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Regaining your health after chemotherapy 5

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Article by Belle McCaleb

Regaining your health after chemotherapy - Part 5

Heavy Metals & Other Environmental Toxins

By Belle McCaleb

Part 1 of this series focussed on the gut and liver;

Part 2 on lymphatic support and detoxification.

Part 3 on strategies for immune and adrenal recovery. 

Part 4 – antioxidant status and inflammation support

Following chemotherapy for cancer treatment it is important to act proactively to restore health to optimal levels.

A proactive approach to optimal recovery includes areas such as gut and liver “detoxification” and “restoration”’; lymphatic “detoxification”; immune and adrenal recovery; repletion of antioxidant status; reduction of inflammation and identification and reduction of heavy metals and other environmental toxins. This final article in the series will look at the last topic: heavy metals and other environmental toxins.

It is important to identify any toxic overload in the body and rectify it if possible.  Obviously chemotherapy itself is considered “toxic” but other sources of toxic overload may have pre-dated chemotherapy. Toxic body burden is the lifelong accumulation of chemicals, including heavy metals, to which we are exposed through our food, air, and environment. Toxic exposure begins in-utero as demonstrated by a 2005 Environmental Working Group (EWG) investigation that found over 200 toxic compounds (in aggregate) in the cord blood of 10 newborns. (  Chronic toxic exposure is associated with many health conditions including cancer.

Toxic heavy metals are commonly identified through hair mineral analysis and include arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, uranium, and aluminium.  Hair mineral analysis is considered by many to be the method of choice for toxic metal identification as the levels in hair are “static” in that they are not regulated by homeostatic mechanisms that regulate levels in the blood & urine.  As protein is synthesized in the hair follicle certain elements are incorporated and there is no further exchange with other tissues.  Thus the hair is a temporal record of the body’s exposure to heavy metals (as well as several key nutritional elements).   In addition as levels found in the hair are about 200 times more concentrated than those in blood and urine sampling hair is more likely to detect low but nonetheless dangerous levels. Blood and urine testing can also be used but these are usually indicated for acute toxic exposure eg acute lead poisoning for example.

It is important to use a high quality testing facility to get accurate results – we have several in Australia or the hair may be sent to the US.  According to a recent report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency “...if hair samples are properly collected and cleaned, and analyzed by the best analytic methods, using standards and blanks as required, in a clean and reliable laboratory by experienced personnel, the data are reliable.” (U.S.E.P.A. 600/4-79-049).

In addition to heavy metals per se of course there is our daily exposure to known carcinogenic chemicals. This includes dioxins, PCB’s, phthalates, DDT, organophosphate pesticides and volatile organic compounds. Blood testing is available to identify the presence of these chemicals.

In addition many common chemicals we are exposed to that are labeled “non-toxic” may in fact interact with each other and lead to cancer.A major review entitled "Assessing the carcinogenic potential of low-dose exposures to chemical mixtures in the environment: the challenge ahead" was published January 21, 2015 in Carcinogenesis, 2015, Vol. 36, Supplement 1, S254–S296.  The authors’ conclusion: “Our analysis suggests that the cumulative effects of individual (non-carcinogenic) chemicals acting on different pathways, and a variety of related systems, organs, tissues and cells could plausibly conspire to produce carcinogenic synergies.” In other words even exposure to so called safe chemicals is not safe. 

It is therefore prudent to limit all chemical exposure as much as possible.  This includes switching to organic food; throwing out all the chemically based household & beauty products; throwing out the plastic cookware/food storage containers; pulling out weeds rather than poisoning them (and yourself) etc etc. 

If heavy metals and/or other toxic chemicals are identified there are several approaches that might help rid you of them.  Firstly there are numerous naturally occurring herbs that help “chelate” or “trap” heavy metals for excretion and may also lower levels of chemical toxins.  These include organic(!) chlorella, spirulina, Dunaliella salina, barley grass and wheat grass.  Specific nutrients such as zinc, selenium and Vitamin C can be used to “antagonize” heavy metals (this is a complex area and I strongly suggest practitioner management here).  If high levels or very toxic chemical are identified stronger chelation may be recommended including IV chelation with a medical doctor. 


Belle offers natural medicine care for all members of the family and specialises in women’s health and cancer support.

Her practice including Serenity Yoga is located in St Georges (Burnside area), South Australia.

Appointments are available by telephoning (08) 8379-0220 


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1 Dec 2015

Article/Information supplied by Belle McCaleb

Disclaimer - Any general advice given in any article should not be relied upon and should not be taken as a substitute for visiting a qualified medical Doctor.