Top 4 Heavy Metals Sabotaging Your Immunity

Could heavy metals be sabotaging your immunity? 

In the United States, the incidence of immune disorders like autoimmunity, allergies, asthma, cancer, and viruses are on the rise. And as this systemic immune dysregulation keeps growing, it’s become even more crucial than ever to assess the root causes of immune disturbance. 

While heavy metals are well known for damaging individual organs, you may not be as well versed in the impairment that these metals can have on your immune system. If your goal is optimal health, then the integrity of your immune system must be front and center. 

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • How heavy metals affect your immune system
  • The top 4 heavy metals sabotaging your immunity
  • How heavy metals affect your mitochondria and energy production
  • Heavy metals and their role in allergies and autoimmunity
  • How to assess toxicity levels of heavy metals
  • How to detox heavy metals for optimal health

How Heavy Metals Affect Your Immune System

Heavy metals cause overstimulation of your immune system, resulting in chronic inflammatory reactions as well as cancer development, hypersensitivity, allergies, autoimmunity, and asthma[1]. 

In your body, heavy metals create a pro-inflammatory and pro-oxidative state. This means that your immune system has to go on high alert, trying to calm inflammation while simultaneously combating oxidative stress in the presence of these metals. 

What’s more, due to the interaction of heavy metals with both intracellular and extracellular proteins in your body, allergies can develop, which further tax your immune system and may even lead to deficiencies[2]. 

The Top 4 Heavy Metals Sabotaging Your Immunity

There are a number of heavy metals that can damage your immune system, but the top four to watch out for include:

#1 Mercury

Mercury toxicity contributes to a wide range of chronic health conditions including, brain fog, chronic fatigue, acne, hair loss, weight gain, autoimmune disease, and cancer. Some of the most common sources of mercury include amalgam fillings, fish, coal-burning, vaccines, and cosmetics.

#2 Arsenic

Toxic levels of arsenic can cause havoc to your mitochondria — the energy powerhouse of your cells. Symptoms of arsenic toxicity include fatigue, aches and pains, brittle nails, burning feeling in the digestive tract, diarrhea, edema, weakness, dizziness, and more.

Arsenic can be found in non-organic chicken, cosmetics, drinking water, paints, insecticides, rice, and seafood (shrimp and oysters).

#3 Lead

Lead toxicity causes damage to the nervous, reproductive, and renal system, and often results in fatigue and potential liver damage. One of the most common symptoms of lead toxicity is high blood pressure due to high levels of lead depositing in the kidneys. 

Lead is everywhere in our environment but can be found in the following places in particular: auto exhaust, candle wicks, ceramics, cigarette smoke, gasoline, pipes, milk, paint, pencils, and toothpaste.

#4 Cadmium

Cadmium is a known carcinogen and is involved in many chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, arthritic conditions, heart disease, kidney disease, depression, and adrenal fatigue. 

The primary sources of cadmium in the environment include air pollution, paint, auto exhaust, coffee, cigarettes, contaminated soil, hydrogenated oils, plastics, and rubber.

While heavy metals are detrimental to your immune system as a whole, these four metals inhibit the function of three vital components of your immune system:


Arsenic and lead, in particular, can inhibit the function of macrophages. 

Macrophages are specialized cells of the immune system that are involved in the detection and destruction of harmful bacteria. Through a process called phagocytosis, macrophages essentially consume harmful bacteria and dead cells to remove them from your system. 

In addition, macrophages can elicit an inflammatory response by releasing chemicals called cytokines that activate other immune-related cells. These immune cells can be found throughout your body in different tissues acting on a wide range of various pathogens to clear them from your system.

When macrophages come into contact with arsenic and lead, their structure becomes altered — rendering them unable to carry out the process of phagocytosis. Without the proper clearing of pathogens via phagocytosis, they may accumulate in your system and cause further toxicity[3]. 


Neutrophils are your body’s first line of defense against foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses. They are the primary cell type involved in inflammatory responses — both acute and chronic. 

These essential immune cells make up more than 50% of your white blood cells, and during infection can increase to 80% or more. 

You can think of neutrophils as the security guards of your immune system — sweeping through your bloodstream scanning for infections or other potential sources of inflammation[4].

Metals such as lead, copper, mercury, and cadmium have all been shown to impact the immune-protective activity of neutrophils[5]. 

One of the crucial roles that neutrophils play in immunity is called cell signaling. Cell Signaling is a process that alerts other components of the immune system to become active in an effort to fight foreign substances. 

Research shows that when cells are exposed to mercury, the receptors on the surface of neutrophils that send and receive signals become damaged — rendering their signaling capabilities ineffective[6]. 

When exposed to lead, the ability of neutrophils to follow chemical signals and travel to areas of infection is impaired, along with their phagocytic ability[7].

Natural Killer Cells (NK cells)

Natural killer cells are vital to your immune systems response, especially when it comes to viral infections and tumors. As the name suggests, these cells not only help to contain viruses, but they destroy the entire cell, extinguishing the virus completely[8]. 

These cells respond rapidly to a wide range of pathological challenges in your body. They survey the environment around them, and depending on molecules expressed on the membranes of the cells that they come into contact with, they either attack or leave them alone[9]. 

The heavy metal cadmium is of particular concern for the health of natural killer cells. Research shows that when NK cells are exposed to cadmium, it inhibits their immune activity[10]. 

But immune inhibition isn’t the only detrimental effect that heavy metals have on NK cells. In pregnant women, high levels of NK cells have been correlated with miscarriage, which is likely due to the impact of heavy metals on ovarian, pituitary, as well as immune health[11]. 

In fact, cadmium has the ability to not only inhibit NK cells, but it can also increase their levels as well[10].

Therefore, if you’re trying to get pregnant, it’s vitally important that you check your heavy metal levels.

Heavy Metals, Mitochondria, and Energy Production

In addition to damaging specific cell lines, heavy metals also take a toll on the energy production that’s essential for powering your immunity. 

It’s no coincidence that heavy metal toxicity and immune system challenges both result in fatigue. The reason for this? Dysfunctional mitochondria. 

Your mitochondria are the powerhouse of your cells. They’re the cell part that produces the energy your body uses to power it’s myriad of functions — and they’re particularly vital for a strong immune system. 

In fact, your mitochondria are intimately tied to immune activity — regulating the activation, movement, and survival of your immune cells[12]

Issues occur when heavy metals attack the membranes of your mitochondria, resulting in dysfunction of these essential cell parts and a decrease in energy production[13].

Arsenic and mercury have a significant impact on the structure and function of mitochondria. They impact something called mitophagy, which is the mitochondria’s ability to remove damaged cell parts and pathogens. With an impairment in mitophagy, the mitochondria are unable to carry out their role in energy production[14].

Other metals such as cadmium and copper can damage mitochondria and initiate cell death by causing injury to the cell membranes and directly interfering with the process of energy production[15].  

Allergies to Metals

One very common immune reaction is the formation of allergies. In the same way that you can develop allergies to certain foods, you can also develop allergies and sensitivities to metals that you’re exposed to. 

Heavy metals can enhance the activity and proliferation of lymphocytes (immune cells), which in turn can cause immune reactions that result in sensitivities and allergies. In some instances, overactive lymphocytes may even lead to autoimmune conditions[16].

In fact, research shows that mercury,  nickel, and other metals cause increased lymphocyte reactivity in patients with autoimmune diseases[17].

This comes as no surprise, as allergies and autoimmunity share characteristics in that they’re both triggered by an abnormal immune response and can produce local and systemic inflammation.

One area of concern for metal-induced allergies and autoimmunity is from metal ions released from medical implants and devices. The release of metals can occur locally at the site of the implant or device, but can also travel to other parts of your body and can prompt an immune reaction. 

Some autoimmune diseases associated with metals used in dentistry and medicine include[18]:

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) 
  • Autoimmune Thyroiditis
  • Immunodeficiency (in general)
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome)
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Diabetes (Type 1 Mellitus)
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
  • Macrophagic Myofasciitis
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Oral Lichen Planus
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis

How To Assess Toxicity Levels

The first step in clearing your body of toxic metals is to assess which metals you’re currently storing in your body. 

By far, the most efficient and thorough way to detect heavy metals in your body is through a hair mineral analysis. This technique uncovers which metals your body is holding, which ones you have in toxic amounts, and which minerals and nutrients are out of balance. 

With this information, you can develop a targeted plan to rid your body of toxic metals once and for all, and liberate your immune system from their harmful effects. 

In addition to identifying which minerals you have in excess, the hair mineral analysis can also provide a myriad of information to guide you towards optimal health. By assessing your current mineral status, you can identify root causes for conditions like:

  • Inflammation
  • Slow metabolism
  • Adrenal fatigue
  • Thyroid imbalance
  • Liver and kidney stress
  • Nervous system imbalances
  • Cortisol and stress hormone imbalances

With this information, you’ll be armed with the tools you need to keep your immune system strong.

Detoxing Heavy Metals For Optimal Immune Health

Once you’ve identified which heavy metals are affecting your health, the second step is to detox your system to rid your body of these harmful compounds. 

Detoxing heavy metals can be a tricky business, and you’ll find that not all methods will do an efficient job of clearing your body of metals on a cellular level. 

Luckily, I’ve had the opportunity to work with thousands of clients to help them detox, and through my own trial and error, I’ve found the most effective and efficient ways to clear these toxins. 

In an effort to share my personal experience, I’ve created a 30-Day Detox Challenge that incorporates a thorough protocol to kick out heavy metals for good. 

The protocol includes:

  • Meal plans
  • Detox recipes (including a green juice that I use to detox every day)
  • Paleo cookbook (with 40 recipes)
  • Supplement guide
  • Exercise guidance
  • Detox tips
  • Detox Techniques
  • Myers Detox Protocol Facebook group
  • And much more

In addition, you get five live coaching calls with me to ask your questions and dive deeper into any areas where you need more clarity.

Detoxing isn’t always an easy process, but it’s a vital step to take if you’re serious about getting your health on track. By joining my 30-Day Detox Challenge, you’ll be supported not only by me but by a whole community of people who are as passionate as you are about optimal health and wellbeing. 


Heavy metal toxicity is an often overlooked aspect of immune dysregulation. If you’ve been feeling fatigued, been constantly getting sick, or generally not feeling like your optimal self, then it’s time to take a look at your heavy metals. 

I highly recommend taking a hair mineral analysis test to assess your levels. If you’ve taken one in the past but haven’t re-tested in a while, then it may be time to check once again, as heavy metals are ubiquitous in our environment. 

Not all heavy metal detox protocols are created equal, and I’ve done the work to identify the most effective techniques to move these toxins out of your body. For a complete overhaul of heavy metals (and any other toxins you may be carrying), check out my 30-Day Detox Challenge to reboot your immune system.

Click here for References+

  1. Lehmann, Irina, Ulrich Sack, and Jörg Lehmann. “Metal ions affecting the immune system.” Met. Ions Life Sci 8 (2011): 157-185. 
  3. Sengupta, Mahuya, and Biswadev Bishayi. “Effect of lead and arsenic on murine macrophage response.” Drug and chemical toxicology 25.4 (2002): 459-472.
  5. Mushtakova, V. M., V. A. Fomina, and V. V. Rogovin. “Toxic effect of heavy metals on human blood neutrophils.” Biology bulletin 32.3 (2005): 276-278.
  6. Worth, R. G., et al. “Mercury inhibition of neutrophil activity: evidence of aberrant cellular signalling and incoherent cellular metabolism.” Scandinavian journal of immunology 53.1 (2001): 49-55.
  7. Di Lorenzo, Luigi, et al. “Evaluation of peripheral blood neutrophil leucocytes in lead-exposed workers.” International archives of occupational and environmental health 79.6 (2006): 491-498.
  10. Cifone, M. G., et al. “Effects of cadmium on cytotoxic functions of human natural killer cells.” Toxicology in vitro 5.5-6 (1991): 525-528.
  11. Gerhard, I., et al. “Impact of heavy metals on hormonal and immunological factors in women with repeated miscarriages.” Human reproduction update 4.3 (1998): 301-309.
  12. Angajala, Anusha, et al. “Diverse roles of mitochondria in immune responses: novel insights into immuno-metabolism.” Frontiers in immunology 9 (2018): 1605.
  13. Ghasemi, Hassan, Farshad Rostampour, and Akram Ranjbar. “The role of oxidative stress in metals toxicity/mitochondrial dysfunction as a key player.” (2014): 2-13.
  14. Jia, Guanghong, et al. “Mitochondrial functional impairment in response to environmental toxins in the cardiorenal metabolic syndrome.” Archives of toxicology 89.2 (2015): 147-153.
  15. Belyaeva, Elena A., et al. “Mitochondrial electron transport chain in heavy metal-induced neurotoxicity: effects of cadmium, mercury, and copper.” The Scientific World Journal 2012 (2012)
  16. Carey, John B., Ashley Allshire, and Frank N. Van Pelt. “Immune modulation by cadmium and lead in the acute reporter antigen–popliteal lymph node assay.” Toxicological Sciences 91.1 (2006): 113-122.

in Detox/Lifestyle

Wendy Myers, FDN-P, is a heavy metals detox expert, functional diagnostic nutritionist and founder of Discover her Myers Detox Protocol and enjoy freedom from fatigue and brain fog with heavy metal detox. Wendy is also the creator of the Mitochondria Detox , the only supplement kit on the market that helps you to remove toxic metals that cause fatigue.