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Copper is a metal with many uses, ranging from wiring electronics to decorating jewelry, but it also plays a critical role in our bodies. Although there are only trace amounts needed in comparison to other minerals - the Recommended Dietary Allowance for copper is 900 micrograms per day whereas the RDA for iron is eight milligrams daily for men and eighteen for women - copper has very important jobs and is essential for other molecules to complete their tasks as well. Despite this, an allopathic practitioner may not give advice about copper supplementation, but there are a few key reasons why it should be considered.
Copper Has Vital Functions
In the past, medical professionals were more worried about copper excesses than deficiencies. While it is true that certain people, notably those diagnosed with Wilson's disease, should monitor and limit their copper intake, science has begun to show that many are not getting enough copper, which is a concern because of copper's involvement in a variety of body systems.
In his book Cu-RE Your Fatigue: The Root Cause and How to Fix It on Your Own, Morley Robbins proposes that the root cause of fatigue and associated symptoms boils down to an imbalance in iron, magnesium, and copper. Iron-deficiency anemia is an well-known condition, and magnesium has been making a splash in the health and wellness field the past few years. Copper, however, has been left out! Copper is needed to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a cell's energy source, so it's no wonder that low levels of this trace mineral will lead to lethargy.
Copper is an integral component of a class of enzymes called cuproenzymes, whose physiological actions range from synthesizing neurotransmitters to neutralizing free radicals to regulating gene expression. It also plays a major role in musculoskeletal health, cardiovascular function, and the integrity of hair, skin, and nails. In fact, copper may be the missing component in treating microcytic anemia, osteoporosis, Alzheimer's disease, and other conditions.
Dietary Copper Can Be Lacking
How often do you eat liver? Or oysters? Or sunflower seeds? While copper can be found in a variety of foods, many are not consumed regularly in our modern industrialized society. Some sources are easier to integrate into a diet than others, and it's worth trying to eat shellfish, salmon, nuts like cashews, dark chocolate, whole grains, and dark leafy greens like spinach...in addition to the less popular organ meats.
Most Americans live on a diet of processed foods that contain little nutritional value, but even if you are following the perfect, copper-rich diet, research has found a significant decline in the micronutrient content of our food over the decades. For instance, one British study analyzed the minerals in a sample of fruits and vegetables and compared their levels to data from 1940. There was a significant reduction in many of them, including a 49% decrease in copper.
Absorption of Copper Might Be Limited
While most allopathic medical literature assures that most people get enough copper from food, research has also shown that the body only absorbs 30-40% of it when it's consumed as part of the modern diet. While this is alone is cause for concern, copper's absorption and bioavailability can be further reduced by a variety of other factors.
Taking vitamin C, zinc, or iron supplements influences how the body handles copper, and disturbances in the stomach and small intestine - where copper is absorbed - can as well. Anyone who has been supplementing with vitamin C or zinc, which is a popular protocol for immune support, may need additional copper, and anyone diagnosed with iron-deficiency anemia probably requires copper. People who have had a gastric bypass or other upper gastrointestinal surgery and patients diagnosed with celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease also might require more copper.
What's the Solution???
We recommend taking a high-quality copper supplement as a safety net against deficiency and carefully following the dose prescribed on the label to guard against causing an excess in the body. Topical application of copper can also be helpful locally if you want extra support for skin health, such as cosmetic enhancement, wound healing, or management of an infection like athlete's foot, and there are a variety of products available for these purposes. Copper bracelets are sometimes touted for their effect on pain levels, but evidence for this topical use is anecdotal and not proven in scientific research.
As always, be mindful of the source of your supplements, and choose companies that are dedicated to maintaining strict standards about quality and purity. We trust Sovereign Copper because of their stringent testing and focus on education, offering high-quality classes to practitioners to make sure that they know how to use their products. We currently stock two-ounce bottles of their Bio-Active Copper Hydrosol at our clinic, and bottles of up to sixteen ounces can be bought from their Amazon store. If you decide to use another brand, do plenty of research first, and be very careful with the dose you take.
Kathleen Ketola is a Licensed Acupuncturist and the owner of Beachside Community Acupuncture. She loves providing affordable acupuncture to the residents of Addison, Dallas, and Farmers Branch, Texas, and educating the general public on how acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine can treat everything from pain to infertility to stress and beyond. Click "Book Now" at the top of this page to book an appointment or feel free to contact her at (214) 417-2260.