In my clinic I work with many clients who are struggling with anxiety - and not just adults, I work with children as young as 4 or 5 years old on anxiety. I saw this ad some years ago by Beyond Blue and Ben Mendelsohn and thought it was so well done to try and give people an insight into how debilitating anxiety can be.
Anxiety is often complex and I would never look to simplify what anyone is feeling or physically experiencing - so please don't think this little blog is about solving the problems of anxiety with one small thing. I wanted to share with you one common imbalance I see when it comes to minerals in our body when someone is anxious.
Copper, and its friend Zinc, are two things I like to check when someone comes to me with a history of anxiety. Copper is an essential mineral required for many vital bio-chemical, cellular and enzyme functions such as oxygen transport, mental and cognitive function, hormonal balance, immune function, energy production, maintenance of nerve, skin, ligament and bone tissue.
But you can have too much a good thing!
Copper toxicity is actually quite common and is a buildup of stored bio-unavailable copper in the body that at high levels affects both physical and mental health. As unbound levels get too high (very common today due to our over-exposure to various oestrogen's, certain birth control methods, high copper diets, stress, and many other environmental, dietary, and lifestyle factors), copper becomes a powerful reactive toxin to both the body and mind.
In Pyrolle disorder (a genetic metabolic condition that impacts synthesis and metabolism of haemoglobin, the oxygen carrying molecule in the blood) there is a life-long deficiency of zinc (and B6) – this allows copper to accumulate, primarily in the liver and the brain, with all sorts of far reaching consequences. However, many people present with copper dysregulation, despite not having Pyrolle disorder.
Copper and emotions
Copper helps in the release of endorphins that contribute to normal feelings of love and euphoria. When copper accumulates too much in the body, the reversal of 'love' is created. The higher that the bio-unavailable copper level becomes, especially when compounded with adrenal exhaustion, the more that feelings of love are diminished and even numbed. Science shows that high levels of bio-unavailable copper trigger those negative emotional states (fear, anger, irritability, etc), while at the same time deadening positive feelings of love.
Where is the excess copper coming from?
Some of the main sources of copper exposure are through water pipes, supplements, farming pesticides or fungicides, chlorinated pools, hair dyes and colourings, cosmetic products, copper cooking utensils, HRT and the oral contraceptive pill (which is a big one considering how many people are on the OCP for an extended period of time).
High copper containing foods include: mushrooms, turnips, chard, spinach, eggplant, broccoli, mustard greens, kale, green beans, tomatoes, avocado, almonds, walnuts, soy, cashews, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, chocolate, buckwheat, oysters, shellfish, pork, lamb’s liver, wholegrain cereals, tempeh and French fries. People with copper toxicity often crave these foods.
Copper and other nutrients
When copper levels are in excess in tissue, many essential vitamin and mineral levels are compromised as a result. These include zinc, molybdenum, selenium, iron, potassium, manganese, sulphur, and phosphorus, Vitamins A, C, B3, B5 and B6.
The relationship between copper and zinc in our bodies is extremely important – zinc is a strong antioxidant and is a balancing and calming mineral and we often find that people are deficient in this mineral whilst having copper at toxic levels. It helps make the brain’s calming neurotransmitter- GABA, it is the body’s ‘anti-depression’ tool.
Testing I do
To get a really good idea of what is going on in our bodies I like to conduct a Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis (this is great with children as well as it is non-invasive) to see what is happening with copper and zinc as well as blood tests to see a full picture. To determine Pyrolle disorder a urine test is required.
So where to from here?
As part of my treatment program to help support someone with anxiety we have the objective of naturally reducing copper toxicity in the body through diet, lifestyle and supplementation with elements such as vitamin c, zinc and molybdenum.
As I mentioned above there is not one approach to supporting someone with anxiety, there is no magic pill, but in my clinical experience copper can play a role in this. This is the same whether you are currently on medications to help with your anxiety or if you are managing it all naturally.
If this is something you would like to know more about please feel free to contact me.