Heavy metal poisoning is the accumulation of various heavy metals in your body. Environmental and industrial factors expose you to high levels of heavy metal 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, which can be fatal.

These toxins are removed by medications given intravenously under medical supervision. These medications bind to the metals, a process called chelation. In addition to chelation, you might consider a natural complementary therapy such as a “heavy metal detox.” This dietary option incorporates foods that electrically attract metal to help move it out of your body.

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 are 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 research suggests you can prevent overexposure to these toxins by avoiding certain foods and eating others known for taking heavy metals out of the system.

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.

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 bad 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 health care provider about how dietary changes can help to protect you from heavy metal overexposure.

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