Diving Deeper (#2 in Heavy Metal Series)

(Audio transcript below)

Welcome to AIM For Health: Root-Cause Conversations with Dr. James Biddle. All content from the conversations in this podcast are created and published for informational purposes only. This is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on for personal medical decisions. Always seek the guidance of your doctor with any questions you have regarding a medical condition.

Right.  So what is the next thing to talk about with heavy metals.

Well, one of the things I wanted to know more about was testing.

Oh, you wanted to talk more about different nutritional minerals.

Oh sure!

Right.  So I started talking about zinc and zinc is the second most important one.

Is there a first most important one?



Magnesium runs over 400 known enzymes in the body, including your ability to make neurotransmitters, your ability to relax your muscles.  It’s like too numerous to count.


Now luckily I don’t know of heavy metals that particularly poison magnesium within the enzymes.

So if you are low in it, it’s just a matter of supplementing or getting it in.

Right.  About two thirds of Americans are low in it.  Half of them are low in zinc, two thirds – so it is the most deficient enzyme and it is the most important one.  Every time you eat sugar you waste magnesium.  Every time you drink alcohol you waste magnesium.  All diabetics are low in magnesium.  So what sits right under magnesium is calcium on the periodic table of elements.  So what is nature’s calcium channel blocker? Magnesium.  So anything that your doctor is treating you with a calcium channel blocker they should also give you magnesium and then if you get enough magnesium you may be able to give up that calcium channel blocker, whether that is cardiac arrhythmia or high blood pressure, relaxing smooth muscles, but also any time they prescribe you an antidepressant, those enzymes in your brain that make your dopamine and your serotonin, your feel-good neurotransmitters, that you are trying to get more of by taking an SSRI like Prozac – they would all work, all those medications would work better if you give them with magnesium, but no doctors ever prescribe magnesium.

There’s no money in it.

There’s no money it in and you get kicked out of the country club.  I actually know two medical practitioners in Asheville – one was a physician and one was a nurse practitioner, one was in cardiology, one was in psychiatry, and then started prescribing magnesium.  And of course they don’t practice solo, so –

Other people knew what they were doing.

Right, they were in practices with 10-20 other practitioners and they get called in to the boss’s office and told to stop doing that or else they will be fired.   Not because there is anything wrong with giving magnesium.  You cannot overdose somebody on magnesium unless they have kidney damage.  If you have healthy kidneys, you will pee off extra magnesium and if you take too much magnesium, you just get the runs and you will stop doing that.

Unless you are chronically constipated – some people do that on purpose. 

Right, but you still won’t overdose yourself unless you have kidney damage.  So this magnesium is the one thing we put everybody, every single person – that is the first thing I want on their supplement list is magnesium.  And zinc, about half the people end up on zinc.  You can tell zinc – interesting little thing, white spots on your fingernails is a sure sign of zinc deficiency.  If you have little white spots on your fingernails, that is a sign of zinc deficiency.

You know, I never knew what that was from.

That’s what it is from.


Now we can talk about calcium and I don’t give a lot of calcium because if your vitamin D level is normal and you eat a fairly healthy diet, you will extract calcium from your food and dairy is not a great source of calcium by the way – that is just something put out there for 50 years by the dairy industry.

To sell more milk.

Right.  To help the four food groups – I mean is dairy really one of the four food groups?  No.  I mean it is, but that is not scientific, that was politics.

It is only a food group for baby cows.

That’s right, or any baby mammal.  But calcium interestingly does look like lead even though magnesium doesn’t seem to.  And lead follows calcium into bones and so first of all, lead displaces calcium and causes osteoporosis, and secondly, it stores there for decades and then later in life when you start to get osteoporosis, the calcium comes out of your bones and so does all that lead stored there in childhood.

So then you’re auto-toxifying yourself and you don’t even know it.

You don’t even know it, but it was published in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, that lead coming out of women’s bones after menopause is the leading cause of high blood pressure in postmenopausal women.  So the information is there, it is just ignored because doctors look at it and go “well that is out of my paradigm, I don’t know what to do with that – what am I going to do about that?”

Right, and if people aren’t even aware that that’s where it could be coming from , then you are spinning your wheels, you’re doing this testing, you’re feeling guilty, and just have nowhere to go.

Yes, they don’t even do the testing.  And it’s not like it shows up in blood levels because you don’t have an elevated blood level of lead.

Not unless you’ve had a very recent exposure.

A very recent exposure, right.  So recent exposures of lead, like if you work in a lead smelting plant or a battery factory or something like that, then you get periodic blood draws of lead to see if you are having ongoing exposure.  That makes sense and that works.  But, if like me you were a house painter decades ago, scraping old leaded paint off, and now you do a blood lead level, it’s going to be perfectly normal.  So we test in other ways which we will get to later, but lead is there and it causes big problems.  Iodine –

Iodine – is a beneficial mineral.

It is a beneficial mineral, and like all minerals it has a therapeutic window meaning if you don’t have enough it is problematic, and if you get too much it’s a problem.  And iodine is poisoned by fluoride, displaced by fluoride because they are in same family on the periodic table of elements.

I did not know that.

Well here it is – look, here’s the periodic table of elements.  So fluoride sits above iodine, far above it.  Fluoride is #9, iodine is #53, bromide and chloride are in-between them.  So it wouldn’t surprise you to learn that excessive bromide and chlorine can also poison iodine.

Well how hard must that be for everyone’s poor thyroid glands to do what they need to do if we are drinking floriated water all the time and something we talk about in one of our classes here is if you eat a lot of raw cruciferous vegetables, doesn’t that also make it hard for the body to use iodine?

No, that’s about enzyme inhibitors.

Oh, that’s enzyme inhibitors.

It’s not about the iodine.


Yes.  But, even for example my hot tub, you know, we try to use less chlorine, so what you put in there is bromide.  So I worry about that and in the 1990s baked goods used to be made with iodine and they replaced that with bromide.  And also in the 1990s people started eating this fancy sea salt like Himalayan pink sea salt and things like that.  Right?


And why is salt iodized?

Because people were getting goiters.

Because people were getting goiters, right?

Especially in the Midwest was it, there was a goiter belt?

That’s right.  So in the 1800s and early 1900s, the majority of people in the northern Midwest had goiters and so that is why they started putting iodine into the salt, to replace that.  But now, we are all eating fancy sea salt without iodine, and we are seeing a resurgence of goiters and thyroid nodules because of that, and then the excess bromide, if you don’t filter the chlorine out of your drinking water, and then you throw in a bunch of fluoride on top of it and don’t filter it out of your drinking water… I will say fluoride works topically on your teeth.


It is ok to use fluoridated toothpaste as long as you spit it out and don’t swallow it, and it is ok to do those fluoride rinses and fluoride treatments at the dentist as long as you don’t swallow it, but swallowing fluoride has never been shown to work and it actually poisons teeth and bones and makes them more brittle, not more strong and that has been well published ___________________ and fluoride is a potent neurotoxin, so it is really problematic, and it causes bone cancer, especially in young men.  So iodine is important and we love iodine and we love to do what is called an iodine paint test.  You can test iodine in several ways, but we like to paint iodine on the skin and then see how long it takes to absorb.  The theory here is the more deficient you are, the faster the stain goes away.

Oh yes, sometimes you see people see it has been gone in 2 hours!

Right.  And predictably as they keep painting it day after day, then after 2 weeks, 3 weeks, 6 weeks, sometimes 12 weeks, then the stain will last for 6 hours.  This is not just any old iodine you buy at the store.  This is a particular concentration of iodine made in a compounding pharmacy that we get.

It’s pretty inexpensive too.

It’s like $13.00 a bottle.  Yes, and so that is a way to put iodine into the body and then get a feedback loop on how much iodine, because too much iodine can also be a problem even when you put iodine into the salt, you triple the risk of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis in the population.  Now it’s worth it because you have gotten rid of all the goiters and hypothyroidism.

Are we trading one thyroid problem for another?

You are, but the statistics – it’s a thousand-fold difference.  I mean you are getting rid of 1000 goiters to get one case of Hashimoto’s and when you have hypothyroid people, especially women, if they are hypothyroid and don’t know it, and then they have babies, you have low IQ humans.  Used to be called Cretans, the old name for it which is not socially appropriate anymore.  This is congenital hypothyroidism, but it ain’t no good and it has lifelong low IQ problem, so that is to be avoided.

So, I do like to tell people to replace their iodine.  Go ahead and use your fancy sea salt but get iodine a different way.  But when you get too much iodine you can induce Hashimoto’s and then, some of my colleagues are treating thyroid problems with very high dose iodine.  Now it is thought that the appropriate dose of iodine is somewhere around 1-2 mg a day, but a lot of doctors are giving 25-50 mg a couple of times a day.

What would be the reasoning for that?

Well, there is one and he is a buddy of mine, David Brownstein, and he is well-published and he teaches all over, but they see a lot of people have remarkable improvements in a variety of issues given high-dose iodine, and that is true, but I catch some of the castoffs who end up getting Graves’ disease which is a worse more aggressive form of autoimmune thyroiditis, an autoimmune attack on your thyroid gland, and much harder to treat, and the Hashimoto’s flares.  So I have become more cautious in this practice about high-dose iodine that way.

So what are some of our other good nutritional minerals?  Selenium – an interesting study was done trying to lower the risk of skin cancer by giving selenium –


Didn’t work; it did not lower skin cancer risk, but it did lower 17 other cancers, including pancreatic cancer especially.

Well, what does selenium do?

Well, selenium just runs other enzymes, at least 50 known enzymes.  It is particularly involved in thyroid functioning, particularly involved in the immune system – so like on our Covid-19 protocol we have zinc and selenium as nutritional minerals on there.

So is it in terms of trying to put things into a package of understanding, that the function of vital minerals is to run enzymatic functions?

It is to run enzymatic functions – that’s what they do.  And you know, selenium is less – I guess calcium is structural too – right?  But selenium – I don’t have as clear idea of the things it does exactly like the zinc and magnesium, but it does do a whole host of things, and what comes to my mind is making digestive enzymes.

Ok, that is very important!

Right, and decrease in cancer risk.  And then running the thyroid enzymes and your immune system.

What about potassium?  Is that a mineral?

I would not call potassium – maybe it is a mineral, I don’t know.  I consider lithium, it’s a mineral, so in the first column of the periodic table is the lithium, sodium, potassium, and rubidium.  Here is what I know about sodium and potassium.  Our brain makes electricity, all of our neurons in our body make electrical signals and talk to each other based upon sodium and potassium channels, so you sequester sodium over here, potassium over here, and then you let them go and they flux across the membrane and then you sequester them back again, and then you have created electricity.  But, lithium sits right above sodium and potassium, and rubidium sits right below them.  Lithium is #3, the smallest element after helium and hydrogen, and rubidium is #37, more a heavy mineral.  They stabilize and augment that electrical activity, and most doctors and even lay people only think of lithium as being used to treat bipolar disorder when you are manic.

Right.  There is a heavy connotation for that.

That’s right.  But they use very high doses like 1200 mg to 1500 mg a day and what it does is it shuts off your electrical activity in your brain – so now you are not manic anymore because everything just slows down, but it also shuts off your thyroid and your kidneys, so predictably that dose causes hypothyroidism and kidney damage over time.

Not good.

Not so good.  Now what we give is a vitamin strength from 5 mg up to 20 mg of lithium and we find lithium to be the most common mineral deficiency when we test a hair analysis.

And that was actually going to be my next question is how do we test for these vital minerals?

Right.  We can test them several ways.  We start with a hair analysis because it is the least expensive.  Right now it is $115.00 and you see a whole bunch of minerals and a whole bunch of heavy metals.  It is not a perfect test because you can have external contamination.


Or lack of excretion, either because time has passed, or you are a lousy excretor and you’re worn out.  Usually you have chemical sensitivities when you are to that point where you can no longer get rid of your toxins, but it is a good test and there are many things about it we can believe.  Especially when minerals are low and we see lithium low in 4 out of 5 people.  Because lithium is not in our food chain, it is not in our water supply, it is not in our vitamins.  The only place you find it naturally is in lithium spring water and very few people get to drink lithium spring water, but lithium deficiency has been shown to be associated with an increased risk of anxiety, depression, and later on dementia.  The reason for that is you have uncontrolled electricity in your brain burning off your neurons.


Yes, and rubidium – less research is done but basically the same information.  Now the difference is that lithium, you have to take it for life, because if you stop taking it you are just going to go deficient again because is it #3 and just goes away.

Right – you can’t replenish it.

Well, you are not getting it anywhere naturally.  You’ve got to kind of keep taking it, so we have people take 5 mg a day for the first year, and then 10 mg a week the rest of their lives just for a little bit of nutritional lithium.

Now could one assume if you do consume spring water on a regular basis that you are getting some?

No – because not all spring water is lithium spring water.


I hear there is a spring in Montreat that has it, so –

Now we do have a way of testing water that we can talk to people about too.

We can, yes.  We send it off to a lab in Chicago called DDI – Doctor’s Data International.  So you can get a hold of them by looking them on-line and it only costs –

$120.00, they look for minerals, metals, and fluoride, even in wells.

Yes, you can see if you have lead and copper coming out of your water pipes, things like that.   And then rubidium we have a little liquid, and that we usually just give people 2-3 bottles and assume it is going to stay there because it is a heavier metal.  You don’t need to take it forever.  But then we would get a hair analysis in a year, 1 ½ years, or 2 years and see how we are doing on those things.  So other things we see on the hair analysis is we will see manganese which we talked about.  We will see boron which we talked about.  Other nutrient minerals like the magnesium and calcium.  It is not a good test for iron but we do test iron in the blood, and then chromium and vanadium.  Chromium and vanadium have to do with blood sugar stabilization.  I am sure they run other things, but what I am familiar with is they help run the insulin receptor site, and so when people show up low in chromium and vanadium I can pretty much tell that they have been a sugar binger, because every time you eat sugar you are using up your chromium and vanadium.

Now I have heard of chromium for a while, because it has been touted as a weight loss supplement.

Yes, but it only works if you are deficient in it.  You know, if you are deficient in chromium then you have a hard time controlling your blood sugar which then makes you put on weight and then taking chromium replaces the deficiency and you no longer have that particular sabotage, but taking extra chromium won’t help, you’ll just become toxic in chromium.  You can become toxic.  Now the chromium that Erin Brockovich found –


Right – was not this chromium.  That was hexavalent chromium which is a different isotope that is a toxic byproduct of manufacturing.  If it gets into water it poisons people.  And then vanadium is used by body builders to get more cut by helping decrease the subcutaneous fat, but again, it is kind of the same thing.  Taking extra vanadium I don’t think is a good idea, but if you are deficient in vanadium you want to replace that so you have enough.

Makes sense.

Yes.  And then molybdenum – molybdenum, which is rather challenging to say – helps detoxify heavy metals.


It runs – I am sure it does other things – but it runs an enzyme in the liver that especially helps you get rid of mercury.

Where would one get molybdenum?

I have no idea – usually nuts and seeds, whole grains, and greens.  When people ask me where do you get minerals, that is always the answer.  Now I have a book back here I can turn around and look and find it.  You can go to Wikipedia and look up molybdenum and see where you get it nutritionally, but we get it from a bottle – if you are low in it, and when I see people low in molybdenum, they also have no heavy metals in their hair because they can no longer excrete them.  They are stuck with them – they have lost their ability to get rid of heavy metals, so they cannot put them into their hair and usually they have multiple chemical sensitivities and they are very fragile.  So they walk into a store and go into the detergent aisle and they start to have brain fog and a headache, and if they are really bad and somebody walks by with strong perfume and they will be out of commission for 1 ½ – 3 days, right?


So when we start giving molybdenum, they start to detoxify.  Interestingly, when you start to give molybdenum you have to watch out if you have a family h/o gout, you can get an acute gouty attack and things like lead and other heavy metals have been associated with increase risk of gout.  So those are some of my favorite nutritional minerals.  I guess copper is in there – copper we occasionally see low.  We usually worry more about copper being high.

And why is that?

Well because people get low in zinc.  Zinc and copper balance each other.  Now you can become deficient in copper if you take too much zinc.  The zinc that we have has a little bit of copper in it to keep that balance there, but high copper has been associated with ADD-like brain dysfunction, so is low iron.  Interestingly, I see that they sit very near each other on the periodic table of elements here.

Right, so those are some of the nutrient minerals and there are certain toxic metals that tend to poison those nutritional minerals.

It sounds like an incredible balancing act to kind of get it all just right, and a lot of this comes from what we eat.

Yes, and people say “Doc, I don’t want to pick up all these bottles and take these minerals – I want to get my nutrition from my food!”  And I respect that, I think that is great.


And I say first of all, you don’t live in the Garden of Eden, secondly, because the soils that we grow food in have been depleted.  Now it has been well published that food grown organically in organic farming practices has higher levels of nutrient minerals in it.  Because otherwise all you are doing is like – what’s triple fertilizer?

Triple fertilizer?

Yes, you know what triple fertilizer is?

No, I have never heard of it.

Potassium, phosphate, and nitrogen.  NKP – nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium.

Ok – what does that do?

Well, that is what you put on your lawn, your garden.  You know, there are different ratios for establishing a lawn, versus maintaining it, and your garden, but that’s all it has in it is those 3 things.

Just replenishing what gets depleted out from prior growers?

And that will make plants grow, but then those plants won’t have molybdenum, they won’t have selenium, they won’t have zinc, copper, – they won’t have any of that.  That is what you get from your compost and from manure, from recycling everything.  But soils become depleted in those nutrient minerals, all these nutrient minerals if we are using these artificial fertilizers.

So our food is not as nutritious as it used to be. 

That’s right.  And the particular way, also in vitamins, the different vitamins are low, but the minerals are the big things that they are low in and that has been well published.  So we have got to change how we are farming and gardening and such.

All right.  Well that has been a really great start, and a lot of information.  I am going to be thinking about this one for a while, just trying to absorb it all.  And I want to kind of tease in to the next segment.   Not all minerals and metals have these benefits for us though.  Some of them are not good period.

At all.

And that is what we are going to be delving into next time.

That’s right.  And I will just say lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, uranium – you don’t need any of these, and so those are the ones we will be focusing on.

Sounds good.  Now why are you focused on this?  Why is this important to you?

Right.  I come from a working class background.  I put myself through college.  My parents would give me just a little check every semester, but I had to donate plasma every Sunday in order to eat, because my dorm did not serve Sunday dinner, so I would get $30.00 a week and that would get me a 6-pack and Sunday dinner.  Maybe something like that.  To put myself through college I was a remodeler’s assistant for a couple of years, and then had my own business painting houses, so I was scraping old leaded paint off of old houses in downtown St. Louis for summers.  While my friends would go skiing in Colorado on spring break, I would go scrape the paint on these houses in Columbia, Missouri where I went to college and medical school.  So I did that for years and I got gum recession.  Luckily – knock on wood – I lost 4 teeth in junior high to get braces.  They pulled 4 premolars and then they pulled 4 wisdom teeth when I was 18 or so, and I still have all my other teeth but they are all barely hanging in there, because my gums receded and of course they blamed it on me.  “Oh, you are brushing too aggressively, you caused your gum recession.”


Right.  But now I see that both lead and mercury cause gum recession and root resorption.  Then I had 12 amalgam fillings in my mouth and used to eat tuna fish, and I had severe lead toxicity and I didn’t of course find this out until I started this practice, and tested myself way back in 1997, and found – since then I have only found 5 people with higher lead than me.  And we will talk next time about how I tested.


But after treating myself for several years I got those down to normal, so I don’t have to die of heart disease like one grandfather did, or dementia like the other one did.  Now my gums never grew back, but they stabilized.

Now didn’t this also have a pretty profound impact on your memory at the time?

It did – I was blessed to have a photographic memory, I remember in high school taking tests and I would just close my eyes and flick through the book until I could see the page the answer was on, and I would just reread the page in my mind and it was always there for me.  And that went away and I got part of that back.  My mother grew up in a foundry town called Festus, Missouri and she had a birth mark the size of an egg on her thigh, and she was one of my receptionists for 7 years in my practice, and as part of that – we tested her.  She was also profoundly high in lead and mercury, and when we chelated her, her birthmark disappeared.

It disappeared?

It disappeared.  I remember when I was a kid, about that high, following her around and I could tell it was my mom, not somebody else’s mom at the pool, because I could see that birthmark, you know when you are just that high.

Right – that is eye level!

Right.  One time in a grocery store, she was wearing a skirt and I would look up and all of sudden I am hanging on to some other woman’s skirt and I was like “Ahhhh”!

You’re not my mother!

Right!  So my mother said she had never been able her entire life to visualize in her mind’s eye.  You know, you can close your eyes and you could see your mother’s face – right?  She couldn’t see even her children’s faces and she gained that ability for the first time in her 60s when we got her heavy metals out.

That’s incredible!

She said it was amazing.  “Now I know what people are talking about when they say close your eyes and envision this.”  She did not have the ability to do that until she was in her 60s and we got her heavy metals out.

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