsey.

      First, you only mentioned ferritin. We never try to just “raise ferritin”. That’s the wrong goal, plus it may not be low because of the 1298. It may be low because you have low serum iron, and it’s serum iron that needs to be optimal. Did you test serum iron?

      Second, just because you show having both homozygous 1298 doesn’t mean it’s active. We find it important to do a heavy metal test to see if it’s active, because if it is, we usually see some metals too high. 4th one down on this page shows you one you can do yourself: https://www.directlabs.com/sttm/OrderTests.aspx It’s also good that you are testing your copper via serum though. Another clue, though some see this and others don’t, it high B12. I now have high B12, which I didn’t when I was having all that copper issue.

      For me, I may have found out why my copper went SO high–my zinc. Found out just three weeks ago that my RBC zinc was below range. THAT may be more of why my copper went so high, not my one 1298 mutation. And my zinc went low because of mold inhalation in my case, which can tank zinc.

      If you end up having high copper and have to detox it, it’s important to test RT3 to see if it’s high. If it is, we go on mostly T3, not NDT.

      If ACE (adrenal cortex) makes us extremely tired, it’s not for the reason that Lam said. He doesn’t follow strong patient experiences. It happens because we are underdosing ourselves and not doing the DATs to find our optimal dose. Join the FTPO Adrenals group on Facebook, okay? Let them help you.

      Reply
      • Kelsey J

        Janie-Thank you so much. This is such great info that I needed! I will definitely join the facebook page!
        I should have been a bit more clear when I mentioned my iron. All my iron levels are perfect per your website recommendation except for ferritin. My ferritin has been in the teens since I started checking it 3 years ago. For a while I thought I was supposed to treat ferretin but it would not rise no matter what I did. then I read on your website not to treat just ferritin, so I stopped about 9 months ago. Actually your website was the main reason I checked MTHFR (labs being normal except for ferritin).
        I’ve tried NDt and T3 and struggled, but I’m thinking I need to try just T3 again. My ft3 is 15.3(high) and my Rt3 is 16(higher than 11) so I think T3 only might be the best for me.
        I didn’t know that a gene mutation has to be active to cause problems! Knowing this, I guess the question I was trying to ask is, if I have a active gene mutation do the protocols change? Does the gene mutation affect how to take thyroid?
        Also, I was taking 10 of HC every morning and still practically falling asleep after I took it. It felt like the front part of my brain was shutting off, a little weird. Not sure why?! Maybe I needed thyroid. I remember reading somewhere, I think in your book, that for adrenal medicine to work properly you have to be taking some thyroid even if it’s a small amount?! Plus my aldosteone is low and I feel much better when I drink sea salt i. Water. I tried the florinef protocol in the book, but that made me feel crappy too. I guess it’s all just a balancing act. I will definitely join the Facebook page! Thank you so much for your help! I really really appreciate it!

        Reply
  6. Sarah

    I discovered my copper toxicity when I began having more and more problems with iron deficiency. When not even taking my supplement regimen twice a day with an extra iron supplement helped, I decided to look for another multivitamin in case something in the formulation of my current one was causing me to have trouble taking in iron for some reason. I tried Centrum Adults, which has 73% zinc to 25% copper. I took it twice a day like I did my old multivitamin. This ratio caused my body to start using and removing stored copper. What made me realize it was researching copper because I was concerned about the low percentage in the multivitamin. After about a week or so, the multivitamin was making me copper-deficient, so I went back to my old multivitamin and regimen, except I wasn’t using extra iron. In addition, I began balancing the copper in my diet with zinc. I eat some form of animal protein at almost every meal. I went back to peanut butter as my sole source of “nut” butter since the other types were higher in copper. I did hold on to my Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Spread to have as an occasional treat. I love this stuff too much to give up. I also cut back or eliminated the foods highest in copper that I thought would be more difficult to balance, like cashews and sunflower seeds. Over time, I began breaking out badly from my supplements and my levothyroxine. My only vitamin or mineral supplement now is vitamin D, although I have to make sure I get enough vitamin A and vitamin E in my diet to balance it out. I’m also on a lower dose of levothyroxine, and I’ll have my levels tested again in a few days to see if this dose is working. As for how I feel, I seem to be doing fine on it. I’ve made some mistakes by taking in too much zinc at times and too much copper at other times, but overall, my health has been much better since discovering and fixing my copper-zinc imbalance.

    Reply
    • Sarah

      I ended up going back up on my levothyroxine. I found out that my test results at the end of May showed a TSH of 3.7, which is high for me. Now I’m left wondering why there seemed to be an issue with my medication in the first place. I’m thinking it had to be some combination of my supplements and the medication, but I can’t seem to find information on it or find others who may have experienced similar. When I started having issues, I cut my medication first, felt better, and then started cutting my supplements when symptoms returned. I tried my levothyroxine again about a month later and felt miserable the second day. It had been a week since I stopped taking cod liver oil and a few days since I’d eaten pork liver, and whether there’s a connection there or not, I have no idea.

      Reply
    • Bond

      There are a couple of studies that show vitamin D lowering ceruloplasmin, which will make copper unavailable and toxic.
      Morley Robbins(there is a Magnesium Advocacy group on FB) suggests against it.

      Reply
      • Janie Bowthorpe

        Hi. The problem is that there are some Vit D users that haven’t seen their Ceruloplasmin fall at all from the use of Vit. D. So for that reason, we don’t just black and white tell people to avoid Vitamin D.

        Reply
  7. Laura

    Who do I have to see to help me with copper detoxing,Im not feeling good at all and I did blood and urine test they found out I have copper on my body:( plz hep what kind of dr should I see ti hep me??

    Reply
    • Janie Bowthorpe

      Laura, we don’t have a list like that. So perhaps call around your area and see what doctor can help you with high copper, such as functional med doctors. It’s also been helpful to read whatever you can find on the web about high copper.

      Reply
  8. Liz James

    this sounds so overwhelming…some of the supplements you mention I can’t take because they contain corn or corn by products…i get hives from those…

    Reply
  9. Jan

    Oh, great. My RT3 was high at last testing. I’m on 1-1/2 grain WP and 10mcg T3 (so far). I don’t eat high copper foods. I think I’ll stick with bottled water from now on, just in case!

    Reply
  10. Jan

    Softened water can cause high copper? We moved to our new house a year ago, and I’ve been drinking softened water since then! And my copper is high/zinc low! (According to STTM). Copper was 140 (70-175) and zinc 81 (60-130). Ceruloplasmin 26 (18-53). I started taking astaxanthin and dibencozide B12, and have been taking coQ10 for a couple of years. I have noticed stools that are more orange colored, maybe I’m detoxing? Should I try molybdenum and/or manganese?

    Reply
    • Janie Bowthorpe

      Hi Jan. It’s hard for either of us to know about you, not being doctors or living in your body. But we do know that both of us have definitely had consistent daily copper color stools when detoxing. And we do take both the supplements you mentioned. And we make sure to avoid high copper foods while detoxing. I, Janie, am going to be more careful with high copper foods this time once I’m done detoxing. I don’t want to go through this again!! As I’m writing this, I’ve been detoxing 5 months solid, so far. And I had to move over to T3-only for awhile—detoxing makes my RT3 go high!!

      Reply
  11. Kitty

    Hi Janie,
    Many thanks for answering my questions and sharing your experience details! I have hope now & look forward to the day I’m over that”rusty” feeling. I think the only way to do this is steady and slow. I just added NADH for the fatigue (10mg, 2xs daily) & it is helping…. Also, tried SAM-E 200mg and started detoxing too quickly. As it raises glutathione and detoxes the liver. Will try again at a lower dose. For Iron…my iron is mid-range and ferritin is quite low, I believe due to copper. Thanks again for being a forerunner in copper detox! 🙂 Kitty

    Reply
  12. Kitty

    Hi Janie, thanks for your input on iron. At this point, I cannot tolerate iron supplements( tried 3 different Irons). My ferritin is 53, range, 10-291. I’m adding high iron, low copper foods to try and bring up the iron. I’m very light´-headed and weak…this is brutal! Thanks for letting me know ahead, this is not an easy one! I chelated mercury with Andy Cutler’s Alpha Lipoic Acid protocol for several years and did very well. It wasn’t hard and it really improved my health. I’m almost at 1 month of copper detox, taking very low doses, (zinc 15mg, manganese 2mg, molydenum,100mcg, spirulina)-2xs daily, Alpha Lipoic Acid seems to help push it out, 125mg/ 3xs daily, liver & kidney support, Activated Bs, Omega-3s, Coconut Oil, and a big dose of Magnesium before bed. The brutal part is the headaches at the top & sides of my skull, and the red facial rash( dots & risen lines that come and go as I chelate). I’m in Europe and cant find a doc who understands this; so I will go to them for bloodwork and manage my own health. MY QUESTIONS: 1) Were you able to raise your iron with diet only? 2) Were you able to increase your doses of copper antaganists? 3) Were you able to work and chelate copper? I trying to get my chelation doses stable so I can “function” and go back to work (home office). Janie, I have not been on your Thyroid Europe Group in several years…are any members doing copper detox? This has to get better… I think this is the most difficult health challenge yet. Thanks for sharing your experience…I greatly appreciate it! Kitty

    Reply
    • Janie Bowthorpe

      Once I got my copper down, yes, my iron seemed to right itself. But I was different than others. Most get low ferritin with their copper issues. I got high ferritin and crazy low iron with mine—55 for example, when it should have been close to 110. In one week, my iron dropped to 55. Blew me away.

      As far as increasing my copper antagonists, if I tried, I would feel MUCH worse. So I stopped trying. But once I start detoxing, it just continues with whatever I’m on. My body just does a great job “detoxing” on its own after it starts. I don’t think I have an activated MTHFR mutation yet–I’m only heterozygous for 1298, though someday, it could activate. But right now, my body seems to able to get it out well once it starts doing so.

      I would not have been able to work with detoxing the first time around—it caused brutal, debilitating fatigue. But I figured out later that was because I have some mito issues, one being three homozygous CoQ10 mutations, which I didn’t put two and two about the first time I detoxed in 2015. The second time around with detoxing, I had that brutal fatigue for about 5 weeks…and in fact, it was even worse. Just awful. But then it totally went away thanks to figuring out that I needed to be on quite high doses of CoQ10. I’m still detoxing and have fabulous energy now.

      No, not aware of folks in the Europe group who are detoxing copper.

      Reply
      • Janie Bowthorpe

        Forgot to add, Kitty, that we learned it can be a big mistake to just go by Ferritin. We HAVE to see what serum iron, % Sat and TIBC is, too. Even with the latter, who don’t try to correct Ferritin. We only correct what is going on with serum iron, etc. Ferritin will fall into place over time as long as there isn’t a high metal issue.

        Reply
  13. Kitty

    Hi Janie , many thanks for sharing your copper detox experience. I believe I’m in the same
    boat! I’m MTHFR (homozygous a1298c), hashimoto’s, had a year of stress and was eating high copper foods such as chocolate & lots of nuts daily, My signs of high copper were watching myself go into anemia with strange exhaustion. Then eating what I thought was high iron foods (liverwurst & sunflower seeds, beets to bring iron back up). These foods are really high copper, then breaking out in a deep red scaley rash on my face. My blood tests came back high serum copper and low ferritin. I’m now on the copper detox diet, with Vit. C, Zinc, Molybdenum, Spirulina, and liver & kidney support. My question is were either of you able to take iron when detoxing copper? Intially, before I got on the copper detox plan, I was trying to take iron and it was making me feel more exhausted!? I would appreciate your Input. I’m going into my 4th week of detox, slow, exhausted, negative thoughts, and very low dose supplements to start. And this too shall pass…Thanks, Kitty

    Reply
    • Janie Bowthorpe

      Hi. Neglected to answer this. No, we didn’t take iron because it can feed the copper.

      Reply
      • Jane

        I guess the big question for me is, did you FEEL any better after the copper detox? Just did a hair analysis and found high copper and low iron. I’ve been hypothyroid for years on Synthroid, but NEVER had any of the symptoms I am now reading about, no weight gain, no hair loss, very active, sleep ok, etc. Recently found out, from a test I ordered myself from an on line testing lab that I have antibodies present (why no doc ever did that test on me, I’m not sure). Took the test because an unrelated MRI for arthritis in my neck revealed nodules. What rabbit hole have I sent myself down?

        Reply
        • Janie Bowthorpe

          Yes, as far as seeing the weird ruminating thoughts stop, the hair loss stop, etc. Part of the problem is we have to fix many other issues at the same time. I had miserably low RBC zinc–found this out in 2017 after the above was written. That was HUGE information since the serum zinc was always pretty good. In your case, being on Synthroid is a huge problem and can cause your low iron, too. See http://stopthethyroidmadness.com/t4-only-meds-dont-work ~Janie

          Reply
  14. Diana

    Great article… thoroughly enjoyed reading through it!! Quick question… how would one know if they have copper pipes in their home AND if so, are you aware if these can be changed out?

    Reply
    • Janie Bowthorpe

      Several possible clues. One is if your home in more than 40-50 years, the risk is higher that there’s some copper piping. Another is by looking at the pipes under your sink to see if you see any evidence of copper, or look at the top of your water heater. Or examine outside water taps. Yes, they can be changed out but you’d need to talk to a plumber.

      Reply
  15. Cynthia S

    I had a bad/unusual reaction in my bowels when I took 30 mg Zinc Monomethionine as part of a recommendation for Macular Degeneration. But oddly, I had had this same unusual reaction/symptom a couple of times before in the last year, and put 2 and 2 together. I’d been on a very low carb regimen for the last year, and researching I discovered that a very low carb diet was 1) very low in copper. 2) fairly high in Zinc. You need to look at a lot of food values for the 2 metals to realize this. Copper seems to inhabit all the high carb foods, but not the low carb foods. And Zinc is pretty much only in meat.

    I’m sure the copper dumping causing the discomfort was because I had had a copper IUD for a good 15-20 years. So, pursuing a regimen to get rid of the copper, I started 9.5 mg Zinc Orotate and 2 gm Taurine. The Taurine kept me from being nauseous from the copper being dumped. After a number of months of this, I could move the Zinc up to 19 mg. After another number of months I moved the Zinc to 28.5. Tonight, after another several months, I will be starting the 30 mg Zinc Monomethionine. Wish me luck. After a few more months, I will start to cut back on the Taurine, then consider myself done, but keep up the high Zinc.

    During most of this period of trying to eliminate the Zinc, I have been taking 1 mg of bio-available copper, since my diet is SO low in copper, but half a day apart from the Zinc. The dumped copper can be assumed to be bio-unavailable. Just moved my copper up to 2 mg last week.

    Any comments on the copper situation? I also take a mountain of other supplements for the AMD and started Nature Throid a few months ago, as well as a host of other hormones.

    Cynthia

    Reply
  16. Dean Smart

    Zinc opposes copper absorption in the gut. High amounts of zinc, guys do this, can lead to copper deficiencies.

    Softened water will lead to dissolved copper, or acidic water will do this. Never drink softened water. Reverse osmosis water can also release copper from pipes

    Some multi-vits contain copper.

    If lead shows up, get water tested. Others in the home will be at risk as well.

    Reply
  17. Jeff

    If you isolate the time you take charcoal (a couple of hours after or before you take supplements) do you think the charcoal will still absorb a fair amount of nutrients from your body? I typically take a half teaspoonful in water before i go to bed, especially if I have any gastro intestinal upset.

    Reply
    • Elaine

      Jeff,
      I take NDT and T3 at 6 AM, at 7:30 AM I take many supplements, at 10 AM I take T3, at noon I take more supplements, at 2 PM I take T3 and more supplements at 3 PM, I take supplements at 6 PM and I take NDT and supplements at 9 PM, leaves me with no space to take Charcoal safely.

      Reply
  18. Mellie

    Hi Janie,
    Thanks so much for sharing this helpful info via your website. I have a quick question for you regarding the detox side affects. I am curious why you nor did not use activated charcoal to help limit your detox symptoms. I have done tons of reading on it and it seems to be quite effective. I have even used it with succes for managing some of my IBS and Ceoliac symptoms and once even successfully used it to avoid a gluten intoxication. So It seems like you could better protect your adrenals and other internal organs by binding that stuff up and getting it out. Is there a particular problem with using activated charcoal that I am not aware of?

    Thanks!
    Melannie

    Reply
    • Janie Bowthorpe

      I didn’t use charcoal because I wasn’t yet aware of it last year when I first started detoxing. But when I did become aware of it, I discovered it can also bind and pull out other key nutrients, which I felt was a negative in using it with the length of time it takes to lower high copper.

      Reply
  19. Jeff

    Thanks for sharing your copper stories. Within the last couple of days I was investigating the use of copper water bottles to help with my Hypothyroidism. If you search”12 reasons drinking water in copper vessel is beneficial” one benefit stated is: #9 Regulates the working of the thyroid gland.
    Experts say that one commonality amongst people with thyroid diseases is that they usually have low levels of copper in their body. While this is most commonly seen in people with hyperthyroidism (excessive thyroid hormone), those with hypothyroidism (low levels of thyroid hormone) may also suffer from this deficiency. Copper is one of the most important trace minerals the thyroid gland needs to function optimally. A lack in copper can send the functioning of the gland out of sync. So when you drink water from a copper vessel. it makes up for this possible deficiency and regulates the functioning of the thyroid gland.
    Is there any truth to this statement? I am on NDT for Hypothyroid.
    Thanks, Jeff B.

    Reply
    • Janie Bowthorpe

      Based on observation, I think that low copper is not common for hypothyroid patients, though I do see someone mention it from time to time, so it’s a possibility. One could get tested to be sure. In fact, I would test before drinking from a copper vessel, because it’s all too common for people to have the MTHFR mutation which could push copper up, too, if one isn’t careful. Copper is involved with thyroid function, but so are a lot of minerals.

      Reply
      • Jeff

        Thanks for your response Janie. I am a big fan of cocoa powder as a food supplement. I was thinking about your chocolate indulgence (which is usually a good thing). In chocolate candy or bar production there always seems to be huge copper vats. Could that be contributing to the copper content of chocolate?

        Reply
        • Janie Bowthorpe

          Whoa. Good question! I have no idea. I was consuming a dark chocolate thats only sweetener was stevia, so not sure how they make it. I falsely assumed that because it didn’t have sugar in it, I was safe to be eating as much as I was. Not. I was consuming a LOT day after day after day after week after months. I tend to be obsessive about chocolate. lol.

          Reply
          • Jeff

            I drink the equivalent of 3 cups of cocoa (hot or iced) a day.
            I add 1tbsp. cocoa powder, 1/2tsp ginger powder, 1/2tsp cinnamon powder and a pinch of cayenne.
            Usually unsweetened, but as a treat I occasionally add a tsp.of male syrup
            or honey. The Mayans lived long, healthy lives and cocoa powder was an
            important part of their diet. There are 3.3mg of copper in a cup of dry cocoa powder.
            It is a very relaxing/calming beverage.

          • Janie Bowthorpe

            Jeff, I don’t doubt that it’s good for us. My situation was different. I wayyyyyy overdid it, on top of having chronic high stress that was tanking my zinc.

        • Cisca

          Well, I have to reply to this…. just see Dr Wilson website about copper, you can have high copper that get stocked by your liver, which gives you at the same time symptoms of high and low copper!
          We tend to crave high copper foods when we are toxic with it, because it is a brain stimulant that gives the strength we actually miss, because of low energy levels. And copper toxic people have low bioavailable copper…
          So copper rich foods are a trap, a pit, a catch!

          Reply

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