For most of us, aluminum foil has been a kitchen pantry staple throughout our lives. But this malleable metal might not be as harmless as it appears.
In fact, the aluminum found in everything from foil to deodorant has been linked to some serious health concerns. Today we’re going to dive into exactly what aluminum does to your body, where this insidious element might be lurking, and most importantly – how you can protect yourself from its toxic effects.
What Is Aluminum?
Aluminum is a silvery-white metal found abundantly in nature in things like soil, mineral compounds, and rocks. In fact, aluminum is the third most common element on the planet – making up approximately 8% of the earth’s mass. While aluminum is naturally present in abundant amounts, you’ll never find pure aluminum in nature.1
That’s because aluminum is highly reactive – meaning that aluminum by itself readily undergoes chemical reactions and it needs to combine with other elements to be stable and content. Aluminum commonly combines with other elements like oxygen, fluorine, and silicone. But thanks to modern technology, we’re able to isolate aluminum to be used in countless products and industries.
While aluminum is highly useful, this highly reactive compound can also have some not-so-useful side effects on our health.
Effects of Aluminum on the Human Body
Aluminum has no function in the human body. Exposure can lead to an accumulation in your tissues where levels can slowly rise and begin wreaking havoc on your body.
Aluminum toxicity can be particularly troublesome because of the wide range of damaging effects this element can have at the cellular level. Once aluminum begins building up in your body it:2
- Causes cell damage by triggering inflammation and oxidative stress
- Causes immunosuppression by stimulating immune cell dysfunction
- Disrupts the synthesis, formation, and action of vital proteins and enzymes
- Impairs critical cellular functions like glycolysis and the Kreb’s cycle
- Promotes the proliferation and migration of breast cancer cells
- Induces teratogenesis, which can cause birth defects
- Interferes with the absorption and metabolism of essential minerals
- Disrupts cell membrane permeability and receptor function
- Causes hormone imbalances involving: parathyroid hormone, testosterone, estradiol, norepinephrine, cortisol, thyroid hormone, and insulin
- Inhibits cartilage and bone formation
With such extensive and detrimental actions at the cellular level, it’s no surprise that chronic aluminum poisoning has been linked to some serious symptoms and health conditions. Let’s take a look at some of them.
Aluminum Poisoning Symptoms and Exposure Health Risks
Chronic exposure to aluminum can slowly chip away at your health. Aluminum health risks include:2,3
- Pulmonary effects: Aluminum exposure – particularly inhalation – has been linked to conditions such as pneumonia, pulmonary fibrosis, and asthma.
- Cardiac effects: Aluminum has been linked to congenital heart defects, inflammation, and dysfunction of the myocardium, as well as cardiovascular thrombosis. Aluminum can also hinder the function of your red blood cells – inhibiting the formation of new cells and causing anemia.
- Gastrointestinal effects: Aluminum interferes with your intestinal microbiota while increasing intestinal permeability – impairing intestinal barrier function and decreasing digestion and absorption. This can also trigger an immune response that promotes intestinal inflammation leading to inflammatory bowel diseases, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis.
- Neurological effects: Accumulation of aluminum in the brain and nervous system tissues promotes oxidative stress and amyloid deposition, which can lead to neurodegeneration, neuronal necrosis, and dysneurogenesis. Aluminum has been linked to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, encephalopathy, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), multiple sclerosis (MS), and autism.
- Musculoskeletal effects: Neurodegenerative conditions affect the nerve supply to muscles, causing the muscles to undergo denervation atrophy and become dysfunctional. Aluminum also disrupts mineral uptake and cellular proliferation – which can lead to bone diseases such as osteoporosis, osteomalacia, rickets, exostosis, osteodystrophy, and osteitis fibrosa.
- Reproductive effects: Aluminum can impair fertility as well as increase the risk of fetal complications like low birth weight and heart defects.
- Renal and hepatic effects: Aluminum accumulation can cause oxidative damage to your kidneys and liver leading to tissue degeneration and necrosis, and associated biochemical imbalances (like elevated blood sugar, cholesterol, triglycerides, etc).
- Breast effects: Aluminum has been found to increase the risk of breast cancer by acting as a metalloestrogen – or a compound that mimics estrogen. This can negatively influence the biological characteristics of breast epithelial cells and lead to the formation of cancerous cells.
With a list like that, you’re probably curious exactly how you might be exposed to levels of aluminum high enough or frequently enough to trigger these scary side effects. Let’s take a look at some of the most common routes of exposure.
Aluminum Poisoning From Cans, Pans, and Foil
Because aluminum is found so abundantly in nature and is used extensively in many day-to-day products, you’re likely exposed to some level of aluminum every single day.
Aluminum can be found in our food, water, air, and soil. And living in certain areas or working in certain professions – like living near a hazardous waste site or working in the mining or metal processing industry – may put you at an increased risk of elevated aluminum exposure.
But the truth is, most of us come into contact with aluminum in much more minuscule, but much more frequent ways. You see, aluminum is the primary component used in many of the materials we use to store and cook the food we ingest. Think about all of the ways aluminum is incorporated into our food:
- Canned foods
- Baking pans and dishes
- Aluminum foil
- Cooking and eating utensils
Aluminum is just about everywhere you look when it comes to food. But this isn’t the only place you’re likely encountering large amounts of aluminum.
Baking Powder and Deodorant May Include Aluminum
Aluminum exposure can be sneaky because it’s found abundantly in products you’d probably never even think of. For example, aluminum is frequently used in things like:4,5
- Cosmetics: Aluminum is often found in products like deodorant, toothpaste, lotions, and creams where it’s readily absorbed through your skin.
- Food: Aluminum may be added to products like baking powder, flour, anti-caking agents, and coloring agents. In fact, it’s estimated that the average adult in the U.S. ingests 7-9mg of aluminum in their food every day!
- Drugs: Aluminum is used in medications like antacids and aspirin. It’s even used as a component in vaccines.
Whew! That’s an awful lot of ways to come into contact with aluminum, isn’t it? But the good news is, while we’ll never be able to entirely avoid aluminum exposure, there are some simple and effective ways you can protect yourself from this potentially toxic element.
How to Lower Aluminum Levels in the Body
Again, it’s impossible – and entirely unnecessary – to completely avoid aluminum exposure.
You see, our bodies are well-equipped to handle and process out a number of toxic compounds on a daily basis – aluminum included. The problem arises when we overload our natural detoxification pathways – essentially “clogging” them up and allowing these toxins to accumulate.
So protecting yourself from chronic aluminum poisoning requires a big-picture approach that helps you lower the number of toxins coming in while simultaneously enhancing your body’s ability to properly detox. Here’s what I recommend:
- Filter your water: Investing in a high-quality water filtration system is essential when it comes to reducing your consumption of aluminum and other toxic compounds. Two of the best and most thorough purification systems on the market are Berkey Water Filters and Clearly Filtered Water Filters.
- Focus on fresh whole foods: Processed foods are significantly more likely to contain elevated levels of aluminum and other toxins. Build most of your meals around whole foods like fresh produce, high-quality proteins, and healthy fats.
- Look for aluminum-free: When you buy products look for things like aluminum-free baking powder.
- Use aluminum-free cookware and containers: Look for containers and cookware that don’t contain aluminum.
- Be mindful of the products you use: Aluminum in deodorant and other products are readily absorbed through your skin and can significantly contribute to aluminum levels since they’re typically used on a daily basis. Opt for aluminum-free deodorant and beauty products – you can check out my line of clean skincare by clicking right here.
- Minimize your overall toxic burden: Reducing your exposure to things like EMFs, indoor air pollution, and other harmful compounds will leave your body better equipped to handle the unavoidable exposures. Click here to learn more about how you can reduce your toxic burden.
- Enhance your natural detoxification pathways: Boost your ability to detox by incorporating things like PEMF therapy, infrared saunas, and detox binders.
Following these simple steps can go a long way in protecting you from the damaging effects of aluminum overload.
So, How Worried Should I Be When It Comes to Aluminum?
While the thought of harmful toxins like aluminum lurking just about everywhere you turn can seem like a scary idea, the truth is, you are not at the mercy of your environment. Yes, aluminum toxicity is very real – it can certainly have grave consequences over time.
But the good news is, you have so much power over your own health and well-being with the choices you make on a daily basis.
When it comes to your health, you’re in the driver’s seat and can take the necessary actions to protect yourself from aluminum and other toxins that slowly chip away at your health. And that’s precisely why I’m dedicated to empowering you with the tools you need to help you and your loved ones experience the radiant health and longevity we all deserve.
So if you enjoyed this article and are looking for more ways to enhance your health and protect yourself in our increasingly toxic world, I encourage you to head over and check out my blog – it’s full of resources just like this. And if you’re ready to take it even deeper, you can sign up for my newsletter by entering your name and email address in the form below.
Now it’s time to hear from you. Were you surprised to learn about the ways aluminum exposure can be harmful to your health? What steps are you taking to protect yourself and your loved ones from the toxins in your day-to-day lives? Leave your questions and thoughts in the comments below!
- What is aluminium (aluminiumleader.com)
- Aluminium toxicosis: a review of toxic actions and effects (nih.gov)
- The Health Effects of Aluminum Exposure (nih.gov)
- Public Health Statement for Aluminum (cdc.gov)
- Human exposure to aluminium – Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts (RSC Publishing) DOI:10.1039/C3EM00374D
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The product mentioned in this article are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information in this article is not intended to replace any recommendations or relationship with your physician. Please review references sited at end of article for scientific support of any claims made.