There are many different tests to determine body levels of heavy metals, but not all of them are equal. The problem with most tests is that they are dependent on your body’s ability to excrete metals. Since most people with heavy-metal toxicity have compromised detoxification ability, testing will show low levels even when the person is highly toxic. Different metals are also excreted in different ways, so one type of testing may be accurate for some metals, but miss others completely. Heavy metals are also not evenly distributed in the body. Other than a brain biopsy, there aren’t any available tests to show levels in the brain.
The following are a number of different ways you can test for heavy metals as well as their benefits and drawbacks:
If they even entertain the idea that you could have heavy-metal toxicity, a conventional medical doctor will run a blood test. Levels will be high in the blood for about a week after a major exposure, but after that, only about 1-5% of the total body burden at most will be in the blood. On top of that, most people accumulate metal toxicity through hundreds or thousands of small exposures, and none of these are big enough to show up in the blood. So, unless you broke a mercury thermometer in the past few days or sanded old lead paint off of your house, skip blood testing.
Hair testing is popular because it is easy to do. Like blood testing, levels of heavy metals will be high in the hair for a few weeks after a major exposure, but after that, levels will be limited to your detoxification ability. Some practitioners look at the ratios of various minerals in the hair to determine a “signature” of metal toxicity, but this is a more indirect method.
Some metals are excreted primarily in the stool, but again, this is limited to your detoxification ability.
Urine testing is also limited to detoxification ability, but there is a way around this. One of the most common tests now is called a “urine challenge” test. A metal-chelating agent like DMSA, DMPS, or EDTA is taken, and urine is collected for six hours afterwards. The chelating agent will pull metals out of the tissues in the body, and they will come out through the urine. This gives an overall picture of the metal burden in the body, although these chelating agents will pull out 2-valent metals like lead, mercury, cadmium, and arsenic, but not 3- valent metals such as aluminum. If there is a mineral deficiency, the body can hold on to heavy metals to take the place of the deficient minerals. A urine challenge test will also show essential mineral levels, so it can be determined if there is metal retention. The urine challenge test is considered the gold standard for heavy metal testing.
This a spectrographic-based test. Every element on the periodic table has its own unique absorption spectra, meaning that different elements absorb certain wavelengths of light, and reflect others. The spectra of lead will be different from that of mercury, or calcium, or any other element. The oligoscan shines a laser on different points on the hand, and based off of which wavelengths of light are absorbed or reflected back, the levels of different metals and minerals in the cells of your hand can be determined. This is similar to how astronomers can analyze the wavelengths of light emitted by distant stars to determine their chemical make-up.
The oligoscan has the advantage of testing the levels of metals that are actually in your cells, not what you are able to excrete. It can also measure aluminum, which most other tests will miss. Oligoscan results tend to correlate with other accurate tests.
Autonomic response testing or other energetic tests can be used to determine what metals are stressing the body, and also where in the body they are located. None of the commercially available tests will show what is in the brain. Energetic testing can determine what is in the brain, bones, or other hard to test places, but it is more qualitative than quantitative.
By Bryant Rubright