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Copper Overload

I know copper is a touchy issue but after analyzing what I eat in the chronometer app, I feel most awful after I eat anything high in copper. My liver feels like it doesn't work. I also have low hemoglobin but my iron is ok. Wondering if some sort of hemoglobin deficiency is causing my body to accumulate copper and if perhaps supplementing Iron and taking dandelion for liver detox might help with this issue? Zinc makes me feel way worse...and a hamburger and cabbage is about all I can eat these days.


From my own experience a copper supplement made me feel worse, and I do better limiting foods high in copper. I don't get sick from zinc unless I take it consistently.

I don't know about what might help you though.
From my own experience a copper supplement made me feel worse, and I do better limiting foods high in copper. I don't get sick from zinc unless I take it consistently.

I don't know about what might help you though.

Thanks. Today I think I’m having a glutamate storm and wondering if that’s what I get from copper too. Really awful.


Senior Member
There are a number of minerals that can interplay with copper. Typically, low zinc but if I remember correctly, manganese and iron could be involved. I highlighted the involvement of chronic viral infections which raise copper levels (blue highlight).

From 1989-v04n02-p099.pdf (traceelements.com)

"Copper Toxicity Copper toxicity is common in the United States. TMA studies show that a large percent of the population has excessive tissue copper levels. This varies geographically due to high copper or low zinc soils and hard or soft water regions. The use of copper water pipes and dental prosthesis 103 Figure 1 Figure 2. Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine Vol. 4, No. 2, 1989 have contributed greatly to increased copper intake.

Copper also enters the food chain through the addition of copper to animal feeds and use of copper in spraying vegetables and grains for the prevention of fungus and algae growth.58 Reports have shown that copper intake in the United States is approximately three to five milligrams per day. The copper intake in India is higher, averaging almost six milligrams per day and in some areas as much as thirteen milligrams.59

We have learned that metabolic differences allow greater copper retention in some individuals than others, even with the same exposure. We have observed through TMA studies that vegetarians appear to have a greater tendency to retain copper than non-vegetarians.

Henkin60 reported that patients with adrenal insufficiency had higher serum copper levels, which improved with hormonal therapy. An increase in parasympathetic neuroendocrine activity would predispose an individual to an increased copper burden due to a decrease in copper excretion.

The parasympathetic endocrines include the pancreas, parathyroid, and anabolic steroids. Copper is a sedative mineral, which when in excess, stimulates anabolic activity and increases parasympathetic activity. TMA studies frequently reveal elevated tissue copper in women taking oral contraceptive agents which has been confirmed by others,61 62 as well in women with copper intrauterine devices.

Since copper levels are noted to rise especially during the last trimester of pregnancy, it is not unusual to find multigravid women with excessive tissue copper accumulation, particularly if their pregnancies were not widely spaced. This will also contribute to inherited copper toxicity in children. Copper toxicity can occur when there is a deficiency of the antagonistic nutrients shown in figure 1 and 2, especially vitamin B6, B3, B5, A, and the minerals zinc and iron.

The requirements for these nutrients are known to increase during pregnancy, with oral contraceptive use, and estrogen therapy.63 Krishnamachari reported that in individuals suffering from pellagra (B3 deficiency), copper absorption was increased.64 Excessive intake of many of the synergistic vitamins and minerals previously discussed can also contribute to copper toxicity.

These factors should be explored in relation to Wilson's disease, an inborn error of metabolism resulting in toxic amounts of copper accumulation in the liver due to a lack of Ceruloplasmin. Elevated hair copper levels do not occur with Wilson's disease, but copper accumulation in tissues and organs other than the liver eventually develops.
Excessive copper retention will often develop in the eye, producing the Kayser-Fleischer rings in the cornea which is a diagnostic sign of this disease. Increased copper accumulation has also been noted in individuals with sickle cell anemia.65 A reduction or blockage in biliary excretion can increase copper accumulation, even if copper intake is not excessive.

This type of copper accumulation may develop over prolonged periods involving several years. Excess estrogens are known to contribute to gall bladder stasis as well as cholesterol and calcium stone formation. The development of gallstones is found to have a higher incidence in women, especially those who have been pregnant.66 67 Elevation in estrogen levels during pregnancy68 and oral contraceptive use have been reported to consistently produce defects in the excretory functions of the liver.69 Increased copper retention can develop as a result of viral infections such as mononucleosis and hepatitis.70 High tissue copper levels are frequently observed in individuals with a history of these conditions.

Whether excess tissue copper causes viral manifestation or viral infections cause elevated tissue copper accumulation is speculative at this time, but one wonders if the anti-viral effects of zinc could be due to the antagonism of copper by zinc.

Medications That May Contribute to Copper Toxicity The main excretory route for the removal of copper is through the intestinal tract; therefore, any factor that inhibits intrahepatic or extrahepatic excretion can potentially contribute to copper toxicity. There are many medications other than estrogens that can contribute to cholestasis. These include phenothiazine derivatives, 104 The Nutritional Relationships of Copper chlordiazepoxide, desipramine, imi-pramine, and meprobamate, which are contained in psychotropics, sedatives, and tranquilizers.

Their common trade names are, Thorazine, Stelazine, Temaril, Norpramin, Tofranil, Librium, and Miltown; Trade names for chlorothiazide used in diuretics and anti-hypertensives are Diupres and Diuril; tolbutamide and chlorpropamide are used in anti-diabetic and oral hypoglycemic agents with trade names including Diabenese and Orinase; carbamazepine used for the control of convulsive disorders and severe neuralgias, trade name Tegretol; thiouracil and methi-mazole, trade name Tapazole, is used as an anti-thyroid preparation; indomethacine, trade name Indocin, used in analgesics and anti-inflammatory preparations; antifungal preparations which contain griseo-fulvin, trade names include Fulvicin-U/F and Grifulvin.

This is only a partial list of commonly prescribed medications; for further information consult the Physicians' Desk Reference. Thyroid Insufficiency and Copper For several years it has been noted that elevated tissue copper is a common finding in conjunction with thyroid insufficiency.

Copper's effect upon thyroid function involves multiple mechanisms. First, by the copper antagonistic effect upon iron. Dillman and co-workers have reported that iron deficiency results in thyroid insufficiency.71 Other investigators have concluded that iron status and thyroid function appears to have a reciprocal relationship in that iron deficiency can impair thyroid function, and iron stores can be reflective of thyroid function.72 Copper can also affect thyroid function through an insulin effect. Insulin is known to antagonize thyroid function.73

Through observations of TMA patterns, it has been noted that elevated tissue copper is associated with increased insulin secretion by the pancreas; it is conceivable that copper enhances insulin secretion. Studies that show an association of elevated estrogen with elevated insulin support this view.

Plasma insulin levels are known to be elevated during pregnancy, being highest in the last trimester.74 The same insulin effect is also observed during estrogen therapy.75 76 77 While a direct effect of copper upon insulin has not been confirmed at this time, it has been confirmed that estrogen does not produce the insulin rise. An indirect effect of copper can be suspected due to the copper calcium-vitamin D synergistic relationship. It is apparent from TMA studies that copper increases the tissue retention of calcium, and calcium is known to mediate the release of insulin.78 79

Vitamin D metabolites (1, 25(OH)2 D3) enhances the synthesis of insulin, and insulin enhances the synthesis of vitamin D metabolites.80 Since zinc is required for the storage of insulin, it is possible that antagonism of zinc by copper could be responsible for the flooding of insulin into the plasma. Other conditions commonly observed with excessive tissue copper accumulation via TMA studies include chronic E.B.V. and C.M.V. infections, emotional disturbances (depressive disorders), hypoglycemia, fatigue, fibroid tumors, low blood pressure, transient high blood pressure, anorexia, PMS, AIDS, dermatosis, endometriosis, infertility, hair loss, type II insomnia, and frontal headaches.

Generally, it is often noted that adults who show elevated tissue copper accumulation have a tendency to be right brain dominant. They are usually emotionally oriented and artistically inclined. TMA tests of individuals whose occupation or hobby involves creativity such as artists, sculptors, musicians, and actors invariably have a tendency toward either a high tissue copper or a low zinc to copper ratio, whereas individuals with a low tissue copper or high zinc/copper ratio tend toward left brain dominance and often follow intellectual pursuits. Conclusion The importance of copper nutriture is obvious due to its requirement in enzyme systems. Often the adverse effects of copper toxicity are given more consideration than copper deficiency. However, copper balance is important particularly in relationship to other nutrients. Just as much consideration should be given to the possibility of copper deficiency as to copper toxicity
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Senior Member
Zinc is supposed to work as an antagonist to copper, so the more zinc you add to diet, the less copper you absorb. So if you feel worse with zinc, it would follow that your issues are most likely not due to copper overload.