Heavy metal poisoning is the accumulation of various heavy metals in your body. Environmental and industrial factors expose you to high levels of heavy metals every day, including the foods you eat and air you breathe.

Some of these metals — such as zinc, copper, and iron — are good for you in small amounts. But overexposure can lead to heavy metal poisoning, such as what occurs in Wilson’s disease. This can be fatal.

Depending on your level of exposure, medications given intravenously under medical supervision can remove these toxins. These medications bind to the metals, a process called chelation. You doctor will test your blood, urine, and hair to measure metals toxicity.

In addition to chelation, you might consider a natural complementary therapy, such as a “heavy metal detox.” However, most of these treatments aren’t backed by research. There are some dietary options which incorporate foods that electrically attract metal to help move it out of your body, though.

Long-term exposure to metals can be toxic, causing harmful side effects that range from headaches to organ damage. It’s important that you seek medical treatment if you have heavy metal toxicity.

Symptoms of heavy metal toxicity vary depending on the type of metal you’re overexposed to. Mercury, lead, arsenic and cadmium are some of the more common overexposed metals.

Acute symptoms associated with these metals include:

In more severe cases of chronic heavy metal poisoning, you may experience symptoms including:

Many people get a buildup of heavy metals in their system because of the foods they eat. Some studies suggest you can prevent overexposure to these toxins by avoiding certain foods. Eating other foods known for taking heavy metals out of the system may also help.

Let’s take a look at the research.

Foods to eat

Some foods can help you detoxify by getting rid of heavy metals from your body. These foods bind to the metals and remove them in the digestive process.

Eating foods high in vitamins and minerals can have protective effects for those exposed to heavy metals.

Heavy metal detox foods to eat include:

Also, if you aren’t getting the recommended daily intake of vitamins, consider taking supplements.

Vitamin B, B-6, and C deficiencies are associated with poor tolerance of heavy metals and easier toxicity. Vitamin C has been reported to have chelating effects on iron. In one animal study, B-1 supplements were shown to decrease iron levels.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t monitor the purity or quality of supplements like they do for drugs. Also talk to your doctor before trying a supplement to make sure it won’t interact with any medications you’re currently taking.

Foods to avoid

An effective heavy metal detox includes more than incorporating healthy fruits and vegetables. To minimize the effects of heavy metal poisoning or prevent it altogether, you need to eliminate some foods from your diet.

This is especially true for processed foods and excess fats. These foods have minimal nutritional value and slow down the detox process. This is because fats tend to soak up the harmful substances you want to remove.

Some foods to limit or avoid in your heavy metal detox diet include:

Heavy metal poisoning can trigger a number of harmful side effects. If left untreated, it can be life-threatening. Follow through with any recommended medical treatment. Talk to your doctor about how dietary changes can help protect you from heavy metal overexposure.

It takes time to detox and safely remove metal toxicity from your body, but it’s possible. Before participating in the heavy metal detox diet, consult with your doctor or dietician to discuss your options.