Of all the things that can be most debilitating to women, copper tops the list. Born with copper overload and a lifetime of research into the root cause of my suffering, I’ve become quite intimate with this trace element. Copper has the ability to profoundly affect every system in the body — especially the reproductive, nervous, and glandular systems.
Copper Overload in Women
Copper overload is quite common in women because estrogen increases copper retention in the body. This is also another reason why hypothyroidism and autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s are much more common in women than men; copper (along with toxic heavy metals such as mercury) gets sequestered into the thyroid gland and can block the conversion of T4 into T3, the active form of thyroid hormone. Estrogen is similar in structure to T3, and thus has a powerful effect on the bioavailability of thyroid hormone by blocking thyroid receptors on cell membranes throughout the body.
Copper is often inherited and is brought on during hormonal events such as puberty, pregnancy, menopause; as well as the use of birth control and hormone replacement therapy. 
The use of copper IUDs for birth control as well as synthetic hormone replacement therapy and xenoestrogens (endocrine disrupter toxins that mimic estrogen in the body) also explain why copper overload is quite common today. Xenoextrogens come from pesticides, plastics, fuels, dry cleaning chemicals, industrial waste, growth hormones from conventional feedlot animals, and many household and personal care products. Exposure to copper pipes as well as adherence to vegetarian/vegan diets also contributes to copper toxicity.
To learn more about copper overload, check out my podcast episode 10 below with Dr. Judith Bowman, Co-founder of Mensah Medical. You can also find the Eat For Life podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts!
Symptoms of Copper Toxicity
Copper is especially disruptive to the adrenal glands, which produce the stress hormone cortisol. This constant agitation leads to dysregulation of cortisol production, causing many copper toxicity symptoms, such as:
Amenorrhea (absence of menstruation)
Blood sugar dysregulation
Food and chemical sensitivities
High blood pressure
Low blood pressure
Premature greying of the hair
Copper Toxicity and the Brain
Copper lowers dopamine (a neurotransmitter that controls the brain’s pleasure and reward centers) and increases norepinephrine (another neurotransmitter that also functions as a stress hormone) in the brain. Imbalances in these important neurotransmitters are related to anxiety and panic disorders, depression (especially postpartum), bipolar disorder, ADHD, autism, violence, and paranoid schizophrenia. 
Copper Imbalance in the Cells
Copper requires special binding proteins (ceruloplasmin and metallothionine) to be able to get into cells where it can be used by the mitochondria to make ATP (adenosine triphosphate/cellular energy). Metallothionine (MT) is composed of cysteine-rich proteins that are especially important because of their antioxidant properties and ability to bind to toxic heavy metals to transport them out of the body. MT proteins also perform a wide variety of vital functions including but not limited to:
- Detoxification of mercury and other toxic heavy metals
- Development and functioning of the immune system
- Delivery of zinc to cells throughout the body
- Prevention of yeast overgrowth
- Regulation of stomach acid pH
- Taste discrimination by the tongue
- Protection of enzymes that break down casein and gluten
- Enhanced efficiency of the intestinal and blood-brain barriers
- Reduction of inflammation after injury or illness
When copper is not bound to these special proteins, it and other heavy metals are free to roam the blood in unbound form, leading to systemic oxidative stress. With the sympathetic branch of the nervous system under attack, the body goes into a constant state of fight, flight, freeze, so calming down becomes extremely difficult.
Chronic fatigue, anorexia, fibromyalgia, postpartum depression, ADHD, autism, and Alzheimer’s disease are all forms of oxidative stress.
Elevated Copper Levels Cause Chronic Infection
With copper levels high, zinc becomes imbalanced. Zinc is essential to all forms of life and is a component of more than 300 enzymes; it enhances resistance to stress, maintains intellectual function, memory, and mood levels. Zinc also enhances gene expression of metallothionine and is an essential part of the treatment process.
Copper and zinc work in tandem with each other to control the overgrowth of fungal, yeast, and parasitic infections. Without the proper ratio, these types of infections can become chronic and difficult to eliminate.
Dealing with Too Much Copper in the Body
Copper overload can have a variety of outcomes for different people based on genetic variations, environment, and stress. If this post resonates with you, please share your experience in the comments below. It is through sharing your story that we create community, eliminate guilt and shame, and bring about healing.