Copper’s going up. Does that mean zinc’s gone down? What should we do? It might sound like the market’s about to crash, but don’t panic. Let’s start from the beginning.
It’s not about stocks and shares – well, not exactly. Your body certainly needs its ‘stock’ of copper and zinc for the healthy function of its systems, and the two trace metals are somewhat linked.
Zinc is important for learning, memory and mood control. It helps the reproductive and digestive systems, and supports your body’s healing and immune functions.
You can read more about zinc here.
Copper is a trace element that must come from the diet because the body cannot produce it. It has a number of essential functions:
- It’s important for tissue and organ growth
- It’s needed for the production of blood cells, proteins and enzymes
- It keeps nerve cells healthy
- It supports the immune system and protects cells from damage caused by free radicals
Your body doesn’t require a huge amount of copper to do all this, and because copper is accessible from a balanced diet, deficiencies are relatively rare. It’s more likely that problems will arise because copper levels have gone up.
It’s called copper overload, and there are several reasons why it might happen:
- Zinc and copper tend to do a bit of a balancing act, so if zinc levels are low, copper levels will rise.
- The diet might contain too little zinc, especially if it is low in meats and fish, and high in vegetables. Foods that are especially rich in copper are: beef liver, dark chocolate, dried apricots, lentils, and nuts.
- In some people, the body’s mechanisms for regulating copper are less efficient; this could be an inherited condition.
- There might be copper in pool and spas, as a result of chemical treatments, or in water that runs through new copper pipes.
Because copper tends to accumulate in the liver and the brain, it can be difficult to detect copper overload in a regular blood test.
Speak to a nutritionist to find out about more about how a high level of copper can affect your health, and how it can be treated.
Why is copper overload a problem?
When there is too much copper in the body it affects the fine balance of chemicals in the brain. It reduces the level of dopamine – which is involved in many of the body’s emotional and physical responses – and increases the production of noradrenaline. This can result in stress, hyperactivity, anxiety and depression.
Copper overload can be associated with oestrogen-progesterone imbalance in women. This can lead to aggravated menstrual problems, ovarian cysts, and painful lumpy breasts.
High levels of copper might also be related to iron deficiency, low thyroid activity, skin and allergic conditions, fungal infections and problems with the digestive system.
It’s best to discuss these and any other conditions with a qualified practitioner.