All things aluminum - why it’s harmful, how to test and how to detox
Today, we’re looking at all things aluminum - what it is, why it’s harmful, how to test for it and how to detox it from your body - as well as discussing why all of our Agent Nateur deodorants are, and will always be, aluminum-free.
Let’s get into it.
We come into contact with aluminum every day. So much so that it’s actually the most widely distributed metal in the environment. This means that there are tons of ways that it can get into your body, including into our digestive tract through contaminated food products, canned drinks, tinned foil, or from the kitchen pots and pans we use (particularly the ones covered in enamel). It’s also in tap water we drink, evaporated salt, white sugar, baking powder, powdered coffee creamer, anti-caking agent and flour (yes, really) but it doesn’t stop there. It’s not just in the kitchen that we come into contact with aluminum.
Aluminum is also absorbed through the day-to-day cosmetics and skincare products that we put on our skin. There has already been a connection to cell proliferation and tumor development on more than one occasion too. A study, linked here, has suggested that the majority of breast tumors develop in the part of the breast that is closest to the underarm, and it is possible that antiperspirants ingredients can get absorbed through the skin when razor nicks happen (as well as absorbed through the layers of the skin more generally). Once into the body, the toxic ingredients like aluminum then travel to the lymph nodes where they gather, try to drain, but often move into the breasts and the wider body.
When I learned this and started to understand the dangers of aluminum toxicity and ingestion and how it was likely to be making my own health challenges even worse, I set out on an exhaustive search for an aluminum-free deodorant that really worked.
And in the end? I created my own. Once holi (stick) launched, the rest was history!
What is aluminum?
Like many other heavy metals and organic toxins, it can get in the way of a ton of processes within the body.
It is now understood that heavy metals have absolutely no purpose, benefit, or value to being in the human body and any level of these metals can be toxic. Assuming that your body is detoxing correctly, low levels are not necessarily a problem, but given the levels of toxins we come into contact with today’s society, and the weakening of our immune systems (driven by poor sleep / lack of sleep, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, poor soil, water and food quality, high glyphosate levels, suppressed trauma, toxic beauty products and so much more), these heavy metals are becoming more problematic than ever and this is something that I want everyone to know more about.
What does aluminum do?
Unfortunately, it is thought that aluminum does a lot of damage to the human body, and research is starting to back this up.
A significant danger with aluminum is that it interrupts the MTR enzyme and DHPR enzyme and both of these are essential for methylation.
What is methylation?
Methylation sounds complex but is a simple biochemical process that involves the transfer of four atoms (1 x carbon and 3 x hydrogen atoms) from one substance to another. When this is working as it should, the methylation cycle works properly. It helps with, and essentially powers, lots of other biochemical reactions that are required for a healthy, regulated body (including, but not limited to, neurological, reproductive, detoxification reactions, etc.).
If the methylation cycle is impaired, there are knock-on effects. What this means in practice is that poor methylation is likely to mean that the body can’t create other molecules, including:
- Glutathione (a key antioxidant);
- Coenzyme Q10;
- Serotonin, and more.
So, in short, one of the critical dangers of aluminum is that it interrupts the methylation cycle.
But it doesn’t stop there.
Research is strongly connecting aluminum toxicity to neurodevelopment and neurodegeneration challenges.
The DHPR enzyme that we mentioned above is responsible for the creation of dopamine and serotonin within the body, neurotransmitters that not only make us feel good, but also that have been shown to be very low in children and adults with neurodevelopmental problems.
Not only can aluminum inhibit the production of serotonin and dopamine, but when there is excess aluminum, it can also block detoxification (specifically of BH4 biopterin) and block the production of enzymes needed to transport oxygen and nutrients around the body and around the brain.
When this happens, it is thought to increase neurodevelopmental challenges and hinder speech development in children.
So, aluminum goes straight to the brain?
Not quite. People don’t realize that there are many diseases related to excess levels of aluminum - and the impacts are far-reaching because aluminum can move into nearly every single organ and system of the body.
What this means is that aluminum toxicity can also show up as:
- Blood disorders;
- Chronic fatigue;
- Tooth decay;
- Kidney, liver & thyroid disorders;
I’ve heard it’s a hormone disruptor.
Yes, correct. As well as the ton of dangers set out above, aluminum is also an endocrine disruptor meaning it interferes with hormones and a big part of why I cut it out of my own personal skincare regime due to my own previous challenges with endometriosis.
It has also connected to causing issues like:
- increased estrogen;
- thyroid problems/ imbalances;
- low libido;
- mood instability;
- reproductive problems/challenges, and more.
And what about long-term health challenges in adults?
As well as cell proliferation and tumor development mentioned above, there has been a lot of research around excess aluminum, brain health, neurodegeneration, and Alzheimer’s. A study in 1985 confirmed findings from earlier research that suggested that those suffering from Alzheimer’s had high levels of aluminum in their brains.
Ok, so how do I test for aluminum or excess aluminum?
Before we get into testing, it’s important to understand the connection between minerals and aluminum - because it is well understood that there is a connection between aluminum, other heavy metals, mineral deficiencies and an increased toxic load.
Minerals are like the ‘dynamite’ that power our cells and are involved in every single biochemical reaction (like metabolism, glucose regulation, digestion, immune system function, etc). When we are mineral deficient (which is very common in today's stress driven society), systems start to not function as they should. Toxic metals can interfere with these processes further.
Having the right balance of nutrient ratios and mineral levels is critical, particularly as they work together synergistically across the body but when heavy metals are involved in the body, they can displace minerals.
How do heavy metals displace minerals?
Metal toxicity interferes with enzymatic reactions and other mineral balances that are critical for the body to function as it needs to.
Magnesium, for example, is involved in and powers around 350 enzyme reactions but aluminum can interrupt with and interfere these processes which then has follow on impacts for the functioning of:
- The nervous system;
- Muscular contraction / relaxation;
- Blood pressure;
- Bone health - and more.
Poisoning with heavy metals throws everything out of whack. It can block other minerals like selenium, iodine and zinc from driving the important processes and reactions that they control within the body.
The simple science is that when your body’s mineral levels are imbalanced, or interfered with by metal toxicity, it opens up the playing field for the onset of many other health issues.
Ok, so do I test for mineral deficiencies or for heavy metals?
You can test for both with a hair tissue mineral analysis ( HTMA). These Tests must be done through a functional medicine practitioner.
And if testing shows aluminum as a problem. What next?
Eliminating aluminum then becomes important - and really this is something we should all be considering anyway.
First of all, it’s important to understand that no one size fits all approach will work for everyone. My health journey has been complex and I always try to be guided by the best in the business wherever possible. It’s really important to understand what is going on inside of your body so you can create a customized plan and strategy that will be most effective for you and the health challenges on the table. Always consult your doctor or functional medicine practitioner before self-diagnosing, testing or supplementing as detoxing can backfire if you move too fast or too quickly.
If your testing has shown that you likely have issues with aluminum toxicity, you can look to build up resilience in your body that will help with detoxification to remove this increased level from your body. Heavy metals, like aluminum, increase the need for antioxidants to fight against oxidative stress and the damage that these toxic metals can cause.
To support your detoxification processes, consider exploring the following combinations of supplements:
- Glutathione - one of the body’s most important antioxidants that helps to detox the body through the liver and at a cellular level across the board. NAC can also help because it is a precursor that helps to create glutathione for the body to use;
- Infrared Sauna - to assist with the detox process;
- Heavy Metal Binders - to help mop up excess heavy metals within the body and draw them through the detox process;
- Increased intake of brassica vegetables (think things like cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, kale, collard greens etc). Always choose organic and rinse well before cooking;
- Increased water consumption (ideally filtered or structured)
So, aluminum is not something that we want in our body but when we understand how a strong and healthy body can detox it and that we are in control of where we come into contact with it, we can take control of our health.
Starting by replacing your deodorant with a holi (stick) or any one of our Agent Nateur deo’s is a critical place to start, but understanding aluminum goes so much deeper.
I really hope that today's blog post has armed you with the foundational knowledge you need to reduce your exposure to aluminum both in the kitchen, in the bathroom, and beyond!
***THESE STATEMENTS HAVE NOT BEEN APPROVED OR REGULATED BY THE FDA. WE ARE NOT DOCTORS, THEREFORE ALWAYS CONSULT WITH YOUR DOCTOR FIRST.