Like most metals, we know what copper looks like, but most of us have very little understanding of what it does in our bodies. Our bodies exist in a state of dynamic balance all the time, and the balance of copper is a particularly fine one. Too much isn’t good. Too little isn’t good either!
Copper is essential for energy production , it helps make ATP which is our energy molecule. Copper is also protective against free radicals, fungal disease and candida. It is important for the production of melanin, serotonin, and adrenal steroid hormone synthesis.
Copper and Zinc have an important relationship, and copper also has complex relationships with many other minerals. Copper and zinc both use the same transport proteins, so if zinc is low, copper will get more transport, and if zinc is high, copper will get less. If copper is high, this will reduce the body’s ability to utilise zinc. Read here for more info on zinc.
Copper Excess – Symptoms of Toxicity
- Neurotransmitters are affected by copper
- Anxiety or irritability
- Racing mind, feeling ‘speedy’
- Insomnia- wired and tired
- Brain fog
- Mood instability/swings
- Hypertension, heart disease
- Collects on oestrogen receptors in kidneys and other organs
- Low Stomach acid, due to the use of medications Proton pump inhibitors or PPIs) or due to stress- causes low zinc
- Low zinc levels
- Liver burden (read more about your lovely liver here!)
- IUDs (Intra-Uterine Devices used by women for contraception)
- Oral contraceptive pills
- Environmental Oestrogens
- Supplements- multi-vitamins contain copper usually
- Foods- dark chocolate, nuts and seeds
- Copper is used as an antifungal spray on produce (even organic produce)
- Copper pipes
- Antibiotics can disrupt copper regulation
Wilson’s Disease is a rare genetic disease which stops people being able to excrete copper, causing an accumulation in the brain and liver.
The following things are useful for addressing Copper toxicity:
- Balancing Zinc
- Increasing stomach acid
- Vitamin C
- Copper free diet
On the flip side…
Copper deficiency may be associated with:
- Greying hair
- White spots or lack of pigmentation in skin
- Anaemia, as it helps the utilisation of iron and red blood cell production
- Neurological issues
- Zinc and Vitamin C both inhibit absorption
- Fructose malabsorption or digestive issues cause reduced copper absorption
- Collagen production
- Varicose veins
- Demyelination of nerves
Not as is in “sod off”, or as in a big clump of wet earth, but rather Super Oxide Dismutase, one of our most awesome endogenous (produced in the body) antioxidants. There are a few SODs, and one of them needs copper. Copper is also an essential component of many other enzymes in the body, at least 40, and all of these in turn affect other enzymes! Phew!
Food Sources of Copper
Nuts & Seeds: Almonds, Sunflower Seeds, Pecans
Meats & Seafood: Lamb, Oysters, Pork, Crab, Perch, Liver/Kidneys/Brain/Heart/Bone
Fruit & Veg: Mushrooms, Prunes, Beans, Legumes
Wholegrains also contain copper
Can I have both too much AND too little copper? Copper Dysregulation
If you start to investigate copper, you’ll find a whole lot of information about Copper Toxicity (too much!), and then a whole lot of information about Copper Deficiency (too little!). Some experts think that the problem is more about the dysregulation of copper, or about HOW it is working and being transported in the body, rather than simply about how much you have.
Ceruloplasmin is one of the transporters for copper- its like a wee car that carries copper around the body. It also makes sure copper doesn’t do any damage while its running around our bloodstream! Copper is indeed destructive and oxidising when its not in the proper form, its transport protein, and is very disruptive when it ‘gets out of the car”! You could have symptoms of too much copper, but it could be because its just not bound properly, or not in its wee car!
Copper Dysregulation may have implications for:
- High cholesterol
- Histamine sensitivity
- Neurotransmitter issues
- Dopamine issues, food cravings
- Temperature dysregulation- cold hands and feet, thermal regulation
- Hypothalamic function
- Iodide to iodine- Thyroid dysfunction
- Multiple Sclerosis, Alzheimers, and Parkinsons
Keeping copper safely inside its little protective transporters requires:
- Vitamin A
- Avoidance of high fructose corn syrup
- Low Stress levels: Stress leads to heaps of unbound copper causing havoc in the body!
Researching copper can get really technical! If you’re still a bit baffled after reading this, please talk to your practitioner. My take home messages are:
- There are so many reasons why many of us may have too much copper going on
- The way its carried around is just as important as how much you have
- Checking and balancing zinc status is absolutely key
- If in doubt, investigate!
As you can see copper is not a simple issue! But it is an important one. Getting to grips with your copper status could make a huge difference to your health.