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 also explains 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 blocks 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 most often epigenetic in nature (as is the case with me), and is also brought on during hormonal events such as puberty, pregnancy, menopause; as well as the use of birth control and hormone replacement therapy.1
The use of copper IUDs for birth control(click to read my post about the copper IUD!), as well as hormone therapy (bioidentical and synthetic) and xeno-estrogens (toxins that mimic estrogen in the body) can explain why copper overload is quite common today. Xeno-extrogens 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 contribute to copper toxicity.
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 the ones below:
- High anxiety
- Panic disorder
- Chemical and food sensitivities
- Amenorrhea (absence of menstruation)
- Hair loss
- Blood sugar dysregulation
- Yeast toxicity
- High and low blood pressure
- Skin rashes
- Sensitive skin
- Racing thoughts
- Weight gain and an inability to lose weight,
- Premature greying of the hair, and
- Chronic infections.
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. 2
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 (cysteine-rich protein) is especially important because of its antioxidant properties and ability to bind to toxic heavy metals to transport them out of the body.
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 oxidative stress. With the sympathetic branch of the nervous system under attack, the body goes into a constant state of fight or flight ,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.3 Zinc also enhances gene expression of metallothionine and is an essential part of the treatment process.4
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. Listen to episode 10 of my podcast with Dr. Judith Bowman on copper toxicity and women’s health.
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.
Copper Overload References
-  Walsh, William J. (2014). Depression Powerpoint. Retrieved from URL.
-  Walsh, William J. (2012). Nutrient Power: Heal Your Biochemistry and Heal Your Brain. (19). New York, NY: Skyhorse.
-  Mensah, Albert. Bowman, Judith. Retrieved from personal treatment protocol.
-  Walsh, William J. (2012). Nutrient Power: Heal Your Biochemistry and Heal Your Brain.
(43). New York, NY: Skyhorse.
- Walsh, William J. Elevated Blood Copper/Zinc Ratios in Assaultive Young Males. Psychology and Behavior, Vol. 6, No. 2, pp. 327-329, 1997.
- Walsh, William J., Crayton, John W. Elevated serum copper levels in women with a history of postpartum depression. Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology, Volume 21, Issue 1, March 14, 2007, Pages 17-21.
- Mzhel’skaya TI. Biological functions of ceruloplasmin and their deficiency caused by mutation in genes regulating copper and iron metabolism. Bull Exp Biol Med. 2000; 130(8):719-27.
- Chauhan, Abha, Chauhan, Ved, Brown, Ted W., Cohen, Ira. Oxidative stress in autism: Increased lipid peroxidation and reduced serum levels of ceruloplasmin and transferrin – the antioxidant proteins. Life Sciences, Volume 75, Issue 21, 8 October 2004, Pages 2539–2549.
- Faber S, Zinn GM, Kern JC, Kingston HM. The plasma zinc/serum copper ratio as a biomarker in children with autism spectrum disorders. Biomarkers. 2009; 14(3):171-80.
- Pfeiffer, Carl C. (1975). Mental and Elemental Nutrients. New Canaan, CT: Keats Publishing. Lontie, Rene. (1984). Copper Proteins and Copper Enzymes. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.
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